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Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

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Ravel & Debussy - String Quartets

Ravel & Debussy - String Quartets


Debussy:

String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10

Ravel:

Violin Sonata in G major

String Quartet in F major


with Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)

Dante Quartet

The Dante Quartet continue their award-winning exploration of the French string quartet with this disc which includes two of the greatest works of this genre.

Both quartets dazzled and disturbed at their first performances. Debussy’s fantastic, spiralling variations, resisting orthodox ‘development’ of ideas, is described as reminiscent of Monet’s in recording the variations of light on the façade of Rouen Cathedral. Traditionalist commentators were shocked, but the exotic beauty of the writing excited many, including the young Ravel. Ravel’s Quartet is to some extent an hommage to Debussy, but, typically, also a work of startling originality.

Also included is Ravel’s Violin Sonata No 2 in G major, an intriguing, jazz-influenced work, energetic but with a dark undertow of pain; written, as Ravel said, with the aim of ‘exploring the basic incompatibility of violin and piano’.

“The Dantes are one of the finest newish quartets based in Britain... alive to every nuance of these ever-fascinating works.” Sunday Times, 10th January 2010 ****

“They find all manner of shading and delicacy in the Debussy; their Ravel is a miracle of feather-light tone and seamless phrasing.” Financial Times, 8th January 2010 *****

“The shifts of light and shade in Debussy’s String Quartet are ear-catchingly etched in by the Dante Quartet...The distinctions of style are well made.” The Telegraph, 26th January 2010 ****

“The splendid Dante Quartet capture beautifully both the shifting light on Debussy's impressionist canvas and the luminous filigree of Ravel's transcendent creation.” The Observer, 31st January 2010

“…it is surprising that Debussy composed his string quartet with no poetic or visual allusion. The Dante Quartet give a full-blooded performance… At the opening of the scherzo, it momentarily seems that they… are playing as if they have hammers, but this is immediately tempered with an exquisite reining-back. Similarly, the transition to the central section of the scherzo in Ravel's Quartet fades to a whisper, as preparation for the sublime dream-world ahead.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2010 ****

“...the way melodies seem to emerge subtly from the texture before retreating back into it [in the Debussy] is most appealing...The Ravel Quartet, too, is unfailingly musical.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2010

“The Dante Quartet...has an impeccable sense of style and these are in every way beautifully played and recorded performances.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Ravel: Complete music for violin & piano

Ravel: Complete music for violin & piano


Lekeu:

Violin Sonata in G major

Ravel:

Violin Sonata in G major

Violin Sonata in A minor 'Sonate posthume'

Tzigane

Berceuse sur le nom de Fauré


Maurice Ravel’s mature works for violin and piano have established a central place in the core recital repertoire and are considered among the most popular of the genre. These diverse works acknowledge the influences of a range of musical styles from jazz to Impressionism and fuse the tonal colours of Debussy with the lyricism of Franck.

The posthumously published one-movement Violin Sonata, written by Ravel as a student, is a lyrical precursor to the composer’s stunning Violin Sonata in G major with its unique character and adoption of the ‘blues’ idiom. The spontaneity, tonal colours and exotic soundscapes in Ravel’s violin music call for immense skill in interpretation, and passages in the frenzied Tzigane test the limits of the performers’ virtuosity.

Violinist Alina Ibragmiova rises to these challenges with extraordinary verve. Recent winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s prestigious ‘Young Artist of the Year’ award, she displays a vast expressive range and interpretative maturity.

She is accompanied by pianist Cédric Tiberghien, who gives elegant and flawless performances and relishes Ravel’s iridescent piano parts.

The addition of Guillaume Lekeu’s masterwork, the extensive and engaging Violin Sonata, makes this major new release a chamber disc to treasure.

“The couple recently stirred excitement with their accounts of Beethoven’s sonatas — each sonata freshly thought and felt. Now, a similar miracle is worked upon Ravel... The solo section of the Tzigane gives Ibragimova her big spotlight, spinning with gypsy trills. But Tiberghien throughout fields his own sensitivities and urgent attack; this CD is a joint triumph.” The Times, 26th August 2011 *****

“Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien possess the rare gift of being able to recreate on disc the same captivating spontaneity and musical intensity that distinguishes their concerts. Rarely have the sleek lines and textures of Ravel's two sonatas, nor the manic drive of Tzigane so deliriously intoxicating.” Classic FM Magazine, October 2011 *****

“Ibragimova’s tone is taut, sweet and astringent, but with plenty of power in her bowing arm in the last, très animé movement [of the Lekeu]...while Tiberghien’s limpid touch and easy bravura are perfect for this music.” Sunday Times, 11th September 2011

“Ibragimova brings verve and virtuosity to the Violin Sonata, abetted by Tiberghien in a nicely understated “Blues” movement. Their Tzigane makes up in brilliance what it lacks in earthiness” Financial Times, 10th September 2011 ***

“Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien are utterly convincing advocates, matching the ebb and flow of this work's intense and slow-burning passion...Ibragimova charms with more than limpid tone. Whether it is the willingness to sound dirty in the 'blues', or the hushed caresses in the heart of the posthumous Sonata, it is clear she is under the skin of this music.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2011 ****

“Even within the Ravel repertoire, they sharply identify and convey the distinct contrasts...They have great fun with the wild gipsy flair of Tzigane, but you can tell that this spontaneity is born of deep understanding of the music’s character and of unshakeable rapport. In the entire programme the playing is of finesse and winning,communicative allure.” The Telegraph, 15th September 2011

“Lekeu's magisterial, post-Wagnerian Sonata displays a supremely natural sense of ebb and flow. The performance is particularly strong, with Ibragimova and Tiberghien alert to its underlying logic and self-conscious rapture. The Ravel is superbly done, too. Above all, the Tzigane is the real showstopper here: Ibragimova dispatches it with breathtaking dexterity.” The Guardian, 13th October 2011 ****

“Tiberghien and Ibragimova certainly don't hold back from sweeping intensity but they still retain a measure of objectivity, finding places to relax and never pushing the expression beyond what sounds beautiful...the details are wonderfully idiomatic...It all adds up to a must-hear recital” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2011

Presto Disc of the Week

22nd August 2011

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - Awards Issue 2011

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Ravel: Piano Concertos & Falla: Nights in the gardens of Spain

Ravel: Piano Concertos & Falla: Nights in the gardens of Spain


Falla:

Noches en los jardines de Espana

Ravel:

Piano Concerto in G major

Piano Concerto in D major (for the left hand)


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Steven Osborne’s solo Ravel for Hyperion has invited comparisons with the distinguished interpretations of the past; this new recording of the concertos is certain to win similar plaudits. The Falla is a generous and appropriate coupling, perfectly complementing these wonderful works.

“Full of colour, both Osborne’s poetry and his exceptional touch are to the fore, the sparkling cascades in the final movement being especially breathtaking…strong performances of a programme that bears repeated listening” BBC Music Magazine, June 2017 ****

“Time and again whilst listening I had to dash to my score to check that everything I could hear was actually being played by just the one hand! More importantly, though, Osborne doesn’t just treat it as a series of notes: he always manages to maintain the line, and to bring out each phrase effortlessly, no matter what else may be going on at the same time!” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 2nd June 2017

“This performance is atmospheric and suggestive, Osborne and Morlot (Nights is more for orchestra with piano) conjuring an intoxicating impressionism that finds, for me, more in this three-movement score than hitherto, especially the outer ones – the second always makes an immediate appeal – and further recognition that this is an outstanding release in every way.” classicalsource.com, June 2017 *****

“Osborne and the orchestra imbue [the Falla] with fabulous drama, especially in the rambunctious third movement...Broadly speaking, these performers [of the Ravel] make the great Left Hand Concerto in D seem like a traumatic postlude to the war and the much jollier Piano Concerto in G sound like the purest escapism from it.” The Times, 23rd June 2017

“[Morlot] brings stylistic flair to Ravel’s bluesy melodies, and the orchestra and Osborne revel in the cascading chords and cakewalky rhythmic piquancy of the D major’s central section. Falla’s nostalgic evocation of his homeland has fallen out of favour, but Osborne has a great time with the Spanish dance flavour of the piece.” Sunday Times, 25th June 2017

“The Concerto for the Left Hand is done with élan and rhythmic zest, and Osborne flies through the massive challenges of the grand coda. The BBC Scottish SO is a sensitive partner; Ludovic Morlot occasionally drives the players hard but they rarely struggle, with the strings especially producing a mellow supportive tone.” Pianist Magazine, July 2017 ****

“I would go so far as to suggest that this is the finest modern recording of both concertos- and a rival to any predecessor. Osborne and Morlot catch a much more vivid and nicely drawn Iberian feel to the music. This is one to have.” International Piano, September 2017 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

2nd June 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

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Ravel - Songs

Ravel - Songs


Ravel:

Histoires naturelles (5)

Ronsard à son âme

Don Quichotte à Dulcinée

Un grand sommeil noir

Les grands vents venus d'outre-mer

Sur l'Herbe

Chanson française

Chanson italienne

Chanson hébraïque

Chanson écossaise

Noël des jouets

Deux épigrammes de Clément Marot

Cinq mélodies populaires grecques

Deux mélodies hébraïques


Gerald Finley (baritone) & Julius Drake (piano)

The award-winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake continue their musical explorations with this beautiful and thought-provoking disc. Gerald Finley’s lustrous tones, extraordinary gift for characterisation, and direct, unaffected utterance make him an ideal and revelatory performer of Ravel’s songs.

These works, somewhat under-appreciated in the composer’s oeuvre, demonstrate the endless variety and vast emotional scope of Ravel’s musical sphere. Charming folk-song settings contrast with the almost surrealist world of Histoires naturelles, which caused outrage at its first performance. Yet this cycle contains some of Ravel’s most dreamily beautiful music: the still, crystalline ‘music of silence’ created in Le martin-pêcheur. In the words of Roger Nichols, who provides the fascinating booklet notes, ‘From the sepulchral gloom of Un grand sommeil noir to the final exclamation ‘Je bois / À la joie’ …, Ravel’s songs embrace a whole world’.

“After acclaimed recordings of Barber, Ives and Schumann, baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake pull off another success with this disc of Ravel songs. These are for the most part works of cool restraint, with passion hidden beneath a jewelled surface, and Finley’s wonderfully flexible voice achieves maximum effect with minimal means.” The Telegraph, 10th June 2009 ****

“Finley sings with the art that conceals art — relishing but never overpointing the texts, and using a wide palette of dynamic and colour to underpin his musical insights. Other highlights are the inward-looking Ronsard à son âme, the passionate Les grands vents venus d’outremer and the lamenting Deux melodies hébraïques. A superb disc.” Sunday Times, 28th June 2009 ****

“Gerald Finley and Julius Drake's survey gathers all his major songs together. It's a beautiful disc that startles in ways you don't always expect.” The Guardian, 12th June 2009 ****

“It feels inadequate…just to describe this enchanting new collection from Gerald Finley and Julius Drake as the best modern recital devoted to the wonderfully varied world of Ravel's songs. Finley gives the melancholic affirmation of 'Kaddisch' its full weight of understated nobility, and is clearly having fun in the drinking song from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2009 *****

“…the mood might be robust or rarefied, but Ravel's sense of colour and atmosphere is infallible. Drake draws the ear ineluctably into Ravel's imaginative world… Finley's mellifluous, malleable baritone is similarly an ideal match for this repertoire, with lines eloquently floated, nuances subtly voiced and character sensitively defined. This is a beguiling programme, beautifully performed.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2009

“There is a vast gulf between the bibulous bravado of the 'Chanson à boire' that Ravel included in his Don Quichotte à Dulcinée songs and the bleak, dark despair of his Verlaine setting Un Grand sommeil noir. Placing them next to one another in this fine selection of over two dozen songs emphasises the broad expressive range that Ravel was able to embrace. It also throws into focus the way that Gerald Finley and Julius Drake can so evocatively tap their emotional substance.
These exquisitely crafted miniatures, whether in the folk-inspired Chants populaires and Cinqmélodies populaires grecques or in the tender Noëlsdes jouets to a text of Ravel's own, show his creative fastidiousness in a consistently positive light: the mood might be robust or rarefied, but Ravel's sense of colour and atmosphere is infallible.
The imagery of the Histoires naturelles, for example, testifies to Ravel's intuitive response to poetry and to his precise placing of the tonal brushstrokes. In this respect, the piano is an essential collaborator, etching in the background for the gliding grace of the swan or the chirping of the cricket.
Drake draws the ear ineluctably into Ravel's imaginative world, as he does elsewhere in the cool restraint of Ronsard à son âme or the turbulence and shifting currents of Les Grands Ventsvenus d'outremer. Finley's mellifluous, malleable baritone is similarly an ideal match for this repertoire, with lines eloquently floated, nuances subtly voiced and character sensitively defined.
This is a beguiling programme, beautifully performed.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2009

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Ravel: The complete solo piano music

Ravel: The complete solo piano music


Ravel:

Menuet antique

Pavane pour une infante défunte

Sonatine

Valses nobles et sentimentales

Le Tombeau de Couperin

Sérénade grotesque

Jeux d'eau

Gaspard de la Nuit

Menuet sur le nom de Haydn

Prélude

A la manière de Borodine

A la manière de Chabrier

Miroirs, 5 pieces for piano


This is a reminder that Angela Hewitt doesn't only play—or record—the music of Bach, as she has already shown us with her disc of Messiaen, issued a couple of years ago. Here, in this 2CD set, she gives us the complete solo piano music of Ravel. (And, unlike some of the others on the market, this really is complete, containing as it does the very early, 1893, 'Sérénade grotesque', discovered comparatively recently.)

Miss Hewitt's elegant and poised playing-style familiar from her Bach recordings serves her especially well in the piano music of this fastidious French master.

'Angela Hewitt plumbs Ravel's paradoxical qualities to perfection in this superb set. This magnificent survey … a treasure trove! Angela Hewitt joins Gieseking, Rogé, Thibaudet and Lortie among the most distinguished if entirely different Ravel cycles on record, and easily withstands comparison in such exalted company' (Gramophone)

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2002

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Ravel: The complete solo piano music

Ravel: The complete solo piano music


Ravel:

Gaspard de la Nuit

Sonatine

Miroirs, 5 pieces for piano

La Valse

Le Tombeau de Couperin

Menuet in C sharp minor

Menuet antique

Sérénade grotesque

Jeux d'eau

Prélude

Menuet sur le nom de Haydn

A la manière de Borodine

A la manière de Chabrier

Pavane pour une infante défunte

Valses nobles et sentimentales


New releases of Steven Osborne’s best-selling discs have become some of the most eagerly-awaited events in the pianophile diary. This most delicate and subtle of musicians also displays a pyrotechnical deployment of digital acrobatics, mesmerising colour control and breathtaking articulation. All these qualities are visible in this two-disc set of some of the most important piano music of the early twentieth century. Ravel’s works have been central, too, to Steven Osborne’s performing repertoire throughout his career, making this set a perfect marriage of composer and performer.

“Steven Osborne, ever a poised, technically impeccable virtuoso, combines clarity with heart. All a shimmering pleasure.” The Observer, 13th February 2011

“His tempos, kaleidoscopic tonal colouring, textual clarity, and amazing dynamic range and variety of touch manifest an innate empathy with the composer...These are inspired performances with Award Winner written all over them. The perfectly-voiced piano, the venue/acoustic, producer and engineer, and an artist who was born to play Ravel combine to make the best complete Ravel cycle on disc.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2011 *****

“[Gaspard] is technically immaculate...and gently seductive before turning on a more sinister pressure..."Alborada" from Miroirs is another striking success, where a trickster's ribaldry and high jinxs explode into violence, and in La Valse (suitably arranged and "orchestrated"), Osborne spins his dancers towards a visceral and devastating oblivion.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2011

“A precise and balanced interpretation” Financial Times, 12th March 2011

“Steven Osborne's survey of [Ravel] is an unqualified delight....His playing...is equally well suited to the delicate classicism of the Sonatine, the scene painting of Miroirs and the nostalgia for the 18th century in Le Tombeau de Couperin as it is to the more extrovert virtuosity of the Valses Nobles et Sentimentales.” The Guardian, 17th March 2011 ****

“Steven Osborne brings his masterly interpretative acumen to bear with a touch and temperament that combine eloquence and deftness. Landmark works are set alongside various less frequently heard miniatures in performances that live and breathe Ravel’s distinctive world of sound, radiating luminous patterns and scintillating colour.” The Telegraph, 25th March 2011 *****

“Ravel essentially reimagined how to write for the piano with each significant work. Osborne is more than up to the task...Throughout, [he] repeatedly demonstrates not merely that these performances stand with the best, but also that comparisons are superfluous in the face of such a compelling vision...His sustaining of the 'Epilogue' is magical, as if not wishing to relinquish the spell of this recital. It is over all too soon.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2011 *****

“a remarkable account of Le Tombeau de Couperin, full of imaginative colours and immaculate technique. Osborne's performance of the original solo piano version of the Pavane pour une infante défunte is just magical, and as a bonus he includes Ravel's own transcription of La valse, a real tour de force in Osborne's hands.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, August 2014

GGramophone Awards 2011

Finalist - Instrumental

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - May 2011

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2012

Instrumental Finalist

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Debussy, Fauré & Ravel: Piano Trios

Debussy, Fauré & Ravel: Piano Trios


Debussy:

Piano Trio in G major

Fauré:

Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 120

Ravel:

Piano Trio in A minor


‘Such flair proves The Florestan Trio, if proof is needed, to be among the finest chamber ensembles of the present day’ (Classic CD)

“The Florestan Trio has the ability to adapt its style to different kinds of music without any loss of conviction. After Brahms and Schumann comes this French disc showing it equally adept at entering the 1880 salon world of Debussy's youthful Trio, Ravel's brilliant exotic idiom, and the intimate, intense thoughts of Fauré's old age. In the quicker movements Susan Tomes's playing is remarkably light and precise. The finale of the Fauré, for example, has a scherzando quality that throws into relief the seriousness of the strings' initial gesture. The string players are always ready to modify their sound to produce special expressive effects – the eerily quiet unison passage in Fauré's Andante (track 2, 2'54") or the vibrato-less duet in the Ravel Passacaille (track 10, 5'15") – sounding wonderfully remote and antique. The clarity of the Hyperion recording allows the fantastical detail in the Ravel Pantoum to emerge. In the Debussy, the Florestan favour elegance rather than trying to search out expressive depths.
Their freshness, imagination and purposeful directness makes this a top choice.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Fin de siècle

Fin de siècle

Music for viola and piano


Büsser:

Appassionato, Op. 34

Chausson:

Pièce Op. 39

Debussy:

Beau Soir

Durosoir:

Vitrail pour alto et piano

Enescu:

Concertstück for viola & piano

Hahn, R:

Soliloque et Forlane for viola & piano

Honnoré:

Morceau de concert

Hüe:

Thème varié

Ravel:

Deux mélodies hébraïques: Kaddisch

Vierne, L:

Deux Pièces Op. 7


Lawrence Power (viola) & Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)

That the names of Hüe and Büsser are now largely forgotten is no reflection on their ability to write music which cannot fail to delight (and did not fail to win the Prix de Rome). Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford-Phillips present a wonderful recital which sets Ravel and Debussy in the context of their lesser-known contemporaries.

“Most of these pieces by Paris-based composers may be unfamiliar...but they merit rediscovery thanks to this duo’s superb playing. They make Henri Büsser’s Appassionato seem like the viola’s miniature answer to Franck’s Violin Sonata.” Sunday Times, 11th September 2016

“The players’ enthusiasm is self-evident, and Power tempers his sweet, full-throated tone...with a lovely inwardness in the quieter music. Crawford-Phillips is very much on the same page; the pair phrase naturally together... consistently enjoyable way to discover some unexpectedly rewardAing music.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2016

“Power and Crawford-Phillips are a superb duo, matching their depth and richness of tone with an energetic, passionate approach, and the warm sound lets them shine.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2016 ****

“There is more than enough in this beautifully played disc to attract viola aficionados and Francophiles alike.” MusicWeb International, 19th December 2016

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2016

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Of ladies and love ...

Of ladies and love ...


Beethoven:

Adelaide, Op. 46

Wonne der Wehmut, Op. 83 No. 1

Der Kuss, Op. 128

Fauré:

Nell, Op. 18 No. 1

Adieu, Op. 21 No. 3, from Poème d'un jour

Sylvie, Op. 6 No. 3

Lydia, Op. 4 No. 2

Fleur jetée, Op. 39 No. 2

Liszt:

Sonetti di Petrarca (3) for voice & piano, S270

Ravel:

Cinq mélodies populaires grecques

Schubert:

Trost: An Elisa, D97

Laura am Klavier, D388

An Sylvia, D891

Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D300 (Salis-Seewis)

Strauss, R:

Cäcilie, Op. 27 No. 2

Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1

Nichts, Op. 10 No. 2

Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4


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Romantic Residues

Romantic Residues

Songs for tenor and harp


Britten:

Down by the Salley Gardens

O Waly, Waly

Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn (Watching the Wheat)

David of the White Rock

Fauré:

Morceau de concours

Ravel:

Cinq mélodies populaires grecques

Roth, A:

From California

Romantic Residues

Saint-Saëns:

Une flûte invisible

Skempton:

Three Songs for Jennie

Tournier:

La Lettre du jardinier


James Gilchrist (tenor), Alison Nicholls (harp) & Jaime Martin (flute)

James Gilchrist is one of the finest British tenors of today, acclaimed as a concert soloist, a recitalist and a recording artist, each latest event eliciting more rapturous comments from critics and audience alike. In his first solo disc for Hyperion, he features in a fascinating recital of English, French and American music for tenor, harp and flute.

What do we remember of our past romantic encounters? This is the theme of ‘Romantic Residues’, the opening section of Vikram Seth’s collection of verse All You Who Sleep Tonight, first published in 1990. There are nine poems in all, varying widely in content and mood—from the light and whimsical to the melancholy and dark. The songs were commissioned by the Bury St Edmunds Festival and composed for James Gilchrist and Alison Nicholls who gave the first performance. This charming, impeccably-performed collection of morceaux and mélodies also includes works by Britten, Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Fauré.

“[Gilchrist] is now unsurpassed among lyric tenors in sweetness and technical security, and for his musical intelligence” The Independent

“Repeated hearings may harm the artful simplicity of the title cycle by Alec Roth, but the Britten folk-song settings should never die. If Gilchrist’s French is too muscular overall, he tiptoes delicately through the final song by Marcel Tournier.” The Times, 8th August 2008 ***

“James Gilchrist is one of the most expressive tenors of the day, his timbre soft-grained, his diction immaculate, his lack of mannerism gratifying and his choice of repertory, on this disc of songs and song cycles with harp, interesting.” Sunday Times, 10th August 2008 ***

“…an interesting and intelligent singer, well served by his distinguished accompanists.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2008 ****

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