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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - April 2017

Gramophone Editor's Choices, April 2017Once again, we find ourselves entirely in agreement with the Gramophone team's Disc of the Month (I can assure you there's no conferring allowed!) - Sir John Eliot Gardiner's second recording of the St Matthew Passion clearly impressed them as much as it did us! (You can read Katherine's exclusive interview with Gardiner about the recording here and our complete review here.

Another of this month's featured artists, Beatrice Rana, spoke to us on camera recently about her relationship with Bach's Goldberg Variations - watch or read her reflections here. You can also find out more about Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson's 80th-birthday tribute to Philip Glass via James's Q&A with him here.

Disc of the Month

JS Bach: St Matthew Passion

James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Stephan Loges (Jesus); English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

'If a Passion performance has no sense of community it has nothing, and this is surely the making of Gardiner’s account...a thoughtfully moulded, expertly executed and deeply committed reading, so honestly communicative of its intent and so free of self-conscious monumentalism, sententiousness or melodramatics...I believe it to be one of his finest achievements.'

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

Editor's Choices

Richard Strauss: Symphonia Domestica & Metamorphosen

SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, François-Xavier Roth

'The woodwind-playing is brilliantly characterful and vivid; the strings, more silky than velvety, are no less alive and responsive, and Roth coaxes some exquisitely tender phrasing from them...Above all, though the pictorial details are never short-changed, Roth manages to make this sometimes intractable score make such clear and obvious symphonic sense...Highly recommended.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

David Matthews: Piano Trios

Leonore Piano Trio

'Try the Adagio of Matthews’s Second Trio, of 1993. Over a measured accompaniment on the piano, violin and cello sing and climb and soar; a long, glorious melody that simply builds and builds...Matthews is a romantic. You don’t have to read the booklet-notes...to sense that...The Leonore Trio have clearly lived with this music; their playing is alert and stylish, unafraid to let the melodies soar.'

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

JS Bach: Goldberg Variations

Beatrice Rana (piano)

'Her detailing is one of the aspects that makes this performance so compelling, be it the bringing out of a new line in the repeat, subtle changes in phrasing, a touch of pedal – examples are to be found in every single variation...the return of the Aria is as emotionally multifaceted as you would expect – mysterious, quizzical, noble, resigned, hopeful – setting the seal on a life-affirming disc.'

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

Brahms: Works for Solo Piano Volume 4

Jonathan Plowright (piano)

'As we reach Volume 4 of this complete solo Brahms traversal, there’s no doubt that Jonathan Plowright and old Johannes are on the best of terms...Even Brahms’s most strenuous technical demands [in the Paganini Variations] hold no fears...But more telling still is the sense of playfulness that Plowright brings not only to the theme itself but to myriad variations.'

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

Mozart: Violin Sonatas Volume 3

Alina Ibragimova (violin) & Cédric Tiberghien (piano)

'Avoiding the twin traps of over-inflation and simpering coyness, the symbiotic partnership of Tiberghien and Ibragimova respect the music’s innocence while relishing every tiny opportunity for mischief and humour. If the ear is naturally drawn to Tiberghien’s limpid, subtly coloured pianism in these keyboard-dominated works, Ibragimova ensures that her discreet contributions always tell.'

Available Format: CD

Philip Glass: Piano Works

Víkingur Ólafsson (piano), Siggi String Quartet

'Ólafsson’s interpretations inhabit a unique, distinct and extraordinary world all their own...[he] possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities...In Glass’s music, each repetition is enriched by subtle changes in colour, voice-leading and articulation, as if Ólafsson were continually refreshing the page on his musical server.'

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

Music for the 100 Years' War

The Binchois Consort, Andrew Kirkman

'The Orlandos sensibly espouse the music’s rough edges (as in the Kyrie Cuthberte), courting roughness themselves in a good cause. Where a more mellifluous tone is required, as in the top-voice-driven Credo by Excetre, they give Matthew Venner’s expressive countertenor full rein.'

Available Format: CD

Mozart: Arien

Anett Fritsch (soprano), Munchner Rundfunkorchester, Alessandro de Marchi

'Fritsch’s Mozart is a sheer delight. This is no bland essay of the usual suspects painted in anonymous colours but a vivid portrait gallery of characters that Fritsch has actually played on stage. She presents multiple characters from the three da Ponte operas and they’re all beautifully variegated, all coming across as living, breathing individuals...A jewel of a disc.'

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

JS Bach: Ouvertures

Ensemble Zefiro, Alfredo Bernardini

'In BWV1066 trio passages are played by oboists Alfredo Bernardini and Paulo Grazzi and bassoonist Alberto Grazzi with unerring momentum and nuanced deftness...French-style dances lilt, sway or scamper, with a keen attention to charismatic details (the pair of Passepieds is an ideal compound of liveliness and refinement).'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Puccini: Turandot (DVD)

Nina Stemme, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Maria Agresta, Alexander Tsymbaluk; Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Chailly

'The set and costumes (Raimund Bauer and Andrea Schmidt-Futterer) are a feast for the eye...[Stemme] delivers ‘In questa reggia’ with burnished tone, culminating in a gleaming top C...Tsymbalyuk is touching in Timur’s lament for Liù, and the masks are well characterised...A firm recommendation for this eminently watchable offering from the theatre of the opera’s premiere.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Puccini: Turandot (Blu-ray)

Nina Stemme, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Maria Agresta, Alexander Tsymbaluk; Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Chailly

'The set and costumes (Raimund Bauer and Andrea Schmidt-Futterer) are a feast for the eye...[Stemme] delivers ‘In questa reggia’ with burnished tone, culminating in a gleaming top C...Tsymbalyuk is touching in Timur’s lament for Liù, and the masks are well characterised...A firm recommendation for this eminently watchable offering from the theatre of the opera’s premiere.'

Available Format: Blu-ray

Re-issue of the Month

From Melba to Sutherland

Nelly Melba, Jona Sutherland and others

'A great celebration of a country’s contribution to the art of opera.'

Available Format: CD