Skip to main content

 Recording of the Week, Presto Personal Favourites from 2017

In the wake of announcing our top Ten Recordings of the Year (decided by committee and revealed last Friday), the Presto team have spent a lot of time discussing and revisiting some of our own individual favourites - most of which featured in the Top 100, but haven't had a newsletter devoted to their charms! Instead of a full-length review of a single recording, five of us have decided to share the editorial honours this week and each sing the praises of an album that's become special to us over the past year.

Chris O'Reilly

James Longstaffe

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Colin Currie (percussion), Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Oliver Knussen

A star-studded line-up for this extraordinary collection of late works by the American composer, Elliott Carter, under the expert stewardship of conductor Oliver Knussen. For many of the pieces he is joined by pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who is stunning in his execution of the extreme demands placed upon him, not least in works such as Dialogues, Soundings, and Interventions.

No fewer than five of the seven pieces here are premiere recordings, including the 103-year-old composer’s final work, Epigrams for piano trio (completed just three months before his death in 2012). With the earliest piece on the disc dating from 2003 (when Carter was a mere 94 years of age!), it’s a highly impressive tribute to a composer whose compositional powers remained undiminished even as a centenarian.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Katherine Cooper

Wiebke Lehmkuhl (contralto), Stanislas de Barbeyrac (tenor); Insula orchestra & accentus, Laurence Equilbey

It’s been a wonderful year for Schubert lieder (I fell heads-over-heels for Ilker Arcayürek’s Der Einsame and Christian Gerhaher’s second Schöne Mullerin), but there’s a delightful twist to this collection of favourites from two young voices of immense distinction: the songs are given here in orchestrations by great composers including Strauss (a ravishing, sensuous Ganymed), Britten (a wistful, appropriately slippery Forelle) and Berlioz, who makes Erlkönig sound like a demonic cousin to the Symphonie Fantastique). French tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac – the hypnotic Hylas on John Nelson’s new Troyens - is absolutely outstanding in the latter, riding the hefty orchestration with incisive, steely tone and bringing the four characters to uncanny life so vividly that it feels like a miniature opera.

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

David Smith

I’m not entirely sure what my expectations of Christopher Tye’s consort-music were before I listened to this enthralling recording, but it didn’t take long to realise that Phantasm had confounded them in the best possible way – these vibrant, spontaneous-sounding performances foreground the rhythmic and harmonic experimentalism of the music to such an extent that I had to check that these sixteenth-century pieces weren’t interspersed with modern responses to Tye’s work (much as ORA have done with Tallis on their Renaissance Gems series, also excellent). Much of the music has sacred connotations and inspirations, but the dance-like sections in particular often have a rough-shod foot-stomping quality that wouldn’t be out of place at a Tudor ale-house or fayre. Irresistible.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Graham Southern

Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

The Norwegian pianist presents us with a beautiful selection of Jean Sibelius's mysterious, intimate and haunting piano gems - unjustly neglected repertoire which I implore you to listen to. The playing is magical and sensuous, bringing out a myriad of colours, all captured in superb sound by Sony Classical. There is no better pianist than Leif Ove Andsnes to showcase these magical miniature masterpieces in a recording which is incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. Enjoy!

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC