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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
Milos is Milos Karadaglic, a guitarist from Montenegro. The southern Slavic countries have produced quite a number of guitarists, but Milos is the first to get a marketing push from a major label, complete with graphics showing the unshaven, barefoot guitarist ruminating moodily on a beach. He was trained in London and has cited Julian Bream as an inspiration, if not an influence, and there is something of Bream in his technically crisp, straightforward playing. Mediterráneo is his debut album, and the program includes some of the standards you would expect from a young guitarist's first outing: Spanish pictorial works from Francisco Tárrega and transcriptions of famous short piano works by Isaac Albéniz and Enriqué Granados. But a couple of factors set this release apart from the common run of solo guitar albums. First is the program, which is generally well put together, alternating effectively between fireworks and reflections, and reflecting the stated Mediterranean theme. At the center is a contemporary Italian work, Koyunbaba, Op. 19, by Carlo Domeniconi. This four-movement piece evokes a Turkish legend about sheep herding and fuses European and Turkish melodic idioms. It's an absolute tour de force for the guitar, full of technical devices that come from outside the usual Spanish contexts. It's not an unknown piece, but it probably qualifies as underexposed. There are also a pair of short pieces by Mikis Theodorakis. The other major attraction here is the sound, which is the bugaboo in so many small-label guitar recordings: either the guitarist sounds as if placed on a box, or you hear every slide of finger and rustle of breath. Milos is miked close up in Deutsche Grammophone's recording, executed at London's Air Studios, but it is never overbearing; it's absolutely ideal. The classical world is in need of its next star, and it just may have found him. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 11, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
This 2011 release of Frédéric Chopin's Piano Concertos No. 1 and No. 2 is a first for Daniel Barenboim, who previously recorded the complete Nocturnes for Deutsche Grammophon, some of the solo piano music for EMI, and perhaps most famously, the Cello Sonata in G minor with his late wife, Jacqueline du Pré. Otherwise, Barenboim has appeared to have neglected Chopin, and that's a shame, because this music is tailor-made for him. Indeed, he is quoted on the CD: "When I play Chopin I feel a kind of purely physical pleasure that I get from no other composer's music." Regarded as an introspective pianist who plays with his emotions held close to the vest, rather than worn on his sleeve, Barenboim finds an expressive match in Chopin, who was similarly reserved, rarely demonstrative, and suspicious of grandiose displays. The concertos are models of pianistic decorum, far from the splashy showpieces of Franz Liszt, and the modest expressions of the music hearken back to the Classical era, especially to Chopin's idol, Mozart. Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Andris Nelsons, at times produce a sound that is almost Mozartian in its elegant tone and gossamer texture, and even though they are fully aware that they are playing Chopin, the tasteful balance they strike is something both composers would have appreciated. The concertos were recorded live at the 2010 Ruhr Piano Festival, so there are some incidental noises that serve as reminders, especially whenever Barenboim thumps his foot, but the sound is surprisingly clean, close-up, and vivid for a concert recording. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Violinist and composer Joseph Joachim was a central figure of Romanticism, famous as a personal friend of Johannes Brahms and as an arbiter of musical taste who was professionally associated with many of the 19th century's greatest musicians. Daniel Hope's The Romantic Violinist: A Celebration of Joseph Joachim paints an appealing portrait through selections of Joachim's own music, as well as short pieces by Brahms, Clara Schumann, Antonin Dvorák, Franz Schubert, and the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch. Joachim had a hand in editing this concerto, as well as in adding details to violin concertos by others, and he was generous in contributing his technical knowledge to composers, as well as inspiring them to write some of the most eloquent pieces in the repertoire for him. This CD presents Hope's 2010 performance of the Bruch concerto, along with Brahms' Hungarian Dances No. 1 and No. 5, Joachim's Notturno, and Dvorák's Humoresque with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. For the rest of the tracks, Hope is accompanied by pianist Sebastian Knauer, except in Brahms' Geistliches Wiegenlied, where he is joined by mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and pianist Bengt Forsberg. This mix of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music gives the disc considerable variety and avoids the pitfall of offering only one major work with a lot of filler. Indeed, Hope brings ample personality and skill to make the program compelling to the very end, and the changes of instrumentation and textures keep the album from being monochromatic. As a tribute to Joachim, this album does him the favor of showing his many sides, and presents him not only as a virtuoso, but as a complete musician. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklets Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
It speaks very highly of any singer if, on a solo recital disc, he is joined by artists of the caliber of Daniel Barenboim and Plácido Domingo. On this album of operatic scenes and arias by Wagner, bass René Pape shows himself to be very much in the league of Barenboim and Domingo. Perhaps most importantly, he has the commanding personality that's a bottom-line necessity in making the composer's mythic characters believable and sympathetic even in their moral complexity. And his voice is ideal for Wagner: absolutely secure and full in its depths and heights, subtly colored, and with a loamy richness that projects over the orchestra without forcing. He was only in his mid-forties when he made this album, so he should have a long and fruitful career ahead as he gains even deeper insight into these demanding roles. The scenes recorded here spotlight Pape's gifts wonderfully. In the program notes, he discusses Wagner's desire for singers to master a kind of bel canto vocal production that could also accommodate the percussive consonants of the German language, and Pape exemplifies that kind of synthesis: warm, shapely bel canto singing in which the words are projected with power and absolute clarity. His Wotan, in his farewell to Brünnhilde at the end of Die Walküre, is heartbreaking in his intense expression of a father's conflicted grief. He is as powerful in his moments of tenderness as in his raging against the tragedy he cannot avert. Pape's Gurnemanz radiates compassion and wisdom, and the synergy between him and Domingo is thrilling in their extended scene from Parsifal. Barenboim, a veteran Wagner conductor, brings masterful insight to these scenes; he leads Staatskapelle Berlin in performances that are beautifully paced, and their details shine with clarity even through the composer's sometimes dense orchestration. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean and warmly ambient. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

There are live recordings of two of Plácido Domingo performances in Fedora, both with Mirella Freni in the title role, one from La Scala, 1993 (available on both CD and DVD), and one from the Metropolitan Opera, 1996 (available on DVD), but this is his first studio recording of the opera. Fedora receives a top-notch production that features Orchestre symphonique et choeurs de la Monnaie led by Alberto Veronesi, who continues his commitment to reviving obscure but worthy verismo operas. The orchestra and chorus perform with their characteristic polish and finesse, and while their approach comes across as somewhat reserved, Fedora, with its cast made up largely of aristocrats, is a work in which a certain level of reserve is more appropriate than in some verismo operas about the messy lives of hot-blooded peasants, for instance. Domingo, in very fine voice, doesn't stint on bringing a thoroughly Italianate passion to his role and he shines in the showcase aria, "Amor ti vieta," and in his anguished final scenes. The title role is more substantial than his and Angela Gheorghiu's sounds terrific; her performance captures the protagonist's extreme emotions effectively, appropriately dark and furious in the first act, girlish as her love awakens, and finally crazed with remorse. The smaller roles are beautifully cast and there are no weak links in the singing. Mostly unknown or little known, the singers bring first-rate voices and focused characterizations to the opera, most notably mezzo-soprano Nino Machaidze and baritone Fabio Maria Capitanucci. The main weakness of the opera is the pithiness of its libretto; climactic moments that need time to unfold slowly enough to give the music time to expand are hurried through. Fedora is a wonderfully tuneful work, though, and while it may lack the high-octane drama of Tosca or Pagliacci, its very attractive score makes it a piece that should appeal to fans of fin de siècle Italian opera. Deutsche Grammophon's engineers have lavished great care on producing a recording of the highest quality: immaculately clean, warm, full, and well-balanced. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 16, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released January 18, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
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Classical - Released May 23, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
André Previn's first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, which had its premiere in 1998 at the San Francisco Opera, made a splash, at least in part because of its stars, Renée Fleming and Nathan Gunn, and the fame of the play. For a contemporary opera it has done remarkably well, with a dozen international productions during its first decade. Its success led to this commission by the Houston Grand Opera for a work based on David Lean's 1945 film, Brief Encounter, which in turn was based on Noël Coward's play, Still Life. The libretto by John Caird is dramatically smart, if a little too talky. The music reflects Previn's experience in film scoring; it is pleasantly pictorial, relentlessly lyrical, and tends to stay in the background. Although it has some moments of emotional intensity the score never quite takes flight, and the text setting is undistinguished. The music proceeds for the most part at a moderate pace and dynamic level, using approximately the same tonal language throughout. This lack of differentiation is especially troubling in a dramatic piece that is almost all talk and little action, in which the main characters, for most of the opera, are talking about a single topic: their love, their agonizing guilt, and how they must renounce their relationship. In spite of the opera's weaknesses, we do come to care about the characters and their inevitable tragedy, so the opera is ultimately moving. The Houston Grand Opera gives the opera a splendid, visually stunning production, with all the stops pulled out, based on the photos in the booklet. They didn't stint on vocal or dramatic talent, either, with a cast that includes Elizabeth Futral, Nathan Gunn, Kim Josephson, Meredith Arwady, and Robert Orth, all experienced in contemporary American opera, who besides being fine singers are convincing, compelling actors. Futral and Gunn, who made vivid impressions as Stella and Stanley Kowalski in the premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire are strong again here, and their committed performances bring their characters to life. Previn fully exploits the depths of Meredith Arwady's voluminous baritonal contralto, and she and Robert Orth are effective as the comic secondary couple. Patrick Summers draws exemplary playing from the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra. The sound is very good for a live recording, clean and warmly ambient. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 18, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released October 18, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hélène Grimaud's 2010 album Resonances has a program with a unifying theme, though some explaining is needed to tease it out of the music. All of the works presented on this CD are notable products of the musical heritage of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the connections Grimaud makes go backward in time to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then pass through Franz Liszt to Alban Berg and Béla Bartók. While the Classical, Romantic, and modernist styles exhibited here are strikingly different from each other -- and the average listener shouldn't be expected to find much in common with Mozart's Sonata in A minor; Berg's Sonata, Op. 1; Liszt's Sonata in B minor; and Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances -- Grimaud nonetheless contends that lines can be drawn through the cultures, languages, and musical expressions of eastern Europe that influenced all these composers. Beyond this broad theme, the playing is characteristic of Grimaud -- impetuous, brooding, and vigorous, but above all passionate and showy -- so the listener may care less about the ideas justifying her selections when actually hearing her volatile performances. Grimaud is at her best in the Berg and Liszt sonatas, and her elastic rubato is quite effective in these moody works. Her manner of delivery is less attuned to Mozart's precise music, which needs tighter control and less rushing, or to Bartók's charming vignettes, which seem almost tossed off here. While some mental leaps are required to follow the album's thesis, expressed in liner notes adapted from an interview, fans of this virtuoso pianist will draw the direct conclusion that the music is all that matters, and give Grimaud their undivided attention. Others, however, may find the album a mixed lot. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklets
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Classical - Released July 5, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica
German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott is a performer who appears to care more about the score and the composer than about her image and interpretations. After promoting Lang-Lang, a pianist of maximal technique but debatable taste, DG has given Ott an exclusive recording contract, and her first release, the complete waltzes of Chopin, shows her to be a pianist of taste and restraint. That is not to say that her performances here are ever less than dazzling, because she plays with supreme ease, or any less than affecting, because she brings out everything in the scores, from sparkling wit to darkest melancholy. But Ott is not interested in demonstrating her technique or in grandstanding her interpretations. Everything here is in the score: the tender countermelodies, the long legato phrasing, the exquisite harmonic balances, and the lilting rubato. It sounds fresh and natural because Ott herself seems fresh and natural, and apparently not at all a showoff. Though by no means the greatest performances of the waltzes ever recorded -- Dinu Lipatti's EMI recording is now and likely always will be the most beautiful, the most masterful, and the most moving version of these works -- Ott's recording is well worth hearing by anyone who loves the music. The sound of DG's digital recording is limpid. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released September 6, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklets
Capping a journey of some 15 years with Deutsche Grammophon, conductor Pierre Boulez completes his survey of the Mahler symphonies with this 2010 release. It is fitting, perhaps, that this final disc should include works from the antipodes of Mahler's career. First begun in 1884, Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of songs written much in the same vein as Schubert and Schumann songs, favoring Mahler's much-loved folk-like style. On the opposite end is the Adagio from Symphony No. 10. Though Mahler only completed sketches for this movement, several realization have been attempted since the composer's death. The version heard here, more than some, captures the unique textures Mahler was able to achieve in his symphonic writing. For his final installment, Boulez leads the Cleveland Orchestra and is joined by mezzo Magdalena Kozená and baritone Christian Gerhaher. Boulez, orchestra, and soloists capture the playfully folksy melodies without trivializing them. The highlight of the album, though, is the stark, ravishing beauty of the Symphony No. 10 Adagio. After listening to Wunderhorn, it became apparent to listeners just how far Mahler came in his compositional language, with his progressive harmonies, fragmented melodies, and unique capability to wield a massive orchestra like a scalpel. Boulez's vision for this movement is consistently forward-looking, carrying listeners along for the conclusion of his long voyage. Even listeners who have not invested in previous installments would do well to add this disc to their collections, both for the magnificent realization of the Adagio, and Boulez's insightful reading of it. © TiVo