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Classical - Released March 19, 2021 | Arcana

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Following the success of his solo recordings, Paolo Zanzu returns at the head of his ensemble Le Stagioni with "Officina Romana", featuring the countertenor Carlo Vistoli. In the early eighteenth century, Rome was one of the great music capitals of Europe. In the space of a few years, Corelli, Handel, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Caldara, Cesarini and many others crossed paths there, surrounded by painters, sculptors, poets and philosophers who were among the great names of the age. The fruit of long reflection and research, "Officina Romana" crystallises this unique moment in the history of music by recreating an idealised musical evening, a conversazione, a sort of liberal meeting of lofty minds in the palace of a Roman cardinal, with a programme mingling vocal and instrumental music in both orchestral and chamber formation. This programme highlights the creative genius, the "estro" of the time, its musical and technical inventiveness, combining famous pieces with previously unrecorded ones. The Cristofori fortepiano also makes an appearance here: Cardinal Ottoboni owned one. © Arcana
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Classical - Released March 12, 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 March 5, 2021 | NoMadMusic

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After the critical success of her last two solo albums, Célimène Daudet comes back with her most personal project. "Haïti my love" is a passionate declaration to her Caribbean origins through the prism of her music and her little-known classical composers. Lamothe, Elie and Saintonge will know how to surprise you and take you on a musical journey that tells the rhythms, landscapes and colours of the country. Fascinated by Chopin, who influenced him a lot, Ludovic Lamothe was even nicknamed "the Chopin Noir" because of his dreamlike, deeply sensitive and lyrical music. So many unpublished gems just waiting to be shared and known! © nomadmusic
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Classical - Released March 5, 2021 | L'Encelade

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Nostalgia for the Ancien Régime has been growing in recent years among the very rich pool of French and foreign musicians. While music was one of the most important instruments of the power of the absolute monarchy in France, it was also highly appreciated at all levels of the state and aristocracy, starting with the sovereigns themselves. The young Louis XIV was an excellent dancer and also excelled at playing the harpsichord.From this starting point, Fabien Armengaud has built this interesting album. It follows in the footsteps of Étienne Richard, composer, instrumentalist and, subject of this publication. He was also a teacher of the nineteen-year-old king, who, it seems, greatly admired his master. The three Suites by Étienne Richard are flanked here by contemporary pieces from the same manuscript deposited at the Bibliothèque Nationale.This album was played on an Alain Anselm harpsichord, built in 2014 in the spirit of late seventeenth-century French craftsmanship (at 392 Hz and tuned in a meantone temperament). The manuscript also contains a smattering of pieces by Chabanceau de La Barre, Marin Marais, Jacques Hardel, Louis Couperin, Luigi Rossi and some others. Fabien Armengaud sums it up: "To conclude", he writes in the notes of the libretto, "I will not say that Richard is a small or obscure master. The originality of his preludes, the touching poetry of his allemandes, the classically elegant stature of his courantes, the melancholy of his sarabandes, his enigmatic gigue in 4/4, all suggest to me that he was a leading master who is entirely worthy of his place on the Parnassus of the French harpsichord". © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | SFS Media

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These performances by the San Francisco Symphony under its conductor laureate, Michael Tilson Thomas, were recorded at different times, live at San Francisco's Davies Hall, between 2015 and 2018, but they cohere nicely into an all-Berg program that succeeds in immersing the listener into the world of this composer. Berg's Violin Concerto is one of the few 12-tone works that consistently hold the stage, and this is not only because it has tonal elements in the form of Bach quotations but also because its structure is clear. This becomes apparent when it is paired with Berg's early works, on the edge of tonality or freely atonal, which are thorny things; the supposedly difficult 12-tone system here actually comes as a breath of clarity. The performance of the Violin Concerto by Gil Shaham is deliberate and a bit languid, its slow tempos in keeping with the memorial function of the work, but it is in the Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, that Tilson Thomas really shines, showing his continuing ability to get the orchestra to punch above its weight and tease out the knotted threads of these intense pieces. As an entr'acte, there is soprano Susanna Phillips in Berg's Seven Early Songs, lush evocations of turn-of-the-last-century Vienna that deepen the overall effect of an album that adds to Tilson Thomas' record of accomplishment in retirement and would make a fine introduction to Berg. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | Arcana

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The heterogeneous output of Santiago de Murcia, one of the key figures in the Baroque guitar repertory, includes a number of transcriptions from the Op. 5 of Arcangelo Corelli, the famous collection of "sonatas with violin and string bass or harpsichord" published in Rome in 1700. The diffusion of Corelli’s works in Spain, and in particular in Madrid, suggests how highly the Italian style was valued at the court of Philip V, where Santiago taught Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy between 1704 and 1706. This gave rise to the idea of investigating the relationship between the Spanish and Italian styles in de Murcia’s guitar music. Pieces such as the fandango, jacaras and canarios, here presented in original arrangements that attempt to achieve a synthesis between historical research and creativity, are coupled with two Corelli Sonatas and a set of original or anonymous variations on the Follie italianas. The result is a stimulating kaleidoscope of sonorities in which different aesthetics and instrumental techniques dialogue, contrast and blend together. After his CD "Intavolatura", devoted to the solo theorbo music of Kapsberger ("hypnotisant" - Le Devoir; "terrific" - American Record Guide; "outstanding" - Lute News), Stefano Maiorana turns his attention to the Baroque guitar, investigating its unique sound and its ability to adapt to different languages and styles. © Arcana
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | Mirare

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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | NoMadMusic

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released March 12, 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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Chamber Music - Released February 19, 2021 | Mirare

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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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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 12, 2021 | Aparté

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Le Concert de la Loge and Julien Chauvin continue the Haydn adventure with the "Paris" Symphonies No. 84 and No. 86. The conductor and his period instruments orchestra complete the programme with the beautiful Stabat Mater, one of Haydn’s most performed ones during his lifetime. Composed in 1767 during the "Sturm and Drang" period, the Stabat Mater’s strikingly sober and plain expression (« Fac me vere tecum flere ») doesn’t exclude some outstanding passages, as in the « Sancta Mater, istud agas ». © Aparté Music
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 12, 2021 | Arcana

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Johann Hermann Schein, Sebastian Knüpfer, Johann Schelle, Andreas Gleich, Johann Georg Ebeling, Johannes Kessel, Johann Rosenmüller – all names that are unlikely to be familiar to you, unless you happen to be especially knowledgeable on the subject of early German Baroque composers. Yet all enjoyed esteemed reputations in their day, and three of them – Schein, Knüpfer and Schelle – were actually predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach in the lofty role of Leipzig ThomasKantor. Then even less familiar to most listeners will be the music these men composed for funeral services, because when each service's music was created specifically for that one event, and reflected the tastes and choices of the deceased person it honoured, it didn't make sense to publish it for wider performance. Consequently, the first thing to point about about this programme of seventeenth century German funeral music from Basel-based vocal ensemble Voces Suaves under Johannes Strobl, is the feast of unknown repertoire presented around its central performance of Schütz's Musikalische Exequien; because while Schütz was so proud of this structurally and texturally ambitious 1636 work for the funeral of Henry II, Count of Reuss-Gera, that he published it at his own expense that very year, the surrounding motets from his above-mentioned contemporaries have been transcribed specifically for this recording, direct from the original sources, with much of it recorded for the very first time. The performances themselves have more than done this rare repertoire justice, too: beautifully lucid textures both in the choral singing and the sensitive accompanying from violone, theorbo and organ; bright, clear-toned vocal tones, with a particularly exquisitely light and pure upper-register soprano sound on show in motets such as Gleich's Selig sind die Toten; crisp articulation and sombre, heartfelt expression of the texts overall. Add the fact that the back catalogue isn't bursting with previous recordings even of the Schütz, and this album is very welcome indeed. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Opera - Released January 29, 2021 | Academy of Ancient Music

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Academy of Ancient Music, Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Cambridge Early Music and Julian Perkins are proud to present the first professional recording of John Eccles’s Semele (ca 1707), a notable early setting of the great English libretto by William Congreve better known in a version by Georg Friedrich Handel from 1744. Academy of Ancient Music’s mission is to explore, reveal and preserve the great treasure house of baroque and classical music, and a spirit of newfound discovery runs through all our work : Eccles’s Semele is the next step on this journey, released here on a double album with an extensive accompanying full-color booklet containing scholarly essays, Stephen Fry’s modern re-telling of the story, autograph manuscript images of Eccles’ score, the full libretto text and much more. A fascinating insight into how opera in England might have developed after Henry Purcell’s death had not Handel moved to London in 1712, Eccles’s Semele is the perfect addition to any baroque-music lover’s library. © AAM
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Classical - Released January 29, 2021 | Decca (UMO) (Classics)

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Josquin des Prés, who died exactly five centuries ago (1521) in Condé-sur-l'Escaut (in today's Hauts de France region near Valenciennes), is one of the great figures of the Franco-Flemish school and one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. The reputation of this musician-traveller spread throughout Europe during his lifetime and he was known in Burgundy, France and throughout Italy. He was a member of the Pope's Chapel in Rome, after having assumed offices in Milan and Ferrara in the service of the Sforza family. Widely distributed thanks to the invention of the printing press, his music has survived, in the form of over two hundred and forty works. This album is part of a trilogy of recordings planned by Decca to constitute a portrait of Josquin des Prés according to current practices and knowledge. Recorded in July 2020 by the Stile Antico ensemble, it presents master works: the sublime Messe Pange lingua, with motets and songs, including Vivrai-je tousjours, recorded here for the first time. Coming from the English choral tradition of Oxford and Cambridge, Stile Antico offers us a decanted vision, out of time and stripped of any sensuality, as if to better emphasise the abstraction of Josquin's harmonic research. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released January 29, 2021 | L'Encelade

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François Couperin’s Suites de violes are his last will and testament in chamber music form and one of the peaks of the repertoire written for the instrument. Together with this highly personal language, Claire Gautrot and Marouan Mankar-Bennis have chosen to combine the Concert royal No. 3 originally intended for the private concerts of the “late King” Louis XIV. Obeying the laws of the art of conversation, the two take it in turns to act as solo and accompanying instrument, with a succession of aristocratic grandeur and pastoral evocations. © L'Encelade
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Classical - Released January 29, 2021 | Arcana

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With its debut recording, the Bernardini Quartet takes us on a journey into the golden age of its formation, consisting of oboe, violin, viola and cello. The programme consists of a selection of exemplary pieces written between 1780 and 1818 by composers of different nationalities who are united by their diversity. Alongside Alfredo and Cecilia Bernardini, father and daughter, respectively oboist/director and first violin of the Ensemble Zefiro, the members are the German violist Simone Jandl and the Dutch cellist Marcus van den Munckhof. The programme begins with one of the earliest quartets for these forces, by Johann Christian Bach; continues with Mozart’s Quartet KV370/360b, a milestone of the genre, followed by a romance with variations by the French composer Charles Bochsa, a substantial four-movement quartet by the cellist Dotzauer and a delightful little quartet by Alessandro Rolla, violinist and conductor of La Scala, Milan; and ends with a meditative perpetual canon by the Bohemian Georg Druschetzky, based on a famous Lutheran chorale. In this recording, Alfredo Bernardini used five different period oboes. © Arcana
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Chamber Music - Released January 22, 2021 | PentaTone

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"Violins of Hope" presents instruments that were owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust, representing strength and optimism for the future during mankind’s darkest hour. They have been refurbished by luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, founders of the "Violins of Hope" project. On this album, recorded live at Kohl Mansion, the instruments are used to perform two string quartet masterpieces by Schubert and Mendelssohn, alongside a new composition by Jake Heggie, inspired by the violins’ histories. Schubert’s unfinished Quartettsatz is often considered Schubert’s first mature work, and displays a typically Schubertian mix of impetuous agitation and sublime lyricism. Mendelssohn wrote his Quartet in F Minor as a “Requiem” for his deceased sister Fanny, not knowing that – tragically enough – he would follow her fate only two months later, at the age of 38. These two captivating works are performed by Kay Stern, Dawn Harms, Patricia Heller and Emil Miland, who join forces with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, violinist Daniel Hope and the young violin talent Sean Mori on Heggie’s Intonations. The recording took place in the context of Holocaust Memorial Day 2020. © Pentatone
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 15, 2021 | BR-Klassik

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The British composer Edward Elgar wrote a great deal more than just his Pomp & Circumstance Marches: his highly diverse oeuvre encompasses symphonies, concertos, chamber works, piano music and numerous choral works (oratorios, cantatas and partsongs). On this release, partsongs by Elgar can be heard with and without accompaniment as part of a representative selection of live and studio recordings. The album begins with the song cycle From the Bavarian Highlands, Op. 27; its six cheerful numbers were written while Elgar and his wife were on holiday in Garmisch in 1895. Alice Elgar had sketched verses from Bavarian folk melodies, and Upper Bavarian songs and dances can be heard in her husband’s settings. These were happy memories of carefree holidays in a region rich in music and full of fine landscapes. The Bavarian Radio Chorus, conducted by Howard Arman, sings the songs in their original version with piano accompaniment (the orchestral version came later). As a composer of English-language choral songs, Elgar is still little-known on the European mainland; in the United Kingdom, however, the situation is very different. The country has long had a lively choral scene, focusing primarily on English music – from Purcell and Handel to Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford and Elgar, all the way to Benjamin Britten and today’s contemporary composers. The program on this release has been compiled and conducted by the Englishman Howard Arman, one of today’s most knowledgeable experts on British choral music and artistic director of the Bavarian Radio Chorus, and these recordings should do much to boost the popularity of this highly appealing music on the European mainland as well. © BR-Klassik
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Chamber Music - Released January 15, 2021 | Gramola Records

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Has any violinist captured the imaginations of ensuing generations to the degree Romanian-American Jascha Heifetz has? Arguably not. So no wonder that there's always a steady trickle of recital releases centred around Heifetz's virtuosic transcriptions of popular tunes, which he used as recital encores (although, fascinatingly, these tend to pop less regularly as actual live recital encores). Still, when most often it's younger generation violinists who are recording this razzle-dazzle repertoire, this programme from Benjamin Schmidt and his pianist wife Ariane Haering – in honour of the 120th anniversary of Heifetz's birth – stands out for being the work of a violinist now in the fourth decade of his performance career. You can hear all the confidence and technical assurance of years, too, right from his first crisply biting notes and firm portamentos in the programme-opening Prokofiev March from The Love for Three Oranges – a piece which overall he delivers big, bold and broad-toned, with a fabulous sweep to its upwards-racing runs. Likewise the rapid pizzicato strumming of the following Banjo and Fiddle by William Kroll. Moving forwards, pieces such as It Ain't Necessarily So play perfectly to Schmid's well-exercised jazz muscles, while also opening up the field to a few equally entertaining modern pieces in the spirit of Heifetz – an arrangement of Mish Mash by Romanian Antoni Donchev, plus two pieces inspired by Duke Ellington by Schmid's fellow Austrian, Sabina Hank. Add the inevitable close musical partnership between Schmid and Haering, and a lively immediacy to the engineering, and all in all it's a thoroughly fun listen. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz