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Saint-Saëns : Piano Concertos Nos 2, 5 & Piano Works

Bertrand Chamayou

Classical - Released August 3, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Year - Choc de Classica
For French pianists who don't approach the task in a sympathetic spirit, the nearly obligatory early-career Saint-Saëns recital can seem a chore, for both pianist and listener. Not a bit of it here. Pianist Bertrand Chamayou and the Orchestre National de France under Emmanuel Krivine absolutely nail the Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 22, with a performance notable for its combination of small detail and energy. Saint-Saëns is sometimes criticized, and indeed sometimes rightly, for being a by-the-book conservatory composer, but what to make of the unusual shape of this concerto, with its Allegro middle movement and lack of a true slow movement? Sample that middle movement, which is overflowing with melody, or the solo passage at the very beginning of the concerto, exquisitely carved out by Chamayou. The Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 103 ("Egyptian"), with its supposedly authentic Nile tribal melody in the slow movement, is suitably colorful and exotic, and there are also gems among the rarely played small piano works that close out the program. The Etude, Op. 52, No. 6 ("En forme de valse"), which is just what it says, in the form of a waltz, but not quite a waltz, is an inspired choice. Chamayou tackles the various technical challenges with aplomb, and Erato contributes unfussy sound from a pair of sessions at the Radio France Auditorium. As good a place as any to start with the piano music of Saint-Saëns. © TiVo

Berlioz : Les Troyens (Live)

John Nelson

Full Operas - Released November 24, 2017 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - Victoire de la musique - 4 étoiles Classica
We will gladly forgive the occasional "weakness" in sound technology in this recording of Troyens by Berlioz (recorded live in concert in April 2017). In light of the first-rate quality of the music and vocals that appear on the disc (a majority of which are French voices, with Stéphane Degout at their head) this immense work is from the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the three choirs which have been brought together – because the work demands immense swelling choirs – which are the choir of the Opéra national du Rhin, the Opéra National de Bade, and the Strasbourg Philharmonic's own choir. This recording rests, of course, on the complete original edition, which gives the listener a chance to hear Les Troyens as the work was performed in 1863, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, in which some intense chopping saw Acts I and II condensed into one part and Acts III to V into another, producing two distinct operas (La Prise de Troie and Les Troyens à Carthage). We also get a taste, naturally, of Berlioz's immensely rich orchestral innovations: with every new work, he would invent some exciting new prototype from scratch, never content to rest on his laurels. The listener should note the presence of six saxhorns, recently invented by Adolphe Sax (of whom Berlioz was an indefatigable champion, even if he didn't often use his instruments in his scores, no doubt because of the poor quality of the early instrumentalists who learned - however well or badly - Sax's instruments); bass clarinet, and an army of percussion pieces including several instruments which must have been rare in those days: crotales, goblet drums, tom-toms, thunder sheets... clearly, this is a milestone in the Berlioz discography. © SM/Qobuz

Mozart : Violin Concertos

Isabelle Faust

Violin Concertos - Released October 28, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Award - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année
"Not another complete recording of Mozart's violin concertos!", some might complain, and in absolute terms they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Except that this complete edition is signed by star violinist Isabelle Faust, accompanied by Il Giardino Armonico (who plays on instruments from Mozart’s time, including natural horns, nine-key bassoons, six-key flutes, two-key oboes), and – last but not least – the cadenzas are signed by Andreas Staier, since Mozart has left us no cadenzas for his violin concertos (unlike several piano concertos, as well as his Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola). Far from playing the star, Isabelle Faust prefers to blend in with the whole orchestra, a kind of primus inter pares attitude quite refreshing in this repertoire which, in fact, does not require so much emphasis of the part of soloist – the sound engineering and balance itself favours an overall sound rather than an opposition between solo violin and orchestra. This is a new and very original interpretation, whatever the abundant discography of these works may already be. In addition to the five concertos, Faust plays the three single movements for violin and orchestra – two Rondos and one Adagio – which are actually "spare" movements for one or the other of the concertos written on request for soloists of that time. One wonders what Mozart would have written had he had Isabelle Faust by his side! © SM/Qobuz

Anton Bruckner : Symphony No. 9 In D Minor

Lucerne Festival Orchestra

Classical - Released January 1, 2014 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Award
In his final performances with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in August 2013, Claudio Abbado conducted Anton Bruckner's unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor, and this recording is drawn from the best takes from those concerts. Considering that this rendition came near the end of Abbado's life and stands as a worthy testament to his achievements, it's easy to read too much into the interpretation, and to view it as a mystical or transcendent reading because of the circumstances. On the one hand, Abbado's understanding of this symphony was as thorough as any conductor's, and the Lucerne musicians played with seriousness and dedication, offering a version that has impressive power and expressive depth. On the other hand, there are many competitive recordings that either match Abbado's for strength and feeling, or surpass it in purely technical terms of sound quality and reproduction. Certainly the sound is exceptional, according to Deutsche Grammophon's high standards, and this stereo recording is exceptionally clean and noise-free. Yet there are several audiophile recordings of the Ninth available that provide deeper and clearer sound and offer a richer listening experience. So as compelling as Abbado's last recording is on many levels, for Brucknerians and fans of state-of-the-art recording, it's still a contender among many. © TiVo

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

René Jacobs

Opera - Released January 1, 2004 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Elgar: Violin Concerto & Introduction and Allegro

Nigel Kennedy

Classical - Released February 4, 2013 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Johannes Brahms : The Symphonies

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Classical - Released October 2, 2003 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
For most listeners' purposes, Riccardo Chailly's set of Johannes Brahms' four symphonies will seem standard-issue, with respectable and uncontroversial interpretations from an esteemed conductor, and rich and resonant performances by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Even in the choice of filler pieces, the set includes the three orchestral works that are usually packaged with the symphonies: the Tragic Overture, the Haydn Variations, and the Academic Festival Overture. However, this set offers welcome suprises and extra value for the purchase. Two orchestral arrangements of the Interludes, Opp. 116 and 117 for piano, are included, along with instrumental versions of a handful of Liebeslieder Waltzes and three of the orchestrated Hungarian Dances, which may be incentives to listeners who are looking for a little more. Also included are Brahms' original version of the Andante of the First Symphony and the alternate opening of the Fourth. But no one should invest in a set solely on the basis of these extras, however unusual they may be. Since first recording the cycle with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, where he offered a rather heavy-handed modern take on the symphonies, Chailly has gone back to an older, more historically informed style of playing Brahms that was familiar to conductors of the early 20th century. The music is lighter and more transparent, so in some ways, his recordings are sometimes reminiscent of classic performances by Bruno Walter, George Szell, and other revered conductors. For traditionalists, this is a fine set to own, especially if a fresh digital recording is needed. © TiVo

Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 2 / Eötvös: Seven & Ligeti: Violin Concerto

Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Classical - Released October 22, 2012 | naïve classique

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Year - Hi-Res Audio

Prokofiev: L'Amour des trois oranges

Kent Nagano

Classical - Released January 1, 1989 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Puccini : La Rondine (L'Hirondelle)

Antonio Pappano

Classical - Released January 4, 1997 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Quatuors à cordes

Quatuor Ébène

Classical - Released September 8, 2008 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Choc du Monde de la Musique - Gramophone Record of the Year

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol.4

Paul Lewis

Classical - Released April 7, 2008 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Mahler: Symphony No.2

Sir Simon Rattle

Classical - Released January 1, 1987 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Brahms: The Piano Concertos

Nelson Freire

Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Mahler : Symphony No. 6 "Tragic" (Live, Berlin 2004)

Claudio Abbado

Classical - Released January 1, 1980 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year
When at last it was revealed what Mahler's final intentions were regarding the ordering of the inner movements of his Sixth Symphony, 90 years of theory, history, and performance practice went right out the window. For theorists, it altered the harmonic structure of Mahler's A minor Symphony. For historians, it modified the meaning of Mahler's "Tragic" Symphony. For players and conductors, it changed the musical progress of Mahler's Sixth Symphony. For listeners, it made Mahler's deepest and darkest symphony even deeper and darker. With the achingly nostalgic Andante moderato now coming before the bitingly bitter Scherzo, the triumph of the opening Allegro energico sounds even more hollow and empty and the collapse of the closing Allegro moderato sounds even more final and total. For most of his career, Claudio Abbado had performed Mahler's Sixth in the then-standard ordering of Scherzo -- Andante and the results were completely convincing. But with this June 2004 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic, Abbado has adopted the Andante -- Scherzo ordering and the results are absolutely compelling. Abbado has always been one of the finest virtuoso conductors of the past half century, but his interpretations have grown more passionate over the years, even to the point of violence, and this Sixth may be the most violently passionate recording he has ever made. Indeed, the unrelenting intensity, unbearable concentration, and overwhelming power in Abbado's interpretation make it one of the most devastating performances of the work ever recorded. The Berlin plays with stunning virtuosity, tremendous dedication, and unconditional love. DG's sound is warm, clear, and real, but just a little bit distant. © TiVo

Robert Schumann

Zehetmair Quartett

Classical - Released October 18, 2002 | ECM New Series

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2)

Richard Hickox

Symphonic Music - Released April 1, 2001 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio

Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (Édition StudioMasters)

Sir Simon Rattle

Symphonic Music - Released October 1, 2000 | Warner Classics International

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - Hi-Res Audio

Dvorák: Rusalka

Renée Fleming

Classical - Released January 1, 1998 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year

Debussy: Preludes

Krystian Zimerman

Classical - Released November 18, 1993 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year