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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - March 2016

Gramophone Editor's Choices - March 2016Steven Isserlis's revisitation of the Elgar Cello Concerto (he recorded the work for the first time in the late 80s), with Paavo Järvi and the Philharmonia Orchestra, leads the pack this month; you can watch my exclusive video-interview with Steven about the recording here.

There's also a double helping of Bach (Concerto Copenhagen's B minor Mass, and the sonatas for violin and harpsichord from Leila Schayegh and Jörg Halubek), and - as we all gear up for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death - an honourable mention for Hans Abrahamsen's astonishing setting of Ophelia's words from Hamlet, Let me tell you, which we featured as part of our Presto Interview series last week.

Recording of the Month

Elgar & Walton: Cello Concertos

Steven Isserlis (cello), Philharmonia Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

'With his immaculate technical address and ravishingly songful, mellow tone, Isserlis strikes precisely the right balance between classical strength and private introspection, his contribution as full of radiant spontaneity and tumbling fantasy as one could wish. He is also blessed in having such a scrupulously attentive partner as Paavo Järvi, who procures playing of the very highest quality from the Philharmonia.'

Available Format: CD

Editor's Choices

Copland: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1

BBC Philharmonic, John Wilson

'It’s the finest-sounding recording to have come my way for some time. Wilson’s performances are similarly impressive, and he secures superb playing from the BBC Philharmonic.The three ballets receive strongly characterised interpretations, as piquant and affecting in the slower passages as they are punchy and ebullient in the faster ones.'

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

New Year's Concert 2016

Vienna Philharmonic, Mariss Jansons

'Old favourites...exhibit all the hallmarks of this great orchestra playing under a musician and conductor (the two are not always synonymous) it rightly loves and reveres. Here is music and music-making in which elegance, dash and lightness of spirit sit side by side with pools of emotional quiet which can haunt the mind for days to come.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Also available on DVD and Blu-ray

JS Bach: Mass in B minor

Concerto Copenhagen, Lars Ulrik Mortensens

'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.'

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

JS Bach: Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord Nos. 1-6

Leila Schayegh (violin) & Jörg Halubek (harpsichord)

'That she [tackles the works] with distinction is testament to her secure technique and shining tone (these pieces are merciless to anyone with a timid sound or dodgy tuning), as well as to the clear vision she and Halubek share of how each of the sonatas expresses itself.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Musica e Poesia

Rosa Feola (soprano) & Iain Burnside (piano)

'Feola is everything that Rosenblatt Recitals hope to discover – a beautiful voice in its youthful prime, an artist on the threshold of an auspicious career...singing that is graced everywhere with an elegant sweetness without ever feeling sentimental or saccharine.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Abrahamsen: Let me tell you

Barbara Hannigan (soprano), Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Andris Nelsons

'Possibly you don’t even need to know that Barbara Hannigan is singing Ophelia’s words any more, yet her vehemence and passion suggest she thinks justice is finally being done to a woman who never did get much chance to tell her side of the story...The Danish composer’s sound world is a mass of glinting detail...It’s a tiny, tragic Winterreise, but its final sung echoes are defiant.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Ravel: Complete works for solo piano

Bertrand Chamayou (piano)

'Revelatory performances of breathtaking beauty and incomparable power. Most striking, perhaps, is their unforced naturalness...Everything flows with the inevitability of speech, precisely articulated, direct and unmistakably sincere...No one who loves French music or exquisite piano-playing will want to miss this.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Tippett: Complete String Quartets

Heath Quartet

'The Heath Quartet’s Tippett exemplifies how ideas of Beethoven’s quartets in performance, and string quartet-playing more widely, have evolved over the last four decades...The Heaths maintain tension throughout, withholding arrival-points from this birth-to-life narrative.'

Available Format: CD

Christian Tetzlaff plays Dvorak & Suk

Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, John Storgårds

'Tetzlaff draws on an exceptionally wide range of colours and nuances, from fragility to full-on passion...You sense that every bar has been carefully thought through and yet there’s never as much as a suggestion of calculation...Excellent, full-bodied sound. A disc to prize.'

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

DVD of the Month

Nielsen: Saul & David

Johan Reuter, Ann Petersen, Susanne Resmark; Royal Danish Opera, Michael Schønwandt

'A taut, economical updated 150th-anniversary production...a riveting performance from Johan Reuter in both voice and acted intensity...[Petersen] nonetheless manages the youth and tessitura of her character convincingly...The filming seems most sympathetic to the production’s needs. Hugely recommended.'

Available Format: DVD Video