Albums

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Classical - Released January 18, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
A new aesthetic calls for new forms: such is the challenge the composer set for himself in the two works presented here. In Les Nuits d’été, Berlioz pioneered, well before Mahler and Ravel, a song cycle for voice and orchestra. In Harold in Italy, scored for large orchestra and solo viola, he experimented with the symphonic genre. These period-instrument performances by Les Siècles, led by François-Xavier Roth, with violist Tabea Zimmermann, also feature Stéphane Degout in the vocal cycle, heard here in the composer’s own version for baritone. File under: out of the ordinary. © harmonia mundi
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Cello Concertos - Released May 18, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
After two albums which met with unanimous critical acclaim all over the world, the Resonanz Ensemble, based in Hamburg, is offering a recording dedicated to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: the Cello Concertos wq. 170 and Wq. 172, respectively from 1750 and 1753, and the Symphonie Wq. 173 of 1741. The listener will immediately note the radical difference in language between the two concertos, written after the death of Bach Senior, and the Symphony, written while he was still alive: the concertos keep their eyes firmly fixed on the nascent classical era, including the "Sturm und Drang" which still lay ahead (in this regard, the Concerto in A Minor which opens the album, full of force and melodic power, is an excellent example), whereas the Symphony takes the final throes of baroque as its point of departure. Cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Resonanz Ensemble offer a crystal-clear reading, conducted by their new musical director in residence, violinist Riccardo Minasi: and coolly resist the vogue – which can be quite intrusive, or even dictatorial or exclusive – for period instruments, which seems to hold that any music before Mozart (and even sometimes Mozart too) may not be played on modern instruments. Queyras, Resonanz and Minasi are all able to make use of stylistic elements gleaned from the fashion for baroque. This is a very fine album, superbly played, which really brings out all the originality of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. © SM/Qobuz
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Secular Vocal Music - Released April 27, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Exceptional sound
We could say that the composers chosen here by Sébastien Daucé and the Ensemble Correspondances cover England from 1600 to 1700, from Coprario's generation (real name Cooper, but Italicised for fashion reasons!), Johnson and Lanier, all born before the turn of the 17th century, up to Hart and Blow who died just after. Step by step, we follow the integration of the new art brought over from Italy, although the typically-Italian recitations remain coloured by "declamation", a typical feature of English music. Another clear pivot is the twenty-year musical hiatus between the start of the Civil War in 1642 and the Restoration with Charles II's return to the throne, and in between, the Puritan religious dictatorship of Cromwell, which tried to ban more or less any form of celebration, including music. A number of English artists chose exile in the countryside, teaching music, or went abroad. This comprehensive selection spanning a whole century allows the Correspondances ensemble, a broad group of singers and instrumentalists, to show their deep knowledge of this whole epoch, which is extremely rich despite often precarious conditions of life and threats to survival. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released March 9, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice
The Tenebræ responsories come from an immense collection of polyphonic music for Holy Week, the Officium Hebdomadæ Sanctæ, published by Victoria in 1585, which brings together several pieces written during the twenty years he spent in Rome. The responsories, brought together here, form part of a much longer Tenebræ, which essentially combined the monastic Hours of matins and lauds, for each of the final three days of the Holy Week. One of the characteristic traits of this service consists in the progressive extinguishing of fifteen votive candles until the church is finally plunged into the darkness from which the ceremony draws its name. The responsory is one part of a much broader liturgy, which was for the most part sung in plainsong. The musical richness of Victoria's polyphonic compositions made a striking contrast to this liturgy. Such an effect is harder to effect in concert, or even on a recording, where we are outside the liturgical context: here, we have uninterrupted polyphony. While the music is very varied, the uninterrupted use of the same mode and the same textures in three or four pieces throughout these 18 Responsories could, at times, give the impression that one is listening to a single piece. To counteract that impression, here and there the Stile Antico vocal ensemble has introduced extracts from readings of the Lamentations, sung in plainsong at the end of each Responsory. And so the contrast is restored. The programme closes with the luminous and oh-so-soothing six-voice motet for Holy Week O Domine Jesu Christi, again published in Rome in 1576. © SM/Qobuz
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Concertos - Released February 23, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama
A fiery partnership. The brainchild of Antoine Tamestit, this recording stems from a long-standing collaboration with his recital partner, Jörg Widmann. Over the course of his new viola concerto, Widmann the composer lets his soloist move freely about the stage, producing fresh orchestral colours within a novel structure: combining humour with earnestness, ferocity with delicacy, Widmann’s unfailing sense of theatre serves to highlight the work’s haunting beauty. Whether embedded in the orchestral fabric or exploring the more intimate pieces on this programme, the violist comes out a hero, hands down! © harmonia mundi
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Opera Extracts - Released February 23, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Diamant d'Opéra Magazine - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
With his ensemble Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon has written the listing for this album in the form of a "pastiche" of a Mass for the Dead, a Requiem both sacred and profane. While it is a long way from having all the defining traits, it does possess all the outlines: Introit, Kyrie, Gradual, Sequence, Offertory, In Paradisum... The idea came about after a recent discovery, in the Bibliothèque Nationale of an anonymous requiem mass from the 18th century, in which the writer constructed a "parody" based on musical extracts from Castor and Pollux and the Fêtes de Paphos by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Note that the term "parody" doesn't necessarily imply satire or mockery: it refers to the practice of taking up older music and setting new words to it. This fusion of sacred music (the mass) and profane music (lyrical tragedy), a common practice during the Enlightenment, was a procedure that Pichon wanted to take up. In French society at the time, when Catholicism was the norm, where the political system was monarchical rule by divine right, the representation of ancient pagan Hell on theatrical stages seemed to betray a fascination in the beliefs of the ancients. And so this programme melds together pagan fable with a Christian imaginary, where Hell takes on different faces. It is the place of unjust and eternal torment, a place of privation where a couple is separated, one half kept in Hades. But, in the lyrical tragedy, Hell is also a place of perdition: obscure forces unleashed in Sabbath rites, a Satanic vision which unearths the darkest depths of the human soul... Stéphane Degout is the author of this tragedy, bringing together such varied characters as Phaedra, Pluto, and the Parcae. The composers whose music is put to use are Rameau and Gluck, with a single borrowing from Rebel: it would have been a shame not to mention his singular Chaos (taken from Éléments), which starts with a dissonant chord containing the seven notes of the scale of D minor. © SM/Qobuz
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Secular Vocal Music - Released September 22, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles de Classica
The theatres of London were vital centres for Restoration music after the return of the Stuart monarchy, following the fall of Cromwell's puritan dictatorship. Reinvigorated by the arrival of women actors and sumptuous decoration, they attracted a broad audience, which had been starved of entertainment after the years of religious rigour and the virtual ban on public performances. The most sought-after composer of the period was Locke, whose experience in this field went back into the Cromwell years. While Puritans did close theatres, some pieces had been able to overcome the ban, like the masque Cupid and Death set to music by Gibbons, which was played for the Portuguese ambassador in 1657 - then again in 1659, with additional music by Locke. When the theatres re-opened in 1660, there was a demand for music for every play, but more as an ornament than as an integral part of the plot. Each one required a series of airs and instrumental pieces to be played at the start and between each act. Locke wrote more than twenty airs of this type, although they can't be pinpointed to any specific plays. Most of his stage music, like Curtain Tune and Lilk, survive in various manuscripts from the period, and comprises stage music for plays performed in the final decade of the 17th Century. These are the inter-act pieces, airs or "curtain-raisers" which Bertrand Cuiller's Caravansérail ensemble plays here - Cuiller, remember, learned the harpsichord with Pierre Hantaï and Christophe Rousset. His last solo album, Rameau's complete works for harpsichord, was declared Classica's Shock of the Year 2015. The airs here are sung by Scottish soprano Rachel Redmond, a great performer of baroque music.
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Classical - Released May 19, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
What was the context in which so great a masterpiece such as Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo could be born back in 1607, invested with such beauty, endowed with such profundity of expression and so perfect a structure, at a time when the operatic form was still in its infancy? These are precisely the questions that lie at the origin of this recording project, giving Pichon and his musicians the opportunity to discover the astonishing musico-dramatic productions that preceded L’Orfeo, notably those performed at the Medici court in Florence, in which one may discern the seeds of numerous elements to be found in L’Orfeo. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, it was ovbviously the city of the Medici that was the main focus of one of the most fascinating moments in the history of music: the birth of opera. Concentrating on the years from 1589 to 1611, i.e. the premiere of the intermedi for theatre piece called La pellegrina at one end and the performance in Florence of Marco da Gagliano’s Dafne at the other, Pichon has devised four imaginary “interludes” – inspired by the form of the intermedio so popular at this period – in which he assembled some of the finest examples of the first stirrings of opera, the music pieces of which are signed Lorenzo Allegri, Antonio Brunelli, Giovanni Battista Buonamente, Giulio Caccini, Emilio de’ Cavalieri, Girolamo Fantini, Marco da Gagliano, Cristofano Malvezzi, Luca Marenzio, Alessandro Orologio, Jacopo Peri and Alessandro Striggio. In imitation of the ancient theatre, intermedi were entertainments inserted between the acts of plays, with sumptuous visual effects, which provided a pretext for allegories to the glory of the reigning dynasty. The place of music and the fantastic element in theatrical performances acquired an ever grander and more spectacular character, thanks notably to the genius of set designers and the progress made in the domain of stage machinery. Seeing the artistic and political potential of the genre, the powerful princely families of the northern half of Italy (Gonzagas, Este and Medici, as well as the papal court), encouraged its development. Intermedi ended up occupying so important a place that they became a show within the show, with the aim of dazzling the audience. It was in 1589 that the Florentine tradition of intermedi attained its zenith, with the six sumptuous entertainments devised by Count Bardi to accompany the comedy La pellegrina, performed on the occasion of the wedding of Grand Duke Ferdinando I and Princess Christina of Lorraine, grand-daughter of Catarina de’ Medici. In their variety and novelty, with a balanced combination of polyphony and the nascent monody, not forgetting instrumental and dance music, the intermedi of 1589 opened the way for an integrally sung form of theatre. And indeed it was once again Florence that witnessed the first examples of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the perfect model of the alliance between poetry and music. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, a veritable laboratory was set up in Florence, prompting poets and composers to bring together several forms of musical expression in a single place? Building on the models established by earlier generations, composers continued their experiments with sound-space and the spatialisation of music, what with the proliferation of echo effects in the early monodies, or madrigals featuring dialogues between as many as seven independent choirs. But how can one tell this story nowadays, revive this rich adventure? The solution chosen for this recording was to create from scratch a large-scale imaginary work, resembling an initiatory journey, that would weld these multiple works into a single whole.
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Ballets - Released March 17, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles de Classica
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Secular Vocal Music - Released February 17, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Award
Recorded at the Cité de la Musique during the complete cycle of Monteverdi madrigals mounted in partnership with the Philharmonie de Paris and the Théâtre de Caen, the last volume in our trilogy probably contains the best-loved gems of a composer who had become maestro di cappella at St Mark’s in Venice, and finally entered the priesthood. Alongside the great operas that have survived from this period, the final madrigals methodically explore the multiple possibilities offered by the rapidly developing practice of basso continuo and by an unprecedented exploitation of solo voices. And, in that respect, the celebrated Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda forms a spectacular finale to our Monteverdian adventure!
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Classical - Released January 27, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Solo Piano - Released November 18, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The Russian-British pianist Alexander Melnikov has recorded Shostakovich and a variety of Romantic chamber music with great success. But nothing quite prepares the listener for the controlled power in these performances of three Prokofiev piano sonatas. The Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82, and Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84, are among the most modernist works Prokofiev ever wrote. They appeared during World War II and are often thought, with some justification, to reflect that environment. And Prokofiev himself merely said blandly of the mighty Sonata No. 8 that it had a predominantly lyrical character. This is true enough of the themes themselves, but each one almost immediately becomes ensnared in technical complications that would be dizzying if they did not seem to be so controlled by an iron logic. And it is this structure, rather than shadows of war (which Shostakovich did better anyway, and which are made problematical by the fact that Prokofiev began writing both the Piano Sonata No. 6 and Piano Sonata No. 8 before the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany), that Melnikov captures so well. Sample one of the Vivace finales, perhaps that of the Piano Sonata No. 6 to hear the clean power of Melnikov's playing here, which indeed does carry a sense of threat. Added attractions include the exuberant Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14, a student work, and superb Teldex Studio sound from Harmonia Mundi. A superior Prokofiev piano album.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 21, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released September 9, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released April 29, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica
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Violin Concertos - Released October 15, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles de Classica
1720: in his famous pamphlet entitled ‘Fashionable Theatre’, the composer Marcello ironized the excesses of the new Venetian opera. This landmark pamphlet was published anonymously as Benedetto Marcello, under the fictional editorship of ‘Aldaviva Licante’ - undoubtedly an anagram of A. Vivaldi – ridiculing the operatic world of the time. It took on singers puffed up with pride, uneducated librettists, composers seeking dramatic effects, in short, everything that the musical world then thought about as original, unusual, new, experimental, shocking, weird, baroque, and, in a word, Italian! Vivaldi was one of Marcello’s favourite targets, continually lampooning the Red Priest and his virtuoso violin escapades. It is precisely these escapades that the violinist Amandine Beyer and the Gli Incogniti ensemble have chosen for their rich repertoire: detuned violin concertos (in the manner of Scordatura), violin ‘in tromba’, that is to say violin in a tone that betrays a scraped sound, not to mention more singular works in which Vivaldi leaves the soloist a freedom that gives real heart to the joy of improvisation. This is what really marks out Amandine Beyer, who performs in accordance with the habits of the composer, giving a clear, historical picture of her treatment of the ornaments. So, for the almost implausible Circus Maximus track, it is as if you were actually there, attending the Carnival of the year 1720! © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 3, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica
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Classical - Released August 19, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Full Operas - Released April 27, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 9, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica - Exceptional sound