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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - November 2016

Gramophone Editor's Choices - November 2016This month's choices are dominated, perhaps unusually, by keyboard and vocal music - the former represented by Murray Perahia's Bach and Kristian Bezuidenhout's Mozart, as well as a portrait of the Forqueray dynasty of composers by harpsichordist Justin Taylor and a double-bill of French piano trios.

On the choral front, Vox Luminis's pairing of two Requiem Mass settings and the latest instalment of Christ Church Cathedral Choir's Eton Choirbooks series are complemented by Truro Cathedral choir's disc of works by contemporary composer Gabriel Jackson, while Joyce DiDonato returns to her Baroque roots with a collection of turbulent arias themed around war and conflict.

Recording of the Month

JS Bach: French Suites

Murray Perahia (piano)

'As we expect from Perahia, everything sounds natural and inevitable. Ego doesn’t come into it: rather, he acts as a conduit between composer and audience with a purity that few can emulate...I’ve only had this recording for five days but I predict a long and happy future in its company.'

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

Editor's Choices

In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music (CD)

Joyce DiDonato (mezzo) Il Pomo d'Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

'‘In War & Peace’ finds DiDonato back on Baroque ground for the first time in a while, and it’s a joyful musical homecoming. ...Drama, as ever with DiDonato, is everything. Ornamentation serves narrative first, ego second.'

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

In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music (vinyl)

Joyce DiDonato (mezzo) Il Pomo d'Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

'‘In War & Peace’ finds DiDonato back on Baroque ground for the first time in a while, and it’s a joyful musical homecoming. ...Drama, as ever with DiDonato, is everything. Ornamentation serves narrative first, ego second.'

Available Format: Vinyl

Mozart: Piano Concertos, K.413-15c

Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano) Freiburger Barockorchester, Gottfried von der Goltz

'There’s plenty of interpretative freedom...as the soloist takes Mozart’s scores as a starting point rather than as the gospel handed down from above...he is superbly responsive to the music’s high spirits and to the possibilities inherent in these scores.'

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

Fux & Kerll: Requiems

Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier

'Vox Luminis’s consummate mastery of polyphonic textures, plangent sonorities and contoured phrasing is profoundly beautiful; the five soloists and five additional ‘ripieno’ singers declaim text with clarity and decorum....Never anything less than sublime.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Vox Clara: Music by Gabriel Jackson

Truro Cathedral Choir, Christopher Gray

'Jackson continues to produce sacred choral music of the highest invention, responding to commissions with vivid panache. His music can – in an instant – switch from richly layered ecstasy to direct, hushed intimacy, for example in the anthem Cantate Domino. It helps, of course, that as a former cathedral chorister he knows what makes singers tick.'

Available Format: CD

Ravel & Saint-Saëns: Piano Trios

Fidelio Trio

'The Fidelio’s interpretation possesses admirable clarity and definition, polish and brio, qualities they bring also to a very different world of sound in the Ravel Trio. In both works their interpretative touch is secure, their rapport instinctive. Together with their eloquence and passion, this all adds up to something special.'

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

The Sun Most Radiant: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 4

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Stephen Darlington

'With this instalment of music from the Eton Choirbook, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral sets out to rival The Sixteen’s five-volume anthology...Already it seems to me that they surpass it technically – which is remarkable considering the inevitable changes of personnel that time imposes on a choir with boy trebles – and interpretatively.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

CPE Bach: Flute Concerti

Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord & conductor); Kammerakademie Potsdam

'Urgent, direct, effortlessly virtuoso to the nth degree, always lyrical and awash with conviction, these are readings that will keep you on your toes...It’s also worth parking any sniffiness over modern flutes, for Pahud can produce as dulcet a tone as anybody on a period instrument could.'

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

La Famille Forqueray: Portrait(s)

Justin Taylor (harpsichord)

'The disc opens appropriately with an unpretentious but nevertheless accomplished unmeasured Prelude...then follows it with a thoughtfully commanding performance of the first 1747 suite. Two aspects of his interpretation stand out: the breathtaking range and subtlety of his rubato and the unexpected slivers of rhetorical silence he deftly inserts.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Berg: Wozzeck (DVD)

Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Gun-Brit Barkmin (Marie), Brandon Jovanovich (Drum Major), Mauro Peter (Andres), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Captain), Lars Woldt (Doctor); Oper Zurich, Fabio Luisi

'This is a finely honed production that follows its premise to an absurdist conclusion with slick theatricality and dispassionate zeal...All sentimentalism is banished here. So, largely, is the opera’s plea for justice and compassion. It is left to Christian Gerhaher’s Wozzeck to fight that battle, which he does with formidable diction and great lyrical beauty, offering, where he can, a still centre in the tumult.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Berg: Wozzeck (Blu-ray)

Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Gun-Brit Barkmin (Marie), Brandon Jovanovich (Drum Major), Mauro Peter (Andres), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Captain), Lars Woldt (Doctor); Oper Zurich, Fabio Luisi

'This is a finely honed production that follows its premise to an absurdist conclusion with slick theatricality and dispassionate zeal...All sentimentalism is banished here. So, largely, is the opera’s plea for justice and compassion. It is left to Christian Gerhaher’s Wozzeck to fight that battle, which he does with formidable diction and great lyrical beauty, offering, where he can, a still centre in the tumult.'

Available Format: Blu-ray

Re-issue of the Month

Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Alfred Deller (Oberon), Jennifer Vyvyan (Tytania), George Maran (Lysander), Thomas Hemsley (Demetrius), Marjorie Thomas (Hermia), April Cantelo (Helena), Forbes Robinson (Theseus), Johanna Peters (Hippolyta); English Opera Group Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

'The cast play as an ensemble with remarkable detail. Alfred Deller, especially, is in excellent voice as Oberon...though the playing is not immaculate, Britten leads his forces with tremendous rhythmic verve – even more than on the Decca recording. '

Available Format: CD