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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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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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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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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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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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Classical - Released September 8, 2017 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - 4 étoiles Classica
Delphine Galou is renowned and admired for her musicality and her appealing timbre. She has taken part in many productions of Baroque music and recordings of operas (notably by Vivaldi), but this is her first recital. It is a programme of sacred music, motets, cantatas and excerpts from oratorios, which in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were influenced by the increasingly fashionable genre of opera. From the famous ‘Agitata infido flatu’ from Vivaldi’s oratorio Juditha triumphans, here counterpointed by an aria from another setting of the story of Judith composed by Jommelli, to Stradella’s Lamentations and Porpora’s magnificent motet ‘In procella sine stella’, Delphine Galou covers a wide range of spiritual emotions. She is accompanied by the excellent Accademia Bizantina under its director and harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone. A concerto by Gregori and a sinfonia by Caldara complete this release, which includes several world premiere recordings. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released May 26, 2017 | Aeon

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award
This Aeon label release of music by French composer Pascal Dusapin borrows design elements from ECM, with artsy black-and-white photos, philosophical-sounding text strewn around, and stark, Euro title type. ECM, however, avoids a profusion of booklet text, but here you get a formidable philosophical apparatus involving "L'inépuisable" (The Inexhaustible), both Samuel Beckett and Gilles Deleuze, and the German concept of the Hinterland. Nowhere is it explained why one of the works is called a "hapax" (a word that occurs only once in a work or body of work), or even such basic questions as why the Quatuor VI is called a quartet when it is really a work for string quartet and orchestra. All this aside, the music certainly holds your attention. Dusapin was influenced by Varèse's Arcana as a youth, and these pieces have the heated quality of that work. The movements of the Quatuor VI are described as "attempts at exhaustion" ("tentatives d'épuisement"), and indeed they elaborate initial material, in a violent atmosphere, to a point of what might be called exhaustion. Perhaps the stronger of the two works is the Quatuor VII ("Open Time"), like its predecessor composed in 2009. It's a set of 21 variations for string quartet, some of them in the Varèse-like mood, but some of them sparse enough to justify the Beckett comparison. The Arditti Quartet specializes in music of this kind, and has recorded Dusapin specifically in the past; their recording surely is definitive. Aeon's studio sound, close up and intense, is just what is needed. © TiVo
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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
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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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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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Classical - Released March 17, 2017 | Blue Heron

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 10, 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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Classical - Released March 10, 2017 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award
The fourth volume of the Haydn2032 project thrusts into the limelight one of the most important stock characters in the theatre of sounds and words, the Kapellmeister, and explores some glamorous and (in)glorious moments in the career of Maestro Haydn. It features three symphonies by the ‘Shakespeare of Music’ – one of which is even associated with an actual play. This bears the title ‘Sinfonia in C. per la commedia intitolata Il distratto’ (the name of the play soon became the symphony’s nickname) and consists of an overture, four entr’actes, and a finale to be played at the end of the performance. Also on this disc is a large-scale buffo scene by his colleague Cimarosa. Il maestro di cappella is a witty and ironic parody, in which a member of the ‘old school’ of musicians tries to improve the ensemble playing of his orchestra. To his chagrin, the players do react, but in extremely undisciplined fashion: they are distracted, make false entries and disagree musically... (Text from Alpha Classics)
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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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Classical - Released February 24, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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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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Secular Vocal Music - Released February 17, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Award
Recorded at the Cité de la Musique during the complete cycle of Monteverdi madrigals mounted in partnership with the Philharmonie de Paris and the Théâtre de Caen, the last volume in our trilogy probably contains the best-loved gems of a composer who had become maestro di cappella at St Mark’s in Venice, and finally entered the priesthood. Alongside the great operas that have survived from this period, the final madrigals methodically explore the multiple possibilities offered by the rapidly developing practice of basso continuo and by an unprecedented exploitation of solo voices. And, in that respect, the celebrated Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda forms a spectacular finale to our Monteverdian adventure!
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Classical - Released February 3, 2017 | NEOS Music

Distinctions Gramophone Award
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Secular Vocal Music - Released January 6, 2017 | Orfeo

Hi-Res Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles Classica
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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