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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - September 2017

Gramophone Editor's Choices, September 2017Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe are first among equals for Gramophone this month, with their ‘imaginative, fabulously executed’ accounts of the five Mendelssohn Symphonies on Deutsche Grammophon taking the top spot.

Our own Recording of the Week, Francesco Piemontesi’s ‘graceful, effortless’ accounts of two late Mozart piano concertos with Andrew Manze and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra also gets an honourable mention, as does recent interviewee Sean Shibe, whose stunning debut recording of English guitar music on Delphian has made quite a splash with the critics this month (both the Sunday Times and The Herald drew favourable comparisons with Julian Bream). You can read David’s interview with Sean here; watch this space, too, for a Presto Q&A with prize-winning young soprano Louise Alder about her gorgeous Strauss lieder disc on Orchid, which also gets a look-in.

Recording of the Month

Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 1-5

Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Yannick Nézet-Séguin

'Nézet-Séguin approaches the symphonies of Mendelssohn with an exploratory mind and deep care for colour, the COE responding with brilliance throughout this impressive set...For anyone wanting a complete set of the symphonies in the lean, lithe modern mould...Nézet-Séguin’s imaginative, fabulously executed performances guarantee abiding pleasure.'

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

Editor's Choices

Brahms: The Symphonies

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons

'His Brahms is as vital, impulsive and rhythmic as all his work strives to be – though not as sheerly dynamic as one might have imagined – but there is blend and bloom, too...he truly listens to the music, feeling its pulse and allowing the phrasing to evolve with as little intervention or ‘shaping’ as possible. He is generous without indulgence, muscular without vulgarity.'

Available Format: CD

Elliott Carter: Late Works

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra, BCMG, Oliver Knussen

'No one hearing the pieces on this disc is likely to doubt their technical finesse or expressive refinement: qualities that go a long way towards the defining of ‘lateness’ in artistic terms...[Aimard] tackles this always demanding pianism with alacrity and perception...There are unlikely to be any better discs of contemporary music this year.'

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

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 25 & 26

Francesco Piemontesi (piano), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Manze

'His sympathy with the style and ethos of the Salzburger’s music simply sings from the speakers. There is intimacy rather than inwardness to these chamber-scale performances; Piemontesi knows he’s the star but is sensitive enough to realise that he shares a firmament with the orchestral soloists, despite being ever so slightly spotlit in the miking..,More Mozart from these quarters is eagerly awaited.'

Available Format: CD

Bartók: Complete String Quartets

Heath Quartet

'Their playing isn’t as glossy, perhaps, as other recent entrants into this field, such as the Jerusalem Quartet, but they have a powerful understanding of the music’s structure, coupled to superlative technical skill. Sensibly, they don’t try to fake a Hungarian accent: instead, their awareness of the music’s roots is incorporated into a wider expressive language.'

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

William Youn Plays Mozart Sonatas, Vol. 5

William Youn (piano)

'Here we have playing that is absolutely at the service of the composer yet also full of personality...Youn’s reading of the Fantasy is one of the highlights here: he is fully alive to the importance of the silences within it, while also letting the music build and billow without ever lapsing into melodrama...This is beguiling Mozart-playing – innate, intelligent, honest and fiercely musical.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Dreams & Fancies: English Music for Solo Guitar

Sean Shibe (guitar)

'Under Shibe’s fingers, they are all mesmerising. The Walton Bagatelles are by turns playful, sensual and impetuous. The evocations of Spain in the Berkeley are brilliantly orchestrated. Shibe doesn’t attempt to imitate the lute in the Dowland, opting instead to connect the tensions arising out of contrapuntal densities and masterful use of diminutions with the modern repertoire that precedes and follows the three pieces.'

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

Rachmaninov: Vespers

Klaudia Zeiner (alto), Falk Hoffmann (tenor), MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Risto Joost

'Joost paces the work very well indeed, understanding that there is a dramatic arc which it is imperative to transmit, so that the work is not merely a sequence of isolated events...the tension never lets up, the line is never lost...[The performance] can join the ranks of the very best available.'

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

Richard Strauss: Through Life and Love

Louise Alder (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)

'Each song sounds utterly fresh, with the bright, flinty beauty of Alder’s soprano constantly conveying lively intelligence as well as strong characterisation. The interpretations are natural and confident, her German vividly pointed...Middleton’s piano-playing is superb throughout as well, offering perceptive, lively and sensitive accompaniment entirely on Alder’s wavelength.'

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

Handel: Ottone

Max Emanuel Cenčić, Ann Hallenberg, Xavier Sabata; Il Pomo d’Oro, George Petrou

'Petrou draws rhythmically animated, sensitively coloured playing from the crack Italian band...The cast is uniformly strong...Cenčić, with his unusually powerful, sensuous countertenor, rescues [Ottone] from self-regarding wimpishess. ..this new recording is emphatically the version to have of an opera whose dramatic flaws are redeemed by magnificent individual scenes and any number of good tunes.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: Grand Opening Concert

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Thomas Hengelbrock

'An unequivocal success is the way the drama of the leaps between the centuries remains absolutely undiluted...As a concert recording this may not represent absolute as-it-was perfection but as a package with the documentary, and as a record of an extraordinary musical event, it comes highly recommended.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: Grand Opening Concert

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Thomas Hengelbrock

Also available on blu-ray.

Available Format: Blu-ray

Re-issue of the Month

Gundula Janowitz - The Last Recital

Gundula Janowitz (soprano), Charles Spencer (piano)

'[Janowitz] is in remarkably fresh voice throughout. There’s a certain loss of bloom, inevitably, and an occasional brittleness of intonation, but the unique sound is unmistakable, the delivery still clear and are songs with a certain valedictory potential that is brought out by the occasion as well as by an interpretative approach from Janowitz that is non-interventionist and leisurely.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC