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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - February 2018

Gramophone 2018Three off-the-beaten-track operas make the cut this month: the world premiere recording of Jake Heggie’s new all-American rom-com Great Scott (starring Joyce DiDonato in the title-role and Nathan Gunn as the high-school sweetheart who got away), a fairy-tale staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan from Gergiev and the Mariinsky, and the continuation of Christophe Rousset’s stylish Lully series which continues apace with a superbly idiomatic account of the 1674 ‘tragédie en musique’ Alceste. There’s also a trio of Magnificats by the Bach family courtesy of Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo, Bartók, Poulenc and Ravel from Patricia Kopatchinskaya and Polina Leschenko, and three sets of previously unrecorded incidental music which Vaughan Williams wrote for plays by Euripides.

Marc-André Hamelin (piano), Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

'Hamelin and Andsnes are irresistibly clear and energetic...For sheer articulacy, synchronised gymnastics, flawless balance, range of colour and flinty attack, or any other criterion you care to reach for, this is breathtaking pianism...An immensely collectable album: a strong candidate for Disc of the Year, never mind of the Month.'

Available Format: CD

Piotr Anderszewski (piano), Chamber Orchestra of Europe

'There are so many moments here that bring a smile to a jaded Mozartian’s face: little holdings back, touches of ornamentation, that magical moment in K595’s slow movement where the piano’s song is shadowed only by flute and violins, exquisitely done here...Anderszewski’s piano is right there in the middle of it, supporting, chattering away in passagework, never once hogging the spotlight.'

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

Martha Argerich (piano), Jakub Waszczeniuk (trumpet); Sinfonia Varsovia, Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky

'It is said that Argerich was nearing 50 when she turned serious attention to Shostakovich. We must all be grateful that she did. I know of no other pianist who mines the First Concerto’s riches with her depth of understanding, yet delivers it with such consummate ease...[Rabinovitch] conducts an orchestra more expertly than the vast majority of his composer colleagues.'

Available Format: CD

Stefan Temmingh (recorder), Capricornus Consort Basel

'Never before have I heard such a clutch of interpretations which have had me hearing each concerto as if for the first time...The playing is top-drawer. Temmingh’s virtuosity is breathtakingly fluid and effortless, and he clearly enters a new world for each of his ‘mini-operas’. The Capricornus Consort, meanwhile, are light-footed in their dance, Vivaldi’s pulsing rhythms never over-articulated.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Polina Leschenko (piano)

'Brimming with personality, individuality and panache; in fact sometimes so much personality that a quick glance at the score is in order, simply to establish exactly what the ratio of Kopatchinskaja versus composer-in-question actually is...Every reading here works like a dream; no doubt in part because the three main works’ Hungarian folk roots are a perfect partner to her own Moldovan folk heritage.'

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

Augustin Hadelich (violin)

'In No 17 in E flat, with its playful runs on the E and A strings, Hadelich sounds as if he’s challenging his rivals to have as much fun as he is having...Then there’s the kingpin of the set, the much-varied 24th Caprice...his expressive way with slides and vibrato (which is never used with predictable consistency), his rich multiple-stops and often thrilling passagework at speed tends to incline me in his direction.'

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

Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

'For [JS's] perennial masterpiece, Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo snap into their festive sparklers with grand authority and lithe ebullience, sweeping effortlessly from verse to verse with considerable purpose...Arcangelo’s voyage into the sons’ Magnificats is no less well paced or astutely textured...Cohen and Arcangelo bring us an illuminated Bachian constellation of three canticles colliding in captivating relief.'

Available Format: CD

Heather Lowe (mezzo) The Joyful Company of Singers, Britten Sinfonia, Alan Tongue

'Here’s yet another hugely enterprising rescue-act from Albion Records...As has often been the case with so many of these comparatively early RVW discoveries, they make absolutely fascinating listening...these dedicated and scrupulously prepared performances...are all absolutely beyond reproach, and the disc as a whole must be deemed an essential acquisition for every true RVW aficionado.'

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

Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Pérez, Frederica von Stade, Nathan Gunn; Dallas Opera, Patrick Summers

'There’s a cunning (and witty) interplay of ideas at work here...Heggie gets to spoof the sub-Rossinian bel canto on an elaborate scale...but in so doing manages to transcend mere pastiche in the creation of genuinely elegant and beautiful lines and authentic vocal fireworks that challenge and tax DiDonato as surely as the roles in her core repertoire.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Judith Van Wanroij, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro; Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques

'Few if any conductors match Christophe Rousset’s understanding of Lullian style and rhetoric...His pacing and inflecting of the music seems unerring...[and he] draws compelling performances from his singers, all of whom sound at ease in the tricky-to-master art of natural French declamation...it is hard to imagine this music, often delightful, sometimes witty, intermittently touching, coming alive more vividly than it does here.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Albina Shagimuratova, Irina Churilova, Edward Tsanga, Mikhail Vekua, Elena Vitman Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus, Valery Gergiev

'It’s as traditional a staging as is possible to imagine...Costumes are as bright as poster paint...[Gergiev] applies his magic touch to Saltan’s glittering score, his Mariinsky band on top form. He has a fine cast, led by the late Edward Tsanga...[whose] Saltan is firm-voiced and authoritative...The stellar performance, however, comes from Albina Shagimuratova, radiant of voice as the Swan-Princess.'

Available Format: Blu-ray + DVD Video

'Pianophiles will be slavering at the prospect of having access to all this great artist’s recordings...for me it is the Arensky Trio that shows Joyce at her brilliant best...she finds a perfect balance of stunning virtuosity, nimble wit and, in the lovely third movement, a deeply affecting lyrical repose that gives the lie to those who say that Joyce’s playing was all surface glitter. I’d buy the set for this performance alone.'

Available Format: 10 CDs