Albums

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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

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Given that the aim of this recording, announced in the booklet notes, is to "[demonstrate] how composers in Germany, Italy, Austria, and England responded to the challenges of writing for the violin senza basso, it's a bit odd to begin the proceedings with a work that's not for violin at all. However, the transcription for solo violin of Bach's underplayed Partita for flute in A minor, BWV 1013, by violinist Rachel Podger herself, is quite idiomatic to the violin, and Podger's performance is lively and attractive. From Bach, Podger looks outward to other solo violin works rather than back to the tradition immediately preceding Bach's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas. The works don't have anything directly to do with one another, but they are united in part by being Podger's favorites, and there are some fascinating offbeat pieces that do indeed seem to have counterparts in Bach's magisterial compendia. Consider the very nice pair of solo sonatas by Giuseppe Tartini. In the Giga movement of the first one, the violin takes its solo and is answered by itself in the role not only of harmonic accompaniment but of orchestral figure. The pieces by Nicola Matteis, who inaugurated the entire migration of Italian musicians to Britain, have a fantastic spirit, while the sonata by Pisendel, which may have preceded or followed Bach's pieces, is at least similar to them in language, although less deep. A selection from Biber's Rosary Sonatas works well as a finale. One minor flaw is that notes describe a sonata by Antonio Montanari that is not actually included; a more serious problem is overresonant church sound inconsistent with the chamber purposes of the music.
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Duets - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Hi-Res Audio
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Chamber Music - Released August 17, 2018 | VIVAT

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Symphonies - Released July 6, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Clocking in at over an hour for the Fourth, and almost an hour for the Eleventh or "1911", these are the two longest and fullest of Shostakovich's symphonies. What's remarkable is that the Fourth, finished in 1936, was only performed in 1961 – eleven years after the performance of the Eleventh in 1957! It was in 1936 that the poor composer felt a bullet whistle by him, following an infamous article in Pravda, dictated by Stalin: "Chaos in Place of Music", which torpedoed the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: the work was carefully locked away, only to be brought back out once the dictator was dead, buried and comprehensively decomposed. You can see where the composer was coming from! The tone of this Fourth hasn't the slightest hint of optimism, We hear dark Mahlerian accents, desperate flights and tortured harmonies: not exactly the music of a bright tomorrow. The Eleventh, structured according to a "political" programme, celebrating the revolutionaries of 1905 and the tragic events of Bloody Sunday – when the Russian army fired on a crowd, killing 96 according to official sources and several thousand according to others – with a much more optimistic tone, although we know what optimism means in the world of Shostakovich. The two symphonies were recorded at public concerts, in autumn 2017 and spring 2018 respectively by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Andris Nelsons. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released July 6, 2018 | Chandos

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Classical - Released July 6, 2018 | Chandos

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Alright, so perhaps "120 years of the melodies of the Royal College of Music" is a bit of a stretch, given that the first of the composers to study here was Thomas Dunhill in 1893, and the last was Anthony Turnage in 1982, but as he is now a teacher there, we can perhaps let that go. In any case, Sarah Connolly's magnificent selection of English songs from throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries bears witness to the richness of the English melodic stage: Britten of course, Holst, Somervell, Gurney and Tippett are among the more famous, including beyond Britain's shores; but also there are some rather better-kept, but essential, secrets in the form of Morean, Rebecca Clarke, Stanford, Bridge and Parry: all of which make for quite a trip through time. Note that the album contains three discographic world firsts, one of which is fairly obvious – Farewell by Turnage, written especially for Sarah Connolly, for this recordings – and another stupefying, two mélodies by Britten, which the composer had first conceived for his magical 1947 Charm of Lullabies and left to one side, because it was his habit, in his melodic cycles, to do a bit more than required in order to later have the option of pruning some back. These two lullabies remained in the manuscript. They were fairly difficult to decipher, but still clear enough that they have finally been brought out of their Sleeping Beauty suspended animation, sixty years on. We should add that Connolly's rich and sumptuous voice, delicately accompanied by Joseph Middleton, works wonders with this exquisite repertoire. © SM/Qobuz
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Opera - Released June 29, 2018 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Solo Piano - Released June 29, 2018 | harmonia mundi

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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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Classical - Released June 8, 2018 | Alpha

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This is not the place for yet another disquisition on the widespread baroque practice of transcribing works: Bach was no stranger to it himself, to say nothing of Handel, who plagiarised himself over and over; and this album gives us the Cantor transcribing the Cantor. In this instance we are looking at the Fifth Suite in C Minor for cello, which he re-wrote for the lute. Taking his lead from the composer, lutist Thomas Dunford has done the same to the First Suite for cello, and revised it for his instrument. Obviously, the music seems renewed, elucidated in many different ways: the styles, the reverberations, the harmonies, the counterpoints all develop differently, but we are still hearing original Bach: it's just that its richness is distributed differently in our ears. Dunford offers us a generous "B-side" in the form of a transcription of the Chaconne taken from the Suite for Solo Violin in D Minor, another superb exercise in reconsidering balances while respecting the letter of the music. It remains astounding what one can do with Bach, without ever betraying the spirit of his works. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released June 8, 2018 | Alpha

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In 1668, Dietrich Buxtehude, then thirty one years old, took up the very sought-after tenure of organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, then a Hanseatic metropolis of considerable relevance; the organist had at that time one of the most desirable social statuses. He soon caused a sensation with the church concerts he held outside of religious services and that happened every year, in the early evening, on the five Sundays preceding Christmas. During these “Abendmusiken” (vespertine music), as they were called, were sometimes performed great works falling withing the oratorio genre, but more often was performed a mix of instrumental pieces, church tunes, psalm arrangements and cantata-like works. From the 1700s, these series of concerts had become a major cultural event of the city. Released from the daily handling of religious music handled by the Marienkirche’s Cantor—as was often the case at the time in North Germany—, Buxtehude only composed works on his own initiative, which allowed him to give them a quality level noticeably higher than that of the Cantor, for example, forced to compose non-stop, from one Sunday to another. The cantatas recorded here demonstrate the high artistic ambitions of these vocal works: they often digress from stylistic and generic conventions of their time and answer the tasks imposed by the texts with bold musical solutions, daring and absolutely splendid. The sonatas from Buxtehude completing the vocal program of this disc are also characterized by their markedly experimental character. Olivier Fortin’s Masques Ensemble—recorder, strings, positive organ—and Lionel Meunier’s Vox Luminis join forces to offer us these gems from the turn of the North German 18th century, such gems that the young Bach didn’t hesitate, in 1705, to travel on foot from Arnstadt—a 100-league trip—to come listen to Buxtehude, his organ play and probably his famous Abendmusiken. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released May 25, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice
In the 17th century, Roman churches were competing to put on the greatest show to celebrate their patron saints. On these occasions, extraordinary services were performed, where many different artists would be brought together, singers and instrumentalists alike, alongside ordinary musicians, for sumptuous pieces performed by several vocal and instrumental choirs. One contemporary description gives an idea of the scale: ten choirs and ensembles played together, two on fixed stages, and eight others distributed symmetrically right along the nave, on platforms built for the occasion. Every additional stage was provided with a positive organ, while many other instruments added to the sonic splendour. So that all the musicians could play well together in spite of the distance, "capi di coro” or time-keeping drummers, would play in unison. Orazio Benevolo (1605-1672) was one of the most remarkable architects of these extravagant, multi-choral monuments. Benevolo was a choirboy at the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome before he entered the upper echelons by taking the job of Chapel Master in 1638. The composer has left behind him an abundant set of works, containing no fewer than 34 motets for a range of players, including Regna terrae, written for twelve soprano parts distributed across six vocal choirs, each with its own basso continuo. We are also indebted to him for twelve versions of the Magnificat, for between eight and 24 voices, including one for 16 voices, in quadruple choir, which appears here. Hervé Niquet and his Concert Spirituel have made use of the ample acoustics in the Notre-Dame-du-Liban church in Paris, perfectly structured to hold several choirs distributed across the building, to create the sensations of immersion and spatial plenitude that the composer aimed for. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 11, 2018 | Signum Records

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Fascinated by the Marian cult, whose contradictions he loves to highlight, Paul McCreesh offers here a purely choral programme, leaving behind the charms of orchestral instrumentation. Both virgin and mother, a symbol of both chastity and fertility, the figure of Mary also holds a strong erotic potential, which has not escaped Paul McCreesh, who designed this album by choosing English composers from the Renaissance to the present day, without any real disparity in style becoming apparent, proving the strength and continuity of British choral music. The great English movement of the rediscovery of polyphony in the 20th and 21st centuries doesn't stop at exploring the music of the Renaissance, but also rediscovering, and employing in new compositions, the beautiful medieval words set to music, which have been passed unamended down the centuries. Returning to the sources of Western music, Paul McCreesh asks whether the sudden popularity of religious music comes from a subliminal desire to recreate a world in which almost everyone believed in God. Fighting against a certain ethereal and angelic approach to religious choral music, McCreesh compares high polyphony to the architecture of a vast cathedral, trying to bring out its visceral side, on certain pieces at least. Listeners will note that this album contains the world's first recording of a new work commissioned by Paul McCreesh and the Gabriel Consort, written by the young British composer Matthew Martin. A Rose Magnificat (which also gives the whole album its name) was written for double choir and contains interjections from a medieval text. The composer wrote the piece in a "Stravinskian" manner, as he put it, while searching out Eastern and Byzantine flavours. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Concertos - Released May 11, 2018 | naïve classique

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Concertos for viola d'amore represent a fairly atypical part of Vivaldi's work, and he was probably the first composer to write pieces for this work in the solo concerto format. The viola d'amore was certainly well-liked for its soft, suggestive sound, which evoked the moods and climes of the orient thanks, in particular to its sympathetic strings which vibrate with those strings the player bows. But it was little-used because of its complex tuning and objective difficulties involved in playing it. In fact, the instrument would be tuned in different ways to fit the tonality of the piece being played – the famous scordatura, so finicky for the musicians – and it is believed that Vivaldi wrote these specifically for one of the musicians at Venice's Pietá: the famous Anna-Maria. Another characteristic of these concertos for viola d'amore, the rapid movements are also much longer and fuller than in most of Vivaldi's writing, for example in the seven string concertos which figure at the start of the album, or in the miniatures which were intended as showcases for the talent of the greatest possible number of soloists in the public concerts at the Pietá. A little curiosity is offered up here in the shape of the original concerto La Conca RV163, whose themes mimic the sound of the "conca", a kind of large marine conch used as an instrument since prehistoric times. The recording includes a conch being sounded at the start of the first movement by way of explanation. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 11, 2018 | Naxos

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While Israeli-Russian pianist Boris Giltburg’s career is taking off all over the world, he has felt very close to Belgium ever since he won first prize in the 2013 Queen Elisabeth Competition. After several recordings for EMI (Warner), here he gives a studio rendition of the Third Concerto, and the Variations on a Theme of Corelli by Sergei Rachmaninov, on his tenth album for Naxos, which completes his often-unique approach to the Russian pianist-composer. The Études-tableaux and the Second Concerto divided opinion, with some seeing him as a "new Glenn Gould" (sic) who would do away with routines, while others drew attention to the total indifference of his style. Boris Giltburg's technique is such that he can give free rein to his imagination while taking care of the minute details of one of the most difficult concertos in the repertoire. Fascinated by the manufacture of instruments, in 2016 he took up the new 102-key piano from French manufacturer Stephen Paulello, a thrilling instrument which the musical world has been eagerly anticipating for a long time, and which proves that, just like in the 19th century, the piano can still evolve towards other sounds. For this Concerto n° 3, recorded at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, Boris Giltburg returns to his dear Fazioli piano and is joined by Mexican conductor Carlo Miguel Prieto at the head of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Full Operas - Released May 11, 2018 | Ediciones Singulares

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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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Violin Concertos - Released April 27, 2018 | Nonesuch

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In 1994 John Adams composed his Violin Concerto, a work of breath-taking virtuosity written in an exhilarating and strongly rhythmic tone, sign that it was partly conceived for the New York City Ballet; even if the first movement is somewhat reminiscent − with its dreamlike atmosphere as well as fluid and elusive harmonies – of Berg’s Violin Concerto. It’s worth noting that the orchestra, in addition to its traditional elements, features a strong percussion section as well as two synthesisers that further add to the piece’s dreamlike and uncharted hue. That same year, violinist Leila Josefowicz (born in 1977) made her debut at Carnegie Hall in a concerto by Tchaikovsky conducted by Marriner: a big leap into what was to become an established international career. And it’s precisely for Josefowicz, small world indeed, that Adams wrote his dramatic symphony Scheherazade.2 for violin and orchestra: the bond between the soloist and the master is undeniably strong, and her interpretation couldn’t be more faithful to Adam’s original idea. © SM/Qobuz
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Opera - Released April 20, 2018 | Dynamic

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Classical - Released April 20, 2018 | harmonia mundi

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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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Chamber Music - Released April 13, 2018 | naïve classique

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A player of the harpsichord, organ and pianoforte; a choirmaster and conductor; Rinaldo Alessandrini is a teacher too, who loves to use his records and concerts to draw his audience into thrilling themes. This Roman is well-placed to know just how much history – and musical history is no exception here – is made up of strata which build up over each other, creating a jumble which can be anarchic, but which always drives invention. After an album that retells the story of 150 Years of Italian Music (Naïve 1994), and then another dedicated to the beginnings of Italian baroque in 1600 (Naïve 2012), we were treated to an enchanting black pearl, as incongruous as it was strange: Monteverdi - Night. Stories of lovers and Warriors (Naïve 2017) offers a collection of works that celebrate the night. Here is a recording dedicated to the flourishing of instrumental music in the later baroque period around 1700. The new composers who appear in this new work, Locatelli, Mascitti, Vivaldi, Caldara, Durante, Galuppi, Pugnani, were all very famous in their own times, and all went off to bring the good news about this new musical style to the four corners of Europe; they built up a kind of international musical language which would entrance the courts, and music-lovers in their first public concerts. The record bears that joyful playing style characteristic of Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano, and a virtuosity which is as much a pleasure to behold as the rococo architecture and painting of that flamboyant epoch. © François Hudry/Qobuz