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Best new classical albums

Martin Cullingford's pick of the finest recordings from this month's reviews.
Here are the titles available from Naxos Direct.
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Berlioz Symphonie fantastique 
Les Siècles / François-Xavier Roth

"What better way to draw Berlioz’s anniversary year to a close than with this revelatory, highly compelling recording: François-Xavier Roth is a master of finding detail, and making it truly count." (Gramophone)  

169 kr
Image #2 DECEMBER 2019
Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 5
Martin Helmchen pf Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Andrew Manze 

"This recording really stands out among the pre-anniversary Beethoven releases for its fine sense of collaborative musicianship." (Gramophone) 

As the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth approaches, and following a much-admired version of the Diabelli Variations (Alpha 386 – Gramophone Editor’s Choice), Martin Helmchen has decided to record his complete piano concertos in the company of musical partners with whom he has a special affinity, Andrew Manze and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. They devote this first volume to the Concertos nos. 2 and 5, giving lovingly polished performances of these two masterpieces of the piano repertory. Composed even before Concerto ‘no. 1’, the ‘Second’ Concerto was premiered in Vienna in 1795, when Beethoven was only twenty-five years old, but underwent several revisions before being published in its final version in 1801. Concerto no. 5 is the last that Beethoven composed. Though completed in 1808, it was not premiered until 1811. Beethoven normally gave the first performance of his concertos himself, but this time his increasing deafness meant he was unable to do so.

159 kr
Image #3 DECEMBER 2019
Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending, etc 
James Ehnes vn Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrew Manze 

"An album of RVW’s most-loved orchestral pieces – and ones rarely performed with such grace and sensitivity as here." (Gramophone) 

Andrew Manze and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s cycle of the 9 Vaughan Williams symphonies have been praised by the reviewers, and their live performances rapturously received. This album contains the most popular of his shorter orchestral works – The Tallis Fantasy, Greensleeves, the Lark Ascending and the wonderful Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus. The Serenade to Music is heard in the rarely performed orchestral version – this album will be a must have for all fans of the composer!

159 kr
Image #4 DECEMBER 2019
CPE Bach Complete Original Works for Violin & Keyboard 
Tamsin Waley-Cohen vn James Baillieu pf 
"The real achievement here is the sense of lyrical line that Tamsin Waley-Cohen carries through all the sonatas, in a perfect partnership with the pianist James Baillieu." (Gramophone) 

Born in Weimar, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) was the fifth child and second surviving son of JS Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara. By his own account he had no other teacher for composition and keyboard except his father. Nevertheless, the majority of Emanuel’s earliest works owe more to the influence of Telemann and other exponents of the new galant style, while already suggesting his own progressive instinct. At the age of twenty-four, after seven years studying law, Emanuel decided to devote himself to music. In 1738 he accepted the position of keyboard player at the court of the Prussian crown prince – the future Frederick the Great. After nearly thirty years of royal service he left Berlin and moved to Hamburg, where he occupied the positions of Music Director and Cantor until his death. Described by the Guardian as a performer of “fearless intensity”, former ECHO Rising Star Tamsin Waley-Cohen has established herself as one of the most insightful and versatile young British violinists. Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘in a class of his own’ James Baillieu has been the prize-winner of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Das Lied International Song Competition, Kathleen Ferrier and Richard Tauber Competitions.

259 kr
Image #5 DECEMBER 2019
Beethoven Three Violin Sonatas, Op 12
James Ehnes vn Andrew Armstrong pf 
"The second of two appearances this month for James Ehnes, joined here by Andrew Armstrong, in performances which gloriously justify these works’ status as truly collaborative sonatas." (Gramophone) 

The second volume of the Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle from James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong follows the critically acclaimed release of sonatas nos.6&9 ‘Kreutzer’. ‘Ehnes and Armstrong are stunningly responsive in the finale’ (op.47)’…ravishing in the slow movement’ op.30/1 said Gramophone of the earlier album, concluding the review ‘’..a compelling addition to Ehnes and Armstrong’s remarkable discography’
This new album contains the three early op.12 sonatas which Beethoven dedicated to his teacher Antonio Salieri, and ends with the early variations from a theme from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.

159 kr
Image #6 DECEMBER 2019
Brahms Piano Sonata No 3. ‘Paganini’ Variations 
Nelson Goerner pf 
"In the F minor Sonata, Goerner’s awareness of the architecture and ambition of the whole piece feels evident throughout, while the Variations possess a deep sense of the musicality within the virtuosity." (Gramophone) 

After the Second Piano Concerto (Alpha 395), Nelson Goerner presents here his first solo Brahms recital with the Sonata op.5, a youthful composition that is ‘impetuous, full of ardour and vitality’, says Goerner, ‘but which requires an interpreter who has reached maturity in his or her development to express all that it contains’. In fact, the Argentinian pianist has had this sonata in his repertory since the start of his career and has played it extensively in concert. Many composers have taken an interest in Paganini and written variations on his famous theme: Liszt before Brahms, and Rachmaninoff and Lutoslawski after him. ‘Brahms displays exuberant invention in his Variations, which are at once highly virtuosic and very profound, and above all overflowing with imagination. Brahms gives the name “Études” to these variations which, like the études of Chopin and Liszt, go far beyond the superficially off-putting nature of the title’, concludes the pianist. ‘It’s a marvel of inventiveness!’

159 kr
Image #7 DECEMBER 2019
D Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas, Vol 6
Pierre Hantaï hpd 
"To join Pierre Hantaï on any leg of his long-standing and superb Scarlatti journey is to be shown joyful new sights, be introduced to delightful ideas, and ultimately offered a richly enjoyable listening experience." (Gramophone) 

159 kr
Image #8 DECEMBER 2019
Gesualdo Madrigals, Books 1 & 2 
Les Arts Florissants / Paul Agnew 
"Here is proof that Les Arts Florissants’s music-making is every bit as fine now under Paul Agnew as when the group first tackled Gesualdo some 30 years ago under founder William Christie." (Gramophone) 

169 kr
Image #10 DECEMBER 2019
Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice 
La Nuova Musica / David Bates 
"Magnificent and moving singing from Iestyn Davies and Sophie Bevan, and playing of intensity from La Nuova Musica; a triumphant release from our new Label of the Year, Pentatone." (Gramophone) 

La Nuova Musica presents a new live recording of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, with countertenor star Iestyn Davies singing the title role. Once created to reinstate the “noble simplicity and calm grandeur” of ancient Greek culture, the opera continues to delight audiences with its direct and unpretentious appeal, epitomized by the world-famous aria Che farò senza Euridice. This live recording presents the original 1762 Vienna premiere version of the opera, with Gluck’s exquisite evocation of the Elysian Fields from his 1774 Paris version as a small addition. La Nuova Musica and its artistic director David Bates are among the most exciting young Baroque ensembles of our times. For their first PENTATONE recording, they work together with three exceptional vocalists: countertenor Iestyn Davies and sopranos Sophie Bevan and Rebecca Bottone.

189 kr
Rossini Il barbiere di Siviglia 
Sols; Le Cercle de l’Harmonie / Jérémie Rhorer 
"For reviewer and leading Rossinian Richard Osborne to so highly praise this production’s union of work and realisation is noteworthy acclaim indeed!" (Gramophone) 

Rossini’s comic masterpiece was based on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’s French play Le Barbier de Séville and is the ultimate opera buffa. The score is a compendium of the composer’s wittiest and most brilliant writing, and includes the famous entrance aria Largo al factotum and a raft of superbly dynamic ensembles. This vibrant and youthful production features Florian Sempey, one of the world’s best Figaros, the ‘Rossini tenor’ Michele Angelini, vivacious and critically admired Catherine Trottmann, and the award-winning team of acclaimed director Laurent Pelly and conductor Jérémie Rhorer who directs his spirited period ensemble Le Cercle de l’Harmonie.

239 kr
Purcell King Arthur
Sols; Gabrieli Consort & Players / Paul McCreesh

"A fascinating opera, one which vividly takes listeners to late 17th-century Britain – Dryden’s text and Purcell’s music are brought spectacularly and stirringly to life by conductor Paul McCreesh." (Gramophone) 

The great patriotic opera of the 17th century, recorded here in a lively new performing edition after two decades in the Gabrieli’s touring repertoire. Notoriously difficult to present on disc or in concert, this version presented by Gabrieli was created to allow an obvious musical narrative, despite Purcell’s music often being completely dislocated from much of the original theatre context. Gabrieli have been performing the music from King Arthur for nearly a quarter of a century, evolving their interpretation over time. With the score having to be pieced together using separate versions (due to Purcell’s originals being lost), and with Gabrieli’s evolved interpretation of the music, the end product of this recording is truly unique. Their next release on Signum will be with the semi-opera by Purcell, Fairy Queen, in April next year, which is an adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream.

259 kr
Image #2 NOVEMBER 2019
Falla El amor brujo; El sombrero de tres picos
Mahler CO / Pablo Heras-Casado

"A centenary celebration of El sombrero de tres picos, infused by Pablo Heras-Casado with all the Spanish spirit you could ask for, and an equally outstanding El amor brujo." (Gramophone) 

169 kr
Image #5 NOVEMBER 2019
‘Time & Eternity’
Patricia Kopatchinskaja vn / Camerata Bern

"As adventurous in her programming as in her playing, Patricia Kopatchinskaja offers an album whose meeting of music and words, of eras and traditions, is musically and spiritually powerful." (Gramophone) 

Time and Eternity. Always in search of powerful musical experiences, the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Camerata Bern – of which she has just taken over the artistic direction –here juxtapose Hartmann’s Concerto funebre, composed in 1939 to express his indignation at the Nazis’ terror, and the Polyptyque for violin and orchestra that Frank Martin wrote in 1973 for Yehudi Menuhin, a work inspired by six scenes from the Passion of Christ painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna around 1310. The Kyrie from Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame, composed half a century after the altarpiece and heard here in an arrangement for strings, is interspersed between the movements, along with Bach chorales, ‘as an invocation of eternal consolation’. A Polish folksinger interprets the Jewish song ‘Eliyahu hanavi’, which expresses the hope of salvation and which Hartmann quotes in his concerto. Six hundred years of music to ‘make the victims’ voices heard’, says Patricia Kopatchinskaja. The album opens with Kol Nidrei by John Zorn (born 1953), in response to the eponymous prayer spoken by a representative of the Jewish community. A Catholic priest and an Orthodox priest also say a short prayer.

159 kr
Image #6 NOVEMBER 2019
Alkan Symphony & Concerto for solo piano
Paul Wee pf 

"Astonishing virtuosity defines this hugely impressive recording, whose story behind it – the soloist is a lawyer, not a professional pianist – makes it all the more extraordinary." (Gramophone) 

Charles-Valentin Alkan made his name as pianist in nineteenth-century Paris and seemed poised for a glittering career. But following a series of setbacks he withdrew into a life of relative seclusion, and as he receded from the public eye, so too did his music. It was never entirely forgotten, but it was not until the 1960s and 1970s that Alkan’s works began to emerge from obscurity. To quote the liner notes by Paul Wee, ‘Alkan’s music exhibits a formidable grasp of form and structure, a strong command of melody, a high sense of drama and an unprecedented exploitation of the capabilities of the piano.’ Combined here on one disc – possibly for the first time – are the Symphony and the Concerto for Solo Piano, two pinnacles of Alkan’s legacy. Unusually, the four movements of the Symphony and the three movements of the Concerto are included as seven etudes within Alkan’s Douze etudes dans tous les tons mineurs (Twelve studies in all the minor keys), in 1857 as his Op.?39. As to why Alkan composed these epic works and then hid them away in a set of etudes, Wee suggests that they are to be seen as ‘a celebration of the piano and its capabilities.’ Paul Wee is a barrister specialising in commercial law and appears regularly before courts and tribunals on behalf of clients including governments, corporations, financial institutions and individuals. Born in Australia, he began his piano studies at the age of four, continuing them in New York City at the Manhattan School of Music. Going on to study law at the University of Oxford, he attempts to balance his love for the piano alongside the demands of a busy international career in law.

169 kr
Image #10 NOVEMBER 2019
Gounod Faust
Sols; Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset 

"Another new take on another otherwise familiar work reveals new dramatic depths; rising star Benjamin Bernheim leads an excellent cast, conducted with flair by Christophe Rousset." (Gramophone) 

Gounod contemplated a Faust opera as early as his residence in Rome in the 1840s. But almost twenty years were to elapse before one of the most famous works of French Romanticism was premiered at the Théâtre-Lyrique (1859). Its debut at the Opéra in 1869 propelled the work into theatres all over the world, but numerous modifications were the price of achieving that fame. Between the Faust of 1859 and its counterpart of 1869, some of the spirit has evaporated: the spontaneity of the spoken dialogue and melodrama, the pawky humour of Dame Marthe, the cynicism of Méphistophélès. We have forgotten the charm of the first tenors who sang ‘Salut, demeure chaste et pure’ with the timbre typical of the voix mixte of opéra-comique. Moreover, a large number of pieces were consigned to oblivion by these modifications. To discover this first Faust is to gain a deeper insight into the French aesthetic of demi-caractère, so specific to Paris in the 1850s.

359 kr
‘This is Rattle’
London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle

"The beginning of Sir Simon Rattle’s tenure as the LSO’s Music Director, captured on film, bodes impressively well for the years ahead for Londoners." (Gramophone) 

Sir Simon Rattle's arrival in London heralded a new era for the LSO, and the ten day festival that opened his inaugural season as the Orchestra's Music Director wowed critics and audiences alike, going on to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society award in the 'Concert Series & Festivals' category.
This film captures Rattle's very first performance as Music Director; a programme in which British composers took centre-stage. The world-premiere of Helen Grime's Fanfares, which became the first movement of the work Woven Space, opened the concert before violinist Christian Tetzlaff took to the stage to perform the concerto written for him in 2010 by Harrison Birtwistle. Two more works close to Rattle's heart followed: Thomas Adès' Asyla and the pocket-sized Symphony No 3 by the late Oliver Knussen. Finally, Rattle's stunning interpretation of the Enigma Variations brought the concert to a close and then the audience to its feet, filling the Barbican Hall with rapturous applause.

269 kr
Sols; Le Poème Harmonique / Vincent Dumestre

"An extraordinary new performance of Allegri’s Miserere which encourages us to rethink a familiar work; the wider programme adds a beautifully performed wider context." (Gramophone) 

Allegri’s Miserere, its heartbreaking harmonies, its verses alternately chanted and ornamented, its seraphic voices: sheer Baroque magic. Since its composition in Rome in 1630, the work has constantly been transformed. Le Poeme Harmonique approaches the score through the prism of its metamorphoses, the ornaments and transpositions added since the time when Mozart himself transcribed the piece, then jealously guarded by the Vatican, which punished publication of it with anathema.From the Renaissance onwards, musicians dressed up the finest secular tunes of their time in sacred words. The most famous example of all, the Pianto della Madonna, in which Monteverdi transferred to the Virgin Mary the mournful strains of his Lamento d’Arianna, illustrates these exchanges between repertories. Similarly, his famous Sì dolce e ’l tormento is here transformed into Sì dolce e ’l martire with the help of the mysterious Virgilio Albanese. Other masters of the period, such as Rossi, Mazzocchi and Marazzoli, also adapted their works to sacred texts. With this programme, which builds on the experience of the album Nova Metamorfosi (ALPHA 039), one of Le Poeme Harmonique’s major triumphs, Vincent Dumestre celebrates the twentieth anniversary of his ensemble.

159 kr
Image #2 AWARDS ISSUE 2019
Braunfels. Pfitzner ‘The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol 79’
Markus Becker pf Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra / Constantin Trinks

"A fascinating new addition to Hyperion’s consistently rewarding series."

The Braunfels—a concerto in all but name—and Pfitzner make an apt pairing, two works dating from the twilight of German Romanticism. Both are heroically dispatched by Markus Becker, with Constantin Trinks and his Berlin Radio Symphony forces providing idiomatic support.

169 kr
Image #4 AWARDS ISSUE 2019
Smalley Chamber Works
Taryn Fiebig sop Darryl Poulsen hn James Cuddeford vn Scott Davie, Daniel Herscovitch pf Roger Smalley tam-tams 

"Roger Smalley’s music could hardly have stronger advocacy than from these players." (Gramophone) 

Roger Smalley (1943–2015) made his mark, first in his native Britain and then in Australia, as composer, pianist, conductor, writer, academic and teacher. Although as performer and commentator he was at the forefront of musical modernism, he was also very fond of nineteenth-century Romanticism, and much of his music bridges the gap between old and new, retaining its roots in the past while reflecting the concerns of his own time, as the works on this album demonstrate.

159 kr
Image #5 AWARDS ISSUE 2019
JS Bach Cello Suites
Emmanuelle Bertrand vc

"In a crowded catalogue, it takes something special to really stand out, and this compellingly committed, full-bodied Bach cycle from Emmanuelle Bertrand does exactly that." (Gramophone) 

To record Bach’s Six Suites was Emmanuelle Bertrand’s most cherished dream; it has now become reality thanks to her encounter with an exceptional instrument. Built by Carlo Tononi in Venice in 1730, this cello with its deep and generous sound, set up in ‘Baroque’ style (with gut strings and bow to match), has proved to be the most faithful of partners for tackling one of the most impressive monuments in all western music.

219 kr
Image #9 AWARDS ISSUE 2019
Schubert. Brahms Schwanengesang, etc
Gerald Finley bar Julius Drake pf 

"Gerald Finley is an eloquently communicative, and powerful, interpreter of Schubert’s late songs, united with an equally thoughtful Julius Drake; the Brahms songs are just as moving." (Gramophone) 

An inspired coupling of two contrasting yet complementary sets of ‘swansongs’. Despite the three decades separating Brahms’s and Schubert’s ages at the time of writing, both are among their composers’ very final works, poignant reflections on the transience of life.

169 kr
Image #10 AWARDS ISSUE 2019
The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge / Andrew Nethsingha 

"Take one of today’s finest collegiate choirs, experiencing a truly golden period, and music that sits at their very heart, and the result is an album which embodies Evensong’s sublime power." (Gramophone) 

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis was recorded to explore the breadth of imagination with which composers have approached the texts, which have been sung in Christian worship for over 1000 years. Stanford’s starting point was the Germanic symphonic tradition; Howells took his inspiration from the architecture and acoustics of the Cathedral in Gloucester; Tippett was inspired by the unique Spanish trumpet stop at St John’s. The Evening Cantincles chosen for this record relate to a particular period of music making in the life of St John’s conductor, Andrew Nethsingha; his time at the Royal College of Music; at Truro and Gloucester Cathedrals, and lastly his time at St John’s. Founded in the 1670s, The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, is one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world – known and loved by millions for its rich, warm and distinctive sound, expressive interpretations and ability to sing in a variety of styles.

159 kr
Rossini L’italiana in Algeri
Sols; Philharmonia Chorus, Vienna; Ensemble Matheus / Jean-Christophe Spinosi 

"‘A production of this opera that’s as good as any of us is ever likely to see’, writes RO." (Gramophone) 

“The role of Isabella is sung to perfection by Cecilia Bartoli – a clever, independent woman with an adventurous streak” (New York Times). Bartoli’s superb performance in Gioachino Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) at Salzburg Festival, directed by the BAFTA-winning stage director duo Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, is a highlight among the Rossini celebrations on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s death. The DVD captures Bartoli’s excellent performance in a rare audiovisual recording of the Italian superstar, who is one of the most successful opera singers of our time. In this vibrant comedy, every look, every hand gesture brings Isabella to life: Bartoli presents the spirited Italian woman with fire, finesse and extraordinary acting abilities – “a Rossini masterclass” (Bachtrack). Her Isabella is a strong, independent woman who has no intentions of accepting the advances of the powerful Mustafà. In the staging by Leiser/Caurier, which plays with preconceived notions about clashing cultures, Mustafà is no longer an Ottoman bey, but a kind of local gangster who smuggles electronics at the port of modern-day Algiers. In the colourful sets of Christian Fenouillat, Ildar Abdrazakov sings the leering macho, looking for a love affair with the beautiful Italian, with delight and “great comic talent” (Salzburger Nachrichten). Edgardo Rocha’s bright tenor climbs up without effort, making his performance as Isabella’s lover Lindoro flowing and highly emotional. The conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi, showing sensitivity to the intricacies and sparkle of Rossini’s score, leads the excellent Ensemble Matheus in a “beguiling performance” (The New York Times).

419 kr
Beethoven. Sibelius Violin Concertos
Christian Tetzlaff vn Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Robin Ticciati

"The engaging, ever- communicative artistry of Christian Tetzlaff led us to focus on him this issue – a quality perfectly demonstrated in these questing, excellent concerto performances." (Gramophone) 

159 kr
Image #2 OCTOBER 2019
Korngold Symphony, etc 
Sinfonia of London / John Wilson 

"You can read the story behind this orchestra in our news pages, but suffice to say this remarkable group of players gathered by John Wilson offer a Korngold Symphony of striking beauty." (Gramophone) 

John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London shine in an all-Korngold programme full of wit, romanticism, sensitivity, and virtuosity – an orchestral tour de force!

169 kr
Image #3 OCTOBER 2019
Bartók Piano Quintet Veress String Trio
Vilde Frang vn et al 

"This superb collection of artists bring an almost palpable rapport to these works; youthful Bartók and, perhaps the really intriguing work here, the fascinating String Trio from Sándor Veress." (Gramophone) 

The Lockenhaus International Chamber Music Festival is regarded as one of Austria’s most prestigious festivals: it was created by the violinist Gidon Kremer to offer a new vision of chamber music and the opportunity to create musical exchanges in an intimate setting. The cellist Nicolas Altstaedt succeeded Gidon Kremer in 2012 and now continues the spirit of the festival. For this first recording in partnership with Lockenhaus, he is joined by experienced partners, including the Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang, the Hungarian violinist Barnabás Kelemen, the German pianist Alexander Lonquich – whose Schubert double album was recently released on Alpha (Alpha 433) – and the British violist Lawrence Power. Together they have selected two works, the Piano Quintet of Béla Bartók, a demanding composition, rarely performed even though it is considered an intensely personal work, and the String Trio of Sándor Veress, a former student of Bartók. Nicolas Altstaedt has joined Alpha for several recording projects that will illustrate the full range of his talents, in a highly eclectic range of music.

159 kr
Image #4 OCTOBER 2019
Nørgård Whirl’s World 
Ensemble MidtVest 

"Different facets – or rather, perhaps, a broad portrait – of this Danish composer’s beguiling music, performed with passion and complete affinity with his sound world by Ensemble MidtVest." (Gramophone)

Per Nørgård is one of the most frequently played composers of his generation. He has written more than 400 works in all genres and inspired innumerable colleagues in Denmark and abroad. This album presents all of Nørgård’s music for the Oscarwinning Babette’s Feast film version by Gabriel Axel of Karen Blixen’s short story – not just the snatches of it one can hear in the film. One can also get to know the hypnotic Spell, the ripples and bubbles in Whirl’s World and Trio Breve, which according to the composer himself are to be regarded as three as short expressive phrases – dream-like pictures – that change between light and dark, fast and slow but with introvert melodic features in common.

159 kr
Image #5 OCTOBER 2019
‘Silk Baroque’
Wu Wei sheng Holland Baroque 

"The sheng, masterfully played by Wu Wei – the soloist who introduced the Chinese mouth organ to readers in our February issue’s Artists & their Instruments – fits movingly into this Baroque programme." (Gramophone)

Silk Baroque presents a musical encounter between Wu Wei and Holland Baroque, performing a programme that ranges from Baroque greats such as Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann and Rameau to Chinese traditional tunes, all tied together by the musicians’ openness to improvisation, experimentation and cultural exchange. Wu Wei plays the sheng, an extraordinary ancient Chinese mouth organ, which looks like a bundle of bamboo reeds cased in a metal bowl. It is a miracle of harmony, melody and rhythmic possibilities, and Wu Wei’s abilities fully bring out the sheng’s beauty: whispering, charming, and compelling. Age-old traditions come together in performances that sound fresh and contemporary. Silk Baroque carries listeners into a lively, enticing and fascinating sound world. Holland Baroque is an original and innovative baroque orchestra that approaches baroque repertoire through a fresh and contemporary approach, with a focus on improvisation and collaborations with outstanding artists from different traditions. On their first PENTATONE release, they work together with Wu Wei, who dazzles audiences worldwide with his virtuosic sheng playing.

189 kr
Image #6 OCTOBER 2019
JS Bach Organ Works 
Masaaki Suzuki org 

"Masaaki Suzuki’s superb new Bach instalment – on organ, lest you think there are further cantatas on offer here! – is also a gloriously atmospheric demonstration of the Freiberg Cathedral instrument." (Gramophone)
Born within a couple of years of each other, Gottfried Silbermann and Johann Sebastian Bach were acquainted, and we know that Silbermann in 1736 invited the composer to inaugurate the new organ that he had built in Dresden’s Frauenkirche. That instrument was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in 1945, but some thirty of Silbermann’s organs are still extant. From robust pedal stops providing a sturdy bass fundament to silvery flute stops, his instruments were famous for their distinctive sound and contemporary sources often made use of a play on the name of their maker as they praised their ‘Silberklang’. Silbermann was based in Freiberg with his workshop only a stone’s throw away from the cathedral, where he built his first great organ in 1714. One of the finest and best preserved examples of his art, this is the instrument which Masaaki Suzuki has chosen for the third instalment in his traversal of Bach’s organ music, following acclaimed recitals recorded in Groningen (the Netherlands) and Kobe (Japan). The programme takes us through various forms of organ compositions, including one of Bach’s most imposing preludes (BWV 546) with its intricate fugue, the multi-sectioned Toccata in C major (BWV 546a), examples of chorale preludes and partitas. Suzuki closes his recital with the famous Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, probably composed during the same years that Silbermann was busy building the organ on which it is performed here.

169 kr
Image #7 OCTOBER 2019
Kapsperger ‘Intavolatura di chitarone’
Jonas Nordberg theorbo 

"Jonas Nordberg really relishes the richly resonant colours of his theorbo throughout this recital of music by the 17th-century composer Kapsperger, dance themes played with delight and a gentle virtuosity." (Gramophone)

At the end of the 16th century, the pursuit of greater, more vivid expressivity dominated music-making all across Italy, taking madrigals and other vocal ensemble forms as its starting point but soon going on to explore the possibilities offered by solo singing. For some decades the theorbo (or chitarone, as it was also called) was regarded as the ideal instrument for accompanying singers, but as a leading exponent of the instrument Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger soon also established it as a solo instrument in its own right. Of German descent, Kapsperger published his first book of solo pieces for the theorbo in 1604 and went on to enjoy a successful career in Rome, contributing to the monumental cultural programme of Pope Urban VIII. There he moved in intellectual circles, particularly that of the scientist Galileo Galilei. During the 1630s things became quiet for Kapsperger, possibly a side effect of Galilei’s conviction for heresy in 1633. Not until 1640 did his last known volume of theorbo pieces appear, the number four in its title indicating that two books have been lost. A particularly attractive aspect of Kapsperger’s music for the theorbo is the marked contrasts between dramatic and impetuous toccatas, straightforward, ‘no-nonsense’ passacaglias and rhythmically refined but simply constructed dance movements such as galliards. These are here all made to sound under the fingers of Jonas Nordberg, sought-after as soloist as well as ensemble musician, performing on a wide range of plucked instruments including the lute, guitar and theorbo. On BIS he has previously appeared on the acclaimed album Heroines with soprano Ruby Hughes and in chamber works with recorder player Dan Laurin.

169 kr
Image #8 OCTOBER 2019
‘Iberia y Franca’
Imogen Cooper pf 
"Imogen Cooper’s characterful performances lend a heady and charming air to these works evocatively exploring the links between France and Spain, including music from Albéniz, Debussy and Ravel." (Gramophone)

Imogen Cooper explores the links between French and Spanish styles in a programme ranging from Albéniz to Mompou via Debussy, Ravel, and Falla.

169 kr
Image #9 OCTOBER 2019
Machaut ‘The Single Rose’ 
The Orlando Consort 
"The Orlando Consort’s brilliant, and acclaimed, Machaut series continues. Songs, and indeed poems, over six centuries old, given vivid life by this first-class quartet of singers." (Gramophone)

The rose as symbol of both the beloved and of love itself: the ‘fleur des fleurs’ of the Roman de la rose is paid due homage by The Orlando Consort in this latest instalment of their essential series.

169 kr
R Strauss Salome 
Sols; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst 

"‘The staging that haunted me most last year’, writes MP of this intriguing Salome, praising the fine performances too." (Gramophone)

Richard Strauss’s opera at the Salzburg Festival, staged by Romeo Castellucci at the Felsenreitschule, was nothing short of a sensation! Debuting in the title role, Asmik Grigorian propelled herself to international stardom with her mesmerizing singing and acting abilities. The exceptional soprano recently won the International Opera Award as best singer. To witness Maestro Franz Welser-Most performing together with the Wiener Philharmoniker and an outstanding cast “makes you think you are hearing the piece in its most perfect incarnation yet” (Financial Times). “Asmik Grigorian sweeps all in her wake in the title role of Strauss’s opera. […] Here is a Salome to end all Salomes. […] In total, it is stunning…" (Financal Times) “thrilling” (Spiegel Online) “A breathtakingly dense, musically epoch-making […] Salome, which brought the house down!” (Neue Zurcher Zeitung)

299 kr
‘Hans Rosbaud Conducts Brahms’
"A well-recommended chance to immerse yourself in conductor Hans Rosbaud’s exploration of the music of Brahms." (Gramophone)

This is a new installment of SWR CLASSIC-series dedicated to Hans Rosbaud. It contains all the recordings the Austrian conductor made for the SWR, some of them being for the first time released on CD. The recordings were made shortly (days!) before his death. Both Piano Concertos are interpreted by famous pianists of the 20th century: Walter Gieseking and Géza Anda,

359 kr
Grieg Lyric Pieces Mendelssohn Songs without Words 
Denis Kozhukhin pf

"A beautifully played, personal selection of piano miniatures from Denis Kozhukhin touchingly captures the poetic nature of the form – that immediate summoning of a single emotion or mood." (Gramophone) 

On his new solo album, Russian star pianist Denis Kozhukhin presents a personal and colourful collection of character pieces taken from Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte and Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. Combing these miniature gems by two outstanding poets of music, Kozhukhin provides a shining example of how disarmingly touching and penetrating a simple song or a vision of nature captured in sound can be. The programme features classics such as Mendelssohn’s Venetian Gondola Song and Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, as well as less famous but equally enchanting pieces. Kozhukhin lifts out the noble simplicity of these works with his delicate playing. Denis Kozhukhin has established himself as one of the greatest pianists of his generation. He now presents the fifth chapter to his exclusive collaboration with PENTATONE, after albums with the piano concertos of Grieg and Tchaikovsky (2016), Brahms Ballades and Fantasies (2017), Ravel and Gershwin piano concertos, as well as Richard Strauss’ Burleske (both 2018).

189 kr
Image #3 SEPTEMBER 2019
Prokofiev. Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos
Haochen Zhang pf Lahti Symphony Orchestra / Dima Slobodeniouk 

"Haochen Zhang – a Van Cliburn winner – performs these works with imaginative command of their required virtuosity." (Gramophone) 

Winner of the 2009 Van Cliburn competition, Haochen Zhang is no stranger to a challenge. On this début concerto disc he proves this once more, boldly jumping in at the deep end as he takes on Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The demands posed by Prokofiev’s concerto are famous, starting with a huge cadenza already in the first movement. This may explain why the concerto was for a long time relatively unknown and, unlike the First and Third Piano Concertos, has only recently taken its rightful place in the repertory. I The work was premièred by the composer himself in 1913, shocking the audience with its modernistic sounds and jagged rhythms. But even though Prokofiev was happy to nurture a reputation for bad-boy modernism, there is also a rich seam of Russian tradition which underlie his music from the beginning to the end of his career. It is therefore fitting that Haochen Zhang has chosen to complete the disc with one of the best-loved concertos from that tradition: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto in B flat minor. In both works, Zhang is supported by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its principal conductor, Dima Slobodeniouk.

169 kr
Image #4 SEPTEMBER 2019
Croes La sonate égarée

"A debut disc – the result of success at the York Early Music Competition – from a young Baroque ensemble possessed of all the flair, creative rapport and passion required to make the music of this era such a thrilling listen." (Gramophone) 
BarrocoTout makes its recording debut following a prize-winning performance at the highly respected biennial York Early Music International Young Artists Competition. After a hard-fought competition Philip Hobbs, Chairman of the Judges and Linn’s Chief Producer, said: “The level of musical performance has been exceptional… BarrocoTout are an extraordinary ensemble.” Formed at the Royal Conservatoires in Brussels, the ensemble has chosen to champion the music of a hitherto neglected Belgian composer: Henri-Jacques de Croes. Treading a path between French, Italian and German influences, de Croes produced music that was courtly yet with enlightenment aspirations. The trio sonatas of Op. 5 were written with a touch of Rococo in mind and a strong Italianate flavour. With only one copy in existence the Six Sonates have hitherto led only a shadowy existence and were regarded as ‘lost’ for many years. With this recording BarrocoTout aims to quash the myth that ‘unknown is unloved’.

169 kr
Image #5 SEPTEMBER 2019
Holliger. Kurtág Zwiegespräche
Heinz Holliger ob et al 

"A celebration of a fascinating figure for his 80th birthday: composer, conductor and oboist Heinz Holliger. Works and performances of sometimes breathtaking immediacy and intimacy." (Gramophone) 

Zwiegespräche is a meeting of spirits. “We compose the same way,” said György Kurtág to Heinz Holliger on hearing this recording, which emphasises works for oboe by these two major composers. Both of them reference the entire history of music in their pieces, both incorporate dedications and messages to friends and colleagues in the fabric of their work, and both draw upon literature as an inspirational source. Both, moreover, love the miniature as an expressive form; short pieces by Kurtág and Holliger are interwoven. Holliger’s sequence Airs (2015/6) is inspired by seven texts by Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet, whose voice is heard here. The release of Zwiegespräche is timely. Heinz Holliger turns 80 on May 21, his creativity as composer and his resourcefulness as instrumentalist undimmed. The album concludes with Holliger’s Sonate für Oboe solo, composed in 1956, and still played by its author with absolute authority.

169 kr
Image #7 SEPTEMBER 2019
Finzi Choral Works
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge / Stephen Layton 

"Uplifting, moving, poignant, triumphant – this gloriously, lovingly performed recital of Finzi’s music fully reflects the breadth of the composer’s masterly skill at writing for choir." (Gramophone) 

A cluster of choral miniatures culminating in one of Finzi’s most intense, visionary masterpieces: this is some of the most exquisite English choral writing of the last century.

169 kr
Image #8 SEPTEMBER 2019
Tchaikovsky Liturgy of St John Chrysostom
Latvian Radio Choir / Sigvards Klava 

"The atmosphere and context – music as extraordinary religious expression – is magisterially conveyed here by a choir on top form, with sound engineering that captures them perfectly." (Gramophone) 
In 1877, Tchaikovsky wrote in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck: “I often go to the public worship; in my opinion, the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is one of the greatest works of art… Oh, I love all that terribly, it is one of my greatest pleasures.” Tchaikovsky enjoyed attending worship services, visited them regularly and was always interested in sacred music, especially in the music of the Orthodox Church. At a relatively early point in his career, in 1875, he issued “A short textbook of harmony, adapted to the reading of spiritual and musical compositions in Russia”, which in 1881 was approved as a textbook of church singing in theological seminaries and colleges. The same year, Tchaikovsky even started editing the works of Dmitry Bortnyansky, a pioneer of sacred Orthodox music. However, he encountered problems with various institutions – the Imperial Chapel, the censorship authorities, as well as some conservative church officials who were more comfortable with smaller-calibre composers, since they could be manipulated if necessary. Tchaikovsky wished to reform sacred Orthodox music but at the same to draw inspiration from the traditions of past centuries. Prime example of this is Tchaikovsky’s monumental work in sacred Orthodox music, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 41. The Nine Sacred Choruses, which date to 1884–1885, is not a cycle in the basic meaning of the word, but rather a collection, and another affirmation of Tchaikovsky’s skills as one of the greatest composers of Orthodox sacred music. In this album these works are being performed by the award-winning Latvian Radio Choir under the direction of Sigvards Klava.

159 kr
‘The Young Debussy’
Edgar Moreau vc London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth

"François-Xavier Roth’s first concert as principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra captured for film." (Gramophone) 
The evocative music of Claude Debussy has been described as the foundation of modern music. But how did the composer come to develop his unique style? One of today's most charismatic conductors, with a reputation for enterprising programming, LSO Principal Guest Conductor François-Xavier Roth presents the UK premiere of a previously lost work by the young Debussy, alongside some of his earliest inspirations.

Debussy’s newly-discovered Première Suite gives a rare insight into just that – the mind of a young composer on the cusp of innovation. It’s a work filled with Romantic and Eastern influences, with glimpses of the unexpected harmonies that came to define Debussy’s work. Paired alongside the composer’s role models, from Wagner’s powerful intertwining motifs, the abundant Spanish influences in Lalo’s rarely-heard Cello Concerto, performed by Edgar Moreau, and Massenet’s majestic Le Cid, François-Xavier Roth gives a fresh perspective on the much-loved composer.

269 kr
Janácek The Diary of One Who Disappeared 
Nicky Spence ten Julius Drake pf

"Nicky Spence’s superb performance of Janácek’s cycle veers from soaring strength to touching vulnerability, sometimes within songs, the drama imaginatively underscored by Julius Drake on piano." (Gramophone) 

Like many of Janácek’s late masterpieces, the genesis of the ‘Diary’ is inseparable from its composer’s intense, obsessional love for Kamila Stösslová. A song-cycle like no other, here it’s the main work in a recital which showcases the extraordinary talents of Nicky Spence, Václava Housková and the vocal trio Voice.

169 kr
Image #4 AUGUST 2019
Parry Piano Trio No 2. Piano Quartet
Leonore Piano Trio 

"Just months after the impressive earlier instalment of the Leonore Piano Trio’s Parry survey, a set to confirm the atmospheric inventiveness of his chamber music, and of these players’ mastery of it." (Gramophone) 

After a successful rehearsal of his piano quartet in 1879, Parry declared that he was ‘wild with delight’. He would have been no less enthusiastic on hearing this dynamic account from the Leonore Piano Trio with violist Rachel Roberts.

169 kr
Image #6 AUGUST 2019
Bach family Cantatas
Vox Luminis / Lionel Meunier 

"Lionel Meunier’s deeply reflective shaping of all these works – each Bach given his own individual voice – allows the distinct personalities within the choir to bring this music beautifully to life." (Gramophone) 

Having recorded the complete motets composed by the ancestors of Johann Sebastian Bach (RIC 347), Vox Luminis now tackles their complete spiritual concerts and sacred cantatas, in which the instruments – particularly the strings – play a highly important role. In the cantata for the Feast of St Michael the Archangel by Johann Christoph Bach, trumpets and drums are enlisted to evoke the battle of the archangels in heaven. To round off this programme, Vox Luminis presents the cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden by Johann Sebastian Bach, in its original version dating from his Arnstadt period, containing copious elements linking it to the music of his forebears.

159 kr
Image #9 AUGUST 2019
Landini ‘L’occhio del cor’
La Reverdie / Christophe Deslignes

"This superb Italian group is perfectly placed to bring the music of 14th-century Italian composer Landini to life for modern ears: richly, atmospherically engaging throughout." (Gramophone) 

Francesco Landini was the most famous Florentine Trecento composer, known to being a multi-instrumentalist, notably a virtuoso on the organ. As known, he lost his sight at the age of 7 but, despite his disability, he excelled in the study of music and all liberal arts.Might the condition of blindness have affected the poetic production of Landini? LaReverdie together with Christophe Deslignes, investigate this hypothesis, with a new project that presents both well known masterpieces and pieces never recorded before, searching signs that might be eventually impressed in the verses and the music of Magister Coecus by the loss of his sight. The reference to the eyes from literary topos becomes in many Landini’s texts a melancholic poetic expedient to express the distance, the absence or the loss of the beloved woman, that only “the heart’s eye” (L’Occhio del Cor) is able to imagine. A project which fills the recent recording void on a fundamental author at the sunset of the Middle Ages, reread through a perspective never explored until now. A passionate work on the strict bond between poetry and music, well explained by Davide Daolmi, is associated to a necessary musicological research about sources.

169 kr
Barber Vanessa
Sols; Glyndebourne Opera; London Philharmonic Orchestra / Jakub Hruša 

"A strongly recommended staging of Barber’s Vanessa from Glyndebourne which has challenged perceptions of the opera." (Gramophone) 

Abandoned by her lover Anatol, Vanessa retreats from the world, waiting and hoping with only her mother and her niece Erika for company. But when, 20 years later, Anatol’s handsome young son arrives unexpectedly, he shatters the calm of this shuttered household of women. Past and present love collides, and the aftershocks threaten to destroy them all. Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer Prize-winning first opera boasts one of the 20th century’s most beautiful scores. Poised constantly on the edge of song, Vanessa unfolds in generous swathes of melody, rich in filmic strings and soaring brass, with echoes of Puccini, Berg and Strauss. It climaxes in a final quintet of Mozartean poignancy – one of the great ensembles of the contemporary repertoire.

299 kr
Beethoven Symphony No 9. Missa solemnis
Sols; Bavarian Radio SO / Rafael Kubelík 

"A second Missa solemnis, this time from the archives, paired with an equally fine Ninth." (Gramophone) 

As the head of the Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio, Rafael Kubelik was one of the major personalities of post-war German music life. His proverbial modesty and his creed of absolute faithfulness to the original work earned him many admirers, especially during his years in Munich as principal conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio (1961–79). Let it be noted that it was less the person Kubelik that was venerated, but rather his interpretation of music: uncompromising concentration on what was essential, unadulterated and relevant in the best sense of the word. Examples of this can be shown by these audio recordings of two of Ludwig van Beethoven’s best-known works, the Missa Solemnis, in which Beethoven like in no other work thematized his life-long struggle with faith, and the famous Symphony No. 9, which by including a choral movement broke with the conventions of Viennese Classicism like no other symphony of the time and was viewed as a ground-breaking work. With Helen Donath, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier, John Shirley-Quirk and other voices from the very top ‘league’ of the concert and song guard of the 1970s and 1980s, these Munich recordings also go far beyond the status of historical sound documents – they are veritable reference recordings!

119 kr
Charpentier Histoires sacrées
Ensemble Correspondances / Sébastien Daucé 

"The ability of Sébastien Daucé and his Ensemble Correspondances to bring Baroque drama vividly to life is well proven: this selection of sacred works is compellingly performed and superbly recorded." (Gramophone) 

Marc-Antoine Charpentier is the only composer of the age of Louis XIV to have distinguished himself so remarkably in the genre of the ‘sacred history’: he wrote more than thirty such works, all composed after his residence in Italy. Sébastien Daucé and the Ensemble Correspondances have carefully extracted from this outstanding corpus a number of gems that reflect both his experience in Rome (probably studying with Carissimi, the master of the oratorio) and the humanist concerns of an entire period. Like a miniature opera, each piece relates an exemplary destiny, including several strong-willed women (Judith, Cecilia, Mary Magdalene) and a deep friendship put to the test (Mors Saülis and Jonathae).

219 kr
Image #2 JANUARY 2019
Mozart Piano Concertos, Vol 4 
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf Manchester Camerata / Gábor Takács-Nagy

"Bavouzet inspires, entertains and embodies the playfulness and grace of Mozart’s much-loved works. A very fine recording." (Gramophone) 

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s first three volumes of Mozart concertos with the Manchester Camerata and Gábor Takács-Nagy have been received with widespread acclaim, and so it’s with some excitement that we release the keenly anticipated fourth instalment in the series. Composed within just one month in early 1785, these two concertos are among the most popular of all of Mozart’s piano concertos. No. 20, K 466, was his first concerto in a minor key, and it’s dark and stormy nature contrasts the light and sunny feeling of concerto no.21. As with so many of his piano concertos, both works were composed for the Vienna concert series, and given their premiere performances with Mozart at the keyboard. The two concertos are interspersed on this recording with a vivid performance of the Don Giovanni Overture, which further demonstrates the exemplary playing of the Manchester Camerata.

169 kr
Image #3 JANUARY 2019
Sibelius Lemminkäinen Suite 
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo 

"Sakari Oramo has a wonderful command of the majestic sweep and inner detail of Sibelius’s music, this Lemminkäinen evocatively suggestive of mysterious legend." (Gramophone) 

Chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra since 2013, Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo has a special affinity with the music of his compatriot Sibelius which this recording admirably demonstrates. Sibelius’ ever-popular ‘Lemminkäinen Suite’ is coupled here with ‘Spring Song’, and the lesser-known Suite from ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’. Sibelius composed the ‘Lemminkäinen Suite’ (also called the Four Legends, or Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22, in the 1890s. Originally conceived as a mythological opera, Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat), the suite is based on the character Lemminkäinen from the Finnish epic, the Kalevala. Sibelius’ music for ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ was originally composed as incidental music for a play (by Hjalmar Procopé), in 1906. First performed in the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki in November of that year, conducted by the composer. The following year, Sibelius extracted four of the eight movements to form the more widely known orchestral suite we hear in this recording.

169 kr
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