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What is a Qobuzissime? It’s an award presented by Qobuz for a first or second album.

Pop or Reggae, Metal or Classical, Jazz or Blues, no genre is excluded. More often than not the award is presented to a newly discovered artist.

Sometimes it might be a particularly quirky or a crossover album from a discography.

The important aspects are uniqueness, sincerity and quality. We look for these things in the recording, the project and the sound identity.





Albums

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Classical - Released June 25, 2021 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Distinctions Qobuzissime
Caroline Shaw is the definition of an artist in its purest form. She is someone who denies categorisation. Shaw began as a classically trained violinist and vocalist, and later branched out into composition and production. From there she has worked with artists such as Kanye West (The Life of Pablo; Ye) and Nas (NASIR), and has contributed to records by The National and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry. And as if that wasn’t already an impressive resume, in 2013 Shaw not only won, but was the youngest ever recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in music for her Partita in 8 Voices, and her 2019 album Orange won a Grammy Award. Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part is a collaboration between Caroline Shaw and contemporary percussion ensemble Sō Percussion (Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting). The group were given three days of gratis studio time, and three little days were all it took for them to get out this versatile, radiant and sometimes surprising album. It's a pick'n'mix of songs with lyrics inspired by their own eclectic interests: James Joyce, the Sacred Harp hymn book, a poem by Anne Carson, the Bible's Book of Ruth, the gospel standard "I’ll Fly Away," and the pop prowess of ABBA, among many others.The opening track, "To the Sky", takes its lyrics from a hymn by Anne Steele in the Sacred Harp. The album begins like haunting meditation with sprinkles of sporadic synthesiser, drum and marimba rhythms that eventually evolve into a rolling rhythm section that keeps the piece moving as Shaw's vocals soar over the top. Shaw mentions "This (hymn) I love in particular. There's a line, 'Frail solace of an hour/ So soon our transient comforts fly/ And pleasure blooms to die.' It’s meditation on the ephemeral, and I love it." This track leads into the second track "Other Song" which has a similar rhythmic groove and is accompanied by Shaw's vocals and lyrics which she wrote herself.  The title track is one of the surprises mentioned earlier, a simple duet between Shaw and Josh Quillen that only took two takes to get down. Quillen's playing is sensitive yet refined and you can feel the energy bouncing between the two artists as Shaw passes lyrics reminiscent of a lost loved one to Quillen, and he palms back soft lines of resonant melodies on the steel drum.The lyrics to "The Flood is Following Me" are quite literally just "the flood is following me," taken from James Joyce's Ulysses. Although simple, they are effective, and are accompanied by an indie-pop influenced backing. Speaking of pop music, there is another beautiful surprise right around the corner with Sō and Shaw's interpretation of the ABBA hit "Lay All Your Love on Me." This marimba/vocal duet is a darker, more sombre take on the classic that's hauntingly effective. After the familiar melody, the track then spirals into a Bach chorale accompanied by Shaw's backing harmonies, an ingenious move on the artist's behalf.  The piece progressively builds in tension as old and new are blended to create this sublimely sensitive and modern interpretation of a classic. Truly something that has never been done before.As the album progresses, each track seems to be an evolution of the one prior. "Long Ago We Counted," a duet between Jason Treuting on drum kit and solo voice, has a rough and hard to understand beginning, yet somehow we are lulled into this rolling vocal loop as it settles into a indie-rock type track.  Album closer "Some Bright Morning," based on a 12th century liturgical song, is a glorious beam of light at the of Shaw and Sō Percussion's twisted tunnel. The droning of Cha-Beach on the Hammond organ supporting the resonant vocal line is a simple but powerful close to the album.As you look through the credits, which is strongly recommended, you will find an assorted array of inspirations who have contributed to the lyrics. As you listen, the album continues to unfold into a monolithic, multifaceted masterpiece of contemporary classical, indie-pop, rock rhythm, world music inspiration and literally everything else in between. Shaw's ability to understand text and construct complete new meanings and unique settings for those words is unparalleled.  Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part is unlike anything else and defies classification; one needs to take the time to explore the ins and outs of the entire album to fully comprehend the masterstrokes of Caroline Shaw and Sō Percussion. © Jessica Porter-Langson/Qobuz
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Classical - Released October 16, 2020 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
"Vieux pays merveilleux des contes de nourrice" (‘Old marvellous land of nursery tales’): These few words describe the irresistible and striking interpretation of Ravel's Shéhérazade, now of a bygone era. The timbral lows and highs radiate from Egyptian soprano Fatma Said’s voice. Her exemplary diction shines. Each word is intelligible and each sound exists to colour the word, emphasising its meaning. Nobody would have thought that the singer’s extremely versatile musicality – reminiscent of Regine Crespin’s vibrant performances – would find an even greater versatility in the orchestral version, with Malcolm Martineau’s beautifully timbred and precise piano occasionally slowing things down.The program completely immerses itself in Spain, with Rafael Aguirre’s subtle guitar substituting itself for Martineau’s piano. Other facets of Fatma Said’s voice are her musical agility and ethereal spirit, which are revealed in the two Falla pieces. The Canción de Marinela by José Serrano, where her voice thickens, will remain an unforgettable moment of sweet sensuality. It's easy to start dreaming of Said exploring some other roles in zarzuelas, for which she would be divine! The three songs by Federico García Lorca, excerpts of the 13 Canciones españolas antiguas, are rather modest and of a noble elegance, even in the carnal arabesques of Nana de Sevilla. This is the perfect transition for the ‘Arabic’ songs that Fatma Said chooses next.She introduces, for example, a pretty melody from Egyptian composer Gamal Abdel-Rahim (1924-1988), before flying off into the gorgeous Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe by Bizet where Burcu Karadağ's nev (a sort of reed flute) improvises in counterpoint alongside the vocals. The last four pieces return to the Egyptian and Lebanese standards, in a jazzy and nostalgic atmosphere. This is a captivating album with overwhelming emotion! © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released September 25, 2020 | Passacaille

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
If the Richter Ensemble is a new name to you, then that's because in the grand scheme of things it's relatively new on the block, formed as recently as 2018 by British-Brazilian Baroque violinist and former Academy of Ancient Music concertmaster, Rodolfo Richter. Its other members are equally drawn from across the world of Historically Informed Performance, and while HIP credentials may not at first glance seem an obvious fit for a debut album of Second Viennese School repertoire, they actually point both to the group's mission statement and its unique selling point – to highlight hidden connections between repertoire ranging from the seventeenth to the twenty first centuries, with all of that repertoire played exclusively on gut strings. Back to the recording in hand, and this is the first installment of a project to record the complete Second Viennese School string quartets on gut strings, and it is very fine indeed. Repertoire-wise, they take us through chronologically, beginning with Webern's ardent one-movement Langsamer Satz of 1905, couched in the language of late Romantic chromaticism; then Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2 of 1907-8, one of his first forays into atonality which features a mezzo soprano for its latter two movements setting poems by Stefan George; after which comes Berg's two-movement String Quartet Op. 3 of 1910, equally exploring atonality. Sound-wise, beyond super-glued chamber playing and wonderfully rich-toned and emotive vocal performances from mezzo Mireille Lebel, what really makes these interpretations stand out is the way they place the works in their immediate Viennese context: the fact that it wasn't a hard-edged brand of modernism that was in everyone's heads during these early ventures beyond tonality, but instead the music of Brahms, Mahler and Wagner; and all this amid a wider expressionist and symbolist artistic context that equally blended Romanticism and modernism – think of Gustav Klimt's paintings. So, beyond the greater softness and wider coloristic palette offered by those aforementioned gut strings, we also get tonal sheen, subtle “portamentos”, and a singing freedom to their lines. We are also at a period pitch slightly lower than today's standard: A=432Hz compared to the current 440Hz. Yet all this Romantic gorgeousness is still sounding clean as a whistle – just thanks to the nineteenth century practice of using vibrato only sparingly. Even if Second Viennese School isn't your usual bag, I urge you to give it a spin. This is likely to be a very covetable series indeed. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Classical - Released June 5, 2020 | InFiné

Hi-Res Distinctions Qobuzissime
After Glass Cage in 2000 and Glass Piano in 2015, New York Julliard graduate pianist Bruce Brubaker returns to his obsession with Philip Glass. Brubaker taught Francesco Tristano, who went on to create many bridges between classical and electronic music. He is also one of Philip Glass’ specialists, a composer that he has played and reinterpreted many times.This time, Brubaker chose to team up with Irish musician Max Cooper, the flagship of IDM. Cooper who, on his last album, Yearning for the Infinite, invented a sort of “chaos generator”, was the perfect candidate for a tribute to one of the masters of minimalism. In the album, the seminal piece Two Pages (1968) acts as a “single track” (provided that this concept has any meaning here). It is a ten-minute hypnotic piano solo deepened by the modular synthesizer that Cooper adds to the background. The record opens and closes with two key pieces: Metamorphosis 2, a cathartic composition, and one of Glass’ major “hits,” and the Opening of Glassworks where Max Cooper’s discrete work reinforces the piece’s contemplative feel. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 28, 2020 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
The most striking aspect of these Preludes by Chopin undertaken by Eric Lu is the absolutely lyrical tranquility that dominates the forty-minute-long journey which is so arduous to build fluidly and coherently. Eric Lu deserves admiration for the expressive and polyphonic unity that he brings to the cycle, which is usually more contrasted. The American’s playing resounds as his phrases transport you on a grand, noble journey of emotion. Behind this soft façade is a somewhat more tragic melancholy, which increases over the course of the album and reveals the sombre, or at the very least anxious nature of the 24 Preludes. Chopin is at his darkest romanticism, not too far removed from the Schumann of the Kreisleriana (April 1838). It comes as no surprise that Lu continues his second recital for Warner Classics with one of Schumann’s strangest works, the Theme and Variations in E-flat major, composed in 1854 as a sort of swan song by the German romantic composer. In this tribute to masters of the past including Bach and Beethoven, Schumann risks using particularly stripped back polyphonies in rarefied pianissimo nuances; in doing so, Eric Lu creates a direct link with Chopin’s cycle, firmly remaining on the gentle and meditative side (Variations 2 and 5), without searching for any particular contrast. Placing fourth in the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, where he already impressed with his rendition of the 24 Preludes, the young American pianist Eric Lu (born in 1997) delivers a captivating recital on this album, sometimes bewildering, but definitely the most accomplished of the three already published − the first was released on German label Genuin. This is definitely a musician to be followed very closely. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released November 15, 2019 | Alpha

Hi-Res Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Qobuzissime
The final part of this intelligent and well-rounded triptych certainly deserves a Qobuzissime! It has been several years since we have been following this grandiose but relaxed duo, made up of violinist Lorenzo Gatto and pianist Julien Libeer. The Belgian pair have brought their complete collection of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano to a close. There is a lot of spontaneity in this integral work, yet this freshness is not synonymous with offhandedness. On the contrary, the fruit of a well thought-out project, it unfolds as a thrilling story in three parts. The first volume opened like a stage curtain on this landmark of Beethoven with the iconic Kreutzer sonata, a strong score which trumps the expectations of the genre. The vehement drama of the first movement, slow and in a minor key, contrasts with the gentle nature of the second movement and confirms that the sonata is well and truly a format for two instruments on an equal footing and not just a support act to the piano, a Steinway in this instance.The second one delineated the milestones of an expanding genre. From the first to the last sonata, via the most popular nicknamed Spring, we bear witness to a general amplification of style. From Opus 12 to Opus 96, the form expands, the technical difficulty of playing increases and the light-hearted fun gives way to a more energetic rhetoric. For this second album, the duo chose the lustrous power of Chris Maene’s parallel-stringed piano. The instrument affords the necessary resonance to the interpretation of this sometimes outright zesty, sometimes tenderly subtle score.The third volume frames the Steinway’s radiance (Sonatas 6 and 7) with the more ample Maene piano (Sonatas 3 and 8) and is dedicated to the works conceived when the composer’s hearing began to falter. Paradoxically, this nightmare for Beethoven has brought about a gift for his listeners. Varied combinations of timbres, styles and character are constantly renewed in this cycle which Gatto and Libeer faithfully interpret throughout its entirety. Our award of recognition is also a retrospective on the first two milestones of this adventure which has valiantly held its promise. An important integral work to explore and encourage others to do so as well! © Elsa Siffert/Qobuz
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Lieder (German) - Released May 31, 2019 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Qobuzissime
Born in a small Norwegian village in 1987 (and is thus inevitably compared to her long-time compatriot Kirsten Flagstad), soprano Lise Davidsen was almost built to embody Wagnerian and Straussian heroines. For her first record under the label Decca, with whom she has signed an exclusive contract, she has chosen to present several facets of femininity in the vocal stylings of Elisabeth (Tannhäuser), Ariane (Ariane à Naxos) and… Pauline. Pauline being Richard Strauss’ beloved wife to whom he dedicated many Lieder from his opus 27 - the 1894 cycle offered to his wife as a wedding gift - until the last Vier letzte Lieder in 1948.Under the supple baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonic Orchestra embraces the brassy voice of the Norwegian soprano with finesse and elegance. As you will see, this record, with its carefully devised programme, oscillates between youth and old age, in the presence of ghosts and death. You may wonder how one can express mortality at just 30 years old with such a powerful timbre, radiant health and a whole life ahead of you. The answer lies in Lise Davidsen’s voice, which upsurges as if it were a promise of immortality, the music of the last Strauss piece returning one last time to its past, to a Europe in ruins.Discovered in 1984, after the death of the singer and dedicatee Maria Jeritza, Malven (“The Mallows") is Richard Strauss’ true “last song”. Lighter in tone than the Vier letzte Lieder to which it might have belonged, it is presented here in an orchestration by Wolfgang Rihm. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released April 5, 2019 | Signum Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime - Grammy Awards
This spectacular new release of Maurice Duruflé’s complete choral output uncovers hidden gems of French classical music. Infused with modal harmonies and plainsong, Maurice Duruflé's choral works look back to Gregorian chant. The composer also found inspiration in the likes of Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy, incorporating definite lines and close harmonies into his music, and the result is astonishingly simple. His works were part of a whole stylistic movement in the 20th century (one that was far removed from neoclassicism) that tried to trace music back to its origins, separating itself from all the trappings of theatre and performance, and moving away from the highly abstract tendencies that characterised much of the music in the post-war period. Is Gregorian chant the “mother” of all music? Quite possibly. Duruflé aimed to create a serene, gentle mood all the while echoing a contemporary trend, one that was still emerging yet already rather developed, centred around harmony and floating atmospheres in the hope of bringing people together in communion. With little to show by way of recordings yet much by way of talent, the Houston Chamber Choir give a beautiful performance of the French composer's works. Their radiant singing is well worth discovering, made all the more breathtaking by the generous acoustics of the Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall at Rice University, which allow the conductor Robert Simpson to use broad phrasings. The conductor adds an especially touching quality to these naturally expressive works, making this recording – which is as moving as the composer's earlier recordings (Erato) - an ideal gateway into Duruflé’s hypnotic universe (Messe “Cum Jubilo”). It should be noted that despite his relatively long life, Duruflé’s composed only fourteen works. His final composition Notre Père (which lasts just ninety seconds!) was written especially for the Catholic Church though was never performed due to its sheer difficulty. This modest number of compositions reflects Duruflé’s crippling self-criticism and continuous search for perfection. This Houston Chamber Choir recording is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover one of the best kept secrets of the 20th century. © Qobuz
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Opera Extracts - Released October 5, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Qobuzissime
For her first recital with orchestra album, young Franco-Danish soprano Elsa Dreisig had the idea of presenting five pairs of songs in which each part of the pair is ambiguously related to the other, like a mirror’s reflection. This process leads to striking juxtapositions of different musical styles, dramatic moments, historical periods and contrasting voices; classicism and romanticism complement each other, terror answers joy, and the result is a view of the feminine soul all its facets. The first pairing involves two mirrors: the one in which Marguerite from Gounod's Faust admires herself and Thaïs's mirror in Massenet's opera (Thaïs). There follows Puccini's vision of Manon Lescaut, and then Manon (sans Lescaut) as imagined by Massenet. Following this we have Juliette, this is a rather daring pairing of the largely-forgotten early romantic German composer Daniel Steibelt with Gounod's Juliette. Elsa Dreisig then moves onto the two famous Figaros, one from Rossini's Barber (Rosina) and the other from Mozart's Marriage, with the gentle tones of the Countess. Finally, and more daring still, we end with the Salome of the Hérodiade by Massenet, a tender young woman who is not after anyone's head; and then Strauss's Salome, with her sanguinary madness. Probably in order to avoid the temptation of comparisons with other recordings, our singer has opted for the 1907 French version – note that this work by Oscar Wilde was itself originally written in French. This is the most extraordinary selection that one could hope for in a first recording from any artist, all accompanied by the Montpelier Orchestra, conducted by Michael Schønwandt. © SM/Qobuz
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Opera Extracts - Released September 28, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Qobuzissime
The first solo album from the excellent youngster Julien Behr, who has already played at the Paris Opéra, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Bordeaux and Lyon Opera Houses and cities such as Salzburg, Vienna, London, Cologne and many other great venues as well as making recordings of various lyrical works including L’Enfant et les sortilèges with Bavarian Radio. As debut albums go, he has made a daring choice in selecting some of the more unknown areas of French opera rather than the more popular pieces from Don José, Romeo, Faust and other big names. Instead, he has taken some gems from the Romantic repertoire (if we extend it up to the First World War for the sake of argument) which are little-heard of. From Gounod, he has selected Cinq-Mars ; from Bizet, La Jolie fille de Perth (one of Bizet's most exquisite passages); from Thomas, Mignon; and then, better-known but still uncommon, Léhar The Merry Widow; Godard, Jocelyn; and Delibes Lakmé. His diction is utterly impeccable; his transparent and airy voice evokes Heddle Nach or Jussi Björling, which serves the repertoire perfectly. The album closes with a few hits from the Romantic repertoire such as Vous qui passez sans me voir by Charles Trenet – well, the lyrics are from the Fou chantant, while the music is by Johnny Hess and Paul Misraki, and the song was originally written for Jean Sablon – evidence of Behr's love of lighter genres, for sure. . © SM/Qobuz
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Full Operas - Released June 22, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Qobuzissime - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Why yes, it is still possible to discover Bernstein scores, or in this case the chamber version of A Quiet Place, adapted by Garth Edwin Sunderland, conducted and recorded for the first time by Kent Nagano, at the Montreal Symphony House. The final stage score by the American composer, first performed at the Houston Grand Opera in 1983, it was revisited by the librettist Stephen Wadsworth, and the composer who added several fragments from the one-act piece Trouble in Tahiti, from 1951; this addition would see two new performances (the Scala in Milan, and Washington). Another draft – this one definitive – was performed at the Vienna Opera House, conducted by the composer, in 1986. Fascinating in more ways than one, rather like a modern-day Intermezzo by Strauss, the work depicts American society by way of an existential crisis faced, first by one couple, (Trouble in Tahiti) and then by one family. Bernstein borrowed from Mahler for the structure, with a final movement whose "grave nobility" recalled the final movements of the Third and NinthSymphonies by his much-admired forebear. As is often the case with this composer, Bernstein's mix of styles (jazz, chorale, Broadway, Mahler, Berg, Britten, Copland…) provides an explosive cocktail, which has about it more of a musical conversation than grand opera – and, paradoxically, that's what makes this work so unique... And so charming. This is well worth a re-discovery, this time under the baton of Bernstein's faithful former pupil, Kent Nagano, at the head of top-flight solo singers, who point the way to that "quiet place", where "love will teach us harmony and grace". © Franck Mallet/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 11, 2018 | Arts & Crafts Productions Inc.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
A 31 year-old Canadian, Jean-Michel Blais is no stranger to the neoclassical stage. After a first album bearing the sober title "II", on Caroline Distribution, this offering consists of a new collection of tracks, (most of which have already been released separately over recent weeks) which are possessed of an irrepressible lyricism. On board his piano, which he has transformed into a magical music box, he travels with the winds, following the currents of his own insatiable creativity. In the middle, Blind, perhaps the most seductive track of these forty-five minutes (alongside sourdine…), immerses us in an ideal vision of a music which mixes acoustics and machines into a soothing and velvety whole. god(s) takes us somewhere else, to church perhaps: but the return of synths shows that Jean-Michel Blais might perhaps have different gods in mind. igloo could have been a spiritual, even pantheist, track, but Blais, who isn't above a little caustic wit, is quite urban about it: the "igloo" in question is a reference to contemporary cities, full of "caverns", where everything is stacked over everything else. Henceforth, Blais's name will be synonymous with unique sonic flavours. But there is something here of that bitter, fraternal, soft and sensual melancholy that runs through much of North American music, and which permeates the sonic spaces of a Copland (Quiet City) or a Bernard Herrmann (Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro) and the obstinate figures of a Steve Reich (The Four Sections) or the curling wisps of one of the most imaginative representatives of Canadian pop, like Patrick Watson ― think of the latter's Lighthouse where we find that same vision of the instrument, as if stripped of its hammers. Jean-Michel Blais takes his time, discreetly. Under his elegant veneer, he knows how to be tenacious: his quotations (from the entrancingly slow movement of Rachmaninov's Second Concerto, for example, on roses) make for salutary and soothing escapes. Blais is holding out his hand to you. It would be rude to turn him down. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Opera Extracts - Released March 2, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Diapason d'or / Arte - Qobuzissime - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Nowadays it might seem rather strange to describe a composer as a “singing master”, but, during the eighteenth century, this was not the case at all. In Italy, almost every composer worthy of the name wrote opere serie (Porpora wrote at least forty- ve): serious opera was the dominant musical genre, glorifying the human voice above everything else. It was the maker or breaker of musical reputations, with its nest singers the rst superstars of music. Therefore composers, though generally eclipsed by the fame of their leading men and women, needed to understand the human voice and all its remarkable capabilities, both technical and histrionic, in order to be able to exploit the possibilities of the operatic form at a time when those “machines made for singing”, the castrati, had brought the vocal art to a pitch of perfection never known before, nor equalled since. Though this recording is bringing Porpora’s name to public attention again on the 250th anniversary of his death, his fame as a singing teacher has probably obscured, until recently, his remarkable qualities as a composer, quite simply because two of the most famous castrati were among his many pupils, namely Gaetano Majorano, known as Caffarelli, whom Porpora once called “the nest singer in Europe”, also famed for his amorous antics and arrogance on- and off-stage, and the even more celebrated Carlo Broschi, who, under his stage name of Farinelli, amazed audiences and set hearts a- utter for fteen years throughout Europe, before being called to Spain to heal a crazed King by the power of his voice. Max Cencic remarks: “Porpora was a severe teacher, I think, maybe almost sadistic in his demands — you need 120% control of breath, brain and voice”. Legend indeed has it that he taught Caffarelli one page of exercises, and those alone, for six years. The formal alternation of aria and recitative in opera seria conceals a great range of emotional expression, that varietas that Erasmus famously described as “so powerful in every sphere that there is absolutely nothing, however brilliant, which is not dimmed if not commended by variety”. In such forms as the orid aria di bravura or the lyrical aria di sostenuto, the composer’s fantasy only provided a framework for the singer to embroider: the performer’s skill in ornamentation and other emotional devices was of paramount importance. Porpora’s many years of both teaching and composing experience made him, in Max Cencic’s opinion, “one of the top ten composers of Italian Baroque opera. I chose the arias for this recording almost by instinct, by what ‘felt right’. There is no way one can encompass a composer of such quality in one album, and each piece is a treasure in its own right. Though technical display is everywhere — leaps, rapid scales, trills, long phrases — Porpora’s special and utterly captivating melodic gift always shines through.” The arias are all taken from works composed at the height of Porpora’s fame, from Ezio (Venice 1728; “Se tu la reggi al volo” is a semiquaver spectacular) to Filandro (Dresden 1747, with a ravishing siciliano in “Ove l’erbetta tenera, e molle”), including three of the operas he composed for London during the 1730s, in direct competition with Handel (Arianna in Nasso 1733, Enea nel Lazio 1734 — real reworks here in “Chi vuol salva” — and I genia in Aulide 1735). The Teatro San Carlo in Naples, perhaps the most famous of all opera houses at that time, saw the premiere of Il trionfo di Camilla in 1740, and the two arias recorded here show Porpora at his best: the music of “Va per le vene il sangue” evocatively matches its darkly suggestive text, while “Torcere il corso all’onde” combines rapid- re coloratura with elegance of line. In the three arias from Carlo il Calvo (Teatro delle Dame, Rome 1738) the singer is similarly called to match Porpora’s varietas with his own: from the scurrying oriture of “So che tiranno io sono” to the high-lying phrases of “Se rea ti vuole il cielo”, and the beguilingly hypnotic sostenuto of “Quando s’oscura il cielo”. Porpora’s orchestral writing is also remarkably varied, all the more so in that he generally uses only strings, nowhere better than in the elaborate lines of “Torbido intorno al core” from Meride e Selinunte (Venice 1726), where voice and violins entwine in an elaborate and emotionally suggestive web of divisions. However, sometimes he pulls out all the sonority stops, as in the martial “Destrier, che all’armi usato” where, at the rst performance in the Teatro Regio, Turin in 1731 trumpets and horns vied with the unmatchable power of the voice of Farinelli. As Max Cencic has said: “How can we emulate the great castrati? That is hard to pin down, but these voices were the very soul of Porpora’s music.” -Nicholas Clapton © 2018 – Decca Group Limited
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Symphonic Music - Released November 3, 2017 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Qobuzissime - 5 étoiles de Classica
Aside from Elgar’s fascinating and obligatory Falstaff composed in 1913 (a Symphonic Study according to the partition, but in reality a symphonic poem in the grand tradition of Strauss— about whom Elgar probably thought when he wrote his masterpiece, and the rather present solo cello cannot help but remind us of Strauss’ Don Quixote, composed sixteen years earlier), the album distinguishes itself by a few melodies with orchestra from the same Elgar, a repertoire unfortunately too often neglected and yet of breathtaking beauty (we hear, in a pinch, the Sea Pictures performed from time to time, but that’s all folks). And when you know that it’s the now very famous baritone Roderick Williams on the mic, we can only applaud the initiative of Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic to feature these splendors once again. Elgar proves to us here that, far from just being a great master of large symphonic-vocal soundscapes in the form of oratorio (we obviously think about The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Music Makers), he handles the miniature with genius. Roderick Williams, one of the most beautiful voices of today’s British scene, grasps these rarities with a joy that is as rare as these pieces. The album closes on a hilarious wink, the Smoking Cantata, a cantata with a ginormous orchestration but that lasts… only 49 seconds, and whose text is limited to: “Kindly, Kindly, kindly do not SMOKE in the hall or staircase”. It’s the best British humor! Qobuz technical commentary on sound qualityThe sound quality for this wonderful orchestration is refined; the level ratios are well-judged; and the distances between the consoles are just right, in this airy piece of mixing that renders the lines exceptionally clear. Clear and enveloping reverberation never hides the discourse: the result is a rare evenness between the different families within the orchestra. The tutti certainly aren’t lacking any liveliness, thanks to the remarkably assured dynamic, and when the percussion gets going we discover a beautifully-proportioned hall, which gives the sound room to develop without constraints. Without falling into the very (too?) popular trap of ultra-proximity, and because the acoustics allow it, Chandos has produced a mix which really respects the score, the performance, and the sound scene... what a relief! © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 29, 2017 | Erato - Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica - Qobuzissime - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
For their first recording, the Arod Quartet has selected Mendelssohn, one of the pillars of the quartet's art, in particular his masterpiece, the Fourth Quartet in E Minor of June 1837 - more Mozartian than Beethovian in its structure and development, to be sure, even if it bears Mendelssohn's hallmark from the first note to the last. To find the influence of the deaf genius, we have to look in the Second Quartet Op. 13 of 1827, a work written shortly after Beethoven's death, the full extent of whose innovations Mendelssohn was only just discovering. The Arod Quartet continues its album with Four Pieces for Quartet, assembled posthumously and numbered Op. 81 by Mendelssohn's successor at the Gewandhaus, Julius Rietz, and based on four disparate pieces from various eras. Finally, the album closes with the Arod's re-interpretaton of a Lied, sung here by Marianne Crebassa, whose theme takes in several passages from Beethoven note for note, a real homage from the young composer to his illustrious elder. It’s worth noting that the Arod Quartet, only founded in 2013, has shot to global prominence, having performed at the Paris Philharmonic, the Louvre Auditorium, the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, the Metz Arsenal, and further afield the Salzburg Mozarteum, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Zurich Tonhalle, London's Wigmore Hall, as well as in Tokyo, Finland, Switzerland... the list goes on! © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 1, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
"Handel goes wild", that’s putting it mildly: in Christina Pluhar’s album, he goes wild to quite some extremes! Indeed the Austrian harpist, theorbist, and lute player picked a handful of Handel’s (and a bit of Vivaldi’s) arias, concerto movements and overtures, and put them not only in the hands of baroque musicians of the L’Arpeggiata Ensemble, but also of half a dozen jazz musicians of various styles. The result is a reinterpretation, in turn gypsy, Klezmer, salsa, New Orleans jazz, lounge, blues and so on, that everyone can either love or hate depending on their own degree of adaptability. Undeniably using a clarinet and piano in this language can be confusing for some… But Pluhar’s approach is simple: Handel himself reused, reshaped, tinkered, disguised, ransacked and rewrote, using both the works of other composers and his own, always with his own personal approach and the most immediate style of his time. So why not do the same nowadays?! In any case, this mixture of baroque instruments and voices with 20th-century instruments and genres is breathtaking. The artists invited include clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi, pianist Francesco Turrisi and bass player Boris Schmidt in the field of jazz, but also countertenor Valer Barna-Sabadus and soprano Nuria Rial. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released April 14, 2017 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
The Vespers for the Blessed Virgin by Monteverdi – Vespro della Beata Vergine – is, so to speak, a work made up of many works. The composer seems to have put everything he had into this piece, which appeared in Venice in 1610. It is as if he wanted to use it as an immense catalogue of all his skills: his facility with ancient and modern styles; with the strict and the flamboyant; with instrumentals, vocals, choruses, solos, parody masses, the magnificat, psalms... Perhaps he wanted to use the work as a CV in Venice, where he would indeed land a job as choirmaster in 1613? The fact that several passages are written for two choirs would seem to support this idea. Elaborate job application or not, in this work Monteverdi has produced one of his most durable masterpieces, which forms a bridge between the late Renaissance - with passages taken from prima practica, the style developed by Palestrina - and the nascent Baroque style, and its seconda practica which was so dear to Monteverdi, and which would free the use of dissonance from its old straitjacket. For this recording, Giuseppe Maletto has brought together the rich talents of La Compagnia del Madrigale and the Cantica Symphonia and La Pifarescha ensembles, because it takes a whole lot of talent to give the Vespers the treatment it deserves.
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Classical - Released February 14, 2017 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Qobuzissime
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Classical - Released January 20, 2017 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Qobuzissime
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Classical - Released October 26, 2016 | Erato - Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Qobuzissime