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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - March 2018

Paul LewisMurray Perahia’s astonishing accounts of Beethoven’s Moonlight and Hammerklavier sonatas (released on Deutsche Grammophon on 9th February) are out in front as Recording of the Month; the album was also one of our own Recording of the Week in February, when James praised the veteran pianist’s ‘flexibility of phrasing’ and ‘intelligent use of a great range of dynamics’.

Meanwhile, two of our recent interviewees make the cut amongst the Editor’s Choices: Franco Fagioli, who spoke to Katherine last month about his ‘uncompromisingly thrilling’ (Gramophone) album of Handel arias with Il Pomo d'Oro, and Kirill Gerstein - who shared his thoughts on Gershwin with us last week and whose playing is described in this month’s magazine as ‘direct from the heart, unsentimental but rich in sentiment’.

Recording of the Month

Murray Perahia (piano)

'Perahia is artist enough to know that great art is never, of itself, ugly. It may be Beethoven’s instinct to push every component of the dauntingly complex contrapuntal finale [of the Hammerklavier] to its logical conclusion (and beyond) but Perahia, though honouring the intent, declines to turn the music into a rout. In matters of musical diction, lucidity matters.'

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

Editor's Choices

Kirill Gerstein (piano), Storm Large (vocals), Gary Burton (vibraphone), St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, David Robertson

'What [Gerstein] serves up here is living, breathing Gershwin that doesn’t shy from improvisation and yet retains all the crystal clarity and architectural cohesion of his interpretations of Liszt and Brahms.The result is sizzlin’, sassy and smooth, and Robertson and his St Louis musicians are there every spontaneous step of the way...Gerstein’s music-making is direct from the heart, unsentimental but rich in sentiment.'

Available Format: CD

Paavali Jumppanen (piano), Quatuor Danel

'These performances by the Quatuor Danel are deftly poised on a knife’s edge between sensuousness and rigour, as the most memorable interpretations of Franck’s music so often are...it’s the vivid characterisations that makes these performances extraordinary...this new recording by the Quatuor Danel and Paavali Jumppanen is the most gripping yet – and by a long shot. Urgently recommended.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Martinů Voices, Lukáš Vasilek

'This is a delight. Martinů’s chamber choral music is hardly well known even among specialists, so this beautifully performed anthology of music spanning the years 1934-1959 is a genuine revelation...Performances are outstanding throughout. The voices are fresh and responsive, and Lukáš Vasilek once again proves that he is a true master of choral conducting.'

Available Format: CD

Isabelle Faust (violin), Kristian Bezuidenhout (harpsichord)

'Faust and Bezuidenhout played these sonatas a lot in concert before taking them into the studio and it shows – both in the detail and the trust that allows for real risk-taking...Can I find fault with this set? No, I cannot. It’s an eloquent and beautifully recorded homage to the composer and demands to be in the collection of all Bach lovers post-haste.'

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

'It’s colourful, unabashedly virtuoso and quite substantial...This pianist commands a transcendental technique and possesses an unflappable sonority that refuses to splinter, notwithstanding Bersa’s thickest onslaughts...I cannot recommend this release highly enough and, needless to say, I look forward to Volume 2.'

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

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Kaspars Putniņš

'The Estonians have always rejoiced in a warm, rich sound and perfect blend, and guided by the utterly precise and dynamic Kaspars Putninš they give here a truly outstanding rendition that picks up every emotional and spiritual nuance with no sacrifice of technical perfection...[The Schnittke] has been waiting for choirs able to do this, because the technical challenges are not the most important thing about this music.'

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

Edgar Moreau (cello), David Kadouch (piano)

'The great thing we’re learning about Moreau in the recording studio is that, while under-recorded repertoire has been something of a calling card thus far, ultimately this is just the icing on an overall story of a cellist whose recordings are worth hearing whatever he’s playing...his Poulenc and Franck sonatas stand out for their subtlety and poise...This is a standout album.'

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

Lucy Crowe (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)

'In wonderful voice throughout, Crowe very much makes this repertory her own. Ascents into the stratospheres are all beautifully and securely accomplished, and those long melismas are tautly controlled and always expressive, never vacuous. Martineau, who has been the series’ presiding genius, is a flawless Debussy interpreter, meanwhile, playing with infinite subtlety, nuance and colour. Exceptional.'

Available Format: CD

Franco Fagioli (countertenor), Il Pomo d'Oro, Zefira Valova

'While the coloratura thrills here are predictably spectacular, it’s the other elements – the new-found care and weight of the slower arias, the range of vocal brushstrokes throughout, the dramatic conviction – that hold the attention..animated by the invention and bravado of Fagioli’s ornaments, the impossible clarity and articulation of the coloratura and the singer’s sheer pleasure in his own peak fitness.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Misha Didyk, Alexey Markov, Vladimir Stoyanov, Svetlana Aksenova, Larissa Diadkova; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Jansons, Stefan Herheim

'I adored this staging when I saw it in Amsterdam and love it no less on revisiting it...Superimposing the composer’s biography on to arguably his greatest opera works ingeniously...Musically, standards are extremely high, led by Mariss Jansons’s inspired presence in the pit...Aksenova sings a steely Lisa...Diadkova is remarkable as the Countess – singing rather than growling her role.'

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Misha Didyk, Alexey Markov, Vladimir Stoyanov, Svetlana Aksenova, Larissa Diadkova; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Jansons, Stefan Herheim

SOUND FORMAT: BD: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA 5.0

PICTURE: NTSC 16:9

Available Format: Blu-ray

Re-issue/Archive of the Month

Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo), Münchner Philharmoniker, Sergiu Celibidache

'Fassbaender’s concentration is compelling; the voice’s characteristic richness and the inherent intelligence and emotional engagement of the mezzo’s approach only gain in power by the remarkable steadiness of the singing, by an apparent attempt to maintain something like a stiff upper lip.'

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