Skip to main content

 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - January 2019

Gramophone January 2019Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s studio recordings of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and L’incoronazione di Poppea from the late 1980s and early 90s were praised to the rafters, and almost thirty years on he’s completed the trilogy with a live Il ritorno d’Ulisse (captured during a semi-staged performance in Poland in autumn 2017) – occupying pride of place as Recording of the Month, it looks set to be as acclaimed as its predecessors, with Gramophone’s reviewer Alexandra Coghlan praising its ‘dramatic clarity’ and ‘sense of exhilaration’.

Editor’s Choices include The Scene of the Crime from percussionist Colin Currie and trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, which features music by Brett Dean, Joe Duddell and Daniel Börtz – you can read David’s interview with Colin about the recording here .

Recording of the Month

Furio Zanasi, Lucile Richardot, Krystian Adam, Hana Blažíková, Gianluca Buratto; Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner

'Recitatives flicker and spark with detail…Instrumental textures are spare and speeds swift, and there’s a welcome sense of narrative drive…Text is king, but it’s the rhetoric of the English Baroque Soloists that really counts…Zanasi is a smooth, patrician Ulisse…There are more classically beautiful accounts of Il ritorno d’Ulisse available, but perhaps none with quite so much life.'

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

Editor's Choices

Shunske Sato (violin), Zefira Valova (second violin), Il Pomo d'oro

'All the speeds here just feel right: unhurried, but equally brimming with energy and flow. What really makes this recording one to treasure, though, is the degree of uncontrived personality and artistry on display…Another point I can’t shout loudly enough about is the exceptional blending…Have I sold it enough? I hope so. Because really, this is properly heavenly.'

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

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirill Karabits

'Karabits and his Bournemouth players really bring out the detail of Lyatoshynsky’s imaginative orchestration, and what might seem in other hands a somewhat sprawling work is here given a carefully shaped rendition of great intensity…The players react to [Grazhyna] with vigour and dedication, and their performances benefit from outstanding engineering. More Lyatoshynsky, please!'

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

'There are other outstanding recordings of these works…but the Tippetts not only provide renditions of equal stature, missing no nuance of either extreme calm or intransigent violence, but Naxos’s recording is as clear as a bell…This is a recording deserving of the very highest recommendation.'

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

Colin Currie (percussion) & Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)

'This delicate and daring performance gives a clear impression of two musicians for whom verbal communication might well be less fertile than musical. The approach, in which instruments often associated with brash directness sound elusively poetic and mysterious, links arms with the elegance and erudition in Jolivet’s writing…The album is captivating whether in joy or pain.'

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

Florent Boffard (piano)

'The tonal palette is infinitely calibrated, the rhythmical acumen a wonder of lithe flexibility…The two big Romanian Dances fairly burst with vitality, even if they are faster than they could be conceivably danced, even by dervishes on amphetamines…This full-voiced, deeply breathing, humanly dimensional Bartók is the one I’ve been waiting for. Now, let’s have more!'

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

Till Fellner (piano)

'Liszt emerges bold, direct, uncompromising and almost overwhelmingly powerful…His performances of Op. 111 is informed by the same qualities of self-effacement, probative depth and sheer-joy in the music that make his Liszt so special. This is important playing of breathtaking finesse and integrity. It will leave you wanting more.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

'This is one of those recordings where composer and performers seem uniquely matched. One sense a degree of commitment that is rare even from an ensemble that isn’t known for pulling its punches…The cycle also shows that Exaudi’s virtuosity doesn’t just hit you between the eyes; it runs deep…Superb.'

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

Collegium Marianum, Les Pages et les Chantres du Centre de musique baroque de Versailles, Olivier Schneebeli

'The woodwind solos and the rich, Lullian string textures are beautifully handled by Collegium Marianum, an ensemble from the Czech Republic. A little more weight from Lisandro Abadie would have been welcome, but all four soloists sing with a passion by no means alien to Lalande’s operatic style. This is a most distinguished issue.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Lautten Compagney, Dorothee Mields (soprano), Wolfgang Katschner

'Mields is impeccable throughout, the pristine purity of the early songs setting off the calculated exaggerations and distortions of the contemporary ones. This is a brilliant, unexpected disc, but cries out for the energy and audience interplay of a live performance.'

Available Format: 2 CDs

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja, Matthew Rose; The Metropolitan Opera, Carlo Rizzi, Sir David McVicar

'In Radvanovsky and DiDonato the Met production has two singers at the height of their formidable powers…Rizzi’s love for the score comes across in every bear; he conducts the met orchestra superbly and they play gloriously for him. David McVicar deserves praise for bringing out such moving acting from Radvanovsky and DiDonato in particular but the production itself is less satisfying…Happily, though, none of this significantly detracts from some glorious central performances, conducting and playing.'

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja, Matthew Rose; The Metropolitan Opera, Carlo Rizzi, Sir David McVicar

Disc format: 1xBD 50

Sound format: Stereo PCM 2.0 & DTS 5.1

Available Format: Blu-ray

Archive/Re-Issue of the Month

'The original recordings are sonically well balanced and give a good measure of Kempff’s sonority. While the rare shellac pressings are admittedly of poor quality, any extreme noise reduction on transfer agent Mark Obert-Thorn’s part would have compromised their frequency range and timbral virtues.'

Available Formats: 4 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC