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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - February 2019

Gramophone February 2019The peerless German baritone Christian Gerhaher and his long-term recital-partner Gerold Huber take the top spot this month, thanks to the ‘almost alchemistic’ rapport on display in the inaugural volume of a projected series of the complete Schumann Lieder on Sony (which Katherine described as ‘hands-down one of my personal favourites of 2018’ in her November round-up).

Editor’s Choices feature Giuliano Carmignola’s eloquent accounts of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on Deutsche Grammophon (recorded especially for the label’s mammoth BACH 333 box, as their catalogue previously lacked a period-instrument recording of these landmark works), the left-field young British pianist Mark Viner’s recital of Cécile Chaminade on Piano Classics, and the world premiere recording of Liszt’s unfinished opera Sardanapalo from Kirill Karabits and a cast headed by Lebanese-Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury – look out for Presto interviews about the latter two recordings in the coming weeks.

The Archive Release of the Month comes courtesy of Australian Eloquence and their excellent series of Russian operas recorded in Belgrade in the mid-1950s; until 25th March we’re offering up to 35% off their entire CD catalogue to celebrate the label’s twentieth birthday this year.

Recording of the Month

Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)

'The voice is still extraordinarily beautiful…Huber’s piano-playing, meanwhile, is a constant marvel of sensitivity and control. In every bar you can sense the closeness of the partnership…Perhaps the greatest achievement, though, is that all this care and attention is worn so lightly: Gerhaher and Huber achieve an almost alchemistic feat in making so much artistry feel so natural…This is an album to treasure and to savour – and to listen to again and again.'

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

Editor's Choices

Johannes Moser (cello), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Thomas Søndergård

'Moser maintains a keen focus over the eventful trajectory of the Lutosławski…Many performances rather lose momentum in the Cantilena but Moser neither falters nor sells short this music’s rapt eloquence…[In the Dutilleux] Moser eschews any emotional uniformity…Throughout both works, Thomas Søndergård propels the music forwards with a real sense for their vastly different yet equally inevitable destinations.'

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

Steven Isserlis (cello) & Olli Mustonen (piano)

'Isserlis and Mustonen make a strong case for [the Kabalevsky] in a performance of grand gestures that proves a real roller coaster ride. Isserlis’s intensity and Mustonen’s pianistic weight suit the piece wonderfully well...The Shostakovich Sonata, in contrast, seems spacious and ruminative, particularly when placed beside Rostropovich’s performances with Britten at Aldeburgh...The shorter pieces are also superbly done.'

Available Format: CD

Rachel Barton Pine (violin), Matthew Hagle (piano)

'What a fascinating, beautiful disc… The disc’s title is valid: these really are ‘dialogues’ in the most creative and stimulating sense…Need it be said that Pine plays everything here gloriously… Listen to how unaffectedly she outlines the melody of Still’s central slow movement…In passages of virtuoso display, she’s as sure-footed and as agile as an acrobat.'

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

Giuliano Carmignola (violin)

'It was Giuliano Carmignola’s agile use of Emilio Slaviero’s 2007 bow…that really grabbed my attention. By that I mean pressure, types of arpeggio and articulation, and most especially dynamics, sometimes reducing his tone to the merest whisper… how inspiring to at last have access to a period recording of Bach’s solo violin works that is on the same exalted interpretative level as the masters of yore.'

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

Mark Viner (piano)

'This new survey must count among the finest yet, showing the range and ambition of Chaminade in short works, played with an innate charm and understanding of the genre…Viner’s earlier single-composer recordings of Thalberg, Liszt and Alkan have earned him high praise…Someday, in the not too distant future, someone will sit up and take note of what an exceptional talent we have in our midst.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev (piano)

'To get an immediate idea of what kind of pianist I was going to hear, I turned first to the final track, the Behr Rachmaninov Polka de WR. Here was elegance, charm, playfulness, clever voicing and an immaculate technique… I have rarely heard the melancholy of the first [Moment Musical] captured to such heartbreaking effect…This is as outstanding a recent debut recording as I can recall.'

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

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

'I’d guess that a voice like Franco Fagioli’s…comes as close as we can get today to the mingled brilliance, suppleness and power of the great castrati in their pomp… few if any falsettists today could match his combination of temperament and vocal glamour in this notoriously taxing part. The rest of the cast easily hold their own in vocal lustre and dramatic immediacy. [Il Pomo d’Oro’s] eagerly responsive, high-octane playing underpins the whole performance.'

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

Joyce El-Khoury, Airam Hernández, Oleksandr Pushniak; Weimar Staatskapelle, Kirill Karabits

'It is indeed extraordinary… Liszt’s fluid treatment of bel canto structures reveals an assured musical dramatist at work… He makes no concessions to his singers, though, and his vocal writing is taxing in the extreme… The choral singing is consistently strong, the playing terrific, and Karabits conducts with extraordinary passion. Trippett has carefully modelled his orchestration on Liszt’s works of the early 1850s, and it sounds unquestionably authentic.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier

'[Vox Luminis] harvest the fruits of Purcell and Dryden’s collaborative imagination with affectionate lucidity. The band never sounds as small as it actually is…The playing has admirable finesse… The Saxons’ heathen sacrifices in Act 1 flow with unerring pacing and harmonic shaping…It has been decades since a recording of any of Purcell’s operas as enjoyable as this.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Christopher Maltman, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Frank van Aken, Sir Willard White; Dutch National Opera, Marc Albrecht, Krzysztof Warlikowski

'Albrecht embeds Wozzeck within a lineage of lyrically sprung, dance-driven opera… Westbroek carries easily over Berg’s full orchestra…Maltman is another Wozzeck whose experience on the Lieder platform draws out a three-dimensional portrait of Schubertian pathos and focus… Even were it not among the most beautifully played and sung accounts on record and film, this Wozzeck would command attention for Krzysztof Warlikowski’s staging.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Christopher Maltman, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Frank van Aken, Sir Willard White; Dutch National Opera, Marc Albrecht, Krzysztof Warlikowski

HD 16:9

PCM Stereo

DTS-HD 5.0

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue of the Month

Dušan Popović, Valerija Heybal, Noni Žunec, Žarko Cvejić; Belgrade National Opera, Oskar Danon

'The pick of the operas from Belgrade brought to us this month from the ever enterprising Eloquence label.'

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC