Skip to main content

 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - March 2017

Gramophone Editor's Choices, March 2017Pride of place this month goes to the final instalment of Vasily Petrenko's electrifying Tchaikovsky series with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (you can read Katherine's exclusive interview with Petrenko about the recording here and James's complete review here). A landmark in another venerable orchestral cycle also features in despatches: Andrew Davis's continuation of the Vaughan Williams symphonies series on Chandos which was begun by the late Richard Hickox (also a Disc of the Week for us last month).

Other honourable mentions include the French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau's survey of the Bach family's keyboard concertos, which has been receiving a huge amount of air-time in the Presto office over the past couple of weeks, the first-ever staging of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, and an enjoyable and assured debut on Sony from the promising German baritone Benjamin Appl (Young Artist of the Year at the 2016 Gramophone Awards) .

Recording of the Month

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 3, 4 & 6

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko

'Petrenko’s fast and furious approach once again pays off with invigorating performances which dispel Russian gloom. The RLPO play their socks off and must rank as one of the finest ‘Russian orchestras’ in the UK today...I commend Petrenko’s as the finest modern cycle of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies currently available.'

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

Editor's Choices

Vaughan Williams: Job & Symphony No. 9

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

'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.'

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

Dynastie: Bach Concertos

Jean Rondeau (harpsichord)

'While Rondeau does indeed take a very relaxed approach to pulse and metre at points, the effect comes over more as charming and human, along with carrying a sense of absolute connection and improvisatory ease with his harpsichord akin to that of a jazz pianist...All in all, a recording to savour.'

Available Format: CD

The Romantic Piano Concerto 70 - Beach, Chaminade & Howell

Danny Driver (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Rebecca Miller

'If Driver offers a robust, muscular view of the Beach, he is certainly in touch with his feminine side in the highly attractive single-movement Concerto by Dorothy Howell...but even more appealing is Cécile Chaminade’s Concertstück in the same key as the Beach...In Driver’s hands it is enchanting.'

Available Format: CD

Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets Volume 3

Elias Quartet

'Right from its Adagio opening, the first movement [of Op. 130] urges forwards...This is characterful, well-paced playing, the Trio to the Presto second movement gutsy and rasping; and note how beautiful the preparatory phrases for the Andante sound.'

Available Format: CD

Liszt: Two Sonatas for Two Pianos

Ludmila Berlinskaya & Arthur Ancelle (pianos)

'I can only say I was bowled over by the playing of this Franco-Russian husband-and-wife duo, astonished to the extent that any initial scepticism, any notion of this being a mere curiosity, is utterly confounded. Their performance of this music is everything and more that I had hoped for.'

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

Heimat

Benjamin Appl (baritone), James Baillieu (piano)

'The voice has a burnished, oaky beauty as well as considerable sweetness (well captured in Sony’s natural engineering), while the interpretations are suffused with a gentle intelligence, an instinct for unforced but direct communication and what feels like a real love for the repertoire.'

Available Format: CD

Martinu: Cantatas

Members of the Bennewitz Quartet & Prague Philharmonic Choir, Lukas Vasilek

'This is a singularly exotic issue for Czechs and non-Czechs alike...I cannot imagine these cantatas being better performed or recorded than here; Lukáš Vasilek is an outstanding conductor, and the Prague Philharmonic Choir respond to his every interpretative intuition. Very highly recommended.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Berg: Wozzeck

Roman Trekel (Wozzeck), Anne Schwanewilms (Marie), Marc Molomot (Captain); Houston Symphony Orchestra, Hans Graf

'One of the finest Wozzecks on record, orchestrally speaking: whether massed for the interludes or fragmented mid-scene, the players don’t miss a trick...The most memorable vocal impression is left by Anne Schwanewilms...[Trekel's] Wozzeck is more sung, and evenly so, than most rivals on record; he travels through scenes like a noble savage.'

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

Sacred Duets

Nuria Rial (soprano), Valer Sabadus (countertenor) & Julia Schroder (violin)

'A bold and beautifully researched showcase for a repertoire badly in need of a champion...[Rial's] vocal agility and purity are as striking as ever here...Sabadus’s smoky, rounded countertenor makes an effective foil for Rial’s bright soprano, bringing depth and colour to the blend, while retaining his own tonal identity.'

Available Format: CD

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (DVD)

Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus of the Dutch National Opera; Marc Albrecht, Pierre Audi

'It makes for fascinating viewing...Audi wisely chooses to keep his narrative loose and suggestive, emphasising the piece’s affinity as much to Wagner’s Tristan as to Parsifal...The detailed, virtuoso playing of the orchestra and Marc Albrecht’s clear-sighted but impassioned conducting need fear no comparison with the best audio-only versions. A very impressive achievement all round.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Blu-ray)

Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus of the Dutch National Opera; Marc Albrecht, Pierre Audi

'It makes for fascinating viewing...Audi wisely chooses to keep his narrative loose and suggestive, emphasising the piece’s affinity as much to Wagner’s Tristan as to Parsifal...The detailed, virtuoso playing of the orchestra and Marc Albrecht’s clear-sighted but impassioned conducting need fear no comparison with the best audio-only versions. A very impressive achievement all round.'

Available Format: Blu-ray