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Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel & Felix Mendelssohn: Arias, Lieder, Overtures

Chen Reiss

Classique - To be released February 25, 2022 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Lobgesang, Cantata H-U. 257: I. Introduzione (Pastorale)

Chen Reiss

Classique - Released January 14, 2022 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin

James Ehnes

Classique - Released November 26, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Among the various Gramophone Awards of 2021, one that felt especially perfect and inevitable was violinist James Ehnes receiving “Artist of the Year”. Arguably the recent culmination of his Beethoven sonata cycle might have been enough to clinch it by itself. Yet Covid lockdown had also seen Ehnes go above and beyond in terms of what he put out from his living room. Because while much of what was put out from musicians’ houses sat firmly in the bracket of “of its moment” – informal and impromptu, broadcast via whatever mobile devices they happened to own – Ehnes did something rather larger-scale: purchasing a pair of Telefunken M60 microphones with TK61 omnidirectional capsules; setting them up in his large, wooden-floored, emptied-of-furniture living room; then, in the small hours of the night when finally the world reached a sound-proofed-studio-esque degree of silence, filming and recording the complete solo violin sonatas of J. S. Bach and Ysaÿe. The result was one of the few filmed lockdown performance series whose production and artistic values gave them the mileage to become enduring works of art whose only obvious audible connection to those strange lockdown days is perhaps a heightened sense of emotional intensity. Of especially weighted surrounding silence. This past summer Onyx released his superb Ysaÿe sonata readings. Now here’s the Bach, which is Ehnes’s second recording of the set, the first having been stamped on disc exactly twenty years earlier, in 2000 with Analekta. The first thing to say is that, while inevitably Ehnes’s readings have evolved over the years, they’re still recognisably from the same violinist. The generosity and impassioned drama is the same, with many of the changes being natural extensions of where he was going previously. One clear difference from the off is the subtly different recording acoustic: a slightly brighter and more immediate quality, which acts as the perfect canvas on which to display the sheer polish of his technique; and everywhere is the sense of a violinist at the height of his technical powers. Another overarching point is that there’s a slight increase in tempi across the set, although often this only amounts to a few seconds. Essentially, it’s as though Ehnes has now lived so long and deeply in these works that they’ve truly become his own voice, and with the most impassioned thoughts, the pace naturally picks up. Consequently the virtuosity is perhaps more evident, and enjoyably rather than distractingly so. Favourite moments. Well, I love the slight change to the emotional architecture of Sonata No. 1 in G minor’s Fuga. Previously, he began relatively big, as though we’d caught him mid-impassioned-conversation. Now it’s slightly more subdued, giving himself somewhere to go, which he quickly does. There’s also a slightly more delicately-voiced, lucid, wistful purity to his upper-register piano re-statement of the theme soon afterwards, and while these sound like small things – and really they are – it all adds up to an even more satisfying sense of architecture, and an even more developed and multi-nuanced emotional world. As for the famous D minor Chaconne, this appears via an as proudly non-period a reading as before in terms of his warm, rich, strong, soulful sound, but there’s also a bit more period-y air in some of the textures. Although both across the Chaconne’s show-stoppingly emotionally visceral yet supremely polished reading, and across the recording as a whole, cross-referencing quickly loses any attraction. For ultimately, these are performances of a power and beauty to simply lose yourself in, and be in the moment with. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Reger: Piano Concerto, 6 Intermezzi

Joseph Moog

Musique concertante - Released November 26, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Brahms & Schumann

Joseph Moog

Classique - Released November 26, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Frankfurt, Easter Sunday, 1830. On this holy day, the violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini gave a recital of his 24 Caprices, Op. 1 to an enthusiastic audience: "How brilliantly and ineffably he captured the audience in his nets, which he wafted back and forth," wrote one of the spectators present that day. That spectator was Robert Schumann.Enchanted by Paganini’s genius, he set about a literal transcription for piano of the Caprices Nos. 5, 9, 11, 13, 16 and 19 first published in 1832 as 6 Etudes sur des Caprices de Paganini, Op. 3. This was followed in 1832 by the 6 Concert Etudes, this time from Caprices Nos. 12, 6, 10, 4, 2 and 3. In contrast to the first cycle of 1830, the Concert Etudes, Op. 10 are a freer adaptation, reflecting Schumann's growing familiarity with the violinist's musical language.A close friend of Robert and Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, wrote his twenty-eight Variations on a Theme by Paganini, based on the twenty-fourth Caprice, thirty years later in 1862. Clara nicknamed these two notebooks the "Witch's Variations", as they were so tricky to play.It took the technical virtuosity of Joseph Moog to overcome the complexity of these re-imaginings of Paganini's work. The sound recording, which reproduces the acoustics of a concert hall, prolongs the listening experience and makes us really feel the fascination that these very difficult works can exert in the hands of those artists who, like Moog, have been able to perform them. © Pierre Lamy/Qobuz
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Transatlantic

Various Composers

Classique - Released October 29, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Music, as we know, has no borders, and no limits to where it travels. This album features composers who, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, made America their home. Composers who were inspired by great American literature, or composers who were born in America and whose music captures the very essence of that great country. © Onyx Classics
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Beethoven: String Quartets Nos. 10 & 11

Ehnes Quartet

Musique de chambre - Released October 29, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Beethoven: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 14

Ehnes Quartet

Musique de chambre - Released September 24, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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This is one of a set of Beethoven quartet recordings by the Ehnes Quartet. All have been strong, but this one is a standout, even among all the recordings of Beethoven's quartets on the market. The quartet is led by violinist James Ehnes, but there is nothing of the star musician-plays-chamber music here; the ensemble is superb. Ehnes provides, and draws from his other players, a rich sound that may remind older listeners of the Guarneri Quartet's Beethoven recordings of the LP era. The first movement of the String Quartet No. 12 in E flat major, Op. 127, has symphonic grandeur in its blank-chord second theme. The opening fugue of the String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131 is highly expressive, in contrast to many contemporary recordings that treat this extraordinary movement in a formal way. This points to another coherent feature of the Ehnes Quartet's reading. Beethoven said about one of his late piano sonatas that he was writing music for the distant future, and the same is true of these quartets. The fugue in the C sharp minor quartet takes off from that in the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110; it is not aimed at formality but at Romantic transcendence, and the Ehnes Quartet catches this. Moreover, the group clearly brings out the thematic connections between the first and last movements of Op. 131, something that would have seemed a good deal more striking to audiences of the 1820s than it does today. There's no word on how the Onyx label came to record at a college auditorium in the small Georgia city of Macon, but the sound is clear, and its dimensions are appropriate. A major Beethoven quartet release. © TiVo
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Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Violin Sonata in F Major, MWV Q26, Songs Without Words

Augustin Dumay

Musique concertante - Released September 24, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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This recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, by veteran player Augustin Dumay, betters his earlier recording of the work with the London Symphony Orchestra. Here, he is in control of the proceedings, leading the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra from the violin. The orchestra is the right size, not putting the violinist under strain as full-size symphony orchestras do, and this brings out the essentially lyrical, somewhat pastoral qualities of this well-worn standard. The result is a fresh reading where Dumay offers a gentle tone and a good deal of flexibility in the phrasing. The first movement is lovely right from the violin's opening statements, and the slow movement is soaring and peaceful. The program is filled out by violin-and-piano works: the unpublished Violin Sonata in F major and a group of Songs Without Words from various sets. These are a good deal less satisfactory. Young accompanist Jonathan Fournel doesn't quite seem to jibe with Dumay, and the sound is noisy and harsh, but these issues are secondary, for what is on offer here is a major summation of thinking about the Mendelssohn concerto from a leading modern exponent of the French violin school. © TiVo
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Kapustin

Yeol Eum Son

Classique - Released July 23, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Dying too soon in July 2020, Nikolai Kapustinas was like a UFO in the Russian musical landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries. Classical? Jazz? It is difficult to attribute his music to a precise genre as the symbiosis between the two styles is so perfect. For his part, the composer has chosen his side: "I was never a jazz musician. I never tried to be a real jazz pianist, but I had to do it because of the composing. I'm not interested in improvisation – and what is a jazz musician without improvisation?  All my improvisations are written, of course, and they become much better; it improves them.” These words perhaps best sum up one's feelings when listening to Kapustin's compositions. These are resolutely classical scores, as revealed by their titles, "Concert Etudes", "Sonatine" and "Sonate", but from them emerge harmonies, rhythms and a lexicon that are definitely related to the world of jazz.Although reluctant to perform his works in public, the composer has nevertheless recorded a substantial part of them. This indubitably explains the small number of performers who dare to measure themselves against the works of the Russian master, so captivating were his interpretations in their perfectly mastered virtuosity. Almost a year to the day after Kapustin's death, Yeol Eum Son presents here some choice pieces: among them, the unmissable 8 Etudes de concert, Op. 40, and the Sonate pour piano n° 2, Op. 54. The South Korean pianist, silver medallist at the 2011 Tchaikovsky competition and accustomed to orchestral repertoires, gives a generous amplitude, depth and groove to these pieces, whereas Kapustin had accustomed us to dazzling interpretations achieved at a single stroke. Yeol Eom Son's playing shows how much Kapustin's compositions follow the lineage of the greatest masters, from the Romantic period to Gershwin, and that they have their rightful place in the concert repertoire. © Pierre Lamy / Qobuz 
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Britten: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Variations & Fugue on a theme by Purcell, Op. 34

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Classique - Released June 25, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Beethoven: String Quartet No.13, Op.130, Grosse Fuge, Op133

Ehnes Quartet

Musique de chambre - Released May 28, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Beethoven's String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130, is textually knotty in a way that few other Beethoven works are. Beethoven originally ended the work with the radical Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, heard at the end of this program by the Ehnes Quartet. It mystified audiences, and when it wasn't encored at its premiere, the composer disparaged the audience with the exclamation "Asses! Cattle!" However, when a publisher asked him to provide a lighter finale, he agreed, and the jaunty, Haydnesque piece he contributed would be the last composition he completed. In reality, the two finales represent differing solutions to the structural problems Beethoven posed himself, and neither is better or worse than the other; the Ehnes Quartet does well to simply provide both. It is not only the Grosse Fuge that is radical; the opening movement with its seemingly intractable opposition of two blocks of material, is equally so, and the rest of the work ratchets down the tension, either returning to it with the Grosse Fuge or continuing the tension-reduction process with the published finale. The dynamic is exceptionally well realized here. First violinist James Ehnes brings unusual lyricism to the central movements, taking some time for them to breathe, although the Grosse Fuge has a quick clip. The opening movement is intense without over-the-top violence; one can really hear what Beethoven's audiences heard in it. This recording was made in 2020 at an auditorium at Mercer University in Georgia, with the producer in virtual attendance from London, and given the challenges, it turned out extremely well on all counts. © TiVo
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Zemlinsky: Die Seejungfrau, Schreker: Der Geburtstag der Infantin

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Classique - Released April 30, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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In Vienna, Alexander Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker conducted experiments that could be seen as a middle road between the rigorous writing of Brahms, the orchestral opulence of Richard Strauss and the dodecaphonic radicalism of Schönberg, Berg and Webern. Unfortunately their experiments were cut short when the Nazis came to power and banned their music. Vasily Petrenko's colourful and imaginative conducting reminds us of these two composers' central importance for the history of early 20th-century music.Based on one of Andersen's fairy tales, Die Seejungfrau ("The Mermaid") was Zemlinsky's musical response to his rejection by Alma Schindler, who preferred the young Mahler. As powerful as its Straussian models, this vast symphonic poem goes even further, with dislocated harmony and a resolutely forward-looking aesthetic. It uses a decidedly Tchaikovskian motif as a linking thread, perhaps accidentally. The magical climate of Zemlinsky's music captivates the listener from the first bars until the magnificent conclusion, when the mermaid throws herself into the sea, turning into foam, renouncing her love forever.Released just a few years prior, Der Geburstag der Infantin ("The Infanta's Birthday") is based on the story by Oscar Wilde. It was originally a pantomime which the composer re-arranged as a suite for large orchestra. It calls for instruments that are unusual in a symphony orchestra, such as two guitars and four mandolins. This pantomime is a curious blend of French impressionism and German post-romanticism, shot through with Mahler's influence, and it débuted in 1908 with sets and costumes in the style of Velázquez. With its delicate, scintillating orchestration, it was a great hit in Vienna, which was then in the throes of modernity.  © François Hudry / Qobuz
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Ysaÿe : Sonatas for Solo Violin

James Ehnes

Musique de chambre - Released April 30, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Recorded at home during lockdown, after midnight, James Ehnes made a series of recordings of the six sonatas for solo violin by Eugène Ysaÿe , the great Belgian virtuoso violinist and composer. These sonatas are the greatest addition to the solo violin repertoire after those by J. S. Bach, and are a supreme challenge for the performer. © Onyx Classics
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Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 27 No. 2: I. "Obession" (Prelude): Poco vivace

James Ehnes

Musique de chambre - Released April 23, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Beethoven Violin Sonatas 4,5&7

Viktoria Mullova

Musique de chambre - Released March 26, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Eleven years ago, Viktoria Mullova began a journey through Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonatas for violin and piano. It was a shock! Together with pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, she formed an unforgettably expressive duo. The second opus has only come out today, with the Sonatas Nos. 4, 5 and 7, recorded on 20 and 21 July 2020 at Wyastone Concert Hall. For the occasion, she took on a new partner: one of the most talented chamber musicians on the British stage, Alasdair Beatson, who always inspires through the beauty of his playing style, his innate sense for breathing, and his sharp storytelling. Viktoria Mullova is floating as if suspended in air: a true princess of the violin.And what a mischievous performance they pull off, with the Andante scherzoso of Sonata No. 4. Beatson knows how to exploit the different stops and registers of his 1805 Walter fortepiano, and does so to great effect on the final Allegro molto, capturing that shifting aesthetic of early 1800s Beethoven. Beethoven is experimenting here: he looks for and finds himself, but the shadow of Haydn offers a little reassurance. The Spring Sonata is full of strong notes, especially in the opening Allegro. But both artists exhibit surprisingly heady charms in the following Adagio molto, in a performance which is most espressivo. The Finale is just as irresistible. Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2 is assuredly another world: Viktoria Mullova and Alasdair Beatson adopt a rougher tone, with hoarse notes, a masked smile, almost an abstract treatment (especially in the pungent Scherzo). Yet they still know how to roar (Allegro final), clearly foreshadowing the structural ambitions of nascent Romanticism.An exceptional duo that will - hopefully - continue to produce recordings in this repertoire; and one that shines an invigorating, fresh light on works that have recently been very widely recorded, sometimes to the higest level of quality, as proved by the Gatto / Libeer (Alpha Classics) and Zimmermann / Helmchen (BIS) integrations. This first Mullova / Beatson volume also benefits from the new Bärenreiter edition prepared by Clive Brown. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Violin Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23: I. Presto

Viktoria Mullova

Classique - Released March 12, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin

Thomas Dausgaard

Classique - Released February 26, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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The violence and horror depicted in Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin channel the events of the collapse of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic and the Red and White Terrors of 1919-1921 that followed. The inscrutable Mandarin falls into a trap set up by a gang of bloodthirsty thugs with tragic results and an ultimately touching conclusion. The Second Suite of 1909, conceived as a Serenade for small orchestra, is on a smaller scale than the First Suite. The Hungarian Peasant Songs date from the period of the Great War. Originally a set of short piano pieces, Bartók orchestrated nine of the movements in 1933, eight of which are recorded here. © Onyx Classics
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The Miraculous Mandarin, Sz. 73: I. Introduction

Thomas Dausgaard

Classique - Released February 19, 2021 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Beethoven Violin Sonatas Nos. 7 & 10

James Ehnes

Musique de chambre - Released December 11, 2020 | PM Classics Ltd.

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It almost feels superfluous to review the latest installment of James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong's Beethoven sonata cycle, when the previous three albums have been so consistently covetable, and thus so consistently written about to that affect. We're all running out of superlatives. That said, this fourth album is also the final one, and thoroughly merits the spillage of yet more glowing ink. The set's outstanding sonatas are two of only three sonatas Beethoven wrote with four rather than the standard three movements. Sonata No. 7 with its C minor tonality is the most dramatic and turbulent of the trio of Op. 30 Sonatas, clearly looking ahead to the “Kreutzer” of the following year. Sonata No. 10, composed a decade later for the great French violinist Pierre Rode, is then a gentler proposition entirely, sitting alone in its Op. 96. Those already engaged in meaningful relationships with the first three volumes of this recording cycle will be pleased – albeit unsurprised – to learn that its culmination gives us the same natural, vivid, but-not-too-close acoustic quality, the same light agility proving modern-instrument readings of this repertoire can sound every bit as “right” as period-instrument ones, and the same clear understanding that these sonatas weren't conceived as “violin sonatas” but as “sonatas for keyboard and violin”, i.e. with the piano positioned on an equal footing with the violin. On to the details, and Armstrong sets the stage at the outset of No. 7 to fabulous affect, with the unpredictable, Mephistophelian edge he's brought to the shaping of the semi-quaver bunches of the piano's darkly threatening opening subject; and across the sonata he and Ehnes serve up an edge-of-the-seat blend of theatrical turbulence and fine elegance – fiery dynamic contrasts and colorful shaping articulated with unfailingly neat elegance, with their respective tones wonderfully pure and clear. Their Adagio is both as cantabile as you could wish, and deliciously peppered with dynamics-shaped surprises. No. 10 is no less satisfying, Ehnes's sweet tone and ability to spin a long legato line bringing constant pleasure; not least in the Adagio, which sounds all the more serene for its flow, Ehnes and Armstrong having not milked its romance more than they have to – at 5'25 it's on a par with Faust and Melnikov's period reading, and significantly faster than the likes of Kremer and Argerich at 6'28”, or indeed Zukerman and Barenboim's 7'13”. A warm finale, containing both delectably langorous moments and invigorating folky outbursts, rounds off a cycle that should bring repeated joy to listeners of both the modern and period instrument camps. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz