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Vaughan Williams: Job & Symphony No. 9

Vaughan Williams: Job & Symphony No. 9


Vaughan Williams:

Job - A Masque for Dancing

Symphony No. 9 in E minor


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

The projected complete cycle of Vaughan Williams’s symphonies started by the late Richard Hickox has left a precious heritage in the discography of the composer.

Now, conducting the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, that other expert in British repertoire, Sir Andrew Davis, takes on the challenge of completing the series with idiomatic interpretations of two masterpieces: the final Symphony (No. 9) and the ballet Job.

The score of Job places an emphasis on tableau-like scenes, dances, and mime, linking it to a tradition of English ballet with dances from the seventeenth century, including the saraband, pavane, and galliard. In this masterly score, Vaughan Williams captures the conflict between good and evil, between the spiritual and the material. Job shows a strength, beauty, nobility, and visionary power which unite the many different facets of Vaughan Williams’s musical style. The poignant and musically enigmatic Symphony No. 9 marks ‘the end of Ralph’s life and [is] a turning point. It is leading out into another place. It is extraordinary’, as the composer’s wife stated after one of the early performances.

The subtle direction of Sir Andrew Davis combined with the pure sound quality of this SACD does full justice to Hickox’s great enterprise and promises a powerful conclusion of this already acclaimed recorded cycle.

“a performance of striking composure, lustre and palpable dedication. Not only do the Bergen Philharmonic respond with notable poise and eagerness (solo contributions are of the highest quality throughout), Davis conducts with unobtrusive authority as well as a sure hand on the structural tiller, uncovering a wealth of telling harmonic and textural detail along the way.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2017

“Davis, vastly experienced as a conductor of this composer, is every bit as idiomatic as the score’s dedicatee and finds the Bergen Philharmonic in virtuoso and sensitive form.” classicalsource.com

“While the loss of Hickox was, and remains, a huge loss to fans of this music, there could be no finer conductor to receive the baton than Andrew Davis...Davis seems to avoid some of Handley’s showmanship – giving less of a punch to some of the more impassioned outbursts – but conversely there’s a clarity here in some of the more intricate contrapuntal passages that Handley sometimes fails to match.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 10th February 2017

“A mandatory purchase for all Vaughan Williams enthusiasts.” MusicWeb International, 1st March 2017

“The versatile Bergen band clearly revel in the expansive, unmistakably “English” tunes and the sometimes exotic orchestration...Davis today has no peers in this repertoire, which, added to Chandos’s brilliantly “present” sound engineering, makes this a self-recommending issue.” Sunday Times, 19th March 2017

“a searing performance of the enigmatic ninth symphony…Even better, though, is Job: a tremendous, Blake-inspired score whose challenges are triumphantly met here. It is one of Vaughan Williams’ most dramatic works and the sheer power of the Bergen forces (that organ!) contrast perfectly with sections of great textual beauty. Superb SACD sound” Classical Music, April 2017 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

10th February 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - March 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Recording of the month - April 2017

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Chandos - CHSA5180

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Giaches de Wert: Divine Theatre

Giaches de Wert: Divine Theatre

Sacred Motets


Wert:

Gaudete in Domino

Hoc enim sentite in vobis

Saule, Saule

Vox in Rama

Amen, amen dico vobis

Egressus Jesus

Peccavi super numerum

O crux ave

Ascendente Jesu

Virgo Maria hodie ad coelum

Quiescat vox tua

Deus iustus, et salvans

O altitudo divitiarum


Read our exclusive interview withStile founder-member Will Dawes about the project here.

Franco-Flemish composer Giaches de Wert wrote a considerable amount of sacred music during the late Renaissance, but little of it was published during his lifetime. Only three books of motets were released in 1566 and 1581. Stile Antico's new album introduces us to another side of this composer who, though Flemish-born, spent most of his life in Italy, primarily in Mantua, where he was to remain for the rest of his life, though not without maintaining connections (both musical and, during the mid-late 1580s, romantic) with the court at Ferrara, where the lively musical life must have been a welcome distraction from his not-always-happy existence at the Mantuan court. The unique and dramatic style of these remarkable motets cannot fail to ravish explorers of this 'divine theatre'.

“This selection of motets, mostly for five or six voices, is unexpectedly rich in imagination, variety, and often sheer joyful energy, and the performances boast a high-quality technical brilliance.” Financial Times, 20th January 2017 ****

“The rewards of this outstanding disc are double. On one hand, one is presented with the marvel of High Polyphony performed to perfection. On the other hand, there is a feeling that new doors have been opened...Monteverdi and all the magnificence of the new worldly celebration of the Baroque is just around the corner, and yet we still have our bearings in a splendid world that makes perfect sense.” Audiophile Audition, 11th February 2017

“It is a testament to Werts's emotional immediacy that this album is one of their (Stile Antico's) most engaging recording; polyphony to grab one's attention rather than to carpet a devotional daydream” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

“Stile Antico brings experience and a steady technique to these pieces…in the joyous opening motet ‘Gaudete in Domino’ they are fresh and exuberant…[and] their ‘Quiescat vox’ is beautiful as is their affective portrayal of the rich, mannerist dissonances of ‘Amen, amen dico vobis’” BBC Music Magazine, June 2017 ****

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Harmonia Mundi - HMM807620

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Bach, J S: Mass in B minor, BWV232

Bach, J S: Mass in B minor, BWV232


Maria Keohane (soprano), Joanne Lunn (soprano), Alex Potter (countertenor), Jan Kobow (tenor), Peter Harvey (bass)

Concerto Copenhagen, Lars Ulrik Mortensen

The Concerto Copenhagen, the leading Scandinavian ensemble for historical performance practice, is currently regarded worldwide as one of the most remarkable and imaginative orchestras in this field under its artistic director Lars Ulrik Mortensen. The orchestra’s vitality, sense of style, and communicative talent have become its trademarks.

Accordingly, we have decided to release Bach’s Mass in B minor on two SACDS (moreover, in quality surround sound) featuring this extraordinary ensemble and top-class soloists.

“To my mind, Mortensen’s special performance, which is full to the brim with insightful musicianship and has a refreshing avoidance of contrived formulas, comfortably joins Parrott (EMI), Junghänel and John Butt (Linn) as the finest examples of this kind of perspective on performing Bach’s monumental sacred masterpiece.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2016

“I’ll highlight ‘Confiteor’ (Credo) where the solace derived from the ‘remission of sins’ is realised in Mortensen’s performance with translucent tenderness…[Mortensen’s concertino team] is the strongest I’ve yet heard” Early Music Today, August 2016 *****

GGramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - March 2016

Building a Library

First Choice - February 2017

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CPO - 7778512

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Sibelius: Symphonies Nos 3, 6 & 7

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos 3, 6 & 7


Sibelius:

Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52

Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

The long-awaited final disc in the Sibelius cycle from Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä

The first disc in the Sibelius cycle from Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra made the reviewer in Gramophone speculate about a 'benchmark cycle for the 21st century' whilst the second instalment received a Grammy for 'Best Orchestral Performance'. The long-awaited final disc in the cycle, with a playing time of 82 minutes, combines the Finnish master's third symphony, completed in 1907, with his two final works in the genre, composed more or less in tandem between 1922 and 1924. Symphony No. 3 in C major is Sibelius's most classical symphony, a radical change in direction after the opulence of its predecessor. It has been claimed that the mastery of form in its first movement is comparable only to the greatest Viennese masters – and at the same time the conductor Koussevitzky, one of the composer's strongest champions, spoke of it as ‘music far in advance of its time’. Fifteen years later, and after the heroic Fifth Symphony, Sibelius again presented a symphony which surprised those admirers who expected more of the same. Sibelius gave Symphony No. 6 a refined modal flavouring, avoiding both virtuoso orchestral writing and massive climaxes, and likened it to an offering of 'pure spring water'. This he followed up immediately with what would become his symphonic swan song – the stern and majestic Seventh Symphony. A one-movement work, it was at first billed as ‘Fantasia sinfonica’ but it is indeed a true symphony, its single movement portraying elements of all four movements of symphonic practice.

“With these recordings, Vanska confirms his status as our greatest living Sibelian. Irreplaceable.” Sunday Times, 10th July 2016

“The orchestra's sound under Vänskä has a kind of sharp-focus richness that's never cloying.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2016

“Despite wonderful brass moments...I think it’s the string playing that impressed me most. Their sound is always remarkable, not least in the Sixth Symphony, where the very opening allows them to show off their enormous dynamic range...Even if you already own Vänskä’s earlier cycle with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, I think that these new performances are simply unmissable. An outstanding achievement in every way.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 29th July 2016

“Vänskä’s Sibelius is all about clarity – of rhythm, of texture, of intention. It is zealously unfussy and entirely without exaggeration. But it can stop you in your tracks...The Third and Sixth Symphonies feel even more closely related than usual...One just knows that the ear-pricking clarity throughout these performances is of Vänskä’s and not the balance engineer’s making.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2016

“The playing is polished and detailed, now springy and buoyant, now occluded and chilling. Tempi are slightly broad but convincingly so. From the plunging energy of the opening of the Third Symphony to the bleak, raw ending of the Seventh, this is a gripping listen.” The Guardian, 17th July 2016 *****

“Outstanding Sibelius performances, outstandingly recorded” MusicWeb International, October 2016

“Vänska crowns his second Sibelius cycle with gripping renditions of the third and last two symphonies.” The Times, December 2016

Presto Disc of the Week

29th July 2016

Presto Discs of 2016

Winner

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - August 2016

Super Audio CD

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BIS Osmo Vänskä Sibelius Symphonies - BIS2006

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Wagner: Lohengrin

Wagner: Lohengrin


Klaus Florian Vogt (Lohengrin), Camilla Nylund (Elsa), Katarina Dalayman, (Ortrud), Evgeny Nikitin (Friedrich von Telramund), Falk Struckmann (Heinrich der Vogler)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Choir, Dutch National Opera Chorus, Mark Elder

After the enormous success of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's 2013 production of Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer (RCO14004) a follow-up was inevitable. With the eminent Wagnerian Mark Elder leading the RCO and a cast of internationally acclaimed soloists the production of Lohengrin in December 2015 was a complete triumph. The beginning of another RCO tradition?

“It’s a spacious account, gloriously played. Katarina Dalayman’s spiteful yet beautifully sung Ortrud stands out.” Sunday Times, 22nd May 2017

“From the opening bars of the first-act prelude, the refinement and transparency of the string textures that play such an important role in the unfolding drama of Lohengrin are a constant wonder; the brass is utterly secure without ever becoming too assertive, the woodwind instantly responsive, whether colouring its moments of ceremony and jubilation or adding dark hues to the plotting of the central act.” The Guardian, 5th April 2017 ****

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Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Mahler: Symphony No. 3


"Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony, lasting one and a half hours or more, is not only his longest work but at the same time an exuberant and sunny ode to nature, mankind, the world and indeed life itself. And for this song of praise the composer requires both room and lavish means. No less than six movements, the richest of orchestral forces, and a contralto soloist and boys’ and women’s choirs whose sung texts help to bring across the symphony’s message, as in the Second Symphony and later in the Fourth and Eighth as well." (From liner notes by Clemens Romijn)

“[Fischer] is a challenge, inviting listeners to rethink and recalibrate their responses to the piece. Not everyone will be prepared to make the leap, but those who do will be handsomely rewarded. Without question, the finest instalment in Fischer’s Mahler cycle to date; and what breathtaking sound.” MusicWeb International, May 2017

“If you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have then you’ll need no encouraging to head for the second disc” Record Review, 20th May 2017

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Channel Iván Fischer Mahler Symphonies - CCSSA38817

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Mozart: Mass in C minor, K427 'Great'

Mozart: Mass in C minor, K427 'Great'


Mozart:

Mass in C minor, K427 'Great'

Olivia Vermeulen (mezzo), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Christian Immler (bass)

Exsultate, jubilate, K165

from the revised Salzburg version of K165


Following on from the 2015 release of Mozart’s Requiem, Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan have gone on to record the composer's Mass in C minor, K427 – the ‘Great Mass’. As the nickname indicates, it is a work of unusual proportions for a mass of the Classical period – or would have been so, had Mozart completed it. It is not known, for what occasion Mozart intended the work, but a letter to his father Leopold, dated 4 January 1783, indicates that he may have committed himself to writing it in connection with his marriage to Constanze and a planned visit to Salzburg. A performance of parts of the Mass did take place in Salzburg in October 1783, with Constanze performing the prominent soprano part. Two years later Mozart reused the music from the Kyrie and Gloria sections in the sacred cantata Davidde penitente, K 469, but the Mass itself was left incomplete. The present performance includes the sections completed by Mozart himself, as well as those sections, for which extensive sketches by Mozart provided a basis for completion (by Franz Beyer in 1989). Three of Suzuki’s soloists also took part in the recording of the Requiem, while the Dutch mezzo-soprano Olivia Vermeulen makes her first appearance on BIS, shining in the aria ‘Laudamus te’. The disc closes with the celebrated cantata Exsultate, jubilate in which the soprano Carolyn Sampson glitters in the virtuosic solo part. As an appendix to the programme, she and the Bach Collegium Japan orchestra also repeats the initial aria, in a less well-known later version with a slightly different text and with flutes replacing the oboes of the original.

“The Mass survives as one of the great unfinished works. Suzuki’s famed period forces are significantly enlarged here (24 choristers), but are quite small for this work. His tempi are surprisingly spacious, but the dramatic impact of the double-choir Qui tollis in the Gloria comes across with full force.” Sunday Times, 13th November 2016

“Period-instrument C minor Masses get better and better. ...The choir are well drilled and the two female soloists are matched as well as any on disc...Suzuki is no speed merchant, and maintains the through line in more strenuous movements.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2016

“Stripping the score right back, Suzuki makes musicianship dominate. He taps into the subtle arts of his fellow performers, especially Carolyn Sampson, to create a benchmark performance…Sampson arabesques effortlessly up to the stratosphere in a slow dance with solo woodwinds…the three other vocal soloists equal Sampson’s elegance, forging a blissful euphony in their ensembles” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 *****

“A tremendous achievement.” MusicWeb International, 10th January 2017

“playing and singing are excellent throughout, especially from the vocal soloists, all giving florid and characterful performances. The Exsultate, Jubilate makes an ideal filler, not least for the further opportunity it provides to hear soprano Carolyn Sampson, here on excellent form. The SACD audio is atmospheric and clear, giving an ideal audio image for the orchestra and soloists” Classical Ear, 27th March 2017 ***

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - December 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - January 2017

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BIS - BIS2171

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Edward Gardner conducts Holst & Richard Strauss

Edward Gardner conducts Holst & Richard Strauss


Holst:

The Planets, Op. 32

Strauss, R:

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30


For its very first album on Chandos, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain devotes its characteristic energy and musical mastery to an explosive programme that transcends daily life and earthly experience. It is helped by the enthusiastic, encouraging, and experienced baton of Edward Gardner as well as by the sumptuous yet detailed acoustic of Symphony Hall, Birmingham, all fully revealed in this surround-sound recording.

Their performance of Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra and Holst’s The Planets is already a point of reference in the UK after the immensely successful Prom concert that preceded the recording. The concert’s five-star review in The Daily Telegraph praised in particular the orchestra’s ‘great attack and complete absence of anything routine’, while The Guardian emphasised the great performance of the orchestra in this ‘graceful and evocative programme’, especially the ‘depth and richness of sound that belied their youth’.

This unique album is a first milestone in what promises to be a superb discography for the NYO.

Special notice: this album will also be released on Vinyl.

“occasionally one misses the refinement of a professional outfit, but rarely: more often one is struck by the warmth and intensity of the string sound and the quality of the wind solos. Edward Gardner’s driven, finely balanced conducting ensures this is one for collectors as well as supporters.” The Guardian, 10th February 2017 ****

“Gardner’s conducting of Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired symphonic poem is impressively flowing and direct while still being flexible and also alive to small details; in return the members of the National Youth Orchestra play with confidence, poise and bravura, and a lack of indulgence on Gardner’s part is refreshing to the music as a whole...However, it’s The Planets that takes the bouquets.” classicalsource.com

“Here these showpieces are played with all the zest and freshness one may hope for from these highly skilled young musicians...It perhaps does not require a conductor of Edward Gardner's calibre to inspire such lively performances...But credit is surely due to him for the sensitivity shown in even such restrained movements as 'Venus'.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2017 ****

“from the long passage in section 2 [Strauss]…his thoughtful, perspicacious interpretation of ‘this series of ideological utterances’ (Norman del Mar) portrays them as a wondrously crafted edifice. Equally so is The Planets, to which Gardner is no less attentive; as indeed are the young musicians, always on a level of ear-flapping artistry cum virtuosity, here reproduced with a grandeur and realism ear-flapping in itself.” Classical Ear, 30th March 2017 *****

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Chandos - CHSA5179

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Elgar: Symphony No. 1 & Introduction and Allegro

Elgar: Symphony No. 1 & Introduction and Allegro


Elgar:

Introduction & Allegro for strings, Op. 47

Doric String Quartet

Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55


This new Elgar surround-sound recording brings together some of Chandos’ finest exclusive British artists for the first time.

The Doric String Quartet – highly praised for its series of Haydn and Schubert quartets – joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner in the Introduction and Allegro, one of Elgar’s masterpieces. Gardner here captures the subtle contrast between the solo quartet and the string ensemble, while also reconciling a wide variety of musical ideas and tempo fluctuations, not least the ever-popular ‘Welsh’ solo viola melody. The full Orchestra then appears in a passionate account of the majestic Symphony No. 1, a much-loved work ever since its premiere in 1906. As well as highly praised Walton and Britten recordings, the enduring relationship between Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra has seen successful series of works by non-British composers such as Szymanowski and Lutosławski. Edward Gardner is also involved in recording projects with many other orchestras, including the Bergen Philharmonic, the CBSO, and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, his latest new collaboration.

“Edward Gardner definitely puts refinement before moment-by-moment impact in his first venture into Elgar on disc. His treatment of the Introduction and Allegro…is notable more for its clarity and carefully graded textures than for its bracing athleticism, though it does finally deliver a real punch in the peroration. Gardner adopts a similar slow-burn approach to the First Symphony” The Guardian, 13th April 2017 ****

“Edward Gardner presides over a dashingly articulate, enviably integrated and deeply-felt account of Elgar's mighty A flat major symphony featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the very top of its game” Classical Ear, 5th April 2017 *****

“The BBCSO under Edward Gardner keeps a grip on the composer’s lavish detail.” Financial Times, 28th April 2017

“Edward Gardiner has been a dedicated Elgarian since the beginning of his career, and this reading, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, is strikingly mature…traditional in the best sense: brisk, with no exaggerated tempi or dynamics, and especially good at not becoming becalmed in the long first movement, and in the finale” Daily Mail, 23rd April 2017 ****

“[these readings] can and should be applauded for their lucidity and clarity and insightful honesty. There is a major talent at work here – of that there can be no doubt” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“Edward Gardner leads a lyrical and bracing account [of the Introduction and Allegro], vying nostalgic reverie with intense drive, Is dotted and Ts crossed yet with plenty of bittersweet ardour and impulsive vitality. The First Symphony is just as impressive. Gardner directs a flowing if flexible account that is very listenable and is particularly revealing of detail, dynamics and sonority.” classicalsource.com, May 2017 *****

“The British conductor is a seasoned Elgarian, and he coaxes playing of special splendour here from the brass and strings, which reveal richer sonorities in the saturated textures and brilliant contrapuntal writing.” Sunday Times, 14th May 2017

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Chandos - CHSA5181

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Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245

Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245

in English


Sophie Bevan (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Benjamin Hulett (tenor), Robert Murray (Evangelist), Andrew Ashwin (Pilate, Peter), Neal Davies (bass-baritone), Ashley Riches (Jesus) & Peter Jaekel (organ)

Crouch End Festival Chorus & Bach Camerata, David Temple

Read our exclusive interview with David Temple here.

For its very first excursion on Chandos, the Crouch End Festival Chorus presents a landmark recording of J.S. Bach’s St John Passion sung in English – the first for over forty-five years.

With communicative zeal, beautiful articulation, and focused energy, this choir of more than 100 voices lends precision and power to the performance alongside the instruments of the Bach Camerata, one of the finest UK baroque orchestras, all under the inspired direction of David Temple.

The essence of the work is the conveying of a human story underpinned by the universal themes of love, betrayal, loss, and hope. The performance in English allows the drama and visceral energy of the work to go straight to the heart of the English-speaking listener.

The narrative is immediately understood, and the power of the storytelling imbues Bach’s music with extra freshness and meaning.

Thanks to an array of superb soloists and orchestral musicians, the new recording brings those qualities together in a performance which will present a well loved piece in a completely new light, and appeal to existing and future generations of music-lovers alike.

“there’s plenty to recommend a recording – purposefully conducted by David Temple – that also swims against the tide with a hefty 100-plus chorus mustering venom aplenty. The solo line-up is without a weak link; among its glories Sophie Bevan’s deeply affecting ‘Zerfliesse, mein Herze’, Benjamin Hulett’s finely nuanced ‘Erwage’, and Robin Blaze’s exquisitely judged ‘Es ist vollbracht’. Robert Murray’s Evangelist holds everything together with narrative acuity.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 ****

“…one will struggle to find more committed, well-balanced, agile and crisp singing than that of the Crouch End Festival Chorus, who are on top form throughout. Frankly none of the soloists could be bettered, nor the superb continuo team. Congratulations to all concerned on producing such a buoyant, absorbing and sonically thrilling recording.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

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Chandos - CHSA5183(2)

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