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Classical - Released March 20, 2020 | Onyx Classics

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The "Immortal Beloved" title of this album is a pure marketing conceit; the music has nothing to do with Beethoven's classic unsent love letter (the recipient still unknown) of 1812. It's something of a shame, for the work of soprano Chen Reiss here needs no hype. Reiss, who has sung with the Bavarian State Opera and the Vienna State Opera, has a powerful Richard Strauss-type voice with an attractive middle register and a slicing top. She's a bit strong for the early Beethoven arias that make up the first part of the program, and she misses the humor in Soll ein Schuh nicht drücken, an insertion aria on the topic of new shoes for an opera by Ignaz Umlauf, but Reiss gets stronger as she goes along, and her reading of Beethoven's most famous concert aria, Ah! perfido, Op. 65, is commanding. A major attraction throughout is the presence of some really unusual works, from an aria from the 20-year-old Beethoven's Cantata on the Accession of Emperor Leopold II, WoO 88, to some ardently romantic pieces from about the same time, to two striking and almost-never-heard arias from Beethoven's incidental music to Egmont, Op. 84. Reiss will make listeners wonder how these pieces got neglected. The Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr provides unobtrusive support for Reiss and avoids early music mannerisms. There's another factor present: Reiss seems to identify with the female characters depicted in these arias and explains her motivations in an elegant note. Her singing seems to fit much of the material in an indefinable way. This release should find a place on many Beethoven shelves. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 20, 2020 | Onyx Classics

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Classical - Released November 22, 2019 | Onyx Classics

Vasily Petrenko has been among the most musically reliable of the wave of Russian performers who settled in Britain following the fall of the Soviet Union. He isn't a household name, nor, as conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, a fixture of the London classical music scene. Yet he has been a prolific leader who rarely delivers a clinker. Consider this recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, in the familiar Ravel orchestration, framed by other Soviet orchestral favorites. There are readings with greater grandeur and sweep, but Petrenko grasps that the Ravel version is, first of all, an orchestral showpiece, and there's something very satisfying about hearing the Liverpudlians nail their parts one by one. The energy doesn't flag even in the less familiar numbers like the "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks," and the other Soviet pieces that frame the Mussorgsky are well-chosen in this regard. One is less familiar: the Concerto for Orchestra No. 1 ("Naughty Limericks") of Rodion Shchedrin is an early work of that composer that revives the long concerto for orchestra/sinfonia concertante tradition. Everything falls into place in the pieces by Kabalevsky, Khachaturian, and Rachmaninov. The same is true of the engineering, as the Onyx team knows the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall well. The result is a fine recording that shows there's life in the old warhorses yet. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 15, 2019 | Onyx Classics

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Always keeping one eye on educating tomorrow's audiences, Danish orchestral conductor Thomas Dausgaard accords great importance to the role that music can play in the lives of young people. That is why he has collaborated with young people's orchestras like the Baccarelli Institute in Brazil, the Toronto Youth Symphony and the Australian Youth Orchestra. This unique conductor is a real free radical in the often-hidebound world of classical music. His curiosity goes far beyond the borders of music. He is fascinated in particular by the ways of life of faraway peoples: he has visited head-hunting tribes in Borneo, worked on a Chinese farm, and lived with villagers on a remote South Pacific island. The musical life of the countries of Northern Europe, with its often neglected richness, has found in Thomas Dausgaard an ambassador to bring it to light. He is also the head of the BBC Scotland Orchestra and musical director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, where his very personal approach to programming is avidly appreciated. With his Scottish orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard offers the alpha and the omega of the symphonic works of Béla Bartók, with the exuberant Suite no. 1, a youthful work and the composer's first score for orchestra, recorded for the first time in its original version uncut and unaltered. But the pièce de résistance is a splendid version of the Concerto for Orchestra. Fleshy timbres, vigorous rhythms, rigorous construction and a magical, mysterious aura of enchantment. And this is just the start of the fun, as this is only the first volume of a coming anthology of Bartók's major works. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released October 25, 2019 | Onyx Classics

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Classical - Released October 11, 2019 | Onyx Classics

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In the 19th century, Romantic composers often drew inspiration from literary sources, in particular, the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of Byron, Hugo, and Goethe, whose themes figure prominently in the music of Franz Liszt. Looming large in Liszt's imagination was the Divine Comedy of Dante, which inspired the Dante Symphony, as well as the fantasia quasi sonata, Après une lecture du Dante, from the second book of Années de pélérinage. Joseph Moog has recorded that work, along with a handful of character pieces, such as the Deux Légendes (based on the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis de Paul), and the sinister Csardas obstinée, in order to illustrate Liszt's fascination with otherworldly subjects and the contest between the diabolical and the divine. Yet the longest and most significant work on the program is the Sonata in B minor, which lacks a specific narrative and can be regarded as absolute music, though religious themes and the Faust legend have sometimes been suggested as underlying programs. Moog's album might have been more thematically consistent if he had included the Mephisto Waltz No. 1, or some of the gloomy late pieces which sort with Liszt's obsession with death and the supernatural. However, for all its turbulence and dark expressions, the Sonata in B minor impresses as a tour de force that Moog plays with high energy and technical brilliance, and even though he brings ample fire to the Sonata, it isn't necessarily hellfire. Onyx's recording offers close-up sound in a resonant space, capturing the full dynamic range without studio enhancements. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 29, 2019 | Onyx Classics

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One of the happiest results of the influx of Russian talent into Britain has been conductor Vasily Petrenko's tenure with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which he has led since 2009 and brought into the league of the major London orchestras. His recordings for the fine independent Onyx label have all been notable, but this one, featuring Elgar's Enigma Variations, Op. 36, is especially strong. Surely Petrenko did not have the Enigma Variations in his blood, and you might offhand expect him to make them sound like Tchaikovsky. Not a bit of it; this is a lean, light, and beautifully sculpted Enigma Variations, where sentiment emerges where it is warranted (sample the flowing and famous "Nimrod" variation) but is otherwise held in reserve, and each of the character sketches that make up the work have a vivid, lively quality. The use of Elgar's In the South, Op. 50, as a curtain-raiser is not totally successful, with a sense of direction not as clear as it might be. The Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20, shows just how attractive the Royal Liverpool's string tone has become these days, and it's a fine performance. But if you want to get to the highlight, skip to the Enigma Variations -- Petrenko has given it one of its best performances in recent years. © TiVo
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Ballets - Released November 30, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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It was an excellent idea to bring together the Suite from Rimski-Korsakov's Golden Cockeral with the complete ballet The Firebird by Stravinsky on one single album. We specify "complete ballet" because he often records one of the three suites that were later established for the concert hall rather than for the ballet. The idea is brilliant in that it highlights the heavy influence of Rimsky-Korsakov on the young Stravinsky, whose Firebird logically pursues the magical orchestral sounds developed by Rimsky-Korsakov. Not to mention that The Golden Cockeral> precedes The Firebird only by one year, 1909 for the first, 1910 for the latter. And suddenly, the old master appears in all his mind-blowing modernity! The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is here under the precise and sharp direction of Vasily Petrenko, who underlines all the subtleties of both scores. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released November 30, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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Looking at it closely, Vaughan Williams' first symphony, A Sea Symphony, is his first major work; the composer, who was never in a hurry, was already thirty-six years old when he finished it, even though the writing process had taken him a good half a dozen years. Never in a hurry indeed... But this first great work was a masterpiece that propelled Vaughan Williams to the forefront of the musical world in that year of 1910, a position that he would never leave again. Quite the contrary in fact: masterpiece after masterpiece followed until the end of his life. His Symphony No.1 is the longest of his symphonies; there are four movements in which the choir appears like a soloist from start to finish alongside two real vocal soloists. The style is very modern - not too much in the wake of a Debussy, but truly at the basis of a complete renewal of English music in which Elgar also participated and which served as a foundation, for example, for Britten a few decades later. The album, which features the excellent conductor Andrew Manze at the head of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, closes with one of the composer's most famous works, The Lark Ascending for solo violin (James Ehnes here) and orchestra. It is a true wonder of poetry and invention. The composer limits the orchestra to strings and a few woodwinds, plus a triangle that plays a total of sixteen notes - what an invention! © SM/Qobuz
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Violin Concertos - Released September 21, 2018 | Onyx Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Exceptional Sound Recording
Nearly all the pieces on this album were first performed and widely promoted by the Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, one of them — Tabula rasa (1977) — being specifically written with his artistry in mind. They are also all products of what Arvo Pärt himself describes as a ‘tintinnabuli’ style, developed by the composer in the 1970s through studying medieval church music. As Pärt has explained: “I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements – with one voice, two voices. I build with primitive materials – with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells and that is why I call it tintinnabulation.” Tabula rasa and Fratres, both composed in 1977, effectively established Pärt’s international reputation. Tabula rasa is effectively a concerto for two violins with string orchestra and a prepared piano, the latter instrument creating explicitly bell-like sonorities in the work’s slow second movement. Fratres, since its first performance by the Estonian ensemble of early music, Hortus Musicus, has been arranged for various instrumental combinations. The version heard here is the composer’s own, written in 1991 for solo violin, strings and percussion (involving claves and bass drum or tom-tom). Bach has long been an important influence in Pärt’s music, as is evident in his Passacaglia, composed in 2003, and in Darf ich... (May I…) originally composed in 1995 and dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin; Pärt subsequently revised the work in 1999, Kremer giving the premiere of this revised version with his ensemble, Kremerata Baltica. Spiegel im Spiegel, composed in 1978, is one of Pärt’s simplest compositions, a violin unhurriedly playing a mostly stepwise melody over a steadily arpeggiating piano part. © Onyx Classics
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Classical - Released September 21, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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The music on this Onyx release wasn't conceived as a single presentation: the three works were recorded in Seattle, Detroit, and Monmouth (U.K.), over a period spanning almost a year and a half, and there are two violin concertos, performed respectively with the Seattle and Detroit Symphonies, and a programmatic violin-and-piano piece. Yet Canada's James Ehnes is one of the hottest violinists on the planet, and it's hard to fault Onyx for grouping three works that have in common extremely fluent virtuoso writing that displays his talents to the hilt. Indeed, the album garnered a pair of Grammy award nominations, for Ehnes for Best Classical Instrumental Solo, and for Aaron Jay Kernis for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and won both categories. The three works are attractively varied, from the straight neo-Romanticism of film composer James Newton Howard (who scored, among other works, My Best Friend's Wedding) to the general 20th century idiom of the prolific Kernis, to the Stream of Limelight of British composer Bramwell Tovey, where Ehnes is joined by pianist Andrew Armstrong. To these ears, the last is the most distinctive of the three works, which break no new ground but would in all cases be thrilling to hear played by Ehnes in person. Onyx engineers have knitted the various sound sources together reasonably effectively, and the album is a genuine crowd-pleaser from start to finish. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 18, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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Concertos - Released April 20, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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The Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son has attracted admirers in venues of multiple types: in the buttoned-down world of the classical music competition, and in the broad popular arena of YouTube, where a video of Son performing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, has attracted some ten million views. Son chooses that concerto for her Mozart debut, and here she has the added advantage of backing by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. This was, in fact, the last recording made by Marriner before his death in 2016, and many will want it for that reason alone: his deliberate tempos, carefully setting the stage for the brilliant young Korean, are worth the price of admission in themselves. The star of the show, however, is Son, and the elusive quality that made classical-wary YouTubers flock to her is fully in evidence. There are more individualistic Mozart players, but Son has a unique way of considering these works in great detail and yet the music seems to flow out of her spontaneously. She's at her best in the concerto (sample the opening movement), where Marriner grasps what she's about and frames her to perfection. But all the music, including the little-played Variations for piano on "Lison dormait", K. 264, has the same compelling, inevitable quality. Son's competition training shows in the way she cultivates a wide range of attack, from edgy to liquid, and in a certain formality. But she's clearly got the stuff to reach a large public directly, and this album is an exciting step in her emergence. © TiVo
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Violin Concertos - Released April 20, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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Recorded live in Vienna’s Musikverein, this album captures a special evening which saw the new Concerto for 2 violins & orchestra ‘Shadow Walker’ by Mark Anthony Turnage performed by Vadim Repin and Daniel Hope with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic under Sascha Goetzel. The second half of the concert was an electrifying Symphony fantastique. « I've been drawn to compose double concertos before, such as Dispelling the Fears for two trumpets, and in Shadow Walker I've again been intrigued by the possibilities of interplay between the two soloists. The idea of shadowing can take many musical forms, such as through canonic writing and the imitation of intervals, though I haven't gone as far as composing a fugue. The string sound of Vadim Repin and Daniel Hope should blend particularly well, almost like two aspects of the same identity. There isn't a strict hierarchical relationship with one violin the shadow of the other — it is much more equal and fluid » Mark Anthony Turnage. (Onyx)
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Classical - Released April 20, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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Symphonic Music - Released March 23, 2018 | Onyx Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
The cycle of Vaughan Williams symphonies by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Andrew Manze has been widely praised, with superb sound from the Onyx label's engineers revealing the composer as a master orchestrator in bracing, rather unsentimental, but not unaffecting readings. The Symphony No. 5 in D major and Symphony No. 6 in E minor aren't the most frequently programmed of the composer's symphonies, but the rather mystically pastoral Fifth and the grim Sixth, which at times might be taken for Shostakovich, make a fabulous pair, and this recording may serve as an excellent sample of the set. The Symphony No. 5 was written during World War II and its successor after the war's end, in 1948, but both may be considered wartime works. Most striking is the unrelieved somberness of the Sixth's finale, which listeners at the time suggested might have been intended to represent the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse. Sample the Scherzo, with its scary marchlike rhythms, densely filled out with counterpoint, and the references to wartime become clear. No less compelling is the delicacy of the Symphony No. 5, demonstrating the skills of, among many others, the RLPO's harpist. This regional British orchestra has been brought to new heights by Manze, and this album may even make converts for Vaughan Williams among those who consider him nothing more than a jolly pastoralist. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released March 23, 2018 | Onyx Classics

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Concertos - Released December 8, 2017 | Onyx Classics

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Classical - Released October 20, 2017 | Onyx Classics

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Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps usually dominates any program, so the inclusion of shorter works with it may seem like a gamble. However, Claude Debussy's Printemps and Sergey Rachmaninov's Vesna, Op. 20 serve to complement Stravinsky's masterpiece, while also lending their own excitement and power to this 2017 Onyx release. Vasily Petrenko leads the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in this vernal-themed album, and the performances are spirited and attractive. The lovely dreamlike atmosphere that Debussy evokes in his two-movement orchestral piece comes closest to conventional notions of the awakening of the season, and its magical effects are immediately charming and seductive. Rachmaninov's choral cantata depicts a Russian peasant, represented here by baritone Rodion Pogassov, suffering in the depths of a harsh winter and contemplating murder, only to be calmed by the appearance of spring in all its lushness and beauty. Of course, Le Sacre du printemps is still the main feature of this disc, and Petrenko and the orchestra put all their skill and energy into this energetic and riveting performance. While some of Debussy's impressionistic influence is noticeable in this work, which he called a "beautiful nightmare," its violence was intended to depict the sudden eruption of spring, which Stravinsky described as "the violent Russian spring that seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole Earth cracking." This is certainly the effect that Petrenko strives for, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plays with a brutality in the Danse sacrale that is as shattering as Stravinsky could have wished. The stereo sound of the CD is clear and vibrant, though levels are a bit low, so some adjustment of the volume is necessary to hear the softest details. © TiVo
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Concertos - Released October 20, 2017 | Onyx Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
Canadian violinist James Ehnes has become a hot property on both sides of the Atlantic, and anticipation quickly propelled his recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, to the top reaches of the charts. The recording displays the Ehnes strengths that have made him such a hit with British audiences: a clean line with a minimum of sentimentality, and strong control over the larger design of a movement. The recording eschews the more activist interpretations of the concerto and the other small works that accompany it, and returns to the sober, measured pace of older British readings. This pacing is placed mostly in the hands of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under conductor Andrew Manze, with Ehnes pulling against it in various ways. Sample the beginning of the finale, with Ehnes' boldly shaped theme set off against rather metronomic treatment in the orchestra. It often works well, and in the slow movement Ehnes takes wing. The opening movement plods at times, although Ehnes' technical consistency carries him through, and the splashy Kreisler cadenzas do not quite match the rest of what he does. The lesser-known Romances for violin and orchestra of Beethoven and the still rarer Rondo for violin and orchestra, D. 438, of Schubert fill out the program effectively. Recommended, especially for those who like Ehnes' precise style. © TiVo