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GRAMOPHONE 2020

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.
Visar 106 artiklar
Image RECORDING OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER 2020
Nielsen Symphonies Nos 1 & 2, ‘The Four Temperaments’
Seattle Symphony Orchestra / Thomas Dausgaard

"Two brilliant traversals of Nielsen’s early symphonies, featuring some truly thrilling and perceptive playing from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra under conductor Thomas Dausgaard." (Gramophone) 

Thomas Dausgaard and the Seattle Symphony bring electric and superbly played performances of Nielsen’s early symphonies. Dausgaard has championed the music of his countryman throughout his career, and this album features the Danish composer’s ecstatic First Symphony and the strong-willed Second Symphony. The live concert recordings capture the vitality and energy shared by the orchestra and their new Music Director, all in the spectacular acoustics of Benaroya Hall. Led by Music Director Thomas Dausgaard and recognized as one of the “most vital American orchestras” (NPR), the Seattle Symphony is internationally acclaimed for its inventive programming, community-minded initiatives and superb recordings on the Seattle Symphony Media label. With a strong commitment to new music and a legacy of over 150 recordings, the orchestra has garnered five Grammy Awards, 26 Grammy nominations, two Emmy Awards and was named Gramophone’s 2018 Orchestra of the Year. In recent years, recordings made by the orchestra with Thomas Dausgaard have earned critical acclaim and international honors, including a 2017 Gramophone Award nomination for Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, and a 2019 Best Orchestral Performance Grammy Award nomination for Nielsen’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 — the first installment in the orchestra’s cycle of Carl Nielsen’s symphonies. The Symphony performs in Benaroya Hall in the heart of downtown Seattle from September through July, reaching over 500,000 people annually through live performances and radio broadcasts.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #2 NOVEMBER 2020
Sibelius Symphonies Nos 1 & 3
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Owain Arwel Hughes

"Sibelius’s beguiling sound world is brought out with full force and beauty by Owain Arwel Hughes and the RPO on this splendid album from the Rubicon label." (Gramophone) 

The first in a cycle of all seven of Sibelius’s symphonies sees the first dating from 1899 coupled with the third from 1907.

No.1, although bound by classical conventions and the influence of Tchaikovsky, displays a remarkable and striking independence of thought.

No.3 shows the composer making the transition from the large-scale symphonic structures of the first two symphonies to the more compact, tightly argued symphonies to follow.

Like the 5th, the C major work is in three movements and the clean, highly individual instrumentation marks it as the first of the symphonies in his mature style.

The sunny brisk nature of the Third belies its importance among the seven symphonies.


127 kr (159 kr)
Image #3 NOVEMBER 2020
Tavener No Longer Mourn For Me
Steven Isserlis vc Philharmonia Orchestra / Omer Meir Wellber

"A deeply personal project from Steven Isserlis of music by his great friend Sir John Tavener – learn more about the moving story behind it in this month’s feature." (Gramophone) 

An important release which again demonstrates Steven Isserlis’s deep commitment to the music of John Tavener. The realization of the album is movingly detailed in a booklet note which provides an eloquent counterpoint and commentary to the performances.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #4 NOVEMBER 2020
‘London Circa 1720’
La Rêveuse

"Elegant music-making throughout from these wonderfully collaborative musicians, sprightly and serene by turns, which vividly evokes a musical and historical period in time." (Gramophone) 

Who could have imagined that London would become the capital of Italian opera in the early eighteenth century? The 1720s witnessed a feverish demand for music that led many foreign virtuosos to move to the city. Concert-loving Londoners relished the last sonatas in the style of the old master Corelli, the first recorder and flute concertos, and the works of the youthful newcomer Handel . . . Let us admire this lively scene with the musicians of La Rêveuse, in their first recording for harmonia mundi!

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #5 NOVEMBER 2020
Bartók. Brahms. Liszt Piano Works
Alexandre Kantorow pf

"Pianist Alexandre Kantorow continues his extraordinary progress with a further remarkable example of his virtuosity and artistry, showing both skill and sensitivity throughout this captivating programme." (Gramophone) 

In 2019, at the age of 22, Alexandre Kantorow became the first French pianist to win the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. Before then he had released three acclaimed albums, awarded distinctions such as Diapason d'or de l'Année and Gramophone's Editor's Choice and earning Kantorow descriptions ranging from 'Liszt reincarnated' to 'a firebreathing virtuoso with a poetic charm and innate stylistic mastery'. The present recital, his first release since the Tchaikovsky Competition, offers plenty of scope for virtuosity, poetry and charm, always filtered through an acute stylistic consciousness. The programme is constructed around three rhapsodies, a genre whose improvisatory character corresponds perfectly with the spirit of Romanticism but here interpreted by three highly distinct artistic temperaments: Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Béla Bartók.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #7 NOVEMBER 2020
Josquin Masses
The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips

"Journey’s end: and what a journey. From the Gramophone Award-winning opening album back in 1986, The Tallis Scholars’ survey of Josquin’s Masses finishes with an appropriately superb addition to the series." (Gramophone) 

‘With this ninth and final release in our Josquin Mass cycle we come to three of his greatest works. Although all three Masses come roughly from his early middle age, together they form a perfect showcase for a genius who felt challenged to make each setting different.’ Peter Phillips
The Tallis Scholars’ Josquin Mass cycle may have spanned the longest period of any project in the history of recorded music, with over 33 years having elapsed between the first album in the series which won the Gramophone Record of the Year Award in 1987 and this final instalment.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #8 NOVEMBER 2020
Mahler ‘Erinnerung’
Christiane Karg sop Malcolm Martineau pf

"An album of very beautiful Mahler-singing from soprano Christiane Karg, joined throughout by stylish piano playing from Malcolm Martineau (and, intriguingly, the composer himself …)." (Gramophone) 



127 kr (159 kr)
Image #9 NOVEMBER 2020
‘Sturm und Drang, Vol 2’
The Mozartists / Ian Page

"Ian Page and The Mozartists once again shine in Volume Two of their study of music associated with Sturm und Drang – thoughtful programming and excellent performances." (Gramophone) 

This series of ‘Sturm und Drang’ recordings incorporates iconic compositions by Mozart, Gluck and, above all, Joseph Haydn, but it also includes largely forgotten or neglected works by less familiar names. All of the music featured on this second recording in the series was composed between 1765 and 1770, with three turbulent minor-key symphonies alternating with sacred and operatic arias. This is the second of a seven-volume series by the Mozartists and Ian Page exploring the ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement, which swept through all art forms in the between the early 1760s and 1780s. Its general objectives were to frighten and perturb through the use of a wildly subjective and emotional means of expression, invoking ground-breaking extremes of passion and sentimentality.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image DVD: NOVEMBER 2020
Henze Der Prinz von Homburg
Sols; Stuttgart Opera / Cornelius Meister

"Henze’s 1960 take on Heinrich von Kleist’s early 19th-century play Der Prinz von Homburg is here given a thought-provoking and strong staging and performance." (Gramophone) 

Resonating powerfully with Hans Werner Henze’s pacifist perspective, Der Prinz von Homburg is based on a play by Heinrich von Kleist that opposes authority, celebrating a dreamer rather than a classical hero, and individualist freedom rather than militarist nationalism. Ingeborg Bachmann’s libretto heightens this message, and Henze’s chamber-music setting is at once powerful and unpredictable. This visually stunning production stretches from intimate transparency to dramatic heights, in a critically acclaimed staging by the award-winning director Stephan Kimmig.

191 kr (239 kr)
Image BLU RAY: NOVEMBER 2020
191 kr (239 kr)
Image #3 AWARDS ISSUE 2020
Mozart String Quintets, K515 & 516
Van Kuijk Quartet with Adrien La Marca va

"Captivating chamber playing from the Van Kuijk Quartet, joined by viola-player Adrien La Marca, in a reading of intelligence, colour and engaging freshness." (Gramophone) 


135 kr (169 kr)
Image #6 AWARDS ISSUE 2020
JS Bach St John Passion
Sols; Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki

"Masaaki Suzuki’s St Matthew Passion has won this year’s Choral Award – this performance of the St John is every bit as moving, heartfelt, dramatic and spiritual." (Gramophone) 


135 kr (169 kr)
Image #7 AWARDS ISSUE 2020
Heggie Unexpected Shadows
Jamie Barton mez Jake Heggie pf

"Jamie Barton’s gloriously communicative voice and Jake Heggie’s music feel an inspired and inspiring pairing, on this compelling contemporary album." (Gramophone) 


127 kr (159 kr)
Image #9 AWARDS ISSUE 2020
‘Lamento’
Damien Guillon counterten Café Zimmermann

"Personal and profound, this emotional programme of 17th-century music is sung with moving emotional engagement and great beauty by countertenor Damien Guillon." (Gramophone) 


135 kr (169 kr)
Image DVD/BLU RAY: AWARDS ISSUE 2020
Massenet Don Quichotte
Sols; Vienna Symphony Orchestra / Daniel Cohen

"This DVD of a contemporary take on Massenet’s setting of the Cervantes character finds an engaging stage performance transferring successfully to screen." (Gramophone) 


239 kr (299 kr)
Image DVD/BLU RAY: AWARDS ISSUE 2020
287 kr (359 kr)
Image RECORDING OF THE MONTH - OCTOBER 2020
Britten Peter Grimes
Sols incl Stuart Skelton; Bergen Philharmonic Choirs and Orchestra / Edward Gardner

"A powerful new recording of Peter Grimes from Stuart Skelton, one of today’s leading interpreters of the title role, and a conductor, Edward Gardner, who perfectly understands Britten’s music." (Gramophone) 

‘The burly Aussie tenor is now even more identified with this ill-fated protagonist than Peter Pears, the first Grimes. And everywhere Skelton has sung the part, whether at English National Opera, the Proms, the Edinburgh festival or now on this international tour of a concert staging mounted by the Bergen Philharmonic, the conductor has been Edward Gardner. Theirs is one of the great musical partnerships, and they continue to find compelling new depths in this tragic masterpiece.’ – Richard Morrison – The Times. This studio recording was made following the acclaimed production at Grieghallen, in Bergen, in 2019 (repeated in Oslo and London and reviewed above). Luxuriant playing from the Bergen Philharmonic and a stellar cast under the assured direction of Edward Gardner make this a recording to treasure.

254 kr (318 kr)
Image #2 OCTOBER 2020
Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4
Kristian Bezuidenhout fp Freiburg Baroque Orchestra / Pablo Heras-Casado

"Kristian Bezuidenhout delivers a thrilling performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, alive to all its details." (Gramophone) 

In their own way Beethoven’s five piano concertos relate a part of their composer’s life. In the previous volume of this complete recording, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado and the musicians of the Freiburger Barockorchester explored the beginning (Concerto no.2, a springboard to Viennese fame) and the end (the ‘Emperor’) of the story. They now turn to the most personal of all the Beethoven concertos, the Fourth which, at a time when the spectre of total deafness threatened his career, shattered the conventions of the genre - as did such orchestral works as Coriolan and the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #3 OCTOBER 2020
Respighi Roman Trilogy
Sinfonia of London / John Wilson

"Another superb – and sonically ravishing – recording from John Wilson and his hand-picked ensemble of superb players, the Sinfonia of London; Respighi performed with sheer delight." (Gramophone) 

Following the widespread critical acclaim of their first two recordings – including a BBC Music Magazine Award – John Wilson and the Sinfonia of London turn to Respighi’s Roman Trilogy for their third release. Born in Bologna in 1879, Respighi trained as a violinist and composer, and travelled extensively. His influences are therefore wide-ranging, from Richard Strauss and Debussy to Rimsky-Korsakov (who taught him orchestration) in addition to a love of – and fascination with – Plainsong and music of the Italian baroque. Fountains of Rome was the first of these three great tone poems, composed between 1913 and 1916, and inspired by a series of photographs given to him by the artist Edita Broglio. Intensely programmatic, the work sees Respighi setting out to evoke ‘sentiments and visions suggested… by four of Rome’s fountains contemplated at the hour in which their character is most in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or in which their beauty appears most impressive to the observer’. Pines of Rome was completed in 1924 – a particularly turbulent time in Italy, following Mussolini’s appointment as Prime Minister, in 1922. Like Fountains, the work is explicitly programmatic, set in four sections, and calling for extremely large orchestral forces – including a gramophone recording of a nightingale in the third movement. Roman Festivals was premiered in 1928 by the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini, who was a great supporter of Respighi and regularly performed his works throughout his career. Again, in four parts, Festivals calls for the largest orchestration of all, including a vast array of percussion as well as organ, four-hand piano and mandolin. Despite some negative criticism when they were first introduced, these works have found favor with concert goers around the world and been regularly performed ever since.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #4 OCTOBER 2020
Schumann Symphonies Nos 1 & 4
Gürzenich Orchestra, Cologne / François-Xavier Roth

"François-Xavier Roth’s ability to draw superb playing from whichever ensemble he’s conducting has earned many Editor’s Choices: this Schumann album reveals why." (Gramophone) 

The year 1841 finally marked Robert Schumann’s breakthrough as a composer for orchestra. That year, he created no less than two works: his First Symphony, also known as the “Spring Symphony”, and a piece which he initially planned as a "Symphonic Fantasy" in one movement, and which would later become his Symphony in D Minor. The Spring Symphony was composed in the coldest winter. Full of longing, it is a work that knows only one direction: growing, blossoming, the path to light and new life. The Symphony in D minor seems much more somber and intimate, “a work from the innermost depths of his soul”, as Clara Schumann noted in her diary. However, the audience could not warm up to this bold, impetuous work, and Schumann set it aside. Ten years later, after a major revision, he published it as his 4th Symphony. This album pairs the Spring Symphony with the original version of the Symphony in D minor, the version which friends such as Johannes Brahms preferred over the later edition. Schumann never heard it again in his lifetime, and it was not until 1889 that it was performed in public once more, by the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne under the baton of Franz Wüllner. François-Xavier Roth, the Gürzenich Orchestra’s current chief conductor, also prefers the original version. With its leaner orchestration, it is certainly the more radical one, and thus requires a higher degree of commitment from the orchestra musicians in forming crescendi, melodic phrases, and extended arcs of formal development.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #5 OCTOBER 2020
Dowland A Fancy
Bor Zuljan lute

"A reflective, introspective and highly personal performance of Dowland’s music from Bor Zuljan, a lute player who draws deep emotions from both the music and his dark-toned instrument." (Gramophone) 

The first notes of the descending chromatic theme break the silence and it seems as if time has stopped. The listener is drawn into the world of John Dowland, the greatest lutenist of all, in a journey through multiple shades of melancholy and lucent hope. Never before had the lute sounded as expressive and colorful as in these masterful Fancies, as dynamic as in these sparkling dances: Renaissance lute music here reached its summit. Bor Zuljan explores these qualities in his debut solo recording, breathing new life into Dowland's masterpieces. Bor Zuljan (1987) is active in different musical genres and projects and searches for a synthesis of contemporary and early music, different world music traditions, jazz and improvisation. He plays guitars, different kinds of lutes, vihuela, oud, tar and other early and traditional plucked-strings instruments. The search for the connection between sound, image and word led him to collaborate in different interdisciplinary projects. He is performing regularly as soloist and with ensembles, such as Le Concert Brisé, Geneva Camerata, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Contrechamps, Vortex, in duo with Dusan Bogdanovic, as well as with his ensemble La Lyra. His projects have been presented in festivals such as the Laus Polyphoniae in Antwerpen, Oude Muziek in Utrecht, Mousiké in Bari, Festival Radovljica in Slovenia and many others. He also performed in China, Algeria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and in Croatia.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #6 OCTOBER 2020
Liszt. Thalberg Opera Transcriptions & Fantasies
Marc-André Hamelin pf

"This is completely compelling virtuosity from one of today’s finest pianists – a supreme showcase for this repertoire, and a glorious listen from beginning to end." (Gramophone) 

If, as Liszt himself dubbed it, ‘Hexaméron’ is ‘a monster’, it’s a monster which certainly holds no terrors for Marc-André Hamelin, and the encounter between them makes for some thrilling pianism. The remainder of the recital—high-octane transformations of nineteenth-century operatic favourites—is every bit as electrifying, from a musician who never ceases to astonish whatever the repertoire.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #8 OCTOBER 2020
‘Portraits de la Folie’
Stéphanie d’Oustrac mez Ensemble Amarillis / Héloïse Gaillard

"‘A typically enterprising recital’ writes Richard Wigmore of Stéphanie d’Oustrac imaginative album –and it’s as brilliantly performed as we might expect." (Gramophone) 

Having been relegated to a moral space of exclusion and fear in the Middle Ages, madness subsequently became a major social phenomenon: brought under control and personified as ‘Folly’ in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it provided scope for social and moral criticism, leading composers and librettists to give it a prominent place on the operatic stage. Here Stéphanie d’Oustrac and the Amarillis ensemble present its multiple facets, from seduction to passionate love, from despair to joy, revealing the underlying truths of humanity in the Baroque era.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #9 OCTOBER 2020
Janácek The Cunning Little Vixen
Sols; London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle

"Simon Rattle returns to The Cunning Little Vixen and offers an interpretation of vivid colour, with Lucy Crowe and Gerald Finley leading an impressive cast." (Gramophone) 

Melodious and charming, The Cunning Little Vixen is a work rooted in Czech history and folk music; a sentimental journey through the cycles of life. For Sir Simon Rattle, it’s a deeply personal and emotional work – 'it's the piece that made me want to become an opera conductor … and still one of the pieces that reduces me to tears more easily than any other', says the LSO's Music Director. Recorded with an outstanding cast during semi-staged performances, this recording is the second in an LSO Live series showcasing acclaimed collaborations between Rattle and the celebrated stage director Peter Sellars. Towering fanfares open Janácek's Sinfonietta, an ode to the composer's hometown of Brno in the now Czech Republic. It's a portrait composed for a national celebration of Slavic culture, with Janácek's love of musical tradition evident in dancing strings and celebratory brass.

191 kr (239 kr)
Image #10 OCTOBER 2020
Saint-Saëns Le timbre d’argent
Sols; Les Siècles / François-Xavier Roth

"François-Xavier Roth’s second Editor’s Choice slot this month, here with Les Siècles exploring a rarely heard Saint-Saëns opera alongside excellent soloists and the choir Accentus." (Gramophone) 

Saint-Saëns’s first opera, Le Timbre d’argent – initially composed in 1864 – need not fear comparison with some of the most celebrated works in the nineteenth-century French repertory. It depicts the nightmare of a man whose hallucinations anticipate by twenty years the fantastical apparitions of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. A manipulative diabolical figure gives the hero a silver bell that he must ring to obtain the gold that will enable him to gain the love of the beautiful Circé; in exchange, a supposedly random victim must perish. But first Conrad’s father-in-law, then his best friend are the ones to die. The flashback that resolves the drama already prefigures the cinematic devices of the following century. Le Timbre d’argent is presented here in its final version, dating from 1914, the last of ten revisions over a period of almost fifty years. The dynamic conducting of François-Xavier Roth and the exceptionally precise and fiery performance of the period-instrument orchestra Les Siècles demonstrate that Saint-Saëns was doubtless right to persist in considering the work as one of his masterpieces.

287 kr (359 kr)
Image DVD: OCTOBER 2020
Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 Bruckner Symphony No 7
Emanuel Ax pf Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Bernard Haitink

"A performance of Bruckner steeped in the wisdom of a lifetime." (Gramophone) 

“No more Bruckner under Haitink, that’s a cut in the history of interpretation” (Wiener Zeitung) To end his active conducting career after 65 years, maestro Bernard Haitink together with the Wiener Philharmoniker gives a farewell concert at the Großes Festspielhaus at Salzburg Festival, leaving no doubt of being one of the best Bruckner interpreters ever. The Dutch conductor, who was appointed honorary member of the Wiener Philharmoniker shortly before the concert, is joined by star pianist Emanuel Ax in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4: a musical interaction “of a depth of sentiment and an agreement in making music together that sounds wonderfully natural” (Salzburger Nachrichten). The concert ends with Bruckner’s monumental Symphony No. 7 with its famous second movement, which marked the composer’s breakthrough and remains one of his most popular symphonies. The Wiener Philharmoniker play under Haitink’s masterful baton completely focused, but dynamic and with deepest sensation. The atmosphere of this last performance is without doubt exceptional and a visibly emotional Haitink was celebrated by the audience with long standing ovations. “You shouldn’t throw terms like ‘magic moments’ around easily. But what could be heard in Salzburg was certainly one” (Klassikinfo.de)

239 kr (299 kr)
Image BLU RAY: OCTOBER 2020
287 kr (359 kr)
Image REISSUE/ARCHIVE: OCTOBER 2020
Smetana Libuše
Václav Talich

"An important addition to Václav Talich’s Smetana music on record, one taken from performances in 1939: ‘a historic recording’, writes Rob Cowan in Replay, in the sense of ‘history being made’." (Gramophone) 


142 kr (189 kr)
Image RECORDING OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2020
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Dame Sarah Connolly mez Robert Dean Smith bar Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski

"At its finest – as it is here – Das Lied von der Erde is a work of profound poignancy; two superb soloists, and a conductor who beautifully shapes this performance, make it an unmissable release." (Gramophone) 

Vladimir Jurowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin continue their exploration of Mahler with a new recording of Das Lied von der Erde, on which Dame Sarah Connolly and Robert Dean Smith provide the vocal contributions. Residing somewhere between symphony and song cycle, Das Lied is one of Mahler’s most profound and loved works, marking an important step in the composer’s career, as well as in his private life. Jurowski approaches the piece as Mahler’s deliberate move from a “heroic” Beethovenian model towards a more “lyrical”, Schubertian attitude. Throughout Das Lied, and particularly in the contemplative last movement, “Der Abschied (The Goodbye)”, Mahler seems to come to terms with the mortality of man while celebrating the immortal nature of Life. The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin has a vast PENTATONE discography. Together with their chief conductor and artistic director Vladimir Jurowski, they have recorded symphonic works from Mahler and Strauss (2017), violin concertos by Britten and Hindemith together with Arabella Steinbacher (2017), and Schnittke’s Third Symphony (2015). Robert Dean Smith featured on PENTATONE recordings of Tannhäuser (title role, 2013), Die Walküre (Siegmund, 2013), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Stolzing, 2011), and Der Fliegende Holländer (Erik, 2011). Dame Sarah Connolly makes her PENTATONE debut.

151 kr (189 kr)
Image #2 SEPTEMBER 2020
MAHLER Symphony No 7
Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä

"More Mahler this month: a brilliant and detailed traversal of the composer’s Seventh Symphony from Osmo Vänskä which more than warrants a place on this page – a very fine recording." (Gramophone) 

In an effort to arrange the first performance of his Seventh Symphony, Gustav Mahler declared it to be his best work, ‘preponderantly cheerful in character’. His younger colleague Schoenberg expressed his admiration for the work, and Webern considered it his favorite Mahler symphony. Nevertheless, it remains the least performed and least written-about symphony of the entire cycle, and has come to be regarded as enigmatic and less successful than its siblings. One reason for this has been the huge – even for Mahler – contrasts that it encompasses: from a first movement which seems to continue the atmosphere of the previous symphony, the ‘Tragic’ Sixth, to a finale that has been accused of excessive triumphalism, and which Mahler himself once described as ‘broad daylight’. Between these two poles, he supplies no less than two movements entitled Nachtmusik (‘night music’) framing a scherzo to which the composer added the character marking schattenhaft (‘shadowy’). Mahler famously said that ‘a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.’ The Seventh is as true to this dictum as any other of the symphonies, offering a wealth of emotions, moods and colours. The composer makes full and imaginative use of the orchestra’s extended wind and percussion sections – including cowbells, whips and glockenspiel – as well as a mandolin and a guitar, adding a troubadour-like aspect to the nightly serenade of the fourth movement. All of this is brought to life by the players of the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, as they continue a cycle praised for the performances as well as the recorded sound.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #3 SEPTEMBER 2020
PICKARD The Gardener of Aleppo
Nash Ensemble / Martyn Brabbins

"Covering 30 years of composer John Pickard’s career, these well-chosen works convey his concerns with emotion and events; the Nash Ensemble understand his sound world intimately." (Gramophone) 

Four previous releases on BIS have all featured John Pickard’s music for large orchestra – or, in the case of the Gaia Symphony (BIS-2061), large brass band. This new album, on the other hand, presents scorings ranging from a solo oboe to a chamber ensemble of eight players. The seven works cover just over 30 years; the earliest one, Serenata Concertata, was Pickard’s first paid commission written at the age of twenty. In his liner notes, Pickard notes that he has an aversion to repeating himself: ‘so each new work tends to be a reaction against the character, structure and technique of the previous one… The result has been a body of work with a wide expressive range and this disc gives some indication of that. The pieces on it are grouped in a broad progression from the serious to the more lighthearted.’ The two opening works are indeed inspired by serious matters – the background to The Gardener of Aleppo is the war in Syria, while Daughters of Zion, the only vocal work on the album, sets a text that reflects on anti-Jewish aspects of certain early Christian celebrations. In the latter work, Susan Bickley joins the players of the celebrated Nash Ensemble, who go on to lighter fare in Three Chicken Studies (Pickard himself has kept chickens as pets) and Ghost Train, a perpetuum mobile built on a cantus firmus derived from the Dies iræ theme. For this and the other chamber ensemble pieces the conductor Martyn Brabbins, a longtime collaborator of Pickard’s, wields his baton.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #4 SEPTEMBER 2020
BEETHOVEN Bagatelles
Paul Lewis pf

"Paul Lewis is a pianist whose relationship with Beethoven’s music has brought us many albums of richly absorbing playing, and in the composer’s anniversary year, his Bagatelles enhance that fine catalogue." (Gramophone) 

In our collective idea of the piano, Beethoven’s name is associated with the monument of the thirty-two sonatas, which have often been elevated to the status of the ‘New Testament’ beside the ‘Old Testament’ of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Yet, over a period of decades, the composer of Für Elise constantly returned to the genre of the bagatelle, which he called ‘trifles’ but which actually meant a great deal to him. In this small form par excellence, as in the sonata, Beethoven laid the foundations for a flourishing new genre, the piano miniature. Whether they last a few minutes or a few seconds, these Bagatelles are masterpieces!

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #5 SEPTEMBER 2020
JOHAN SMITH Guitar Works
Johan Smith gtr

"With competition prizes to his credit, Johan Smith is clearly a guitarist to follow, one with, as this mixed recital reveals, a compelling sense of touch and musicality." (Gramophone) 

Johan Smith, 2019 winner of the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition, presents his dream programme in this recital. Bach’s Toccata for harpsichord ‘borders on the unplayable’ for the guitar, especially in its final double fugue, while Manuel Ponce’s Variations on La folía de España and Fugue is one of the most challenging peaks of the repertoire. Mertz’s celebrated virtuoso Concertino is followed by Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland, renowned for its blend of Elizabethan melancholy and contemporary strangeness. The recital concludes with a world premiere, the evocative Sables Stellaires by Josquin Schwizgebel, dedicated to Johan Smith. We are continually in awe of the remarkable musicianship of each new generation of classical players, and as a result our Guitar Laureate series goes from strength to strength with every season. Named the ‘Classical Guitar Revelation of 2017’ by French Guitar Classical Magazine, Johan Smith has been invited to perform in renowned festivals as soloist and in concertos with orchestras such as the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra.

71 kr (89 kr)
Image #6 SEPTEMBER 2020
FINNISSY Pious Anthems & Voluntaries
The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge / Andrew Nethsingha

"All praise to St John’s and their conductor Andrew Nethsingha for commissioning these works, and then recording them for posterity with such skill and devotion." (Gramophone) 

Michael Finnissy was born in Tulse Hill in 1946. He studied at the Royal College of Music with Bernard Stevens and Humphrey Seale, and in Italy with Roman Vlad. Much of his early work was first performed in France and the Netherlands, while he was working as a freelance repetiteur and pianist for dance-classes. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music, at the universities of Sussex and Southampton, and at the Katholiek Universiteit in Leuven. He has also given summer courses at Dartington, and been resident artist at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne (Australia). He has been featured composer at the Huddersfield Festival several times, at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and many other places across the world, most recently at SICPP in Boston USA. In this new recording the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge perform Finnissy’s deep, rich and fulfilling music – created as part of a residency, which combines evocative works directly inspired by Tudor Music from the choir's library with more free-form inspirations of this material by the composer. It has taken Conductor and Director Andrew Nethsingha four years to gradually learn the pieces on this recording. He says it “has been a deeply enriching experience which I want others to share”.

207 kr (259 kr)
Image #7 SEPTEMBER 2020
POTT At First Light
Commotio / Matthew Berry

"Francis Pott offers a moving addition to modern music – ‘a semi-secular Requiem’ as he puts it, one of thought-provoking depth, performed with compassion by Commotio and Matthew Berry." (Gramophone) 

Francis Pott’s acclaimed musical voice is one of uncommon eloquence and seriousness of purpose, and his works have been performed and broadcast in over 40 countries. This recording presents world premiere recordings of two major pieces. At First Light is a memorial work which takes the form of a series of slow meditations surrounding an exuberant motet, with wordless commentary from a lamenting cello. Word, with its significant role for the organ and the inclusion of texts by the Welsh priest and poet R.S. Thomas, reveals Gospel contemplation in a postmodern world.

71 kr (89 kr)
Image #8 SEPTEMBER 2020
‘HERE WE ARE’
The Hermes Experiment

"This fabulous young chamber ensemble – comprising harp, clarinet, soprano and double bass – have really caught the imagination with their commitment to commissioning and their infectious and brilliant performances." (Gramophone) 

With over sixty commissions to its credit after just six years of existence, The Hermes Experiment has already proved itself a force to be reckoned with in the creation and advocacy of new music. Now, ten of those commissions are brought together on the ensemble’s debut album release, showcasing its deliberately idiosyncratic line-up of harp, clarinet, soprano and double bass in a compelling survey of styles and individual voices. Buzzing with energy, irresistibly plural, HERE WE ARE is a portrait of our times and an unignorable statement of identity and purpose.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image RECORDING OF THE MONTH - AUGUST 2020
Dallapiccola Il prigioniero
Sols; Danish National Symphony Choir & Orchestra / Gianandrea Noseda

"Gianandrea Noseda returns to the music of Dallapiccola with a powerful performance of his protest opera. Brilliantly performed, it’s a significant addition to the composer’s discography." (Gramophone) 

Gianandrea Noseda continues his series of recordings of the works of Luigi Dallapiccola, this time with his Danish forces. Seen by many as Dallapiccola’s masterpiece, Il prigioniero (The Prisoner) is a one-act opera composed in the late 1940s, and premiered (in a radio broadcast) in 1949. The Italian composer had first encountered serialism as a student in Florence in the 1920s, when Schoenberg visited to conduct Pierrot lunaire. The influence was profound, although it would take two decades before it demonstrated itself fully in his composition. Based primarily on a short story, ‘La Torture par l’espérance’ (Torture by Hope), by the French writer Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, the opera concerns a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition who finds the door of his cell unlocked and creeps out under the cover of darkness to the garden beyond. Hope rises to the level of ecstasy, before he finds himself embraced in the Garden by the Inquisitor, who returns him to his cell. Dallapiccola employs three twelve-note tone rows in the work, which he named ‘Prayer’, ‘Hope’, and ‘Freedom’, from which all the vocal lines are created. The album is completed by three choral works: Estate, written in 1932 for male chorus, and two settings from 1933 of poems by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger for mixed voice chorus.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #6 AUGUST 2020
Beethoven Violin Sonatas, Vol 1
Tamsin Waley-Cohen vn Huw Watkins pf

"Two of these sonatas featured on these pages last month, but Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins, and their wonderful rapport, demonstrate the music offers joys in infinite approaches." (Gramophone) 

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins return with the start of a Beethoven Violin Sonata Cycle – here recording the 1st, 5th and 8th sonatas. Gramophone Magazine said “The heart gives a little leap at the prospect of...a duo as engaging and intelligent as Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins.” This cycle is sure to be one of the highlights of Signum’s year, as well as of Beethoven 250. Beethoven’s twelve violin sonatas add up to a comprehensive exploration of the possibilities and potential of writing for the two instruments on equal terms – possibilities that he was ideally placed to understand. The three sonatas on this recording are waypoints on a journey, crafted by a composer who was both violinist and pianist, and who never ceased exploring the practical possibilities of the instruments for which he wrote.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #7 AUGUST 2020
Alkan Grande Sonate
Mark Viner pf

"Mark Viner continues his exploration of Alkan’s piano music with another triumphant album, demonstrating an impressive affinity with this composer’s music that reaps rewards once again." (Gramophone) 

Mark Viner’s Piano Classics albums of rarities and masterpieces from the high noon of the virtuoso age have attracted bouquets of praise from international magazines. Most recently he released Alkan’s 25 Préludes dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs, Op.3 (PCL10189) to great acclaim: ‘This is a superb album, beautifully recorded… and another feather in the cap of this remarkable British pianist.’ (Gramophone). ‘Viner shows he is an impressively unflappable interpreter of this sometimes extraordinary music… His playing is never showy; he emphasizes that these are profound explorations of early romantic sensibility first and extreme technical challenges second, and that is a totally convincing way of dealing with some of the most remarkable piano music of its time.’ (The Guardian) For Viner, Alkan himself is the most enigmatic figure in the history of music – but also one of the most intriguing and alluring names among the pantheon of pianist-composers. He feels that the Op.33 Sonata is, quite simply, the greatest French piano sonata of all, and plays it with commensurate passion and conviction. Composed in the late 1840s and published in 1848, the sonata outlines four decades in the life of man, from the twenties to the fifties, within a conventional, albeit highly expanded and imaginatively embellished four-movement structure. However, Alkan stressed that his intention was not to compose imitative or literal tone-painting: ‘the first piece is a Scherzo; the second an Allegro; the third and fourth an Andante and a Largo; but each one of them corresponds, in my mind, to a given moment of existence, to a particular disposition of thought.’ The earlier Souvenirs – Trois Morceaux dans le genre pathétique, Op.15 (1837) is Alkan’s first foray into large-scale structures with the third piece’s recapitulation of ideas from the previous two, constituting a single unity through their half an hour’s duration..

151 kr (189 kr)
Image #8 AUGUST 2020
Cleve Missa Rex Babylonis
Cinquecento

"This wonderful album devoted to the music of 16th-century composer Johannes de Cleve earns our critic Fabrice Fitch’s praise as one of this excellent group’s finest releases yet." (Gramophone) 

However cultivated the European centres of Habsburg imperial power may have been, few could regularly have boasted musicians of the calibre of Cinquecento. Their ongoing exploration of Franco-Flemish repertoire from the sixteenth century uncovers major works by Johannes de Cleve and Jacobus Vaet.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #9 AUGUST 2020
‘Cantos Sagrados’
National Youth Choir of Scotland / Christopher Bell

"These impressive young singers embrace these pieces’ contrasting demands with passion and style, offering a truly striking album of modern choral music." (Gramophone) 

The National Youth Choir of Scotland is an outstanding choir for young people aged 16 to 25, directed by world-renowned conductor Christopher Bell. Membership is granted by yearly auditions to singers born, resident or studying in Scotland. In 2012 the choir was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Ensemble Award. Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company became the Scottish National Orchestra in 1950, and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1977. The Orchestra’s artistic team is led by Danish conductor Thomas Sondergård, who was appointed RSNO Music Director in October 2018, having previously held the position of Principal Guest Conductor. NYCOS and RSNO join forces to create an eclectic mix of recordings, performing some timeless classics, as well as exploring some contemporary repertoire. The excellent standards of both ensembles make for an exciting listen in what is NYCOS’ first recording with Signum.

127 kr (159 kr)
Image #10 AUGUST 2020
R Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten
Sols; Vienna State Opera Chorus & Orchestra / Christian Thielemann

"A second Straussian offering this month, this time from Christian Thielemann and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra on, as  Hugo Shirley puts it, breathtaking form." (Gramophone) 

Not many masterpieces have premiered at the Vienna State Opera. Die Frau ohne Schatten – the fourth collaboration between Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal – make one of the few exceptions. On the evening of 25 May 2019 – the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Vienna State Opera – a star-studded festival première of Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten took place at Vienna State Opera. Together with his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss, at the time director of the opera house, developed a fairytale, complex and psychologically discriminating work that received its world première a hundred years ago, on 10 October 1919 at the opera house on the Ring. Since then, Die Frau ohne Schatten has enjoyed a rich performance history and is regarded as a special highlight of Viennese and international music theatre.

239 kr (299 kr)
Image DVD: AUGUST 2020
‘LA Phil 100’
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

"A major birthday – filmed a century to the day since the LA Phil’s debut – marked by music and musicians with particular resonance for this fine orchestra." (Gramophone) 

A century to the day after the orchestra’s first concert on 24th October 1919, the centennial season culminates in a “splashy gala night” (San Francisco Classical Voice) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the current and former chief conductors Dudamel, Mehta and Salonen sharing the podium. The repertoire is a true reflection of the DNA that makes the LA Phil the LA Phil and “the defining factor of this orchestra is its ability to blend genres and styles to create totally new takes on classical works.” (The Guardian) The New York Times recently called the LA Phil “America’s most important orchestra. Period”. Look no further than this concert´s program: Ravel's La Valse - Zubin Mehta; Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 4 - Esa-Pekka Salonen; Strawinsky's Firebird Suite - Gustavo Dudamel and the World Premiere of Daniel Bjarnason's New Work for Three Conductors! This release also includes the bonus film LA Phil – The Tradition of the New. The documentary portrays the LA Phil and its continual creative reinvention on the occasion of this jubilee. Including a historical part to trace the steps that played a part in where the orchestra stands today and interviews with the current and former chief conductors Dudamel, Mehta, Salonen, Frank Gehry, John Adams and music critics, and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic staff.

239 kr (299 kr)
Image BLU RAY: AUGUST 2020
287 kr (359 kr)
Image RECORDING OF THE MONTH - JULY 2020
"Elegantly sweeping Strauss, an excellent Prokofiev Third, a stylish up-scaling of Beethoven’s Op 132 String Quartet – and more – this set reflects an orchestral partnership of the first rank." (Gramophone) 

Widely regarded as one of the world’s finest orchestras, in 2018 The Cleveland Orchestra celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding by pianist and impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes. Today, as the Orchestra looks forward into a new century, the ensemble launches its own record label with a deluxe box set conducted and curated by Franz Welser-Möst, their Music Director of almost two decades. Recorded in concert within the legendary acoustic of Severance Hall, A New Century features recordings of landmark works by Beethoven, Varèse, Richard Strauss, and Prokofiev alongside new works by Austrian composers Johannes Maria Staud and Bernd Richard Deutsch. The set is presented in a luxurious box set featuring artwork inspired by the Orchestra’s architecturally stunning home in Cleveland. The album is accompanied by a 150-page book filled with photographs and notes exploring the music within and the history of this great American orchestra.

639 kr (799 kr)
Image #2 JULY 2020
Shostakovich Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Alina Ibragimova vn State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’ / Vladimir Jurowski

"An extraordinary performance from Alina Ibragimova, visceral and strongly personal." (Gramophone) 

The prospect of hearing Alina Ibragimova in two
of the most important concertos written for the
violin is in itself irresistibly enticing, but
Shostakovich aficionados will also welcome an
opportunity to hear the rarely performed original
opening to the Burlesque of No 1, subsequently
made less fearsome for the soloist at the request
of the work’s dedicatee, David Oistrakh.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #3 JULY 2020
Beach. Elgar Piano Quintets
Garrick Ohlsson pf Takács Quartet

"Deeply reflective playing of these beautiful and emotionally crafted quintets from the ever-impressive Takács Quartet, joined by a perfect partner in pianist Garrick Ohlsson." (Gramophone) 

Amy Beach’s piano quintet proved a deservedly
popular success in its early years. It makes a
compelling—and surprising—match for Elgar’s
own piano quintet: a late work contemporary with
the cello concerto, and which inhabits the same
emotional landscape.

135 kr (169 kr)
Image #4 JULY 2020
Beethoven Violin Sonatas Nos 4, 5 & 8
James Ehnes vn Andrew Armstrong pf

"With the quality of musicianship and the captivating rapport between players every bit as a compelling as on the previous two instalments, this series gains another Editor’s Choice." (Gramophone) 



127 kr (159 kr)
Image #5 JULY 2020
JS Bach Six Solo Cello Suites
Alisa Weilerstein vc

"Alisa Weilerstein embraces the full emotional and technical range of Bach’s Solo Cello suites with open-hearted devotion – richly coloured playing held aloft in a lovely acoustic." (Gramophone) 

After her acclaimed PENTATONE debut with Transfigured Night, Alisa Weilerstein returns with a complete recording of Bach’s Cello Suites. These pieces present the highest mountain to climb for any cellist, and one of the most transcendent and rewarding experiences for listeners alike. With his suites, Bach crafted — essentially without direct precedent — a body of solo cello music that forever defined the genre and brought the Baroque cello on par with its more popular cousin, the viola da gamba. Since Pablo Casals put them in the limelight again after 150 years of relative oblivion, Bach’s suites have become the alpha and omega for generations of cellists. To Weilerstein, the joy of this music — vibrant, contemporary, unquestionably alive — is the joy of discovery. Having heard and studied these pieces for years, she now entrusts her interpretation to the listener. Since signing an exclusive contract PENTATONE, Alisa Weilerstein has released Transfigured Night (2018), and featured on Inon Barnatan’s Beethoven Piano Concertos Part 1 as well as Old Souls, an album with music for flute and strings (both released in 2019).

191 kr (239 kr)
Image #6 JULY 2020
‘The Beethoven Connection’
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf

"From an acclaimed Beethoven pianist, a delightfully imaginative, and gloriously performed, contribution to the composer’s anniversary year – an exploration not of him, but of his contemporaries." (Gramophone) 

In the 250th Beethoven anniversary year, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has chosen this programme of works by contemporary composers to illuminate and contextualize Beethoven’s extraordinary output for piano. In his explanatory note for the album, the pianist writes: ‘Just as a mountain peak is always surrounded by other perhaps less lofty but no less fascinating summits, the major works of Beethoven are not isolated rock formations rising from the desert, but, as it were, “Himalayas”, forming part of a range in which other mountains might be the best pieces by contemporaries such as Clementi, Hummel, Dussek, and Wölfl. These composers all knew Beethoven well and were in contact with one another. It is essential to know and to make known their music in order better to understand and more thoroughly appreciate the lingua franca of the music of the time, which in turn is part and parcel of the “spirit of the age”, and to be aware of that which unites them, as well as to recognize that which differentiates them and renders each unique. In this year of plentiful Beethovenian commemorations, it appears to me natural, indeed essential, to pay admiring and enthusiastic homage to these composers, each of whom, in his own way, followed his route to the summit.’

135 kr (169 kr)
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