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 Recording of the Week  Looking ahead to 2013 - Verdi, Britten and Wagner

2013 is chock-full of significant musical anniversaries: we’ll see the eightieth birthdays of Montserrat Caballé, Claudio Abbado and Dame Janet Baker, and milestones for Corelli, Dowland, Byrd, Poulenc and Górecki. But the three landmarks which will surely dominate are the bicentenaries of Verdi and Wagner and the centenary of Benjamin Britten: in record-industry terms, the celebrations kick off right from the beginning of the year, with new releases and commemorative sets for all three due out in January and February. Santa has already brought us a sackful of advance-copies, so before I head off for the Christmas break I’ll give you a brief foretaste…

Ian Bostridge
Ian Bostridge

There are several bumper Verdi boxes in the offing (both CD and DVD/Blu-ray) but one of the best has to be EMI’s 35-disc set of sixteen operas, including all the favourites and quite a few rarities. For me, the lovely thing about this set is the mixture of vintages: the recordings range from the great 1955 Rigoletto with Callas and Gobbi to a 2001 Trovatore from Antonio Pappano with Gheorghiu and Alagna. Completists will have to wait until February though, which brings a 75-CD set of landmark recordings on Decca…

EMI and Ian Bostridge will be celebrating Britten with several projects, the first of which is an absolutely riveting account of The Rape of Lucretia (recorded at Aldeburgh last year). Bostridge is spellbinding from the very first bars in the Evangelist-like role of the Male Chorus, wringing every drop of terror and beauty from his narrative: in fact what makes this recording so special is the balance it strikes between the brutal and the lyrical elements of Britten’s score. Peter Coleman-Wright portrays Tarquinius as a psychotic thug rather than a dissolute playboy, and Angelika Kirchschlager sings a passionate and distinctly unmatronly Lucretia.

Jonas Kaufmann
Jonas Kaufmann

Finally, as we were going to press Jonas Kaufmann’s new Wagner disc arrived on my desk. Just when you think you’ve got the measure of this singer, he hits new heights of interpretative insight, vocal drama and sheer horse-power (that second, searing ‘Wälse!’ in the Walküre scene quite literally knocked me backwards!). He revisits several roles he’s performed and recorded in full and offers tantalising glimpses of what may be to come: there’s a seething, conflicted Tannhäuser and a robust but vulnerable Siegfried, as well a brooding account of the Wesendonck-Lieder (rarely the province of male singers). I’ll eat my Tarnhelm if this doesn’t win a slew of awards next year!

Finally, a few quick notices... Firstly, a reminder that our big Box Sets - Up to 40% off Special Offer ends on Wednesday. This is our biggest and best selling promotion of the year, so well worth taking a final look if you haven’t already. We’ve highlighted some of the best selling (and perhaps most interesting) recent releases in the section below and you can of course browse everything in the offer here.

Secondly, if you’re stuck for a last minute Christmas gift then our Gift Vouchers can be ordered any time of day or night (including Christmas day) and are delivered (by email) within seconds – to anywhere in the world! See here for full details.

It only remains to wish you a very Merry Christmas from everyone here at Presto Classical.

Verdi: The Great Operas

of Verdi’s operatic masterpieces, ranging from his first real success, iNabucco/i, to his last, iFalstaff/i, and includes such stalwarts of the repertoire as iAida/i, iLa Traviata/i and iRigoletto/i.

Available Format: CD

Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

Angelika Kirchschlager (Lucretia), Peter Coleman-Wright (Tarquinius), Ian Bostridge (Male Chorus), Susan Gritton (Female Chorus), Christopher Purves (Collatinus), Benjamin Russell (Junius), Claire Booth (Lucia), Hilary Summers (Bianca), Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Oliver Knussen

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Kaufmann: Wagner

Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Donald Runnicles

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