Albums

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Opera Extracts - Released November 23, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or / Arte - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - 5 étoiles de Classica
This new Vivaldi album marks a double anniversary, the thirty-year anniversary of the close collaboration between Cecilia Bartoli and the famous English label Decca, and the twenty-year anniversary of the very successful first Vivaldian opus. This time leaving behind Giovanni Antonini and his Il Giardino Armonico ensemble, Cecilia Bartoli has selected French musicians well versed in Vivaldi’s music, as if to demonstrate the universal nature of the Red Priest’s compositions. In fact, Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his Ensemble Matheus have distinguished themselves with Vivaldi’s instrumental music since their early days. They started off their collaboration with five concerts, dedicated of course to the Venetian composer, in Munich, Prague, Baden-Baden and Versailles. For their first recording together they selected ten opera titles, nine of which weren’t featured on the 1999 album. The plethora of Vivaldi operas provides an endless supply to recitalists who can easily put together, as is the case here, an extremely lively programme featuring the most beautiful gems of an extraordinarily expansive composer whose melodic liveliness has been a constantly fascinating topic. This release is also beautiful in itslef (accessible on your Qobuz account), as it features a photo book containing beautiful portraits of Cecila Bartoli taken by Roman photographer Viviane Purdom, who has devoted her life to masterfully shooting great classical musicians. Happy anniversary indeed! © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Symphonies - Released November 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Symphonies - Released August 24, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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The Second Symphony by Leonard Bernstein, The Age of Anxiety, based on a poem of the same name by W. H. Auden, is a work of the composer-conductor's relative youth, dating from 1948-1949, when he was just turning thirty. The symphony is presented as a series of variations, but not variations around an initial theme. No: each variation takes on elements of the previous variation, varies in turn, and so on. It brings to mind an unbroken metamorphosis. As one might imagine, Bernstein mixes classical symphonic elements with jazz, in particular in the solo piano passage – tackled here by Krystian Zimerman, who had the good fortune to perform with Bernstein several times. In its own way, it is a kind of homage to the centenary of the composer's birth: as Zimerman mentions in the liner notes, Bernstein asked him if he wanted to play this symphony with him for his hundredth birthday. And he almost keeps the promise, although the orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic, under Sir Simon Rattle. © SM/Qobuz
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Full Operas - Released May 2, 2018 | PentaTone

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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
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Opera Extracts - Released March 2, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Diapason d'or / Arte - Qobuzissime - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Nowadays it might seem rather strange to describe a composer as a “singing master”, but, during the eighteenth century, this was not the case at all. In Italy, almost every composer worthy of the name wrote opere serie (Porpora wrote at least forty- ve): serious opera was the dominant musical genre, glorifying the human voice above everything else. It was the maker or breaker of musical reputations, with its nest singers the rst superstars of music. Therefore composers, though generally eclipsed by the fame of their leading men and women, needed to understand the human voice and all its remarkable capabilities, both technical and histrionic, in order to be able to exploit the possibilities of the operatic form at a time when those “machines made for singing”, the castrati, had brought the vocal art to a pitch of perfection never known before, nor equalled since. Though this recording is bringing Porpora’s name to public attention again on the 250th anniversary of his death, his fame as a singing teacher has probably obscured, until recently, his remarkable qualities as a composer, quite simply because two of the most famous castrati were among his many pupils, namely Gaetano Majorano, known as Caffarelli, whom Porpora once called “the nest singer in Europe”, also famed for his amorous antics and arrogance on- and off-stage, and the even more celebrated Carlo Broschi, who, under his stage name of Farinelli, amazed audiences and set hearts a- utter for fteen years throughout Europe, before being called to Spain to heal a crazed King by the power of his voice. Max Cencic remarks: “Porpora was a severe teacher, I think, maybe almost sadistic in his demands — you need 120% control of breath, brain and voice”. Legend indeed has it that he taught Caffarelli one page of exercises, and those alone, for six years. The formal alternation of aria and recitative in opera seria conceals a great range of emotional expression, that varietas that Erasmus famously described as “so powerful in every sphere that there is absolutely nothing, however brilliant, which is not dimmed if not commended by variety”. In such forms as the orid aria di bravura or the lyrical aria di sostenuto, the composer’s fantasy only provided a framework for the singer to embroider: the performer’s skill in ornamentation and other emotional devices was of paramount importance. Porpora’s many years of both teaching and composing experience made him, in Max Cencic’s opinion, “one of the top ten composers of Italian Baroque opera. I chose the arias for this recording almost by instinct, by what ‘felt right’. There is no way one can encompass a composer of such quality in one album, and each piece is a treasure in its own right. Though technical display is everywhere — leaps, rapid scales, trills, long phrases — Porpora’s special and utterly captivating melodic gift always shines through.” The arias are all taken from works composed at the height of Porpora’s fame, from Ezio (Venice 1728; “Se tu la reggi al volo” is a semiquaver spectacular) to Filandro (Dresden 1747, with a ravishing siciliano in “Ove l’erbetta tenera, e molle”), including three of the operas he composed for London during the 1730s, in direct competition with Handel (Arianna in Nasso 1733, Enea nel Lazio 1734 — real reworks here in “Chi vuol salva” — and I genia in Aulide 1735). The Teatro San Carlo in Naples, perhaps the most famous of all opera houses at that time, saw the premiere of Il trionfo di Camilla in 1740, and the two arias recorded here show Porpora at his best: the music of “Va per le vene il sangue” evocatively matches its darkly suggestive text, while “Torcere il corso all’onde” combines rapid- re coloratura with elegance of line. In the three arias from Carlo il Calvo (Teatro delle Dame, Rome 1738) the singer is similarly called to match Porpora’s varietas with his own: from the scurrying oriture of “So che tiranno io sono” to the high-lying phrases of “Se rea ti vuole il cielo”, and the beguilingly hypnotic sostenuto of “Quando s’oscura il cielo”. Porpora’s orchestral writing is also remarkably varied, all the more so in that he generally uses only strings, nowhere better than in the elaborate lines of “Torbido intorno al core” from Meride e Selinunte (Venice 1726), where voice and violins entwine in an elaborate and emotionally suggestive web of divisions. However, sometimes he pulls out all the sonority stops, as in the martial “Destrier, che all’armi usato” where, at the rst performance in the Teatro Regio, Turin in 1731 trumpets and horns vied with the unmatchable power of the voice of Farinelli. As Max Cencic has said: “How can we emulate the great castrati? That is hard to pin down, but these voices were the very soul of Porpora’s music.” -Nicholas Clapton © 2018 – Decca Group Limited
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released February 16, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Diapason d'or / Arte
The cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself) BWV 22, holds a historic place in Bach’s work. Indeed he composed it while still in Köthen, as an audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and then conducted it on February 7th, 1723, maybe even singing the bass part himself. Famously the city council, unable to convince its preferred composers – Telemann, Graupner and two others –, decided to settle with “mediocre” Bach… The gospel of the day first announces his death and his resurrection by Christ and his disciplines. A modest orchestra: voices, strings, one oboe and continuo, but the musical content is – like in almost all of Bach’s cantatas – amongst the best he’s ever written. For the same celebration, Bach composed a new cantata the following year, Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God) BWV 127. But it has almost nothing in common with the previous piece: here Bach offers a very impressive reflection on physical death. Throughout his cantatas he called for a blessed death to free himself from the vicissitudes of life on Earth, but this now reveals how much he may have feared physical death itself. The aria ”Die Seele ruht” is one of these sublime moments suspended in time, an ineffable tintinnabulum, in which the soprano and the oboe dialogue on a harrowing theme while the flutes and string pizzicatos symbolise the passing of time with incredible beauty. Finally it’s with Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75 that Bach started off his work in Leipzig, in St. Nicholas Church this time, as the cantatas were alternately performed in both churches. Probably because he wanted to start with a bang, he designed this cantata on a huge scale: fourteen numbers, divided in two parts. Of course Bach would have never been able to produce such vast and powerful partitions on a weekly basis, but there is a real substance to this Passion… and it’s with great passion that Philippe Pierlot, his Ricercar Consort and the soloists perform these masterpieces. © SM/Qobuz
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Symphonies - Released October 27, 2017 | Sony Classical

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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
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Trios - Released September 15, 2017 | Sony Classical

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Opera - Released September 15, 2017 | Warner Classics

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Secular Vocal Music - Released June 9, 2017 | Sony Classical

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released May 5, 2017 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, truly merits the adjective "tragic"; it was written after the deaths of two of the composer's children in succession, and his grief rolled out in great, Verdian waves. There are several strong recordings on the market, including an earlier one by conductor Jiří Bělohlávek himself, but for the combination of deep feeling, technical mastery from musicians and singers who have spent their lives getting to know the score, and soloists who not only sound beautiful but are seamlessly integrated into the flow, this Decca release may be the king of them all. To what extent was the strength of the performance motivated by Bělohlávek's likely fatal illness (he died days after the album entered the top levels of classical charts in the spring of 2017)? It's hard to say, although he also delivered top-notch performances of Dvorák's Requiem in his last days. The members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir sing their hearts out in the gigantic, shattering opening chorus, which has rarely if ever had such a mixture of the impassioned and the perfectly controlled. Sample the chorus "Virgo virginium praeclara" to hear the magically suspended quality Bělohlávek brings out of the singers in lightly accompanied passages. The soloists, soprano Eri Nakamura, mezzo Elisabeth Kulman, tenor Michael Spyres, and bass Jongmin Park -- an international group in this otherwise almost all-Czech production -- are uniformly strong, but what stands out most is how inevitable their entrances sound. If this turns out to be Bělohlávek's swan song, it is an accomplishment for the ages. Highest possible recommendation.
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Secular Vocal Music - Released April 7, 2017 | naïve classique

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2017 marks the 450th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi, one of the fathers of modern music, who gave a major impulse to expressivity and individuality of expression. Rinaldo Alessandrini’s benchmark recordings of the madrigals, the Vespers, L'Orfeo etc., contributed to unani-mously establish the Roman conductor and his ensemble Concerto Italiano as the leading ambassadors of Monteverdi today. "Notte. Storie di Amanti e di Guerrieri" offers a selection of highlights from Monteverdi’s most famous madrigals and instrumental movements: Lamento della ninfa, Combat-timento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Ho’r che’l ciel e la terra, sinfonias from Monteverdi’s three operas etc. A heart-stretching pro-gram in which Rinaldo Alessandrini’s sci-ence of light, emotions and colors is at its highest.
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Classical - Released April 7, 2017 | Erato - Warner Classics

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Classical - Released January 27, 2017 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Symphonies - Released November 1, 2016 | Decca

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Classical - Released October 16, 2015 | Naive

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or / Arte - 4 étoiles de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Described by the prestigious British music magazine Gramophone as ‘the most innovative and transcendent interpreter of all’ for his work in Rachmaninov and Prokofiev, as well as being capable of a grand refinement and a ‘crystalline beauty’ (The Financial Times) in Mozart and Schubert, Nikolai Luganski is an extraordinarily deep and versatile pianist. His CD recital of sonatas for piano by Rachmaninov won him a Diapason d’or and an ECHO Klassik prize, whilst his recording of the concertos of Grieg and Prokofiev was awarded an ‘Editors Choice’ by Gramophone. His previous recordings were also greeted with many awards, including a second Diapason d’or, the BBC Music Magazine Award, and a prize from ECHO Klassik. Here, he performs one of the ultimate Schubert sonatas, the incredible and titanic Sonata in C minor, which was written in the summer of 1828, a few months before the death of the composer. We hear – and Luganski emphasizes – the resonant impact of the last sonatas by Beethoven, by which Schubert was so fed and freed. The symphonic dimensions of this sonatas require an interpreter with strong shoulders, therefore: enter Luganski. Shortly before this work, Schubert composed his second collection, Impromptus, which hit somewhere between poetry and sombre savagery, as the Russian interpreter endorses here.
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Classical - Released September 9, 2016 | SWR Classic

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Classical - Released September 2, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Keyboard Concertos - Released August 26, 2016 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released November 6, 2015 | SWR Classic

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