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 Presto Editor's Choices, Presto Editor's Choices - November 2018

Christian GerhaherTwo invigorating recordings from the young Russian conductor and harpsichordist Maxim Emelyanychev have given me a great deal of pleasure this month (a pint-sized Eroica Symphony with the Nizhny Novgorod Soloists, and a crackling account of Handel’s Serse with Il Pomo d’Oro and Franco Fagioli making recording history in the title-role), alongside a typically eloquent and moving Schumann recital from Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Hubert, and a survey of Cécile Chaminade’s piano music from the enterprising British pianist Mark Viner.

Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)

The official Presto Top 10 Recordings of 2018 will be revealed on Friday, but this first instalment of Gerhaher and Huber’s complete Schumann series is hands-down one of my personal favourites of the year – the quiet heartbreak of the lovelorn window-cleaner and gardener in the Op. 107 songs brought tears to my eyes, whilst the new muscularity which made Gerhaher such a compelling Amfortas earlier this year pays dividends in the sharply-etched drama of Die Beiden Grenadiere

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

Nizhny Novgorod Soloists Chamber Orchestra, Maxim Emelyanychev

There are one or two rough edges in Emelyanychev’s first recording with his Russian ensemble (the horns could definitely have benefited from another take in the third-movement trio), but I love the tautness and delicacy which these small forces bring to the Eroica - from the lightly-sprung opening chords to the blanched sonorities conjured in the funeral march and the wiry, skittish strings in the Scherzo, everything here feels like real chamber-music.

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Franco Fagioli, Vivica Genaux, Inga Kalna Francesca Aspromonte, Andrea Mastroni, Delphine Galou, Il Pomo d ́Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

Emelyanychev is also at the helm of this scintillating new Serse, eliciting fabulous energy and impetus from Il Pomo d’Oro throughout; Fagioli (the first countertenor to tackle the title-role complete on record) is little short of astonishing in the Persian king’s bravura outbursts of jealousy, but also brings real pathos to his more introspective moments, and is well contrasted with Vivica Genaux’s cool Arsamente and Delphine Galou’s fiery Amastre.

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder

Elder and the Hallé bring palpable affection and relaxed charm to the two Wand of Youth suites, based on Elgar’s boyhood sketches for family theatricals. Special mention for the orchestra’s principal clarinet (who contributes a beautiful lilting solo in the first suite’s Serenade) and leader Lyn Fletcher, eloquent in the Nursery Suite’s coda and wonderfully idiomatic in the evergreen Salut d’Amour, which sounds like a real vintage recording that’s been expertly remastered.

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

Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Léa Desandre (mezzo), Le Concert d'Astrée, Emmanuelle Haïm

Devieilhe’s agile, glittering high soprano is a known quantity (and she’s certainly on marvellous form here, pinging out high C sharps with aplomb), but the real discovery of this gorgeous album for me was Léa Desandre, whose cool yet sensual mezzo put me very much in mind of the young Magdalena Kožená; the two combine to delicious effect in a gently erotic account of the pastoral cantata Aminta e Fillide.

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

Mark Viner (piano)

I loved this young British pianist’s exploration of the weird and wonderful world of Charles-Valentin Alkan last year, and he’s an equally persuasive and imaginative advocate for the music of Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) here, fully alive to the charm and wit of miniatures like Pierrette and the Arabesque, without applying generic prettiness across the board – the echoes of Liszt in the Études de Concert resonate loud and clear.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Isabelle Faust (violin), Alexander Melnikov (piano)

It’s only a fortnight since I was singing the praises of Faust and Melnikov’s wonderfully transparent account of the Debussy Violin Sonata, and many of the same virtues are apparent in these lively readings of three Mozart sonatas – each artist has a seemingly instinctive gift for knowing when to recede and when to take centre-stage, and their willingness to embrace unvarnished sonorities gives these period-instrument performances a bracing quality that’s immediately engaging and refreshing.

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María José Siri (soprano), Veronica Simeoni (mezzo), Giorgio Berrugi (tenor), Simone Piazzola (baritone), Riccardo Zanellato (bass); Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Chailly

Not every contribution to this multi-authored memorial to Rossini may be in the same league as Verdi’s Libera me (later upcycled for his own Requiem), but Chailly and his La Scala forces treat every phrase with such blazing conviction that the patchwork score comes across with real coherence; highlights include Antonio Bazzini’s shamelessly operatic Dies Irae and tenor Francesco Meli’s impassioned solo in Alessandro Nini’s Ingemisco.

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