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 Gramophone Choices  Gramophone Editor's Choices - November 2017

Gramophone - November ChoicesA sparky and engaging account of Rameau’s ‘acte de ballet’ Pygmalion from Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques is first among equals this month, with an unconventional but insightful take on Così fan tutte from the Paris Opera taking the laurels in the DVD and Blu-ray category.

Four of our recent interviewees are mentioned in despatches: Hannu Lintu, whom I spoke with last month about his new Sibelius recording with Anne Sofie von Otter and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Carolyn Sampson, Iestyn Davies and Joseph Middleton, whose gorgeous collection of vocal duets by Purcell/Britten, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Quilter is one of my personal favourites of the year!

Recording of the Month

Rameau: Pygmalion

Cyrille Dubois, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Céline Scheen, Eugénie Warnier; Les Talens Lyriques, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Christophe Rousset

'Rameau’s inventive overture fizzes, crackles and beguiles as each element demands in Les Talens Lyriques’ capable hands…[Dubois's] ardency and finesse never have any hints of strain at the top of the voice...Chappuis offers passionate refinement...recordings of an unimpeachable calibre like this don’t come along very often.'

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

Editor's Choices

Beethoven: Violin Concerto & Two Romances

James Ehnes (violin), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Manze

'The rich, warm sound of the RLPO strings here may come as a surprise, though it’s a perfect complement to the soloist’s sweet-toned, Apollonian approach...Technically, Ehnes’s playing is a marvel...But, really, it’s his – and Manze’s – thoughtfulness and patience that make this recording so satisfying...A Beethoven Concerto to stand among the very best.'

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

Paderewski: Piano Concerto & Stojowski: Symphonic Rhapsody

Jonathan Plowright (piano), Iuventus Orchestra, Łukasz Borowicz

'Stojowski’s Symphonic Rhapsody is a worthy addition to [Plowright 's] valuable and impressive discography of neglected music by Polish composers...Plowright is one of those pianists who can make even the most banal ideas seem original and rewarding...His partnership with the talented Łukas Borowicz is proving to be most fruitful.'

Available Format: CD

Sibelius: Tapiola, En Saga & 8 Songs

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu

'Lintu’s Tapiola does indeed settle into one of the finest performances on record, reconciling the obvious with the mysterious...En Saga is a superb performance: rich down below, perky up top, full of delectable solos...Von Otter’s voice may have lost some brightness but it has gained storytelling capabilities with age...One of the most striking Sibelius discs for years.'

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

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal College of Music Brass Band, Martyn Brabbins

'Brabbins masterminds a superbly involving account...Clocking in at around 52 minutes, it’s a canvas of thrilling sweep, evocative power and vaulting ambition...Above all, Brabbins exhibits a very real love for this remarkable score...The fill-ups are a joy, too. Elizabeth Watts makes a radiant showing in Orpheus With His Lute...An irresistible anthology, in sum.'

Available Format: CD

Dvořák: Quintets Op. 81 & 97

Boris Giltburg (piano), Pavel Nikl (viola), Pavel Haas Quartet

'It is the happiest of reunions and their sense of shared purpose is evident from the very start...Giltburg is likewise completely at one with the quartet, who set off full of sighing pathos...From the off, they make the music their own...the sense of story-telling is very persuasive...Another triumphant addition to the Pavel Haas’s already award-laden discography.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Sibelius: Piano Works

Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

'His taste and cultivated musicianship have come together to promote an aspect of Sibelius’s output that has customarily been regarded as not worth the bother...His advocacy is strong and pitched just right, and I’ve been won over willingly...Sibelius was a giant and all the tracks here contribute to our knowledge of him.'

Available Format: CD

Compère: Missa Galeazescha - Music for the Duke of Milan

Odhecato, Paolo Da Col

'This is only the third anthology devoted to Loyset Compère, whose 500th death-anniversary falls next year; but it is a fitting commemoration, for both music and performance are on a pleasingly high level...the groups are so well blended (and indeed opulent) that one imagines that Galeazzo would have been delighted. In fact, the variety of approaches on offer is one of this disc’s most attractive aspects.'

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

Ēriks Ešenvalds: The Doors of Heaven

Portland State Chamber Choir, Ethan Sperry

'This outstanding disc proves that composers such as Ešenvalds speak very clearly across cultures...The choir is used as a vast palette of colours and you can really hear the singers enjoying their separate contributions to this...This is a superb disc, containing impassioned performances, beautifully recorded.'

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

Lost Is My Quiet

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Joseph Middleton (piano)

'Carolyn Sampson and Iestyn Davies make a symbiotic partnership...their tone (not least their control of vibrato) and style ideally matched. They are compelling interpreters, too, with an infectious sense of shared enjoyment...Here is a captivating, unhackneyed programme, presented by singers – a double act in a thousand – and pianist with a style and allure it would be hard to beat.'

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

Re-Issue of the Month

Beethoven: The Complete Wartime Piano Sonata Recordings

Wilhelm Kempff (piano)

'The original recordings are sonically well balanced and give a good measure of Kempff’s sonority. While the rare shellac pressings are admittedly of poor quality, any extreme noise reduction on transfer agent Mark Obert-Thorn’s part would have compromised their frequency range and timbral virtues.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Mozart: Così fan tutte (DVD)

Jacquelyn Wagner, Michèle Losier, Frédéric Antoun, Philippe Sly, Paulo Szot, Ginger Costa-Jackson; Paris Opera, Philippe Jordan

'Jacquelyn Wagner is a poised Fiordiligi, with plenty of power for ‘Come scoglio’, while Michèle Losier sings a stylish Dorabella...The men are even finer, particularly Philippe Sly’s Guglielmo...With Philippe Jordan drawing excellent orchestral playing from the pit, with witty fortepiano recitatives, this is a most unusual Così which eventually had me hooked.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Mozart: Così fan tutte (Blu-ray)

Jacquelyn Wagner, Michèle Losier, Frédéric Antoun, Philippe Sly, Paulo Szot, Ginger Costa-Jackson; Paris Opera, Philippe Jordan

'Jacquelyn Wagner is a poised Fiordiligi, with plenty of power for ‘Come scoglio’, while Michèle Losier sings a stylish Dorabella...The men are even finer, particularly Philippe Sly’s Guglielmo...With Philippe Jordan drawing excellent orchestral playing from the pit, with witty fortepiano recitatives, this is a most unusual Così which eventually had me hooked.'

Available Format: Blu-ray