Skip to main content

 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices, October 2017

Gramophone Editor's Choices, October 2017 Top of the pile this month is Krystian Zimerman's accounts of the late Schubert Sonatas (performed on a keyboard designed by the pianist himself especially for the recording!) on Deutsche Grammophon; reviewing the recording a couple of weeks ago, my colleague James enthused that 'the way he shapes a phrase is a joy to listen to, and he knows exactly how to pace the longer movements'.

An honourable mention, too, for our recent interviewee Boris Giltburg, whose account of Rachmaninov's evergreen Second Piano Concerto is an Editor's Choice: their reviewer observes that 'Giltburg must be thoroughly conversant with Rachmaninov’s recorded legacy but his readings are far from simulacra', which is borne out by the pianist's remarks in his interview with Katherine about the recording here).

Recording of the Month

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D959 and D960

Krystian Zimerman (piano)

'Zimerman, quite simply, sounds like no one else. That’s partly down to the instrument, having inserted into his Steinway a keyboard he has made himself... Every element of these two sonatas has been thought out, considered; in the hands of a lesser artist the results could have been pernickety but instead they tend towards the transcendent...This is a marvellously life‑enhancing release. Go and hear it for yourself.'

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

Editor's Choices

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 'Lobgesang'

Lucy Crowe (soprano), Jurgita Adamonyté (mezzo), Michael Spyres (tenor), London Symphony Orchestra, Monteverdi Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

'Aided by fine soloists and, above all, Gardiner’s excellent Monteverdi Choir, this performance has a vitality that compels attention...But as soon as we get to the choral section, Gardiner’s performance catches alight like no other. The 44-strong Monteverdi Choir launch into ‘Die Nacht ist vergangen’ with real joy as day arrives...The final choral fugue is genuinely uplifting, a splendid way to conclude Gardiner’s splendid cycle.'

Available Formats: SACD + Blu-ray Audio, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 & Études-Tableaux, Op. 33

Boris Giltburg (piano), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Carlos Miguel Prieto

'Giltburg certainly has something fresh to say in Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto...and he says it elegantly and eloquently...For all the admirable attention to detail, one of the most appealing aspects of this performance is its grand trajectory...Giltburg must be thoroughly conversant with Rachmaninov’s recorded legacy but his readings are far from simulacra. Rather than imitating Rachmaninov, Giltburg seems to imbibe the composer’s spirit.'

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

CPE Bach: Tangere

Alexei Lubimov (tangent piano)

'The sound of this instrument, lovingly restored by Chris Maene of Ruiselede, Belgium, is almost impossible to describe. It shares something of the clavichord’s finesse but with a considerably enlarged dynamic spectrum...Employing an arsenal of attack and release strategies, Lubimov draws from it a veritable rainbow of colours plus an abundant variety of sounds perfectly suited to the extravagant expressivity of Bach.'

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

Debussy: Piano Music

Steven Osborne (piano)

'Osborne traverses this well-known repertory with obvious relish, relying on immense musical and technical resources to reveal fresh, unexpected perspectives on music we all thought we knew. Intimacies of disarming candour are whispered into the ear...This is music-making of great subtlety and finesse which neither lovers of Debussy and French music nor those who value piano-playing on the highest artistic level will want to miss.'

Available Format: CD

Blow: An Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell

Samuel Boden (tenor), Thomas Walker (tenor), William Gaunt (bass), Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

'For many, getting to know these pieces will be persuasion enough, but the performances complete the seduction with their expert playing and singing, vigorous but tastefully realised sense of style and – despite being mostly one-to-a-part – firmly shaped contours and effective illustrative touches...With a recording that is wonderfully clear and alive, everything seems to be going right for Jonathan Cohen at present.'

Available Format: CD

Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, Vol. 5

Blue Heron, Scott Metcalfe

'Blue Heron are a multivalent group. Here they sing with two or three voices to a part, using adult trebles for the top one...At full stretch there isn’t a weak link from top to bottom, and at their best (that is, usually) the trebles stand comparison with those of far better-known ensembles either side of the Atlantic: try the Mass that forms the centrepiece here...I doubt whether I’ll be alone in thinking this one of the discoveries of the year.'

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

Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott: Luther and the Music of the Reformation

Bart Jacobs (organ), Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier

'This year has seen several fine recordings celebrating the quincentenary of the founding act of the Reformation but this is comfortably the most searching and artistically rewarding that I’ve listened to.....The music is of consistently high quality, the selections by ‘minor’ figures frequently as telling as those by acknowledged masters...Programmatic flair is backed up by performances and a sound recording to match..'

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Félicien David: Christophe Colomb and other works

Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth; Brussels Philharmonic, Flemish Radio Choir, Hervé Niquet

'The performances are fabulous. François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles mine the textures and sonorities of Christophe Colomb for all their worth...Hervé Niquet and the Brussels Philharmonic take over for the orchestral works and Le jugement dernier. The latter is edge-of-your-seat stuff, with the Flemish Radio Choir thrilling at full throttle...It’s a fascinating and outstanding achievement: highly recommended.'

Available Formats: 3 CDs + Book, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Mozart: Il sogno di Scipione

Chiara Skerath (soprano), Soraya Mafi (soprano), Klara Ek (soprano), Stuart Jackson (tenor), Krystian Adam (tenor), Robert Murray (tenor), Classical Opera, Ian Page

'The Orchestra of Classical Opera, playing on period instruments about a semitone below today’s pitch, are quite wonderful...The singers, most of them new to me, are just as fine. Stuart Jackson manages the melismas and wide leaps of his two arias with confidence and elegance...Ian Page presides over a charming performance, with well-paced recitatives and appropriate, sometimes extravagant decoration. This is minor Mozart, done supremely well..'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Faccio: Hamlet (Blu-ray)

Pavel Cernoch (Amleto), Iulia Maria Dan (Ofelia), Claudio Sgura (Claudio), Dshamilja Kaiser (Gertrude), Prague Philharmonic Choir, Wiener Symphoniker Paolo Carignani

'Tambosi’s production in the Bregenz Festspielhaus is simple but effective. Černoch’s tortured Hamlet – dressed in plain black, emphasising his detachment from court life – acts and sings terrifically, including his great soliloquy ‘Essere o non essere!’, while the Romanian soprano Iulia Maria Dan is an affecting Ophelia...In short, Amleto is a very fine work indeed – superior to Thomas’s Hamlet – and this Bregenz production constitutes a major operatic rediscovery.'

Available Format: Blu-ray

Faccio: Hamlet (DVD)

Pavel Cernoch (Amleto), Iulia Maria Dan (Ofelia), Claudio Sgura (Claudio), Dshamilja Kaiser (Gertrude), Prague Philharmonic Choir, Wiener Symphoniker Paolo Carignani

'Tambosi’s production in the Bregenz Festspielhaus is simple but effective. Černoch’s tortured Hamlet – dressed in plain black, emphasising his detachment from court life – acts and sings terrifically, including his great soliloquy ‘Essere o non essere!’, while the Romanian soprano Iulia Maria Dan is an affecting Ophelia...In short, Amleto is a very fine work indeed – superior to Thomas’s Hamlet – and this Bregenz production constitutes a major operatic rediscovery.'

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Re-issue of the Month

Rachmaninov: Preludes (The 1941–42 Recordings)

Moura Lympany (piano)

'Lympany’s is a unique achievement...From the first notes of the famous Prelude in C sharp minor to the final Prelude of Op 32, you feel in safe hands, knowing that nothing will be exaggerated or sentimentalised, agogics and dynamics faithfully translated, in performances that take no account of the inhibiting power of the red light...One is left wondering why such a recording has taken so long to come back into circulation.'

Available Format: CD