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Symphonies - Released September 3, 2021 | London Philharmonic Orchestra

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Munich, September 1910. A tidalwave is flooding the world of music. Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major has just premiered, conducted by the composer himself. This monumental symphony was a triumph in terms of its duration and the number of performers involved. Mahler's impresario, Emil Gutmann, used the term "Symphony of a Thousand" for promotional purposes, much to the composer's displeasure. It was an inspired turn of phrase though, which has persisted to the present day.The two-part work uses two forms of writing which differ in every respect: the Veni Creator Spiritus, a ninth-century Latin poem probably written by the monk Raban Maur, and the ending of Goethe's Faust. However, an impression of great coherence emerges from the whole: the two texts each evoke ideas of transcendence, but an incarnate, earthly transcendence, accessible to Man.This production brings together the London Philharmonic with three impressively uniform vocal ensembles (the London Symphony Chorus, the Clare College - Cambridge Choir and the Tiffin Boy's Choir). © Pierre Lamy/Qobuz
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Classical - Released August 20, 2021 | haenssler CLASSIC

Wolfram Gehring, known among other things for having inaugurated Allen organs in many churches all over Germany, has been somewhat forgotten. Although he had been off the radar for several years, the Cologne-based organist nevertheless distinguished himself as an excellent ambassador of the modern organ - his 1973 recording of Marcel Dupré's Chemin de la Croix has left a lasting impression. The reissue, almost forty years on, of "Virtuoso Orgel" is an opportunity to savour this musical madeleine, a pleasant if sadly rather small musical morsel.This old LP, published on the Laudate label and reproduced here in its entirety, was cut down to include only Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony for Organ No. 5 and the last movement, Final-Allegro, of Louis Vierne's Symphony No. 1 in D minor. It has a slight air of déjà vu about it: in the years since its initial release, these two pieces have become real hits. This is an able recording, made using the instrument in the St. Lucia Kirche in Stolberg. Wolfram Gehring will appeal to music lovers who cherish clarity in recordings, although this record lacks the lush panache and airy phrasing of the works of Daniel Chorzempa (Philips). This is a clean, masterful, virtuoso performance, and Gehring demonstrates the range and variety of his instrument. © Pierre Lamy/Qobuz

Classical - Released July 2, 2021 | Chandos

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Following their acclaimed recordings of Schoenberg with Sara Jakubiak and Britten’s Peter Grimes with Stuart Skelton, Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic turn their attention to the music of Sibelius. Written in 1913 for the diva Aino Ackté, the tone poem Luonnotar draws on text from the Finnish national epic poem, the Kalevala. Its virtuosic demands are ably met here by award-wining soprano Lise Davidsen, who also feature in the Suite from Pelléas and Mélisande, music re-worked by Sibelius from his incidental music written for the first performances of Maeterlinck’s play in Helsinki, in 1905, in Swedish. The tone poem Tapiola, from 1926, is Sibelius’ last great masterpiece and evokes the forests of his native Finland. The programme is completed by a pair of much earlier works, Rakastava and Vårsång (Spring Song). © Chandos
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Classical - Released June 25, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Max Bruch was eighty years old when, in 1918, he decided to return to the chamber music genre he had frequented in his early years. Stimulated by the violin virtuoso Willy Hess, he composed two string quintets and an octet, monuments to beauty and harmony, at the end of a tumultuous personal life and in the midst of a western world on the brink of collapse. After an album devoted to Beethoven’s chamber music, the Chamber Players of the WDR Sinfonieorchester now tackle one of the last chapters of German Romantic music, with pieces that constitute Bruch’s swansong. © Alpha Classics
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Chamber Music - Released June 25, 2021 | Azica Records

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The liner notes to this release, with its brief title "Diffusion", don't shed a lot of light on the Verona Quartet. The biography on the group's website offers a little bit more information. The four musicians (Jonathan Ong, Dorothy Ro, violins – Abigail Rojansky, viola – Jonathan Dormand, cello) of this North American quartet, residing since August 2020 at the prestigious Oberlin College and Conservatory, have cultivated something of an air of mystery.To get to the bottom of things, we have to get familiar with their music, and what a wonderful surprise! The sounds, textures and timbres are a real pleasure. What is immediately striking upon listening to this original programme, which combines three mesmerising and captivating quartets from the early twentieth century in a summary of the most striking aesthetics of that era in Europe, is the balance inherent in the ensemble. The polyphony enjoys incredible clarity; the attacks are distinguished by their captivating sharpness, free of dryness; the textures are adorned with constantly changing hues, which keep the listener in suspense—listen to the very beautiful Allegro moderato from Ravel's Quartet (1903), which truly is "très doux", as the composer put it, in terms of its phrasing as much as its breath and expressive intentions. The Ravelian sweetness here is also of the utmost tenderness. Impressive!The desire for precision from the four members of the Verona Quartet never takes them into the field of strict objectivity or cold analysis. Ravel's Quartet closes this album with a few moments of very rare poetry, but the sound of Verona always contains a certain je-ne-sais-quoi which is gently playful, or slightly arch (Ravel, Assez vif), and which shines an unusual light on the expressive ambivalences of Lettres intimes by Janáček (January-February 1928), which is very adroitly balanced between the nostalgic and the mischievous. What about Szymanowski? The Verona Quartet situate him precisely between two worlds, as concerned with Viennese ancestry as with the Slavic folk spirit: the ample melodic lines (Moderato dolce e tranquillo) and the polyphonic games (Lento) radiate with the same power as the spirit of rupture that sometimes produces some very spicy harmonic friction (Vivace, scherzando). Highly recommended. © Pierre-Yves Lascar / Qobuz
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Symphonies - Released June 25, 2021 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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In a volcanic outburst of creativity, the 27-year-old Gustav Mahler wrote his First Symphony within just a few weeks. He then struggled significantly longer to find a definitive shape for this unprecedentedly novel work, which shook the musical public like an earthquake and divided heated tempers into Mahler lovers and Mahler loathers. No one was left cold by the overpowering sound of this work he initially entitled Titan (after Jean Paul’s novel). It begins as a quivering surface (“Wie ein Naturlaut” – “Like a sound of nature”) out of which motivic ideas emerge – fanfare and birdcall fragments from near and far, including an obstinate cuckoo – until a melody is articulated, derived from the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), where it is sung to the words “Ging heut Morgen übers Feld…Wird’s nicht eine schöne Welt?” (“This morning I went across the fields…Isn’t the world looking lovely?”). In programmatic indications that he later withdrew, Mahler describes the movement as “the awakening of Nature after a long winter’s sleep”. The earthy ländler-scherzo is followed by a whimsical funeral-march parody based on a minor-mode version of the folksong canon Bruder Jakob (Frère Jacques). Naïve humour and obscure tragedy clash very much as in Jean Paul’s writings. The “horrifying outcry” that launches the finale definitively exposes the “lovely world’s” ambiguity. The violence of this last movement tears open a roaring abyss. According to Mahler, in the tumultuous masses of sound the “hero” – is it the composer himself? – is locked in a terrible battle “with all the sorrows of this world”. Then, almost imperceptibly, out of a reminiscence of the shimmering sounds of nature that began the symphony, a “victory chorale” takes shape and, with the mobilization of all forces, is elevated into a gigantic apotheosis. Mahler’s First: a hero’s life – or indeed a commedia humana? © 2020 Berlin Phil Media GmbH
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Classical - Released June 11, 2021 | harmonia mundi

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After Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Prokofiev, Vadym Kholodenko continues his exploration of the Russian repertory with a pair of rarely recorded works: Tchaikovsky’s two solo piano sonatas. Imaginative, colourful and dreamy, capable of an infinite range of emotions, he reveals both the masterly architecture and the subtleties of the writing that are often sacrificed to mere demonstration of virtuosity. © harmonia mundi
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Classical - Released June 7, 2021 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released February 12, 2021 | 7 Mountain Records

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Spezl (Bavarian for ‘comradeship’) is a sonorous and lively 7MNTN album from the high-regarded musicians Floris Mijnders and Jelger Blanken. The performers’ close musical friendship echos that of the composers whose works they present here: Richard Strauss and Ludwig Thuille. Strauss and Thuille remained close friends throughout their lives, studying together and sharing musical ideas. While Strauss achieved worldwide recognition as a composer, Thuille is remembered mainly as a professor of music theory and composition. This duo offers an irresistible combination: fierce and tender playing from Mijnders, complemented affectionately and sensitively by Blanken. But as in any friendship, this duo also challenges and questions each others’ musical decisions, sparking an inspired, musical dialogue. The summation is sparkling and joyful musicality, together with extraordinary ease and craftsmanship. Allow yourself getting embraced by the beguiling, intimate sound-world of this duo! © 7 Mountain Records
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Symphonic Music - Released September 4, 2020 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

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Classical - Released April 24, 2020 | Alpha Classics

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Is the imitation of rolling thunder, howling winds and bleating sheep a form of musical composition worthy of the name? Can we take seriously a composer who boasts of being able to ‘set a restaurant menu to music, if need be’? These were the kinds of questions that Richard Strauss, one of the most virtuosic composers of the so-called ‘programme music’, had to ask himself. His answer: ‘I am a musician from head to toe; for me, all “programmes” are merely incentives to invent new forms, nothing else.’ The NDR Orchestra, conducted by Krzysztof Urbański, has chosen to devote its sixth Alpha Classics recording to three of Richard Strauss’s most famous symphonic poems: Also sprach Zarathustra Op. 30, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche Op. 28 and Don Juan Op. 20. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released April 10, 2020 | Alpha Classics

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Some music lovers are familiar with Ce qu’on entend sur la montagne, Liszt’s symphonic poem based on Victor Hugo. But who knows that, ten years earlier, César Franck was inspired by the same poem? This early piece is recorded here by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Mikko Franck. They couple it with the famous Symphony in D minor, dedicated to Henri Duparc and premiered, without much success, in 1889. Even if the score is quite well-known today, in the end it is performed quite rarely, which is a pity, because it really has all the characteristics of a masterpiece: melodic and harmonic inspiration, refined orchestration, variety of mood, an ingenious structure. Two works by Franck ... by Franck! This album marks the beginning of a collaboration between Alpha and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, which will focus on very varied repertories. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released March 6, 2020 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or / Arte - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica
After recording Rachmaninov's 24 Preludes and a recital dedicated to Claude Debussy for his new publisher harmonia mundi, pianist Nikolai Lugansky extends his repertoire even further with a monographic album dedicated solely to César Franck. The list of piano works by this organ-playing composer was not very extensive, so Lugansky chose to perform the Prelude, Fugue and Variation Op. 18, and theChorale No. 2 , on the piano, both in the same key. Written specifically for the piano, the two triptychs Prélude, Choral et Fugue and Prélude, Aria et Final are inspired by both Bach and Liszt and had an obvious influence on later French music, particularly with Albéric Magnard (Symphony No. 3) and all the way up to Francis Poulenc (Concerto for organ ). Nikolai Lugansky constructs these pieces like a builder, with unfailing solidity. He brings out the architecture and the projections with power and fullness, while looking for what he calls "a French sound, a beauty of sonority and refined sound without lourdeur". © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | BR-Klassik

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique
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Symphonic Music - Released February 7, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Thus Sir Mark Elder finishes his Sibelius collection, just as the very young Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali begins his own with Alpha, already distinguishing himself with the surprising weight and recurring hesitations of his second volume. None of that with Elder, who admittedly suffers from a slightly too uniform sound recording but who stands out with the exactness of his tempos and his refined balances. Sir Mark Elder offers versions that are classic and fluid, with a real organic tension and a sense of lyricism, especially in the medium registers (Symphony N°4, III. Il tempo largo). Sir Mark Elder knows how to harness the energy that is unique to this orchestra with this repertoire, which has become something of a favourite ever since Barbirolli permanently established it in 1940 before recording irrevocable versions for His Master’s Voice between 1966 and 1969, a discography that has never been surpassed. Sir Mark Elder is less interested in the (certainly fascinating) flare-up of Sibelius’ modernity than his predecessor, favouring a calmer internal pulse that often draws comparisons with Bruckner and Wagner for example. He doesn’t however dilute the features that make Sibelius so remarkable, like the ostinato patterns that we have not heard so hauntingly in a long time (in the Symphony N°4 again). As for the Symphony N°6... you can practically hear it smiling. The sound is joyous, even playful (III. Poco vivace), never falling into the cold tones that we hear all too often. A magnificent vision, closing a milestone anthology which Sibelius fanatics should ensure they don’t miss. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Alpha Classics

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After the resounding success of Volume 1 (Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Diapason d’Or, Choc de Classica, FFFF Télérama), the project to record the complete Sibelius symphonies continues with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Santtu-Matias Rouvali, whose career as a conductor is entering top gear: he has just been appointed Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. At the turn of the twentieth century, as Finland struggled to free itself from Russian rule, Sibelius and his wife faced several domestic dramas, including the loss of one of their daughters, Kirsti, to typhoid fever. The Second Symphony, written in the brilliant key of D major, seems to be marked by the events of the composer’s private life, but many of his contemporaries nevertheless saw it as a political manifesto! In 1898, Sibelius composed the incidental music for Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II, the story of the downfall of a king of Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) in the sixteenth century. The suite derived from it was successfully performed in several European cities. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released January 31, 2020 | Sony Music Labels Inc.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released January 17, 2020 | Alpha Classics

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Classical - Released January 10, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique
20 years old and a brazen amount of talent: the Afro-British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has three idols. Cellists Jacqueline du Pré and Mstislav Rostropovitch and reggae legend Bob Marley, three passionate and extrovert forces. His career really took off after he performed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018. His album Inspiration released the same year broke all sorts of sales records in the United Kingdom and his hometown of Nottingham even named a bus after him. As part of a partnership with the label Decca, he is back with a new recording, this time dedicated to the famous Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra headed by their new conductor, Sir Simon Rattle. A first class encounter which produces a poetic vision, almost like chamber music, of this renowned concerto. Made famous by Jacqueline du Pré’s versions (with Barbirolli then with her husband Daniel Barenboim), Elgar’s Concerto is accompanied on the track listing by other shorter pieces which were popular among soloists and music lovers alike a century ago, which the younger generation is bringing back in vogue. The album features arrangements of traditional music and works by Bloch, Elgar, Bridge, Fauré and Klengel. From the infinitely large to the infinitely small with the staggering virtuosity of this bright young talent. © François Hudry/Qobuz