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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
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Alfred Schnittke & Arvo Pärt : Choral Works

Kaspars Putnins

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 5, 2018 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Award - Exceptional Sound Recording
Alfred Schnittke and Arvo Pärt have both lived through the intense decades of upheavals that preceded the fall of the Soviet Union. From the 1970s, religion returned to public life as restrictions around it were relaxed. Schnittke turned towards Christianity, while remaining open towards Eastern religions. Arvo Pärt, from a family of Lutheran Estonians, embraced the Orthodox faith in the 1970s. The two composers both began to incorporate religious themes into their work, moving decisively away from the modernist abstraction of their early work. Schnittke wrote three religious works of great power: a Requiem in 1975 which could only be played in secret, disguised (what ignominy...) as stage music in a Muscovite production of Schiller's Don Carlos. His Choir Concerto, also with a religious theme, was performed in Moscow in 1986 after overcoming a daunting series of bureaucratic obstacles. On the other hand, the Penitential Psalms were performed out in the open in 1988 in as part of celebrations to mark a thousand years of Christianity in Russia. The style of this immense masterpiece is in line with Orthodox liturgical tradition, but Schnittke extends traditional principles to create modern sounds - in particular, rhythmical and harmonic modifications, which lend the work an intense richness. Like Schnittke's Penitential Psalms, the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis by Pärt are composed in a semi-liturgical style. The Magnificat dates back to one year after Schnittke's score was composed, in 1989. Pärt had been living in Berlin since 1981, where he refined his "tintinnabuli" technique. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir which plays here is one of Estonia's foremost chamber music ensembles. Founded in 1981, it has been directed by Kaspars Putniņš since 2014. Its choral repertoire stretches from Gregorian chant and baroque to more contemporary music, with a particular focus on the work of Estonian composers, which the Choir works hard to spread beyond the country's borders. © SM/Qobuz
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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
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Secrets (French Songs : Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Duparc)

Marianne Crebassa

Mélodies (French) - Released October 20, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica
The "secrets" denoted by the title of this release on the increasingly productive Erato/Warner Classics are not repertory items, but the inner thoughts inspired by the music for mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa; the pieces on the are mostly well-known French mélodies. The exception is the final piece, composed by accompanist Fazil Say (who elsewhere has a remarkable quiet edge) and depicting the suppression of protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park, which is a bit out of place; perhaps it was felt that the program would be too conventional otherwise. No matter. The star of the show here is Crebassa's voice: a classic French song instrument, rounded, with abundant, yet precisely deployed vibrato on the longer notes, with the uvular "r" that French singers grow up with, but others struggle to replicate. Then, something's added: a hint of smoke that brings the songs out of the salon and into the wider world. It's a quality that singers develop over time (sometimes, in France especially, with actual cigarette smoke), but to hear it birthed full-grown is a rare and delicious experience. This is not to say that Crebassa is a vocal machine insensitive to text. Sample Henri Duparc's Au pays ou se fait la guerre, with its war-is-hell-on-the-home-front text by Théophile Gautier, and you hear a sensitive reading that brings out the underlying seriousness Crebassa is going for. The venue is not French, but Austrian: the Großer Saal at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. But this too supports the expressive goals of a French song recording in which everything comes together. © TiVo
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Dvořák : Quintets, Op. 81 & 97

Pavel Haas Quartet

Chamber Music - Released October 20, 2017 | Supraphon a.s.

Distinctions Gramophone Award - Choc de Classica
As with Shostakovich and the Russians, there's debate over whether Czech performers bring a special quality to Dvorák's music. The Pavel Haas Quartet certainly makes Dvorák sound more Eastern than usual, bringing dramatic contrasts of light and shade in the Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, in place of the usual orderly Brahmsian procession of themes. From the start, the playing of the group is both melodically evocative and intense, with tempos on the fast side. The contribution of hot Russian pianist Boris Giltburg here is substantial; in the slow movement of the Piano Quintet he establishes the little opening F sharp minor arpeggio as a kind of nervous memory rather than simply as an ornament. Sample the grand sweep of the finale for an idea of what you're getting here. The String Quintet in E flat major, Op. 97, is contrapuntally a more dense work than the Piano Quintet, and the Pavel Haas Quartet, joined by original violist Pavel Niki, differs less dramatically from other readings of the work. Yet this work also connects emotionally. Supraphon, not known for top-flight engineering, scores here with the sound environment of the Rudolfinium in Prague, giving space to the Haas Quartet's big interpretations. This recording offers a new standard for these much-played works. © TiVo
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Volodos plays Brahms

Arcadi Volodos

Solo Piano - Released April 7, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Reviews of this release by Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos, as with some of his others, are split, with a large group of favorable responses and some dissenters. It's often like this with interpretations that are brilliantly executed but fall at one end of a spectrum. In this case, you can certainly find more atmospheric and passionate readings of Brahms piano music. But among those that make you understand why the 12-tone composers loved Brahms the most, not the outer chromatic reaches of Wagner or Strauss, this one is very hard to beat. Much of the music is from the end of Brahms' career, and these pieces are famous for drawing you in with their complexities and never letting you out again. Sample the Intermezzo in B flat minor, Op. 117, No. 2, where the tune is just one of the music's parameters: harmony, register, and dynamics are all tightly controlled, even as the music has a distinctive warm-hearted sadness. In Volodos' reading, there is an uncanny quality that every single note is in its place. At just over 54 minutes, the album is short, but you won't be missing the extra minutes after the feat of concentration that listening to this music entails. In places, Volodos makes Brahms sound a bit like Mompou, the composer whose music put the pianist on the map; it sounds unusual, even odd, but let it connect with you, and it's profound. Sony's production team, working at Berlin's Teldex Studio, creates a suitably inward environment. Very highly recommended. © TiVo
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Haydn : The Seasons (1801)

Joseph Haydn

Classical - Released March 24, 2017 | Signum Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles Classica
The Gabrieli Consort continue their series of award-winning collaborations with the National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland with a new recording of Haydn’s great oratorio The Seasons. Using a new performing edition by Paul McCreesh this recording is the first to feature the large orchestral forces that Haydn originally called for, including a string section of 60, 8 horns and a choir of 70. The disc features solo performances from British singers Carolyn Sampson, Jeremy Ovenden and Andrew Foster-Williams.
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Ravel : Daphnis et Chloé (Live)

Les Siècles

Classical - Released March 17, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles Classica
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Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, Vol. 5

Blue Heron

Classical - Released March 17, 2017 | Blue Heron

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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J.S. Bach : St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244

John Eliot Gardiner

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 3, 2017 | SDG

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Recorded live at Pisa Cathedral in 2016, this recording of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, is of a piece with the touring Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings released in the early 2000s: it is rich yet lively, sung with precision yet a total sense of commitment in the moment. The singers -- the Monteverdi Choir of 30 with soloists all drawn from the choir, except for Jesus (Stephan Loges) and the Evangelist (James Gilchrist) -- performed from memory, and the feeling that the text is being communicated directly is even greater than is usual with Gardiner. An unusual feature of the recording is that the soloists are not single per part; the soprano solos are taken by no fewer than five different singers. Several (try Hannah Morrison in "Aus liebe") are lovely, and the effect of a space between the congregational chorales and the focus on an individual soloist is fascinating. The hair-trigger alertness of the chorus in the big numbers like "Sind Blitze, sind Donner in Wolken verschwunden?" is also extremely compelling. Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir offer Bach with the luxury of old-fashioned Romantic versions combined with the agility of historical performance, and they've never done the combination better than they do here. © TiVo
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Heimat (Schubert, Wolf, Brahms, Reger, Grieg, Britten...)

Benjamin Appl

Art Songs, Mélodies & Lieder - Released March 10, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

Beatrice Rana

Classical - Released February 24, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice
“I like challenges,” says the 23-year-old Italian pianist Beatrice Rana. Specifically, she enjoys studying and performing music that allows her to embark on a process of deep exploration. The scores for her first Warner Classics recording, released in late 2015, were two formidable and spectacular Russian piano concertos – Tchaikovsky No 1 and Prokofiev No 2. Her performances with Sir Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia led Gramophone to describe her as “a fully developed artist of a stature that belies her tender years,” and to conclude that “I can’t think of another recent concerto release that, beginning to end, affords greater pleasure.” For her new Warner Classics release she has taken on a very different challenge in the form of quieter, less obviously virtuosic masterpiece from an earlier era. It also happens to stand as a pinnacle of the solo keyboard repertoire: Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Bach was the composer who most obsessed Beatrice Rana as a child, and in a recent interview with Pianist magazine, she confessed that it would be his music, and above all the Goldberg Variations, that she would choose if she had to devote her life to a single composer. As she said: “I’m very happy to be going back to Bach … It’s best to avoid Bach in competitions … you can’t expose yourself to be totally killed by the jury! But Bach is my first love; now I am allowed to play it in public and I’m really looking forward to that.” When it comes to competitions, she speaks from experience. She first came to international attention in 2011, when she won First Prize and all the special jury prizes at the Montreal International Competition. Two years later she won the Silver Medal and the Audience Award at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Her exceptional achievement and promise has also been recognised by BBC Radio 3, which has named her one of its New Generation Artists, and by the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, which has awarded her a fellowship. Le Monde, France’s most authoritative newspaper, observed that “Beatrice Rana certainly has nothing left to prove when it comes to technique, but what makes an impression are her calm maturity and her sense of architecture.” When she played the Goldberg Variations at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in October 2016, the Bachtrack website – which gave her performance a five-star rating – highlighted her capacity for turning her dazzling technique to interpretative ends and praised the way the apparently instinctive fluidity and energy of her playing was combined with articulacy and an elegant sense of discretion. In her native Italy La Repubblica has described Rana as “the world’s point of reference for excellence among Italian pianists”. When she performed the Goldberg Variations in Vicenza in November 2016, OperaClick wrote that “Rana showed that she had understood the intimate dual essence of the Goldbergs, which oscillates between conceptual abstraction and emotional sensation, and had miraculously found a point of contact between two apparently antithetical worlds.” The previous month, she had played the work in Pisa. The Tuscan newspaper La Nazione spoke of her as a pianist who “amazes with her virtuosity, technical precision and mastery of her instrument”, while the writer for Tutto Mondo described the concert as “one of the most extraordinary performances I have ever witnessed ... her technical control, the crystalline purity of her touch, her clean execution, her deep and intelligent understanding of the score and her splendid musical taste permeated every page, every phrase, every note of the Goldberg Variations.”
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The Italian Job (Caldara, Corelli, Albinoni, Tartini...)

Adrian Chandler

Classical - Released February 24, 2017 | Avie Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes. © TiVo
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Musica viva, Vol. 22: Ligeti, Murail & Benjamin

Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Classical - Released August 5, 2016 | NEOS Music

Distinctions Gramophone Award
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Mozart : Arien

Anett Fritsch

Secular Vocal Music - Released January 6, 2017 | Orfeo

Hi-Res Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles Classica
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Mozart : Great Mass in C Minor & Exsultate, Jubilate

Masaaki Suzuki

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released December 2, 2016 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Exceptional Sound Recording - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
As he reached the end of his magisterial cycle of Bach cantatas, one might have been forgiven for asking, "Well, what's next?" for conductor Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan. With the release of a recording of Mozart's Requiem in D minor, K. 626, and now the Mass in C minor, K. 427, the answer appears to be the application of historical-performance techniques to Mozart and perhaps to other later music. Suzuki, with so much Bach on his plate, is a bit late to this game, and there are places here where his smooth, sensuous yet sober choral style from the Bach recordings makes this sound a bit like Bach. Several things make it work, however. First is the fact that much of the mass is written in the old polyphonic style and was influenced by Mozart's first serious engagement with Bach's music at the home of the aristocrat Baron van Swieten, and all the virtues of the Collegium's performances apply in the big choruses. Sample the Wall of Sound effect in the double-choir "Qui tollis peccata mundi," and note throughout the way the levels of size in the mass are handled intelligently. Second, Suzuki has always chosen effective soloists, and he scores in a big way here with soprano Carolyn Sampson, who delivers a thrilling Exsultate, Jubilate, K. 165, to bring down the curtain, throwing in a rarely heard alternate version to boot. Finally, Suzuki performs a 1989 partial completion of the mass by German scholar Franz Beyer. This version fills out the sections that Mozart partially completed, including the "Incarnatus "(gorgeous here under Sampson's control), without making grand new statements, and it's probably the most preferable approach, available up to now with historical instruments only in an unorthodox version by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The unusual tempos that appeared in Suzuki's Requiem are absent here, and the bottom line is that if you're OK with Mozart that sounds a bit like Bach at times, you'll find this a satisfying rendition of the "Great" C minor mass. © TiVo
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Tchaikovsky, Sibelius : Violin Concertos

Lisa Batiashvili

Classical - Released November 4, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
The Georgian-German violinist Lisa Batiashvili has quietly reached the point of being one of the cognoscenti's players in mainstream repertory, with a free-spirited manner married to formidable technique in such a way as to bring to mind the greats of the past. Here she has warm-hearted support from an obviously energized Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle, with strong engineering from Deutsche Grammophon in the Funkhaus Natepastraße in Berlin. The result is a superior recording of some well-worn repertory concertos. This isn't a single artistic statement; the two concertos were recorded a year apart. But each one is grasped as a living, breathing entity. Get the technical prowess out of the way by sampling the blistering finale of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, and turn then to the Tchaikovsky opening movement, where Batiashvili cultivates a restrained purity of expression that Jascha Heifetz would have loved. In the extremely dark, slow movement of the ostensibly less sentimental Sibelius, however, Batiashvili pours on the emotion. Each of the six movements here seems to tell a story in the best Romantic tradition, and in addition to marking a stage in the ascent of a new star, the album handsomely marks Barenboim's diamond jubilee. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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In War & Peace - Harmony through Music

Joyce DiDonato

Classical - Released November 4, 2016 | Erato - Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has gained a strong following with novel, even fearless programs, flawlessly executed. The stimulus for In War & Peace was extramusical: DiDonato temporarily shelved a different project in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. The concept is ambitious: the booklet includes quotes about finding peace from figures as varied as Patrick Stewart, Riccardo Muti, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and an inmate at New York's Sing Sing prison. Does it directly connect with DiDonato's program of Baroque arias? Listeners will have to decide for themselves, but the good news is that the program stands on its own. War and peace are among the most common themes in Baroque opera, but DiDonato has woven them together intelligently here. For one thing, the two interpenetrate, with elevated tragic arias in the War half of the program, and complex dramatic conceptions in the Peace half. Sample Handel's remarkable "Augelletti, che cantante," from Rinaldo, with its sopranino recorder part and discursive development. Added bonuses are some world-premiere arias from the still largely unexplored corpus of opera seria from the middle 18th century, represented by compositions of Leonardo Leo and Niccolò Jommelli. Equally good are the big hits, including a magnificent, deliberate "When I am laid in earth," from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, which shows the breadth of DiDonato's conceptualizations of war and peace. The accompaniment from the historical-instrument group Il Pomo d'Oro under Maxim Emelyanychev is ideal. Recommended, whatever your views on the feasibility of world peace. © TiVo
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Mozart : Violin Concertos

Isabelle Faust

Violin Concertos - Released October 28, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Award - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année
"Not another complete recording of Mozart's violin concertos!", some might complain, and in absolute terms they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Except that this complete edition is signed by star violinist Isabelle Faust, accompanied by Il Giardino Armonico (who plays on instruments from Mozart’s time, including natural horns, nine-key bassoons, six-key flutes, two-key oboes), and – last but not least – the cadenzas are signed by Andreas Staier, since Mozart has left us no cadenzas for his violin concertos (unlike several piano concertos, as well as his Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola). Far from playing the star, Isabelle Faust prefers to blend in with the whole orchestra, a kind of primus inter pares attitude quite refreshing in this repertoire which, in fact, does not require so much emphasis of the part of soloist – the sound engineering and balance itself favours an overall sound rather than an opposition between solo violin and orchestra. This is a new and very original interpretation, whatever the abundant discography of these works may already be. In addition to the five concertos, Faust plays the three single movements for violin and orchestra – two Rondos and one Adagio – which are actually "spare" movements for one or the other of the concertos written on request for soloists of that time. One wonders what Mozart would have written had he had Isabelle Faust by his side! © SM/Qobuz
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Renaud Capuçon plays Rihm, Dusapin & Mantovani

Renaud Capuçon

Concertos - Released October 21, 2016 | Erato - Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Award - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik