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Concertos - Released March 26, 2021 | Alpha

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Aaron Pilsan is only twenty-five years old, but he already has a busy career to his credit, with a solo album devoted to Beethovenand Schubert - very well received by the critics - and another of duo repertory with the cellist Kian Soltani. A student of Lars Vogt, he has also received guidance from András Schiff - Bach has always been at the centre of their work together. The young Austrian pianist has been fascinated since childhood by The Well-Tempered Clavier, "that musical journey on which Bach embarks with us in Book One: from the seemingly simple and joyful triad of the famous Prelude in C major to the final fugue, of a complexity almost worthy of Schoenberg, on a subject that already includes the twelve semitones of the chromatic scale... Ever since I became interested in Bach’s music, I have never ceased to ask myself how to make the modern grand piano - which has a rich fundamental sound but a reduced volume of harmonics compared to the harpsichord - produce an essentially “well-tempered” impression on the listener... But for me it was not a question of instrumental history, but of interpretation". © Alpha Classics
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Chamber Music - Released March 26, 2021 | Alpha

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Brahms’ Trio, Op. 114, originally conceived for clarinet (like the two Sonatas Op. 120), is presented here in its version with viola: "Like all Brahms’s works, this Trio is a vocal, melodic piece. And the viola is perhaps the instrument of the string quartet that comes closest to the human voice", says violist Miguel Da Silva. "This version with viola obliges me, as a cellist, to listen differently: our two stringed instruments must “breathe” together and match their articulation", continues Xavier Phillips. These three works from late in Brahms’s career testify to his modernity: "Brahms was often considered a classical composer who was impervious to modernity, the guardian of a certain tradition", says pianist François-Frédéric Guy, who agrees with Schoenberg that he was, on the contrary, highly innovative: "We have a fine example, in the trio, of the extraordinary modernity of his combinations of rhythm and timbre: he is a total innovator". © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released March 12, 2021 | Alpha

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Composed around 1716 and named after the friend and contemporary of Handel's who penned its texts, Hamburg poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes, Handel's passion oratorio, Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und Sterbende Jesus, was one of only two projects he set to German texts after his move to London in 1712. A free paraphrasing of the Passion narrative, drawing on all four gospels, in musical terms its fresh interests come thick and fast: a three-part opening Sinfonia which shares material with Handel's Opus 3 Concerto in G Major; 28 arias, two duets and a trio ranging from warm serenity to impassioned outbursts; plus various choruses and chorales. All of which means that it's music ripe with potential to be leaping out of the stereo from end to end, which is exactly what we have here from this performance from Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo, captured with crisp naturalness at St Jude's Church. To begin with Arcangelo themselves, listen to the sudden theorbo swing one minute into the opening Sinfonia at the metre change, and you'll have the measure of these fleetfootedly joyous, brightly crisp instrumental ensemble performances. Then there's the vocal line-up, because if it weren't enough to have soprano Sandrine Piau as the Daughter of Zion, tenor Stuart Jackson as Evangelist and baritone Konstantin Krimmel as Jesus, look at the vocal consort and there's sopranos Mhairi Lawson and Mary Bevan, altos Alex Potter and David Allsopp, tenors Matthew Long and Andrew Tortise, baritone Marcus Farnsworth and bass William Gaunt. It's hard to pick highlights. However Krimmel's sombre accompagnato Ist's möglich, das dein Zorn sich stille strikes for his sombre drama. Then there's the clean-toned tender beauty of Piau's Brich, mein Herz, zerfliess in Tränen, supported by theorbo fabulously out in front in the balance, and delicate upper strings. Or Mhairi Lawson's warmer tones over her short but very sweet Ich seh' an einen Stein gebunden, where an equal star of the show is Cohen's rippling harpsichord playing. Or lead violinist Michael Gurevich over Dem Himmel gleicht sein buntgefärbter Rücken, whether in his beautifully coloured and shaped solos spots where the engineering puts him satisfyingly right in the spotlight, or when he's sensitively dueting with Lawson, placed slightly further back. Handel vocal music at its finest. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Classical - Released March 5, 2021 | Alpha

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‘The dreamer! That double of our existence, that chiaroscuro of the thinking being’, wrote Gaston Bachelard in 1961. ‘The old is dying, the new cannot be born, and in that chiaroscuro, monsters appear’, adds Antonio Gramsci. Sandrine Piau has chosen to use these two quotations as an epigraph to her new recording: ‘My family and friends know about this obsession that never leaves me completely. The antagonism between light and darkness. The chiaroscuro, the space in between...’ This programme, recorded with the Orchestre Victor Hugo under its conductor Jean-François Verdier, who is also principal clarinettist of the Paris Opéra, travels between the chilly Rhenish forest of Waldgespräch, a ballad by Zemlinsky composed for soprano and small ensemble in 1895, the night of the first of Berg’s Seven Early Songs (1905-08), and the sunlight of Richard Strauss’s Morgen, which are followed by the Four Last Songs, composed in 1948, the first two of which, Frühling and September (evoking spring and autumn respectively) are also, as Sandrine Piau concludes, ‘the seasons of life’. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | Alpha

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With an ever-increasing string of prestigious prizes to Vox Luminis's name – their various Gramophone Awards including winning the 2019 Choral Category for their Buxtehude Abendmusiken – it's impossible not to expect high things of each new offering from this Belgian early music vocal ensemble under the direction of Lionel Meunier. All the more so, though, for this latest exploration of the German Baroque repertoire they've made their calling card, because not only is it the first time they've taken the music of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (c1644-1704) into the studio, but this recording also marks the beginning of a collaboration with another internationally acclaimed period ensemble, the Freiburger Barockorchester, which appears here in its consort formation. The good news is that the results are magnificent. Complementing and bookending the Biber are a handful of works by Christoph Bernhard (1628-1692), Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741) and Johann Michael Nicolai (1629-1685), and it's Bernhard's Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Friede fahren that sits as the curtain raise – a luxuriously sighing beauty which gives us the pleasure of being introduced to the various artists one by one as it slowly blossoms out from its organ and solo violin opening. Before the voices even arrive, the luminous-toned and lucid-textured FBO have given us a profoundly soulful song without words, after which the gradual layering of fresh voices, everything wonderfully shaped and impeccably blended, is feeling so transcendental that you're almost wondering where they've given us the emotional peak too early, and left themselves nowhere further to go. But no. In fact, the intimate understanding of the texts, the warmed crystal purity of the voices (what a soprano sound....), the corresponding expression from the instrumentalists, the perfect balancing of all of these voices with each other, and the sheer freshness of the readings, don't dip for a second across the hour which follows. Further tutti highlights include the nimble, crisp articulation and urgent energy of the Biber Requiem's Dies Irae, a major-keyed movement more akin to jubilant dance than the sombre-toned hell and brimstone number that these words tends to bring to mind. Also the joyous, easy flow of the concluding Omnis terra adoret, K. 183 by Fux. Treats from the FBO alone meanwhile include the infectious playfulness with which the sweetly earthy-toned strings circle and bow to each other over Fux's Sonata a 6 in A minor; and throughout, the softly unobtrusive colour coming from the brass. In short, this is feeling like the start of a beautiful relationship. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | Alpha

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"Why arrange Boccherini concertos? To bring out the colours, rhythms, dances, melodies and countermelodies. To reinvent our roles or to exchange them like a game, from one page to another. To make us feel as if we’re on a tightrope. To take advantage of the space of freedom provided by the cadenza to imagine little musical scenarios, stories within the story. Like dreams that have their own logic, their own timescale. So those dreams suddenly yet imperceptibly plunge us into repetitive music, a procession in Spain, a jazz cadenza, an opera... and then we emerge to be reunited with Boccherini, who seems to be the first to enjoy these escapades". (Sonia Wieder-Atherton) © Alpha Classics
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released February 19, 2021 | Alpha

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"This programme reflects a personal journey: I am Belgian, I studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and now I live in France. I wanted to present composers from these three countries, taking as my cornerstone the English song repertory and the English language. It was Britten’s On this Island that started me thinking in this direction. William Walton’s Daphne and Ivor Gurney’s tiny but intensely fresh Spring touch me enormously and form a part of my life experience. Nicolas Krüger and I then chose other songs that we liked, such as Let Beauty awake by Ralph Vaughan Williams... I also wanted to give my listeners a chance to hear French or Belgian composers who set English poems to music: Darius Milhaud, Germaine Tailleferre (one of those female composers who deserves to be better known) and Irene Poldowski... and to commission a work from the Belgian composer Patrick Leterme, who has often accompanied me... But I discovered Queen before I discovered opera. When I heard Freddy Mercury singing You take my breath away at the piano in Hyde Park, I was overwhelmed. I had to include that love song in my recital!" (Jodie Devos)
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Concertos - Released February 12, 2021 | Alpha

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Riga-born Ksenija Sidorova is today one of the most eminent global ambassadors of the classical accordion. She has proudly borne the colours of her instrument in appearances in the world’s leading halls and with the foremost orchestras. Here she pays homage to Piazzolla in her own way: ‘Piazzolla the revolutionary, the ground-breaker, a man thinking ahead of his time ... Playing this repertoire gave me a sense of artistic freedom and ignited my belief in advocacy of my instrument. For this album, I wanted to celebrate Piazzolla the innovator by pairing some his masterworks with pieces written by other composers for classical accordion, the majority of which I have premiered in recent years. Being of Russian heritage, I couldn’t help noticing the similarity between the nostalgia of the tango and that of Russian composer Sergey Voitenko’s "Revelation". French accordionist-composer Franck Angelis’s Fantasia is based on Piazzolla’s Waltz-tango, and the programme is completed by the Nocturne of Italian accordionist-composer Pietro Roffi and a piece by Sergey Akhunov’. © Alpha Classics
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released February 12, 2021 | Alpha

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Concertos - Released February 5, 2021 | Alpha

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The pianist Anna Vinnitskaya has built up an impressive discography since her victory at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2007: Bach, Brahms, Ravel, and of course the Russian composers with whom she has been familiar since her childhood in Novorossiysk, then her studies with Evgeni Koroliov. She has now made her first Chopin recording, coupling the four Ballades, a cross between the miniature and the sonata, with the four Impromptus he composed at different periods of his life, between 1835 and 1842. © Alpha Classics
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Chamber Music - Released February 5, 2021 | Alpha

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"The French horn is notoriously difficult to play. You can practise all you like but there is no guarantee that the note you blow into the mouthpiece is the same one which will come out of the bell once it has travelled through all the twists and turns of the tubing. However, when all goes well, the horn is glorious and I absolutely love being a horn player, even with all risks – and maybe even because of them." (Sarah Willis) After the enormous success of "Mozart y Mambo" which went straight to Number 1 in Germany on release in 2020, Alpha has decided to reissue one of the first albums recorded by this multi-talented and tireless ambassador of the French horn. In this re-release of the 2014 album, "Horn Discoveries", Sarah Willis demonstrates all the rich potential of her instrument with exciting original compositions and beautiful arrangements of well-loved repertoire pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Dvořák’s Humoresque or Debussy’s Clair de Lune. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released February 5, 2021 | Alpha

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Kerson Leong recently participated in the award-winning "Tribute to Ysaÿe" (FUG758). Here is his first solo recital for Alpha. The young Canadian violinist’s career began at the age of thirteen when he won the First Prize of the Junior division of the Menuhin Competition in Oslo in 2010. In 2018 he was named artist-in-residence with the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal. An associate musician at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, under the mentorship of Augustin Dumay, he has already performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Verbier Festival and Wigmore Hall. The Quebec newspaper Le Devoir, which has followed him since the start of his career, speaks of ‘the purity of intonation, the brilliance of the high notes, the power of the sound... Kerson Leong has remained as brilliant as ever, but he has added a new patina and, deep down inside himself, a new class’. He plays a superb Guarneri del Gesù, on loan from a Canadian patron. Here he tackles a monument of the violin repertory, the Sonatas for Solo Violin of Eugène Ysaÿe: ‘These sonatas are of course a big test . . . The music is highly emotional, pervasive and in some ways also very sombre, which makes it extremely powerful’, says Leong of these six Sonatas, which he frequently plays in their entirety in a single concert. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released January 22, 2021 | Alpha

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The last instalment of Giovanni Antonini's complete works of Haydn with the ensemble Il Giardino Armonico features three symphonies and La Scena di Berenice sung by Sandrine Piau. We know the story of the symphony “The Farewell", a subtle request from the composer to his prince to grant leave to exhausted musicians in his chapel. In the Finale, a moving Adagio, each musician blows the candles from his desk and leaves on tiptoe until the stage is empty. But this pleasant anecdote too often obscures any analysis of a work full of originality thanks to its rare key (F sharp minor) and the structure of its different movements. While Joseph Haydn sets out a classical framework for the symphony, he simultaneously explodes the schema by means of an architecture which is constantly renewed through a continuous motion from major to minor keys. This is the case of Symphony No. 35 in B-Flat Major which opens this album, constantly oscillating between pure entertainment and drama in a spirit which is totally peculiar to the eighteenth century. This long search for form led Haydn to take sometimes unusual paths, as in this Symphony No. 15 in D Major, which seems to synthesise his research from the late 1750s. The Minuet is for example placed in second position, before an Andante of great simplicity and a final Presto in the form of a rondo. Inspired by Metastasio's Antigone and premiered in London in 1765, la Scena di Berenice is Haydn's greatest dramatic scene outside of his operas. Abandoned by her lover, Bérénice sings her despair and rage through music full of boldness. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released January 22, 2021 | Alpha

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Born in Lower Saxony just three years before Beethoven, the violinist Andreas Romberg (1767-1821) was, like him, a virtuoso instrumentalist of precocious gifts. His career too was radically affected by the Napoleonic Wars and a formative encounter with Haydn. And, as with Beethoven, his most popular work was a choral setting of a poem by Schiller: Das Lied von der Glocke, premiered in 1809. Romberg wrote an enormous number of violin concertos, but only sixteen manuscript scores of his entire oeuvre have survived, all of them in Hamburg. Chouchane Siranossian has decided to revive and make the world premiere recording of three concertos, thus revealing an interesting composer and a trio of highly virtuosic works. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released January 15, 2021 | Alpha

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Until the late 1680s, Henry Purcell composed almost exclusively for the royal court. But when the monarchy decided to reduce its expenditure on music in 1690, he joined the United Company, a London theatre company, and devoted himself to composing for its productions. These took varied forms, with operas such as King Arthur (1691), The Fairy Queen (1692) and The Indian Queen (1695) but also spoken plays with music, such as The Virtuous Wife (1695). Some excerpts from these works are presented in "Tyrannic Love". Compositions by Purcell’s colleagues or followers John Blow, John Eccles, Jeremiah Clarke and Daniel Purcell complete the programme. This recording marks the beginning of the collaboration between Alpha and the ensemble Les Surprises, founded in 2010, which takes its name from Les Surprises de l’Amour by Rameau, the group’s emblematic composer. Under the artistic direction of Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas, who is also an organist and harpsichordist, the ensemble presents innovative interpretations and explores the rich orchestral sonorities made possible by the use of Baroque instruments. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released January 8, 2021 | Alpha

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Behzod Abduraimov joins Alpha for several recordings, starting with this ‘kaleidoscope of miniatures’ – miniatures that are in fact fairly gigantic, and showcase the Uzbek pianist’s extreme virtuosity and sensitivity. ‘Each movement is in itself a miniature, and taken together they form a kaleidoscope of human emotions and images of all kinds’, says Behzod Abduraimov. In his view, the pieces in Debussy’s Children’s Corner are not intended for young piano students, but ‘for adults, so that they can immerse themselves in the world of children with a little nostalgia and a lot of humour’. When it comes to Chopin, ‘each prelude has a different musical essence, creates its own atmosphere. Together they form an arc spanning the distance from the first prelude to the last. So I tried to consider them as a whole’. Finally, Mussorgsky evokes in ten highly expressive movements the paintings at an exhibition held in posthumous tribute to his friend Viktor Hartmann. A ‘Promenade’ heard several times suggests Mussorgsky himself strolling through the exhibition. For Behzod Abduraimov, ‘the “Promenades” play a key role in this cycle: they create the atmosphere before each painting’. Born in 1990, Behzod Abduraimov is one of the most promising pianists of his generation. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released January 8, 2021 | Alpha

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The fast-rising young French mezzo-soprano Eva Zaïcik has looked to London for this Baroque recital, and specifically to the birth of the first Royal Academy of Music. Founded in 1719 by a group of aristocrats, and based at the King's Theatre, this was a musical venture whose audacious aim was to make London the centre of the operatic world via Italian opera, sung exclusively in Italian. Appointed as Music Director was Georg Friedrich Haendel – neither Italian nor English, but an exciting talent with ambitions in the operatic domain, and recently landed in London after four years in Italy honing his operatic skills and making key contacts. Further names were then lured over from Italy itself: notably the composers Attilio Ariosti and Giovanni Battista Bononcini (whose skills as strings players also raised the virtuosic level of the orchestral music), and star singers such as the castrato Francisco Bernardi Senesino, and sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni; and with such an array of names and talent, success duly followed, because over the course of nine years, the Royal Academy staged no fewer than thirty-four operas, including masterpieces of Handel's such as Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Ottone and Radamisto. Zaïcik's portrait of this Royal Academy of Music is mostly Handel-shaped, but punctuated by the world premiere recordings of three arias by Ariosti and Bononcini, including two from Ariosti's 1723 hit, Coriolano. Still, the main take-home point from this superb album is not its world premieres, enjoyable as they are, but the musical performances themselves, because the whole presentation is wonderful from first note to last. Zaïcik herself is sublime: golden-voiced, with the subtlest of soft halos around her lower registers, contrasting against crystal bright upper notes, and with a wonderful silky mellifluousness to even the most acrobatically leaping of lines. By way of illustration, one could pick any of these arias, but for a slower aria you could head to the aching “Ah! Tu non sai” from Handel's Ottone, where the lucid textures allow you to particularly appreciate the sensitive playing of Le Consort - themselves are elegantly led by another rising young name, Baroque violinist Théotime Langlois de Swarte, whose recent solo album “The Mad Lover” with lutenist Thomas Dunford also warrants repeated listening. Then to hear both Le Consort and Zaïcik making neat work of a virtuosic showpiece, skip to the concluding “Agitato da fiere tempeste” from Handel's Riccardo. All that said, the best advice is actually to not skip around at all. Instead, listen from beginning to end. Then repeat. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Classical - Released January 8, 2021 | Alpha

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This recording presents the double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra of the Spanish composer Francisco Coll, born in 1985. Les Plaisirs illuminés, a title inspired by Dalí’s painting of the same name, is rooted in Spanish traditions, including flamenco, yet is resolutely modern: ‘Its music is very lively rhythmically, it dances and sings – but at the same time it is very abrupt, always in search of extremes’, says Patricia Kopatchinskaja.,For this world premiere conducted by the composer, she is reunited with a longstanding partner who pursues an equally brilliant international career, the cellist Sol Gabetta. The programme also features the Musica concertante for twelve strings by the Hungarian-born Swiss composer Sándor Veress, premiered by the Camerata in Bern in 1966. A year earlier, the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera wrote his fascinating Concerto for Strings. A kaleidoscope of colours and sounds from all over the world. © Alpha Classics
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released December 18, 2020 | Alpha

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Symphonic Music - Released November 20, 2020 | Alpha

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Paavo Järvi, Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich since October 2019, here launches a complete recording of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the first in both his rich discography and that of the Swiss orchestra: ‘When I think of the Fifth Symphony, I think of vulnerability and hope. It looks directly into our soul. It is perhaps the finest of his symphonies. The famous horn solo moves me and enriches me every time I hear it . . . Unlike the Sixth, the Fifth still holds out hope for life’. The symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 completes this programme. This dark and violent ‘symphonic fantasy after Dante’, a drama of jealousy, was premiered in 1877, at the same time as Swan Lake. © Alpha Classics

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