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 BBC Music Magazine Choices, BBC Music Magazine - August 2018 Choices

BBC Music Magazine August 2018Pride of place this month goes to Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams, whose live accounts of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas (arranged as a group of distinct recital-programmes rather than presented chronologically) on Signum are collectively described as ‘a stunning achievement’ by reviewer Michael Church in August’s issue.

Two of our June Recordings of the Month also make appearances: the first audio recording of John Adams’s apocalyptic opera Doctor Atomic (conducted by the composer and starring Gerald Finley as the conflicted theoretical physicist of the title), and Lionel Meunier’s imaginative reconstructions of Buxtehude’s ‘Abendmusiken’ concerts, which David reviewed a couple of weeks ago.

Recording of the Month

Beethoven Unbound

Llŷr Williams (piano)

'With Williams…expressiveness is all. He paradoxically achieves this through emotional restraint, and in a style which you might call ‘plain’, but which allows the individual character of each sonata to emerge vividly…[He] has a marvellous transparency of sound, and his articulation even at the fastest tempos is phenomenally clean. He never overdoes his effects…By and large his approach is massively persuasive...A stunning achievement.'

Available Formats: 12 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Orchestral Choice

Elgar: Symphony No. 2 & Serenade for Strings

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner

'From the wonderful lyrical springboard opening right through to the final slow fade there’s a singing line that rises, falls and snakes its way through everything…The Serenade for Strings here reminds one how much more there is to this piece than an engaging miniature. The recordings are ideally suited to Gardner’s approach: warm-toned, but clear, so that all the strands and facets in Elgar’s complex orchestral texture are clear without being brought analytically forward.'

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

Concerto Choice

Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu

'This is altogether a fine performance [of the Second Concerto], with Christian Tetzlaff a touch more rhythmically alert and characterful than Renaud Capuçon on his recent recording of these two concertos with the LSO, fine as that is…[in the First Concerto] Tetzlaff again produces playing that’s warmly lyrical and dazzlingly virtuosic, by turns. With the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu on top form, this is an easy recommendation.'

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

Opera Choice

John Adams: Doctor Atomic

Gerald Finley (Robert Oppenheimer), Julia Bullock (Kitty Oppenheimer); BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, John Adams

'Finley ‘owns’ the characterisation of J Robert Oppenheimer…and Julia Bullock’s Kitty [is] the most ardent possible. All else is compelling on every level, with superb British support from Brindley Sherratt as doubtful fellow physicist Edward Teller…Superbly recorded, the BBC Singers and Symphony Orchestra pull total focus under Adams’s ever more experienced baton, and the last half hour is stunning…Batter my heart indeed.'

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

Choral & Song Choice

Buxtehude: Abendmusiken

Vox Luminis, Ensemble Masques, Lionel Meunier

'They mix cantatas and trio sonatas with a judicious flair…Nothing is over-stated or under-nurtured; and Meunier always finds a deeply human dimension to Buxtehude’s piety that taps into the bürgerlich bonhomie of the sonatas. Rich, lively and truthful, the recorded sound consummates a seductively considered disc that pretty much never puts a foot wrong. Hanseatic heaven!'

Available Format: CD

Chamber Choice

Telemann: Essercizii Musici

Florilegium

'Florilegium has already shown its sensibility to and affection for Telemann’s music…Difficult though it is to single out any particular work, I would commend the A major Trio for flute, obbligato harpsichord and continuo for the sensuous, caressing charm of its slow movements and for the light-hearted spirit of its two faster ones. I hasten to add, though, that it is a first among equals.'

Available Format: 2 CDs

Instrumental Choice

Debussy: Préludes Book II & La mer (for two pianos)

Alexander Melnikov (piano) with Olga Pashchenko (piano - La mer)

'Prepare to be spellbound…This does not sound like an old piano, merely a distinctive one in the hands of a truly remarkable player…It is not only the individual sounds that impress…but also Melnikov’s ability to combine seemingly contradictory textures, with sharply drawn detail surrounded by a shimmering haze as if multiple pianos are being used. This is indeed compelling pianism.'

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