Albums

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Solo Piano - Released June 29, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
Released as one of nine new albums dedicated to Debussy by harmonia mundi to mark the centenary of the French composer's birth, this volume offers the Second Book of the Preludes played by Alexander Melnikov on an Erard piano. The world of Debussyan piano relied so heavily on timbre that pianists and editors alike often prefer one or another make so as to get a grip on the specificities of the music. Alexander Melnikov is one of those rare Russian artists to take an interest in ancient instruments. This student of Sviatoslav Richter was quickly captivated by this kind of work, working with Andreas Staier and Alexey Lubimov and playing with specialised ensembles like the Concerto Köln or the Berlin Akademie für Alte Musik. His performance of the Preludes by Debussy at London's Wigmore Hall was particularly well received by critics who described the Russian pianist as a "sorcerer" who is highlighting "ravishing", "violent", "terrifying" music. An iridescent orchestral masterpiece, La Mer is difficult to boil down to a four-handed piano piece, and Debussy disowned his transcription, leaving it to André Caplet to prepare another one for two four-handed pianos. Alexandre Melnikov and Olga Pashchenko have taken up the challenge to prove that the auteur's transcription is not at all "unplayable". © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Full Operas - Released June 22, 2018 | Warner Classics

Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Full Operas - Released June 22, 2018 | Warner Classics

Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Chamber Music - Released June 15, 2018 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Poor Henri Marteau... Born in 1874 to a French father and a German mother, in a time when, after the war of 1870 and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, the hatred between the two countries was still intense. He made an early start as a violinist early, and at the age of ten he stood in for his teacher at short notice, at a big concert in Reims, where he gave a perfect rendition of a Vieuxtemps concerto. Shortly after, he made his début in London and Vienna, conducted by Hans Richter, and crossed paths with Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Busoni, Dvořák, Nielsen, Grieg, Reger and many other great musicians of his day, with whom he would give many concerts. He received recognition in 1908 when he followed Joachim into the Berlin Conservatory. But 1914 came roaring in, and Marteau – an officer in the French reserves! – found himself sent to live in deepest Germany, forbidden from performing, and, worse still, taken by the French for a German spy. After the Great War, he took Swedish citizenship, continuing to perform in Germany in the Conservatories of Leipzig and Dresden, but his glory days as an instrumentalist were behind him and he passed away in 1934. His work itself suffered from the horrors of war, as the majority of his works only existed in manuscript form, and many were lost. But his quartets survived because they were often performed during his lifetime and therefore were widely published and circulated. The Second Quartet given here, probably written in 1905, highlights the musical link that joined Marteau to Reger: robust chromatism, constant counter-punctual charge, intensely rich polyphonies, even if the slightly excessive spirit in the French style proves that this could only be a work by Marteau. As for the Eight melodies for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, sung here by Karine Deshayes, accompanied by the Isasi Quartet, they date back to his internal exile in Germany, or his exile in Sweden, in the period 1915-17. For a long time they were thought to have been lost, but after a century they were finally published, in 2016! As a little raspberry blown by the composer, he chose to write his lyrics in... French. They also have a rather French melodic and harmonic charge, with a few accents that would have been very much at home in a piece by Debussy. Either way, these works are a pleasure to discover, especially given the quality of the performances on this record. © SM/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released June 6, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Careful, you don’t want to miss this! For ten years, there have been so many Goldberg Variations invading the market, both on piano and on harpsichord, that we didn’t expect to be so surprised, to feel such amazement. After several absolutely fascinating projects, first with Pan Classics (Scarlatti, Soler), then a first album with Harmonia Mundi devoted to Padre Soler rare Sonatas (awarded with a Qobuzism), here again comes Spanish harpsichordist Diego Ares—born in Vigo in 1983—playing Johann Sebastian Bach, with probably one of the Cantor’s most complex works; Diego Ares astonishes with his rigor, his imagination and his freedom, both in the phrasing, the registrations, the ornamentation, the sense of surprise (Variation 25). The harmonies sound implacable, often harsh, yet still radiate in a supreme way (Variation 28); this is the left hand, full and musical, but above all incredibly flexible, that is also able to rear up, to create sometimes surprising suspensions in time, always fluid and coherent, which opens real places of communication and distinguish the amazing narrative sense deployed by Diego Ares throughout this interpretation. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released May 25, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Bach's "Dialogue Cantatas" generally portrayed Jesus in dialogue with the human soul, first tormented and then at peace. The three cantatas selected here by Berlin's Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, which has, over the years since 1982 (with over a million records sold!) brought together musicians from the city's different orchestras – first those under Soviet rule and then all orchestras following the fall of the Wall – are a part of this genre; all date from the great Leipzig period, specifically the third cycle written by Bach for Leipzig in 1726. It will come as no surprise, hearing these cantatas, that the essence of the first arias is desperate, heart-rending: and as they go on, they move towards relief and joy. It is in these first moments that we see Bach at his most intense, most pained, most chromatic, terribly modern as well as at his most romantic, profoundly lyrical and yet rigorous in the musical discourse. The most superbly original piece is surely the Cantata BWV 49, which begins with a Sinfonia with obbligato organ – in which the listener will recognise the final movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in E Major, when Bach recycled it a dozen years later – and continues with an aria with cello and oboe, both soloists immersed in the soprano's joyous voice; and we finish on a magnificent chorale with an aria – the aria being for the bass of the solo organ, while the soprano part sings the chorale's theme from on high: a staggering display of modernity. © SM/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released May 18, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Clocking in at a full hour, the Octet in F Major is one of the longest works in the chamber music repertoire. Ravaged by disease, Schubert took as his starting point, as expressly stipulated in the commission he received from the Steward of the Archduke Rodolphe, Beethoven's Septet in E-flat major Op. 20, whose fame greatly chagrined its writer. In Schubert's Octet there is a certain joie de vivre cut across, as ever with him, by occasional notes of desperation (the call of the horn in the first movement, the elegiac turns of the Adagio). In order to meet his patron's very precise specifications, he used the same instrumentation, with the addition of a second violin, and he took on the same order of movements and the same tonal pattern as the Beethovian model. But while Schubert poured his work into this mould so as to please his client, he wrote a very personal work which, by his own account, would lead him towards the great symphonic form which would appear rather later with his Symphony No. 9 in C major. Isabelle Faust and friends make you laugh and cry, moving in perfect unison from one emotion to another, never hesitating to lay this sublime music bare, without any recourse to affected vibrato or excessive expression. A performance that brings us close to the fragility of existence. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released May 18, 2018 | DUX

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
One might well say: this is just yet another recording of Rachmaninov's Vespers. And while, objectively, that's what this is, it’s also a reading which differs markedly from the norm – the norm in question being to drown the discourse in an intense reverberation, natural or artificial, and to record it at a distance, to create a "churchy" feel. None of that here: the choir – exemplary, superb – of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Poland, an institution based in Białystok, is recorded here quite close up, almost intimately, with no added reverb and in a comfortable acoustic location: the European Art Centre in Białystok. The result is that the listener hears every word and almost every counter-punctual line – and Rachmaninov had a field day with this, adding up to eleven real voices into the most harmonically intense passages. We bet that for many, this will be a real discovery, of an immense masterpiece of Slavic religious music. We also note that the soloists are of great quality and that the basso profundos demanded of the choir at points are real basso profundos, not unfortunate bass baritones in danger of asphyxiation. Hats off. © SM/Qobuz
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Full Operas - Released May 11, 2018 | Ediciones Singulares

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
We'll admit: this Reine de Chypre by Fromental Halévy is probably not the unfairly-overlooked work of commanding genius for which the lyrical world has been waiting for fifty years… But it would still be a shame to miss it, especially when performed by such a line-up, with Véronique Gens, Cyrille Dubois and Etienne Dupuis at the top of the bill. And after all, the score is full of vocal marvels and very original ensembles; but it is rather in the orchestration – which is not much more adventurous than that of any other piece of Italian bel canto of the era – that Halévy has taken it easy. The melodic richness was pointed out in an article in the Revue et gazette musicale in April 1842: "In the Reine de Chypre, Halévy's new style is on display with more dash, and more success. I have had occasion to point out the preconditions, as I see them, of the production of a good opera, by pointing out the obstacles which stand in the way of meeting these conditions fully and in good time, whether by the poet or the composer. When these conditions are met, it is an event of great importance for the world of art. Now, in the present case, circumstances have conspired in the performance of a work which, as even the most exacting critic must admit, possesses all the qualities which constitute a good opera. (…) The composer has put all the enchantment of his art into the duet that breathes the sentiments that enrapture them. The dark cloth on which these two charming figures are drawn shows through even in those songs which are so sparkling and alive with happiness, like a sinister cloud, and lends them a particular character of melancholy intrigue. There is no equal, in nobility or in grace, of the magnificent melody of the final part of this duet." The article continues in this vein. The byline? One Richard Wagner… © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 4, 2018 | Herisson

Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Symphonies - Released May 4, 2018 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released May 4, 2018 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released May 4, 2018 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
A mere sixty to eighty years before the most famous St Matthew Passion of all − Bach’s −, there were already quite a few (in vernacular language of course), by composers such as Selle, Flor, Furchtheim, Funcke and our subject of interest, Johann Sebastiani (1622-1683). His was written in 1663 for the Königsberg Cathedral, of which he had just been named Kantor, a position he held – as well as that of Kapellmeister for the court – almost until his death. The result is stylistically far, very far from Schütz’ austere Passion (virtually contemporary), as for instance Sebastiani, drawing from most contemporary Italian sources – the Roman, Venetian and Neapolitan opera and oratorio – unfolded a proper lyrical drama in which the recitatives, woven into the main discourse, are systematically accompanied by a rich instrumental polyphony rather than a simple continuo. Sebastiani’s Passion is without a doubt his most important work, and even in his time, was performed, published and broadcasted throughout Prussia. The orchestral accompaniment is entrusted to a great polyphonic ensemble of violas for the written part, while the composer himself, in the preface, specifies that continuous must be given to the largest possible number of instruments: positive organ, spinet, harpsichord, lute, theorbos. An instrumental richness that the Boston Early Music Festival ensemble perfectly gathers with vocalists taking their narrative roles to heart, as well as the dramatic and human content of the text they’ve been entrusted with. No doubt a wonderful discovery for many music lovers who possibly ignored the existence of this major baroque composer, from whom, unfortunately, most manuscripts were lost in World War II air raids that left Königsberg in ruins. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 4, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Absolute Jest, written in 2011 and revised a little later, is one of John Adams's most irresistible works. The composer borrows liberally from Beethoven, from the quartets but also the Ninth Symphony, to distil a furious, sumptuously-orchestrated score – alongside a solo string quartet, which could render the work a sort of concerto, Adams has added a harp and a piano, both tuned according to the meantone temperament, a way of blending tones and sounds together – which is rich in allusions ("tattoos", in Adams's phrase) to Ludwig van. The final movement, however, makes no bones about its debt to Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements. Highly original, Absolute Jest was written for Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Orchestra (a Qobuzissime of summer 2015), but the evidence is that every new performance uncovers new facets of the work. The same applies to Naïve and Sentimental Music, written for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (and there exists a superb recording of it, by Salonen with Nonesuch); note though that the score is neither naïve nor sentimental, but ferocious and original; the title is surely a borrowing from Schiller (Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung), which classified Shakespeare and Homer as "naïve" poets. Among some slightly unusual sounds, the listener will note an electric guitar and a piano linked to a sampler… © SM/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released April 27, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The harp prodigy Emmanuel Ceysson, member of the orchestra of the Opéra national de Paris and more recently of the Metropolitan Opera, is a real star. His mad rise evokes that of the French Carlos Salzedo, born in the 19th, who became in New York the greatest harpist of his time, and revolutionized the repertoire of his instrument. This new album crosses the twentieth century in a program inspired by Gothic, under the sign of mystery and fantasy. The luminous Ballade by Salzedo resonates here with the works of more famous composers: Debussy’s impressionistic atmospheres shimmer, the fantastic settings of Caplet come to life, and the beauties of Hindemith’s writing play with the incredible sound palette of this orchestra-like instrument. Powerful in the bass, crystalline in the treble, Emmanuel Ceysson’s special red harp – built after Salzedo’s – blossoms fully in virtuoso solo pieces as well as in the dialogue with the strings of the Voce Quartet in the very Argentinian Gustavo Leone’s Quinteto Rojo. This imaginary but coherent musical stroll introduces to the new and captivating universes of the harp, with a repertoire devoted to the instrument. © Aparté
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Classical - Released April 20, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
After celebrating thirty years of life and work together with the Trios by Dvořak, our three wandering companions (Vincent Coq, piano, Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian, violin and Raphaël Pidoux, cello) have brought out another round of Trios, this time by Joseph Haydn, the inventor of this form, which is an inheritor of the baroque trio sonata, with a cello part often providing the basso continuo. There are 39 authentic compositions by Haydn for this instrumental format, which he wrote at various points throughout his life. The music is of very high quality and it unites all the characteristic forms of his style, his vivacity, expression, freedom of tone and form, and the zest of his cheering humour. The Wanderers have judiciously selected their works from three different epochs for this new album which offers the Trios n° 14, 18, 21, 26 & 31 which offer plenty of surprises and rare tonalities from Haydn, like A-flat major, F-sharp minor, or E-flat minor. The performance is both fluent and lucid. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Solo Piano - Released April 20, 2018 | Orfeo

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The church bells that he heard aged four, walking in the streets of Zurich with his parents, were the point of departure for the young Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi who still remembers this moment as a shock that violently brought home the power of music. The sonic beauty and harmonic richness in the tolling of the bells set something off in his unconscious, sparking a lifelong quest for the timbres and sonorities that he is so deft at bringing to life on his piano. At the age of five, he tried to reproduce the sound of the bells on a little toy piano; at twelve, he played Grieg's Concerto in A Minor and started to perform in public. But two years later he became aware of the limits of his technical abilities and also of the strange tensions wracking his body. His encounter with the pianist Cécile Ousset was decisive. He re-learned his entire technique and turned to face his career with renewed confidence. Just like in a fairy tale, one day he received a letter from Alfred Brendel who had heard him by chance on the radio, and asked to work with him. After spending a whole hour on the first lines of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto, the young man would work on his whole repertoire with the great master, whom he would regularly visit in London. Later Murray Perahia would teach him the structures of a work, so he could build his own interpretations. Today, Francesco Piemontesi has become a master in his own right, playing all over the world with the greatest orchestras; he was also the musical director of the Ascona Music Weeks, where he heard all the greatest pianists of his youth. The Ticinese worked for a long time with Brendel to bring his Liszt to maturity, which allowed him to offer up this fine recording of the Première Année de pèlerinage, dedicated to his native Switzerland, which he knows so well. This new recording doesn't conjure up an image of Piemontesi as the superficial virtuoso, but rather of Liszt as a great creator of innovative harmonies, who would have so much influence on the generations that followed him. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Quartets - Released April 20, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica
On the occasion of the bicentenary of Charles Gounod’s birth, this first complete string quartet (including two unpublished ones) on period instruments reveals an unknown part of his production, dominated by vocal music. Composer of the very end of the 19th century, Gounod and his five quartets are the worthy heir of the Viennese classicism tradition. The lyrical accents of the Quartet in G minor or the airy lightness of the Scherzo of the Petit Quatuor evoke nothing less than the names of Schubert and Mendelssohn. The musicians of the Quatuor Cambini-Paris (Julien Chauvin, Karine Crocquenoy, Pierre-Éric Nimylowycz and Atsushi Sakaï) gracefully reproduce these pages, full of gravity and sweetness. © Aparté/Little Tribeca
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Symphonies - Released April 20, 2018 | ECM New Series

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Pärt's four symphonies stretch across a period of 45 years, from 1964 and 1966 respectively for the first two, 1971 for the third, and 2008 for the fourth. His first steps into the works of the symphony were still marked by dodecaphonism, although Pärt would not resist the gradual appearance of tonal poles in his work and "accidental" encounters between consonant notes and the harmonies that resulted; but the discourse remains very much linked to modernist principles, while exploring older forms of prelude and fugue, or indeed polyphony. With the Second, Pärt's avant-gardist period came to an end. From the 1970s, Pärt would completely revise his language, and come to concentrate on religious and medieval music, in such a way that his Third Symphony throws out dodecaphonism and all its theories, developing in their place a tonal, melodic, modal idiom (the old ecclesiastical styles, in fact). And within this personal revolution, Pärt would take a step into "tintinnabulum", which formed the basis of the Fourth Symphony, written for strings, harp and percussion: a wide world of meditation, stunning, unreal, intangible, and fundamentally tonal, in which the movements from one phenomenon to another move immensely slowly, allowing the listener to savour every moment. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released March 19, 2007 | Aeolus

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique