Skip to main content

 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - November 2018

Gramophone November 2018Gramophone’s Recording of the Month sees Hilary Hahn completing some unfinished business from the beginning of her career: the American violinist was still in her teens when she recorded Bach’s second and third partitas and third solo sonata on Sony Classical, and she’s waited twenty years to set down the remaining three works in the set on Decca. Katherine will be speaking to Hilary shortly about returning to these works in the studio after such a long hiatus, so do keep your eyes peeled for our interview with her towards the end of the month!

Two recent Presto interviewees also crop up in the Editor’s Choices: Czech mezzo Magdalena Kožená, who shared her thoughts on Duparc with us in September (she joins Robin Ticciati and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin for four of his mélodies on Aimer et mourir), and Sakari Oramo, who discussed his new recording of Langgaard’s Second and Sixth Symphonies with David around the same time.

Recording of the Month

Hilary Hahn (violin)

'This is quite simply magnificent violin-playing, the sort that while you’re listening to it convinces you that the music couldn’t possibly be played any other way…you soon realise just how far she’s come since her teenage years, the tempo marginally more mobile and the variety of nuance and tone on offer so much wider than it had been.'

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

Editor's Choices

Anu Komsi (soprano), Vienna Philharmonic, Sakari Oramo

'Oramo and the Vienna Philharmonic [take] on two contrasted works by Rued Langgaard that illuminate this composer in all his stylistic diversity and recklessness...Such an idiom should be in this orchestra’s blood and the VPO do not disappoint – whether in the lyrically effulgent initial movement, with its discreetly modified sonata form, or the lithe finale...A mandatory purchase for its interpretative insights, committed playing and tangibly realistic sound.'

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

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding

'Harding’s strategy is not to duck the composer’s frequent recourses to extremity but to meet them head-on...In a market where modern rivals sound pedestrian or perfumed with finesse by comparison, this Fifth raises high hopes for what the graphic cover artwork implies may become a complete cycle.'

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

State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia “Evgeny Svetlanov”, Vladimir Jurowski

'This is a terrific new account. Jurowski’s ‘Svetlanov’ Orchestra – basically the old USSR State Symphony – really has this music coursing through its veins. The orchestra still has a distinctly Russian flavour, even if the paint-stripper brass and acidic oboe of yore have been polished up…Make no mistake: Jurowski’s Swan Lake is up there with the very best.'

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

Adam Walker (flute), Alina Ibragimova (violin), Hallé, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ryan Wigglesworth, Edward Gardner

'Cast in the conventional three movements, [the Flute Concerto] dances through a musical landscape full of light and shade. Its invigorating sense of pace and momentum is beautifully caught by Adam Walker...[The symphony is] a work one has to go back to straight away and Mark Wigglesworth’s account, with the Hallé on sublime form, is superb. Another great British symphony, strongly recommended.'

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

Isabelle Faust (violin), Alexander Melnikov (piano), Tanguy de Williencourt (piano), Magali Mosnier (flute), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Javier Perianes (piano)

'Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov’s account of the Violin Sonata, Debussy’s last completed score, embraces exquisite fragility and strength in equal measure...Listen to it in a single sitting, and in the right playing order: it’s extraordinarily moving.'

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

'With their ‘period’ sound world (gut strings, Classical bows, sharp articulation) allied to hungry tempos and phrasing that vaults across the bar line, Schubert’s darkest quartet seems more than ever a study in the inexorable power of rhythm…Their unvarnished sonorities (vibrato minimal or non-existent) make Schubert’s harmonic clashes all the more excruciating...It is also, properly, a drama of uncomfortable extremes.'

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

Víkingur Ólafsson (piano)

'Here is an artist who palpably adores and reveres JSB in equal measure, and makes sense of a programme that could have sounded bitty…In terms of pianistic lineage, Ólafsson combines the fantasy of Maria João Pires and Martha Argerich with the contrapuntal élan of Piotr Anderszewski. But he is very much his own man.'

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

Igor Levit (piano)

'The way Levit has formed this programme is extraordinarily effective. The Brahms reworking for left hand of Bach’s D minor violin Chaconne is a probing, introverted affair, and how effectively Levit can imbue a single line with light and shade...This is a fascinating, compelling set that demands to be heard.'

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

Magdalena Kožená (mezzo), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Robin Ticciati

'The prevailing mood of the first two thirds of the disc is one of heady sensuality, rooted in careful appraisal of sonority and texture and in a fondness for, and an ability to sustain, slower than usual speeds...Kožená, in glorious voice throughout, lets Duparc’s vocal lines do the work rather than edging towards declamation. It’s all utterly beguiling.'

Available Format: CD

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

A Road Movie by Anaïs and Olivier Spiro

'Yuja comes alive, it seems, only when she is on stage playing the piano, as is vividly demonstrated by the documentary and the complete performances of Rhapsody in Blue and the Ravel G major Concerto which form the ‘bonus’ section of the disc...Her many fans will relish this honest, imaginatively photographed and well-crafted road movie.'

Available Format: DVD Video

A Road Movie by Anaïs and Olivier Spiro

Sound format: PCM Stereo (documentary), DTS-HD MA 5.1 (concert)

Picture format: NTSC 16:9

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue/Archive of the Month

George London (Dutchman), Josef Greindl (Daland), Leonie Rysanek (Senta); Bayreuther Festspiele, Wolfgang Sawallisch

'Inspired by Wieland’s punky Brechtian new production of the opera, Sawallisch...returned to as much detail of Wagner’s original Dresden score as was then known about...The cast is on fire as well. Is this now George London’s greatest recording?...[Rysanek] s also in superbly risky form...I think this now takes top recommendation as a performance for all except mono phobes.'

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