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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - December 2016

Gramophone Editor's Choices - December 2016A double-whammy of Vivaldi violin concertos this month - and they could scarcely be more different! Giuliano Carmignola and Amandine Beyer (one of my personal favourites in this repertoire) join forces for sparkling, historically-informed accounts of half a dozen of the concertos for two violins on Harmonia Mundi, whilst on Chandos we have Tasmin Little and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a much bigger-boned account of The Four Seasons, paired with the first-ever recording of Roxanna Panufnik's Four World Seasons (written for Little four years ago as part of the celebrations for the 2012 London Olympics).

Chandos in fact lead the pack this month, with the third instalment of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's Beethoven Piano Sonatas series taking pride of place - Hammerklavier, Les Adieux and the Appassionata Sonatas all feature on Volume Three, and the clarity of both the instrument itself and the recorded sound allow every detail of their dense textures to register.

Finally, I must draw special attention to Masaaki Suzuki's radiant account of Mozart's Mass in C minor on BIS, which has been receiving a lot of air-time in the Presto office over the last week or two - sadly it missed the cut-off point for our Presto Discs of the Year, but otherwise it would surely have made the Top 100 at the very least!

Recording of the Month

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Volume 3

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)

'Bavouzet, in his prime, has two rare gifts as a Beethoven interpreter. He makes you feel that each sonata is not only all of a piece but that its structure and not just its surface has an audible power. Second, he conveys that what is experienced is indissolubly linked to its execution...He radiates generosity and balance as well as a delight in being able to play the piano so well.'

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

Editor's Choices

John Adams & Roy Harris: Violin Concertos

Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton

'Her interpretation [of the Adams] is technically beyond reproach and musically imaginative. What makes this recording indispensible is the coupling...Harris’s Concerto is a major (re-)discovery, and Waley-Cohen outclasses Fulkerson’s pioneering version in every respect. Andrew Litton and the BBC Symphony provide superb, supple support.'

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

As Dreams

Norwegian Soloists' Choir, Oslo Sinfonietta, Grete Pedersen

'There is delicacy, sensitivity, richness and detail in each performance here (no prizes for guessing the disc’s theme) and excellent sound that gets to the many corners of each score. Add to that extraordinary imagination in the singing, individually and collectively.'

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

Dvorak: Slavonic Dances

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jirí Belohlávek

'Bělohlávek is especially effective in the Brahmsian contours of the second and eighth of the Op 72 dances...As to Op 46, Bělohlávek offers weighty, purposeful accounts of the faster dances and brings a discernible pastoral element to the slower ones.'

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

Vivaldi: Concertos for 2 violins

Giuliano Carmignola (violin) & Amandine Beyer (violin) Gli incogniti

'These are performances that burst with life, and right from the unaccompanied sparring between the soloists at the beginning of the first track...The tone of soloists and orchestra alike is rich and vital, and the recording has the right mix of clarity and bloom.'

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

Vivaldi/Roxanna Panufnik: A Violin for all seasons

Tasmin Little (violin & conductor) BBC Symphony Orchestra

'These are modern-instrument performances of Vivaldi with a big symphonic string section. And if you haven’t already run screaming for your Fabio Biondi or La Serenissima sets, you’re going to enjoy this disc a lot...Panufnik has written a really effective response to Vivaldi, ideally tailored to Little’s artistry.'

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

François Couperin: Ariane consolée par Bacchus

Stéphane Degout (baritone), Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

'The acoustic of the Eglise Saint-Pierre (Paris) allows us to enjoy both the warmth of [Degout's] voice and the detail of his fluent ornamentation....These works have been recorded many times but rarely so well. Rousset’s vision for his ensemble... is sublime, as too are his harpsichord realisations. This is a landmark recording to treasure.'

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

Mozart: Great Mass in C minor

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Olivia Vermeulen (mezzo), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Christian Immler (bass), Bach Collegium Japan Chorus & Orchestra, Masaaki Suzuki

'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.'

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

Fire Music: Infernal Flames and Celestial Blaze

Capella de la Torrei

'This award-winning early music ensemble has a wonderfully distinctive sound and spirit – wind-dominated, percussion-driven, absolutely authentic but always playful...This is music with dirt under its fingernails, and all the better for it.'

Available Format: CD

DVD of the Month

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius

Peter Pears (Gerontius), Dame Janet Baker (The Angel), John Shirley Quirk (The Priest & The Angel of the Agony); London Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir, Sir Adrian Boult

'[Pears] is, in a word, magnificent. Shirley-Quirk is marvellous, too, in both his roles, and Janet Baker, inhabiting the Angel as only she could, is in a league of her own...the TV sound is remarkably good for its time and the quality of the solo performances... makes this a must-see.'

Available Format: DVD Video