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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - May 2017

Gramophone Editor's Choices, May 2017Gramophone's Recording of the Month goes to James MacMillan's highly moving setting of the Stabat Mater, commissioned for and recorded by The Sixteen under Harry Christophers. Discover more about the composer's thoughts behind this fascinating new work in David's interview with James MacMillan; we also spoke to conductor Harry Christophers to get his perspective.

Other Presto favourites appearing in this month's choices include two of our Discs of the Week: The Nash Ensemble's disc of Bruch chamber music, and Paul McCreesh's super-sized recording of Haydn's Seasons.

Disc of the Month

MacMillan: Stabat Mater

The Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia, Harry Christophers

'Christophers's adoration of MacMillan’s Stabat Mater radiates out of every moment of this compelling performance...the closely knit choral clusters, ethereally drawn together with a remarkable unity of tone, and the intense, fervid textures, astonishingly nuanced...put them [The Sixteen] in a class of their own...a truly masterly recorded performance.'

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

Editor's Choices

Clementi: Symphonies Nos. 1-4

Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Ivor Bolton

'There's plenty to intrigue and delight in these four symphonies...Bolton brings out both the opera buffa sparkle and the dramatic surprises of the Allegros, gives a lively kick to the rhythms in the minuet-scherzos...and combines affectionate phrasing with a sense of forward motion in the Andantes...warmly recommended.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Elgar & Tchaikovsky: Cello Works

Johannes Moser (cello), L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Andrew Manze

'The first minutes command immediate attention, Johannes Moser's handling of the opening chords confident and tonally full-bodied...the melody itself tenderness personified, slowing subtly before the strings take the lead and Moser rises boldly to the crest of the phrase...Again [in the Rococo Variations], Moser offers a performance that combines sensitivity, agility and brilliance, while Manze and the Suisse Romande Orchestra are consistently on the ball.'

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

The Italian Job

Gail Hennessy, Rachel Chaplin (oboes) & Peter Whelan (bassoon), La Serenissima, Adrian Chandler

'La Serenissima have a glorious and all-too-rare ability to make one's pulse race afresh with every new project, and 'The Italian Job' has all their typical hallmarks: a fresh, zinging tone alive with vitality and enjoyment, an effortless easy panache from both ensemble and soloists, and the whole underpinned by a scholarly attitude to programming and performance style which is yet worn with light grace.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9

James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano)

'They programme the Kreutzer first and its opening movement has that essential Bachian purity, which gives way to a Presto full of strength and energy, yet finesse and suppleness too...Ehnes and Armstrong are ravishing in the slow movement [of Sonata No. 6]...while a sense of playfulness is irresistibly apparent in every bar of the finale.'

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

Bruch: String Quintets & Octet

The Nash Ensemble

'This is a superb account [of the A minor Quintet]. The Nash Ensemble have a natural feeling for the music's ebb and flow, and...they play beautifully as an ensemble...They're helped by Hyperion's engineers, who've made a church acoustic sound as immediate as a drawing room, even in the quasi-orchestral textures of Bruch's String Octet.'

Available Format: CD

Bach Reimagines Bach

William Carter (lute)

'Thus there is the soloist's suppleness and flexibility of phrase; but there is also the obvious enjoyment of pure sonority and tints and shades of tone. These qualities are most evident in the freer preludes... but there is a lovely use of notes inégales in the Siciliana and Courante of both suites as well, while other dance movements benefit from Carter's deceptively subtle, distinctive imagination.'

Available Format: CD

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas

Sunwook Kim (piano)

'Kim is blessed with technical command, intelligence and communicative flair in equal measure and at a very high level....the treacherous outer movements of the Appassionata are crystal-clear...and the finale of the Moonlight goes at the fullest of Presto agitatos, without the slightest suspicion of gabble.'

Available Format: CD

Haydn: The Seasons

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Jeremy Ovenden (tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (bass), Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, Wrocław Philharmonic Choir, Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh

'What emphatically sets this Seasons apart from all previous recordings...is the scale. The big choruses...generate a visceral excitement unmatched by any rivals...while the autumn hunt...has never sounded more uninhibitedly exuberant. McCreesh also gives Haydn's gentler and more reflective music plenty of breathing space...a Seasons that thrillingly catches both the work's bucolic exhilaration and its invocation of the sublime.'

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

Heroines of Love and Loss

Ruby Hughes (soprano), Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (cello) & Jonas Nordberg (lute / theorbo / archlute)

'She [Ruby Hughes] has a warm, almost mellow voice, well suited to this enterprising selection of 17th-century songs...the striking feature of the disc is the array of powerful pieces by Italian women composers...to all of them Ruby Hughes brings an exemplary understanding and stylishness.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (DVD)

Piotr Beczała (Riccardo), George Petean (Renato), Anja Harteros (Amelia), Okka von der Damerau (Ulrica), Sofia Fomina (Oscar), Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Zubin Mehta

'Musically things are more fine. Beczała pulls off this one hell of a tenor role...with style and confidence. Harteros gives her usual tightly focused emotional performance. Petean is triumphantly consistent...And with Maestro Mehta's spacious tempos for his arias - but they and a general lack of over-heated emotion fit this visual interpretation well. With good sound and helpful shot selection the release is strongly recommended.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (Blu-ray)

Piotr Beczala (Riccardo), George Petean (Renato), Anja Harteros (Amelia), Okka von der Damerau (Ulrica), Sofia Fomina (Oscar), Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Zubin Mehta

'Musically things are more fine. Beczała pulls off this one hell of a tenor role...with style and confidence. Harteros gives her usual tightly focused emotional performance. Petean is triumphantly consistent...And with Maestro Mehta's spacious tempos for his arias - but they and a general lack of over-heated emotion fit this visual interpretation well. With good sound and helpful shot selection the release is strongly recommended.'

Available Format: Blu-ray

Re-issue of the Month

Michael Gielen Edition Volume 4

SWR Sinfonieorchester des Südwestrundfunks, Michael Gielen

'Even more revelatory than the first three volumes.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC