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Carl Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 (Live)

Seattle Symphony

Classical - Released June 5, 2020 | Seattle Symphony Media

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month
What an album from Thomas Dausgaard! The Danish conductor is at ease in the Nordic repertoire and took on Sibelius’ Kullervo (Hyperion) following Paavo Berglund’s world-premiere performance in Bournemouth in 1970. He now continues as Music Director for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra with the second instalment of their recordings of all of Nielsen’s Symphonies, featuring Symphonies 1 & 2.His conducting is remarkably lively and fluid here and is mindful of the rhythm as well as the peculiarities of the instrumentation, which is filled with combinations of unusual timbres. Indeed, Symphony No. 2 (1901-1902, the same time as Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2) also hints at what was to come in Nielsen’s later work, especially through its woodwind arrangements.In this delicate score, Thomas Dausgaard characterises the four temperaments depicted in the movement with astonishing finesse; opening with the Collerico  (Choleric), an energetic allegro, followed by the delightful Comodo e Flemmatico (Phlegmatic), almost nonchalant temperament. The third is an energetic andante that evokes Bruckner’s choral works with dark brass creating the Malincolico (Melancholic) mood. Finally comes a more hesitant tone in the Sanguineo (Sanguine), a skilful mix between the initial collerico and the middle malincolico, with dynamic strings and brassy outbursts.Symphony No. 1 (Op. 7, FS 16, 1892, the same year that Kullervo was premiered) is transformed under the baton of Thomas Dausgaard into an exciting orchestral study that transcends the young Nielsen’s many influences in a veritable burst of creativity. From the very first opus, Thomas Dausgaard offers the listener a glimpse down the radically different path that Nielsen would go down compared with his Finnish counterpart Sibelius, (whom he deeply admired, as evidenced by the letters they exchanged!) and their very different relationship with tradition. An interpretation with much more acuity than many others. A must-listen. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz

Grieg: Lyric Pieces - Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte

Denis Kozhukhin

Classical - Released June 28, 2019 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month

Weinberg : Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Classical - Released May 3, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg has received renewed attention, especially as the centenary year of his birth in 2019 approached. He has hardly received better advocacy than he gets here from the sensational young conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla in her first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, and first as conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Weinberg lost most of his family in the Holocaust; he himself fled to the Soviet Union, where he wasn't exactly well treated, but survived and became closely acquainted with Shostakovich. The two mutually influenced each other, but it is surprising how individual Weinberg's style remained. The Symphony No. 21, Op. 152 ("Kaddish") was worked at by Weinberg for some time and was completed in 1991, a few years before his death. The work is dedicated to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II and has the feeling of a personal memorial. It is almost unrelievedly grim, although it has an episodic quality deriving partly from its association with a film about the ghetto. You would not pick the youthful Gražinytė-Tyla as an interpreter, but this is an extraordinary reading. The finale has a kind of wordless keening for soprano, which Gražinytė-Tyla takes herself. There is no way to know what Weinberg had in mind for the work, but the effect of her chorister's voice is extraordinary here. A factor adding a personal quality to the performance is the presence of violinist Gidon Kremer, who has championed Weinberg's music, and who here appears not only as the leader of his Kremerata Baltica in Weinberg's Symphony No. 2 for string orchestra, Op. 30, but also takes the violin solo part in the Symphony No. 21. It is as though the Weinberg baton was being handed on to the next generation. The Symphony No. 2 itself is an elegant string serenade that draws more on interwar Czech and Polish music than it does on Shostakovich. The work of Kremerata Baltica and the CBSO here seems almost to mesh, and this is an extraordinary debut overall. How is Gražinytė-Tyla going to follow it up? © TiVo

Charpentier : Histoires sacrées

Sébastien Daucé

Sacred Oratorios - Released April 12, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica
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The "Histoires Sacrées" of Marc-Antoine Charpentier are sometimes called little sacred operas, but they are really more like oratorios: they contain numbers sung by characters, but they have a great deal of narration, and they are in Latin. Sample here the scene in Judith, sive Bethulia liberata, H. 391, where Judith slices off the head of Holofernes: the emotional mood is just slightly heightened. These works have not often been recorded and take a bit of effort to absorb; one has to familiarize oneself with the Latin texts and with the mood of the whole, which is didactic rather than dramatic. The program here is strong, with three female biblical heroines exemplifying strength and virtue, and this helps you get into the expressive modes of the music. The "Histoires Sacrées" have not been recorded often. Until now the field has been ruled by a 2001 release from Gérard Lesne and his Baroque ensemble Il Seminario Musicale, and this release by the durable French group Ensemble Correspondances offers evidence of how much approaches vary in this still little-explored repertory. You can take your choice. Lesne has his engineers bring the microphone up to the soloists, whereas here, leader Sébastien Daucé chooses a more ambient approach that brings out instrumental detail. Lesne and his other soloists are stronger than the ones here, but Daucé may come closer to an authentic performance. Both choirs are small, probably in line with the private chamber circumstances for which these works were written; Daucé's group of 14 singers, mostly taking solos as well as singing in ensembles, is highly expressive even as it is woven into the more general texture. The album is accompanied by a DVD recorded at the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, but the main CDs were not: they come from small auditoriums in Grenoble and Amiens (apparently there were two sessions) that, as it happens, are entirely appropriate to the music. Recommended for Baroque buffs. © TiVo

Handel : Italian Cantatas

Emmanuelle Haïm

Cantatas (secular) - Released November 23, 2018 | Erato

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Handel's Italian cantatas date from early in his career, with few exceptions (none on display here). As a group they are less well-known than his operas, but they're equally virtuosic, and performances of the cantatas whole, as with the three here, are a bit more satisfying than with the operas. The cantatas were composed for parties among powerful Roman cardinals, and they catch the young Handel at the peak of his first success, as Roman audiences hailed him as "il caro Sassone" (the dear Saxon). The arias are fancy and a bit brash, and one key to a good performance is to catch this quality. Both the singers here, French soprano Sabine Devieilhe and French-Italian mezzo Lea Desandre, are up-and-comers, and they offer fine, dramatically enthusiastic performances. The highlight is perhaps the first cantata of the set, Aminta e Fillide, HWV 83, where the contrast between the sparkling Devieilhe and the silvery-voiced Desandre is a pleasure in itself. This is a pastoral where the long-suffering shepherd gets the girl, for a change, even though she dismisses Cupid's charms (sample Desandre in "Fu scherzo, fu gioco," with its quiet high notes). The second and third works are solo cantatas, one for each singer, and Desandre effectively changes gears for subtle interactions with an active continuo cello. Both singers are aided superbly by Le Concert d'Astrée under Emmanuelle Haïm, a veteran group by this time but one that sounds entirely fresh in this delightful vocal program. © TiVo

Schumann : Frage (Lieder, vol. 1)

Christian Gerhaher

Lieder (German) - Released November 16, 2018 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month
Very different from Schubert’s Lieder, which are chants according to German “popular” tradition (usually strophic) with a musical accompaniment subservient to the singing (taking nothing away from their incredible genius!), Schumann’s are, to use Christian Gerhaher’s words, “lyrical dramaturgy”; miniature operas in which the piano and vocals are equal in content. This doesn’t explain why Schumann’s Lieder are so rarely performed in concert, with the exception of some well-worn cycles (normally Myrten, Dichterliebe and Frauenliebe und –leben). Gerhaher and his pianist Gerold Huber pick works from the genre’s ample repertoire that have almost never been performed in concert. Only three cycles date back to the “Liederyear” of 1840 (incidentally the year of his marriage to Clara Wieck), while the others are from the composer’s last years, beyond 1850, and are full of nostalgia… This is far from the dishevelled romanticism of his early years, the mood is dark and the discourse broken up into small brushstrokes. The contrast from one era to the other is striking. Gerhaher and Huber perform these surprising marvels brilliantly. © SM/Qobuz

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, SV 325

Hana Blažíková

Opera - Released October 26, 2018 | SDG

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month
Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria by Monteverdi poses a lot of problems for modern performers. There exists no definitive manuscript – although one may doubt how much people bothered back then with "definitive" versions of works which were re-written from one performance to the other, depending on the singers and instrumentalists that were on hand, the tastes of this or that star, the diktat of the Church – and the only copy dating from the composer's time, discovered in Vienna in 1881, is incomplete. When we try and compare this manuscript with different copies of the libretto which are still around today, the difficulties only increase. For this recording by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, recorded live at concerts in September 2017, the decision was taken to fill in everything that could be filled in with a few passages borrowed from earlier works by Monteverdi. The Return of Ulysses dates from 1640, when Monteverdi was 74 years old, so there was a lot to choose from for these fillers. This version is almost certainly the closest approximation we have to the original yet, the singers have worked hard to give the most accurate reproduction possible of the vocal inflections demanded by the various formats employed by Monteverdi. These inflections are often very declamatory and sometimes sung to the fullest. The recitations and the melodies, the ensembles and the choirs: everything is treated with the utmost care and the effort put into contrast and clarity only enhances the quality of this recording. A magnificent rendition. © SM/Qobuz

Bach: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 - Partita No. 1

Hilary Hahn

Violin Solos - Released October 5, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month
A student of the last student of Ysaÿe, American violinist Hilary Hahn has played Bach's solo violin music since she was nine, and inaugurated her recording career seven years later with a recording of half the cycle of six, in 1997. That recording rightly won acclaim with its flawless technique and Apollonian lines straight out of the best of the French violin school. Uniquely, she has returned to complete the set 21 years later, and the results are marvelous. It's sometimes hard to pin down the ways in which Hahn's style has changed, but it has to do with a kind of inner relaxation, with a willingness to let the meter vary a bit and pick it up again in the longer line. The flawless tone is still there, but it's not so much an end in itself. It's not an accident that some of the graphics picture Hahn smiling, nor that her quite relevant notes to the album detail the long creative process that went into making it. Sample anywhere, but you could try the very beginning, the first movement of the Sonata for solo violin No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001, where Hahn takes just a bit of time, draws you in, and lets the rest of the movement flow from there. Decca's engineers do excellent work in a Bard College auditorium that one might not have picked as a venue for this. A superb release from one of the preeminent violinists of our time. © TiVo

Bernstein : Symphonies Nos 1-3, Prelude, Fugue & Riffs

Antonio Pappano

Symphonic Music - Released August 10, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - Exceptional Sound Recording - 5 étoiles de Classica
If Leonard Bernstein was one of the greatest conductors from the second half of the 20th Century, his interpretation job never outshone his composer one. But the durable and worldwide success of West Side Story has often irritated him, as it left in the shadowed the rest of his abundant and varied catalog. Antonio Pappano has had the good idea to gather the three symphonies from Bernstein in a single album recorded in several concerts in Rome with his Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, which reaches under his baton an international dimension. Bernstein had a special relation with this institution that he has frequently conducted. Jeremiah, Bernstein’s first symphony, dates from 1944. Bernstein was 26 and wrote it the same year as his first ballet for Broadway, Fancy Free.He blends genres in a way that is now typical of him, disturbing many timorous music lovers who don’t understand that this dichotomy is the result of his genius. This first symphony sung in Hebrew denounces the horror of the Holocaust in Europe. 1949 is the year of The Age of Anxiety, his strange second symphony inspired by a long and difficult poem by W. H. Auden. Rarely played because of his difficult solo piano section that few interprets possess in their repertoire, this symphony is a succession of “themes and variations”. If the beginning flirts with the European Art music, notably from Prokofiev, it ends in a syncopated sentimentalism in the style of the great Hollywood movies. The excellent pianist Beatrice Rana (who has recorded for Warner Classics a very exciting Second Concerto by Prokofiev with the same conductor, as well as, more recently, the most talked-about Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach) is here a brilliant and convinced performer of the work. Written in 1963 and dedicated to President Kennedy, Kaddish, his third symphony, is probably the most personal work of this trilogy. Heterogeneous as is all Bernstein music, it goes together with a text written by him that caused a scandal because of his iconoclastic arrogance, as Bernstein is giving advice to God to better rule mankind… Unsatisfied with his text, the composer did several revisions of his work to give it the form that is mostly used today. © François Hudry/Qobuz

Mozart in London

Ian Page

Symphonic Music - Released May 4, 2018 | Signum Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 étoiles de Classica
Mozart and his family spent 15 months in London when the composer was eight years old. In London he wrote his first symphonies and first vocal works, serving major notice to the world. Those have been recorded before and are included here, but what's novel is the inclusion of music by other composers whom Mozart would have heard in London. Many of the works here receive their premiere recordings, and The Mozartists and conductor Ian Page ably sketch the influences they likely had on Mozart. Some of the influences from J.C. Bach have been recognized before, but Page goes more deeply into them: you can hear Mozart's way of assigning expressive meaning to transitional passagework, uncanny already at age eight, in the music of the "London Bach." Sample the Harpsichord Concerto in D major, Op. 1, No. 6. Elsewhere, there is English- and Italian-language vocal music by Thomas Arne, Samuel Arnold, Egidio Duni (with a very patter-song-like aria inserted into an opera based on Richardson's novel Pamela), Giovanni Battista Pescetti, William Bates, and Davide Perez, with varying degrees of a Mozartian quality, but all of it essentially unknown and largely worth hearing. The influences run thick in the other orchestral pieces included: a three-movement overture in the manner of Giovanni Battista Sammartini by George Rush, and the Symphony in E flat major, Op. 7, No. 6, of Carl Friedrich Abel, which manages to contain pre-echoes of the Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K. 543, and perhaps the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 364. The collection is performed on not-overaggressive period instruments, and it would be enjoyable merely as a sketch of the world Mozart experienced in London. And it's even better than that. © TiVo

Bizet : Les Pêcheurs de perles

Alexandre Bloch

Full Operas - Released May 2, 2018 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Month - Diapason d'or / Arte - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica
The story of the Pêcheurs de perles [Pearl Fishers] by Bizet is nothing short of torturous: after its first outing in 1863, the score – whose manuscript is now in private hands and no longer available, alas – fell into obscurity, and was only returned to its rightful place in the sun after the composer's death, once Carmen had made his name. Alas – a thousand times, alas – many different theatre directors took themselves for great geniuses and made little amendments to the work, cutting here, adding there, changing bits up to and including the end. Until the 1960s, this calamitously cack-handed version was the one that was performed – this libretto looks a little flat, why not add a few mistakes? – until musicologists stumbled across the original documents, in particular the cut-down version by Bizet himself, as well as the "conductor's score" of the time, which contained many notes about orchestration. This version, put together in 2014 by Hugh MacDonald, is sung by the flower of great French lyrical music – Julie Fuchs, Florian Sempey, Cyrille Dubois and Luc Bertin-Hugault – and returns as closely as possible to the original version of the work, so that the listener will encounter a number of big surprises, and good surprises too: additional numbers, several melodic and dramatic developments: almost a whole new score. © SM/Qobuz

Bartók : Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Christian Tetzlaff

Violin Concertos - Released April 13, 2018 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - Exceptional Sound Recording - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - 5 étoiles de Classica
Today, Finland is one of the richest musical countries on Earth. Thanks to the exceptional quality of its musical teaching it produces numerous composers, conductors and artists who perform all over the world. The very rich catalogue of the dynamic Finnish publisher Ondine contains several recordings of the German violinist Christian Tetzlaff (Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin) by Bach, Mozart's sonatas, Trios by Brahms, concertos by Mendelssohn, Schumann and Shostakovich); and the Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu (Sibelius, Mahler, Enescu, Berio, Messiaen, Lindberg, Melartin), but it is their first record together. Bartók's two Violin Concertos were written thirty years apart, for two virtuosos. While the Second Concerto in the form of variations on a theme that develop ingeniously across three movements, has been well-known for a long time, the first remained unheard for years. Written as a declaration of love for the Hungarian-Swiss violinist Stefi Geyer, for whom Bartók had fallen, it was a secret kept by the dedicatee: it was only long after the composer's death that the violinist let Bartók's patron and close friend, the conductor Paul Sacher, know about the work. He would see that it was performed, with Hansheinz Schneeberger, but only in 1958. Bartók's two concertos, essential parts of the repertoire for violin and orchestra would enjoy a well-deserved resurgence in interest among a younger generation of violinists – the recording of the same works by Renaud Capuçon for Warner came out a few weeks ago. This new version, magnificently recorded, carefully explores all the orchestral richness, in perfect dialogue with Christian Tetzlaff's outstanding violin. © François Hudry/Qobuz

Beethoven : Piano Sonatas (Op. 106 & Op. 27/2)

Murray Perahia

Solo Piano - Released February 9, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Record of the Month - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica
Oh no, no, no: this is absolutely not a re-release of one of the many recordings which Murray Perahia made of Beethoven over the decades. This here is something completely new, made in 2016 and 2017, of two radically contrasting sonatas: the Fourteenth of 1801, which Rellstab nicknamed "Clair de lune" in 1832, while Beethoven merely dubbed it Quasi una fantasia, and the Twenty Ninth of 1819, Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier, written after several barren years. Perhaps, consciously or not, Perahia has coupled two works, one "before" and the other "after" - after all, he himself has known his fair share of fallow years, following a hand injury which removed him from the stage from 1990 to 2005. Whether or not it's true, it's certainly tempting to imagine. Either way, like Beethoven, Perahia made a storming return, as shown in this recent performance, in which vigour alternates with moments of intense introspection, always impeccably phrased and articulated, and deeply musical. Clearly all those years in which he concentrated almost exclusively on the works of Bach as a training regime while he waited for recovery seem to have in fact been immensely fruitful. © SM/Qobuz

Rachmaninoff : The Bells & Symphonic Dances

Mariss Jansons

Classical - Released February 2, 2018 | BR-Klassik

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Record of the Month - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 étoiles de Classica
Rachmaninov's The Bells is of vast scope, setting an adaptation of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe (free enough that the Russian text is generally retranslated into English, as in the graphics here) depicting bells that mark the entire life cycle of an individual. The composer sometimes referred to it as his third symphony, and indeed it has that kind of synoptic ambition. It is written for a large orchestra, a choir, and three soloists, and all the legs of this triad are superbly realized here. Sample the third movement, which represents the tumult and misery of everyday life: conductor Mariss Jansons, leading the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, shows why the group is one of the absolute best in the world in this kind of large-ensemble repertory. It's gripping. The choir has a solidly consistent rich Germanic sound that contrasts nicely with the styles of the three soloists, all Russian. Everything falls into place here, and while there are fine Russian versions of the work, the electricity of the live performance here, very nicely recorded by Bavarian Radio's own engineers, puts this version in a class by itself. The late Symphonic Dances, Rachmaninov's final work, has a different and somewhat nostalgic tone; it was the composer's only work written entirely in the U.S. Its prominent saxophone part is especially evocative here. A top-notch Rachmaninov release all around. © TiVo

Berlioz : Les Troyens (Live)

John Nelson

Full Operas - Released November 24, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - Victoire de la musique - 4 étoiles Classica
We will gladly forgive the occasional "weakness" in sound technology in this recording of Troyens by Berlioz (recorded live in concert in April 2017). In light of the first-rate quality of the music and vocals that appear on the disc (a majority of which are French voices, with Stéphane Degout at their head) this immense work is from the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the three choirs which have been brought together – because the work demands immense swelling choirs – which are the choir of the Opéra national du Rhin, the Opéra National de Bade, and the Strasbourg Philharmonic's own choir. This recording rests, of course, on the complete original edition, which gives the listener a chance to hear Les Troyens as the work was performed in 1863, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, in which some intense chopping saw Acts I and II condensed into one part and Acts III to V into another, producing two distinct operas (La Prise de Troie and Les Troyens à Carthage). We also get a taste, naturally, of Berlioz's immensely rich orchestral innovations: with every new work, he would invent some exciting new prototype from scratch, never content to rest on his laurels. The listener should note the presence of six saxhorns, recently invented by Adolphe Sax (of whom Berlioz was an indefatigable champion, even if he didn't often use his instruments in his scores, no doubt because of the poor quality of the early instrumentalists who learned - however well or badly - Sax's instruments); bass clarinet, and an army of percussion pieces including several instruments which must have been rare in those days: crotales, goblet drums, tom-toms, thunder sheets... clearly, this is a milestone in the Berlioz discography. © SM/Qobuz

Tchaikovsky : Symphony No.6

Teodor Currentzis

Symphonies - Released October 27, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month - Diapason d'or / Arte - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
An album, a symphony: you would think that we had returned to the days of the Long Play, and the era of Mravinsky, Doráti, Markevitch, Karajan as well as many other performers and interpreters who have marked the discographic history of the last symphony from Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky. The album cover also seems to confirm it: it brings to mind the old RCA covers from the 50s and 60s. Sony Classical, being very supportive of the artistic endeavours of the Greco-Russian master, didn't hesitate to bring out a roughly 45-minute album - they had done better with the Rites of Spring (2015), which was feted in the press. Here, Teodor Currentzis continues his exploration of Tchaikovsky's world, with the Pathétique, putting the accent on the dynamic contrasts, sometimes naturally, sometimes by technical means (adagio lamentoso), and bringing to bear some methods that are normally specific to pop music. He exploits the sombre tone of the work, even above its rhythmic energy, and looks to create atmospheres that one could often call morbid. For record-lovers, this release is a great opportunity to revisit his discography, and for all other ardent Qobuz users it is an opportunity to rediscover this true emblem of the orchestral repertoire. © TG/Qobuz

Schubert : Piano Sonatas D 959 & 960

Krystian Zimerman

Solo Piano - Released September 8, 2017 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année
With his 60th birthday approaching, the Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman thought it was time “to find the courage for works such as these and the last Beethoven sonatas. I’ve played these pieces for 30 years, but always feared them tremendously because of my unbelievable respect for the composers. Perhaps I worried that if I left them any longer, it would be too late.” Zimerman has used a normal piano, but fitted with a keyboard made by himself, designed to create qualities Schubert would have known in his instruments. Compared to a modern grand piano, the hammer strikes a different point of the string, enhancing its ability to sustain a singing sound – though it does also set up different overtones and the piano might sound strangely tuned. Also, the action is lighter. On a modern grand piano the many repeated notes in Schubert could turn into Prokofiev. According to Zimmerman, these two last Sonatas contribute significantly to our view of Schubert’s greatness, as “he switches into a different gear, daring radically to use new ideas in harmony and polyphony. Compared to his earlier sonatas, they could almost be by another composer.” The album was recorded in January 2016.

Rameau: Pygmalion & Les Fêtes de Polymnie

Christophe Rousset

Classical - Released September 1, 2017 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
Christophe Rousset and the Talens Lyriques bring us to the stage of the Royal Academy of Music where Pygmalion, an act of ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau inspired by an episode of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was created in 1748. Love, showing empathy for Pygmalion’s despair of loving a statue, invigorates the sculpted woman who immediately falls in love with her creator. Very suggestive, the music of this tender and mischievous ballet deploys the grace of 18th century dances. Like Ovid’s Love, Christophe Rousset instils life in this score, one of Rameau’s greatest successes in his day, and offers us, thanks to his sense of drama and his impeccable leadership, a new and essential reading of this ballet. © Aparté

Mendelssohn: Symphonies 1-5

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Symphonies - Released June 16, 2017 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Month - 4 étoiles Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
With Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe here presents Mendelssohn’s complete Symphonies (Nos. 1 to 5), composed between 1824 and 1842. Considered by some to be “the best chamber orchestra in the world” (BBC2 Television), the Chamber Orchestra of Europe was born three decades ago from the desire of several young musicians of the former European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) to pursue the adventure as an orchestra. After a few – unavoidable – changes within its ranks, this ensemble – currently – based in London retains the spirit that prevailed over its creation, shaped by complicity, generosity and liberty. Without a dedicated music director or conductor, the orchestra is now reunited with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with whom there is, according to the latter, “a completely unique bond”. Their most recent releases, such as in Mozart’s operas, highlighted this shared complicity. And, after a complete collection on Schumann, it is only fair that the conductor and his musicians explore the effusive lyric, the “classical” side of German romanticism, by working on Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s five symphonies. But the aim however with these five symphonies is to explore widely differing universes: the very romantic Symphony No. 3, “the Scottish”, in which Wagner heard a “prime landscaper”; Symphony No. 4, “the Italian”, is almost a great symphonic poem, as illustrated (by?) numerous composers after 1834; Symphony No. 2, “Lobgesang”, ends on an immense cantata full of praise, which approach was inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth; Symphony No. 5 is strongly linked to Protestant religion, as its fugue finale cites one of the Lutheran chorales used, notably, by Johann Sebastian Bach: “Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott” (Our God is a secure fortress) (cf. Cantata BWV 80). © Qobuz, based on a Philarmonie de Paris leaflet for concerts in Paris, February 2016.

Jonathan Dove : In Damascus

Sacconi Quartet

Chamber Music - Released June 16, 2017 | Signum Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - 4 étoiles Classica
The Signum label has issued several albums of music by British composer Jonathan Dove, and it has generally been crowd-pleasing. That might be the wrong word for the grim subject matter of the vocal work, In Damascus, that concludes this program. The text by Syrian poet Ali Safar, translated into English, takes Syria's contemporary civil war for its subject matter. Yet the style is consistent with that of Dove's main body of work. The nearest comparison would be the post-minimalist music of John Adams, but there is a certain British connection with classical forms that sets these pieces apart from Adams. Dove is best known for opera, and In Damascus may get title billing, but two instrumental chamber works, the Piano Quintet (sample its finale, "Lively") and the string quartet Out of Time take up the bulk of the program. The Piano Quintet is effective partly because of the multiple roles of the piano in the discourse, and the string quartet is also handled very flexibly in In Damascus; it does not take a purely accompanimental role. The chamber-sized, restrained singing of tenor Mark Padmore here is admirable, although there are less-than-precise pitches in a few places. With crisp work from the Sacconi Quartet throughout, this is an important British entry in the post-minimalist field. © TiVo