Albums

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released October 26, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Two composers who in one way or another sang about the horrors of war, and two who lost their lives in it: Ian Bostridge's takes a successful gamble here, with masterful accompaniment on the piano by Antonio Pappano. The first two are from Kurt Weill with Four Walt Whitman Songs in which the poet laments over the soldiers who died in the War of Succession, and Gustav Mahler, three of whose Lieder(s) taken from Knaben Wunderhorn cruelly and repugnantly evoke the lives of poor young people, peasants and people who are barely through with their school years, sent to be torn apart on every possible and imaginable front. More directly concerned, if one may say so, are George Butterworth - who fell at the Somme in 1916, aged thirty-one, and whose A Shropshire Lad is without a doubt the greatest masterpiece here. Rudi Stephan fell at the Galician front in 1915 aged twenty-eight. His cycle Ich will dir singen ein Hohelied is a climax of unsettling eroticism... Would the fate of German music have been different if this genius had been able to act as a counterbalance, for example, to the emerging dodecaphonic music? Bostridge gives it his all here in this sad centenary of the end of the “war to end all wars”, which we know was tragically not the case. © SM/Qobuz
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | naïve classique

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
The tenor Julian Prégardien joins Alpha Classics for several recording projects that will showcase every facet of his talent, notably lieder and oratorio. His first album on the label is devoted to one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of music, Winterreise in a version with orchestra composed by Hans Zender in 1993. He scored the work for orchestral forces very different from the ensembles used in the nineteenth century (including, for example, a soprano saxophone, an accordion, a harmonica, a wind machine, a guitar and a very large percussion section). Hans Zender describes his work as a ‘creative transformation’: ‘My own reading of Winterreise does not seek a new expressive interpretation, but systematically takes advantage of the freedoms that performers normally allow themselves in an intuitive way: slowing down or accelerating the tempo, transposition into different keys, emphasising and nuancing colours.’ © Outhere Music

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released September 14, 2018 | SWR Classic

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Vocal Recitals - Released September 14, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica
A most unusual cabinet of curiosities 'Finding pleasure even in meditating on what causes one's pain': that neatly defines the theme of this album of music from the cusp of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Here Italian and English madrigals rub shoulders with motets and Tenebrae responsories. A melancholic poetry that provided endless nourishment for musical creativity in the late Renaissance, and which Geoffroy Jourdain presents in his first recording for harmonia mundi. © harmonia mundi

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released September 7, 2018 | BIS

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Vocal Recitals - Released August 17, 2018 | deutsche harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The French printer-publisher Christophe Plantin (1520-1589), who has lived in Antwerp more or less all of his adult life, is not just anyone. He is credited with some two thousand publications, an absolutely astounding number in this era in which everything was done by hand, including the press done page after page, and yet he’s managed to publish a new book approximately every week during his 34-year career, with more than a thousand copies for each—up to eight thousand copies for his Hebraic Bible. His workshop included sixteen hand presses, served by thirty-two printers, twenty typographers, three proofreaders and many servants of all kinds: a true company. His opus magnum is a Bible in five languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaean and Syriac. He is also credited with works in the fields of medicine, botany, cartography, anatomy, mathematics, religion of course… And yes, also music! Because he published several major partitions, gathering contemporary sacred works from Jacobus De Kerle, Palestrina, Philippus De Monte, as well as several chansonniers gathering pieces from Andries Pervenage, Claude Le Jeune and colleagues. It is in this incredible stock that the beautiful Ensemble Huelgas drew, alternating between profane and sacred, choral and soloist, a sort of condensed musical Renaissance oscillating between ferocious Catholics (Antwerp was then under Spanish domination, and Philip II was very touchy about religion) and rebellious Protestants. © SM/Qobuz

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released May 11, 2018 | Ondine

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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One doesn't often get a chance to hear Schumann's Vom Pagen und der Königstochter ("Of the Page and the King's Daughter") a score from 1852 in the form of an epic drama in four movements, for soloists, choir and orchestra. In it, the composer uses the form of a recitative with accompaniment which surely prefigures high Wagner in terms of the vocal and orchestral treatment. The album continues with another rarity, the Cantata BWV 105 by Bach as revised by Schumann, probably for a performance when he was the musical director at Düsseldorf. For sure, the "arrangement" is pretty modest – or, rather, non-existent – in the choral overture and the first recitative, with the first big surprise coming in for the first soprano air: instead of an oboe interweaving finely with the singing, Schumann plumped for... the clarinet! You'll love it or hate it. The following recitative, a sublime bass arioso, also unadulterated; the bass aria which follows uses a romantic horn instead of the corno da tirarsi stipulated by Bach, a fairly modest alteration; the final chorale is also untouched, up to and including the extraordinary "slowing-down" writing for strings, which is entirely Bach's. The main difference here has to do with the fact that the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra plays on instruments from Schumann's century and in keeping with Romantic attitudes – something which Bach's score can happily handle, precisely because this is one of his most "Romantic" cantatas. The album closes – as remarkable as it may seem – on a discographic world first for Schumann! It seems that the Adventlied Op. 71 was never recorded until this album was made. That being said, it's clear why singers and orchestras haven't been in a hurry to tackle this rather ethereal, bloodless score: a blind listen would rather give the impression that this is a nice try by a forgotten composer at putting out some sub-Schumann stuff. But at least the enthusiast can now boast of having heard a "lost" Schumann! © SM/Qobuz

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released April 6, 2018 | OUR Recordings

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released March 2, 2018 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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With "Siface: l’amor castrato", countertenor Filippo Mineccia, together with Javier Ulises Illán and Nereydas, presents a short imaginary pasticcio opera reflecting the music-making and life of the contralto castrato known by that stage name. Born Giovanni Francesco Grossi in 1653 in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Siface was acclaimed for his exciting musical performances, yet who became famous also for the tragedy of his love life. He was called upon to sing in operas and oratorios by the likes of Stradella, Pasquini, Bassani, Pallavicino and Agostini. For a long time in the service of Francesco II d’Este in Modena, Siface was an active member of the musical “ducal circuit” in the Italian peninsula, even, on one occasion, additionally being sent to England, where he performed before monarchy, and met and impressed Henry Purcell. Filippo Mineccia brilliantly captures the kaleidoscopic rush of emotions coursing through this selection of arias, which reflects the torrid and spectacular musical pace of life in late seventeenth-century Italy (as well as mirroring Siface’s own downfall on the road from Ferrara to Bologna). The Spanish ensemble Nereydas fully enter into the spirit of this, by turns, colourful, heartfelt, poignant and vivid celebration of vocal and instrumental music, which also features works by Alessandro Scarlatti (the emotive lullaby Dormi o fulmine), Francesco Cavalli and Purcell (My song shall be alway). Elena Bernardi puts flesh on still little understood aspects of the early stages of opera in the late Seicento., © Glossa

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released March 2, 2018 | Chandos

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Giulia Frasi is best known to posterity for having given the first performances of the principal soprano parts in Handel’s last oratorios – all of them containing vivid scenes of sentimental and spiritual drama that depict suffering women reacting to extremely distressing events with courage, dignity, and selflessness. This album explores her speciality: playing characters whose emotional journeys are charted with affecting pathos. However, the thirty-one-year career that Frasi enjoyed in London was broader, more complicated, and richer than being merely Handel’s last prima donna. Retracing her music making in different environments – not only operas and oratorio concerts in theatres but also music in numerous other contexts – reveals a perfect microcosm of the cultural and stylistic diversity of musical life in mid-eighteenth-century Britain. It is a story that has seldom been told, and has never before been presented through a cross-section of Frasi’s musical repertoire. Reputedly trained in Milan and having made her operatic debutin Italy, Frasi came to Britain to join Lord Middlesex’s Italian opera company in 1742 – not long after Handel had decided to stop composing and performing operas on the London stage. Initially allocated minor roles but gradually rising in importance to the company, Frasi participated in at least fourteen opera seasons at the King’s Theatre on the Haymarket between November 1742 and 1761. Her early London appearances in 1743 prompted this recollection by Charles Burney in his General History of Music: Giulia ‘Frasi was at this time young, and interesting in person, with a sweet and clear voice, and a smooth and chaste style of singing, which, though, cold and unimpassioned, pleased natural ears, and escaped the censure of critics.’ Burney praised the fact that, having come to this country at an early period of her life, ‘she pronounced our language in singing in a more articulate and intelligible manner than the natives.’ It seems that Handel’s attention was attracted by her determination to sing articulately in English – which coincided with her increasing usefulness to the topsy-turvy Italian opera company – and an emerging knack for conveying musical pathos. Soprano Ruby Hughes, who has chosen a large variety of works, not only by Haendel but also from all of Frasi’s London repertoire, from Arne to Smith, won first Prize and the Audience Prize at the 2009 London Handel Singing Competition, and is also a former BBC New Generation Artist. She made her debut at Theater an der Wien with René Jacobs, She has sung major roles at the Buxton International Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, London Handel Festival, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Musikfestspiele Potsdam, and Schwetzinger Festspiele, as well as at English National Opera, Garsington Opera, Scottish Opera among so many others. © SM/Qobuz

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released February 2, 2018 | Chandos

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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The new Coventry Cathedral was built as an act of reconciliation after the destruction of its mediaeval original during World War II. For its consecration in 1962, a celebratory arts festival was organised, which included the commission of major works from Britten, Tippett, and Arthur Bliss (1891-1975). Of these, Britten’s War Requiem and Bliss’s The Beatitudes were intended for performance in the cathedral. In the event, only Britten’s work was performed in the setting for which it had been conceived. In April 1961 the festival events were outlined in The Times ; Bliss’s The Beatitudes is mentioned as the major new work to be performed in the cathedral. However, « owing to logistical circumstances », the opening concert would be moved to the Belgrade Theatre, of which Bliss was unaware until a few weeks before the premiere. There is no question that Bliss from the outset expected The Beatitudes to be performed in the cathedral, for the instrumentation included a part conceived for the newly installed organ. Doubtless, as Master of the Queen’s Music, Bliss could have dug his heels in and insisted that his work take precedence over Britten’s; but that would have gone against the grain of his values. Without a second thought, Bliss gave way to his younger colleague; moreover, he greatly admired Britten’s genius. Unfortunately the premiere was fraught with difficulties. In his autobiography, As I Remember, Bliss noted that critics hoped that a performance would be given in the Cathedral, its rightful place, on ‘the earliest possible occasion’. It took half a century for this to occur, as part of the cathedral’s Golden Jubilee, in 2012. In The Beatitudes, the texts comprise the nine Beatitudes, an Old Testament passage, poems by three seventeenth-century metaphysical authors, and one poem from the 20th Century. Although he seemed poised on the brink of a brilliant career in Britain, in 1923 Bliss moved to the USA for an unspecified period, accompanying his father who, having lived in England for over thirty years, wished to return to his homeland. Many in Bliss’s position would have hesitated interrupting their career at such a critical juncture; however, so close was the bond between father and son that personal ambition was irrelevant; besides, his half-American ancestry made Bliss curious to see the country the heritage of which he shared. His two-year American sojourn was also significant for his future : with the sounds of the excellent American orchestras ringing in his ears, Bliss composed the Introduction and Allegro in 1926. He dedicated it to Stokowski, who gave the American premiere, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, in 1928. With the Introduction and Allegro, the music of Bliss moves a stride forward to his mature voice, away from the febrile character of his postwar works. Considering that Bliss was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953, it is surprising that sixteen years elapsed before he produced an arrangement for chorus and orchestra of the National Anthem. Regal fanfares and ceremonial orchestral links between the stanzas give this version all the flair that made the tenure of Bliss as Master of the Queen’s Music distinctive and successful. It is for Royal Choral Society’s USA tour in 1969 that Bliss made his version of ‘God Save the Queen’, setting the first three stanzas. © SM/Qobuz
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 12, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles de Classica
Alpha continues its collaboration with the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and its Academy, which will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2018. We invite you to discover artists of great talent who take us on a trip to Auvergne, Sicily, Armenia and Azerbaijan thanks to Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs, to Andalusia with Falla’s Psyché on a poem of Georges-Jean Aubry, and to the world of Jules Renard with Ravel’s Histoires naturelles. The last-named are recorded in a version for chamber ensemble: ‘Since Ravel gave Manuel Rosenthal to make an arrangement for large orchestra which we found rather overblown, we set out to find a “chasseur d’images” (to quote the title of one of Renard’s Histoires naturelles poems) who could transcribe the work without losing its intimate, delicate aspect. . . . We hope you will be as charmed as we are by Arthur Lavandier’s work, which beautifully conveys the immensely refined timbres and nuances of Ravel’, says the oboist Clément Noël, a member of the Swiss Ensemble Labyrinth. Anna Stéphany is a true revelation, performing this programme with the technique, the sensuality and the emotional impact that earned her a huge triumph in Mozart at last summer’s Glyndebourne Festival. © Alpha Classics

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released November 10, 2017 | Ondine

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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The main attraction of this album is to present, in addition to a few already established recorded works such as Brahms’ Nänie, Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates) and Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny), the Liebeslieder Walzer in its orchestral version as imagined by the composer himself. Surprisingly while the versions for piano duet and vocal quartet have often been recorded, that is not the case for the nine waltzes selected by Brahms in 1870 for his orchestral rewriting; indeed they were only edited in the 1930s, most likely forgotten in favour of more marketable versions. Another relative rarity is the Begräbnisgesang (Burial Song) op. 13 for choir and wind, an instrumentation that made the work usable for outdoor celebrations. The excellent Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, funded in 1945 by the notorious choral conductor, accompanied by the Gävle Symphony Orchestra from Sweden perform these sumptuous pieces in a stunningly beautiful recording. © SM/Qobuz

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released October 27, 2017 | Rondeau

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released October 13, 2017 | Ad Vitam records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
2nd part of this unique choral triptych which will bring together approximately 48 works from the 20th and 21st centuries with considerable dramaturgical force, hitherto unseen in the history of choral experimentation, Jumala is a mystical and dreamlike vocal epic which gives pride of place to incantatory music, coming mainly from Northern Europe. A choral laboratory. made up of singers aged 18 to 30, Mikrokosmos boasts over 20 international awards and as many as 25 recordings, presenting multidimensional artistic projects brought to life by Loïc Pierre since 1989.

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released October 6, 2017 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released July 7, 2017 | Carus

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released May 31, 2017 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
After an album of French songs (Néère) that earned her a "Gramophone Award" in 2016, Véronique Gens presents her new recital, this time with orchestra, which gives her an opportunity to display the maturity of her ‘Falcon’ soprano, the central tessitura typical of French Romantic opera, which takes its name from Cornélie Falcon, who created the works of Meyerbeer and Halévy staged in the 1830s. She pays tribute here to a number of composers whose unknown operas she was the first to reveal in projects mounted by the Palazzetto Bru Zane, including David, Godard, Saint-Saëns and Halévy. The programme selects arias from all the genres in vogue in the Romantic era: opera (Saint-Saëns, Halévy, Godard, Février), opéra-comique (David), oratorio (Franck, Massenet) and the cantata for the Prix de Rome (Bizet, Bruneau). A nod to Wagner and his Tannhäuser – in its French translation of the 1860s – completes this programme conducted by a longstanding colleague of the soprano, one of the leading specialists in French music, Hervé Niquet. © Alpha Classics
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released February 10, 2017 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason