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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - April 2019

Gramophone April 2019 The penultimate instalment of Iván Fischer's magnificent Mahler cycle on Channel Classics tops the bill of fare this month, with an account of the Seventh Symphony which Edward Seckerson describes as 'a performance full of first-time wonder; the Hungarian conductor has vowed never to conduct the Eighth Symphony, but we're assured that Das Lied von der Erde is already in the can and scheduled for release next May.

Two of our recent interviewees also get a mention in despatches: Tamara Stefanovich, who spoke to Katherine last week about her recital of Ives, Bartók, Messiaen and Bach on Pentatone, and Mark Bebbington, whom David interviewed about his album of piano music by Arnold Bax and his muse and lover Harriet Cohen in February.

Recording of the Month

Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer

'I honestly can’t remember hearing a performance of this extraordinary symphony that was so plainly in love with its ethos, its originality, its sonority. Iván Fischer reads the ‘small print’ of the score with such thoroughness that he makes most other readings feel like generalisations by comparison. It’s one of those performances that makes one think of the piece differently, and that in itself is cause for celebration and reassessment.'

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

Editor's Choices

Isabelle Faust (violin), Bernhard Forck, (violin), Xenia Loeffler (oboe), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

'Everything here is energy, though the exuberance is of the grounded kind that never gets out of hand…The deeper delight of it all is that you can encounter subtle new aspects in the familiar works…This is a hugely enjoyable celebration of Bach – himself a violinist – which conjures not so much the strict contrapuntal and formal genius as the joyous spirit of the living man.'

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

Jan Lisiecki (piano) Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

'Lisiecki sparkles and shines…The chamber-like sonorities and intricate interplay – surely the result of this being a conductor-less ensemble – are an endless delight…The small forces also ensure that there’s an airborne quality in the fast movements…The solo pieces generally work very well too…the ‘Venetian Gondola Song’ from the Songs Without Words is beautiful indeed, concluding a delightful disc.'

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

Alban Gerhardt (cello)

'Gerhardt says he has been wary of recording the Bach Suites before he was good and ready…In any case, his performances do not sound like the kind that would ever have become set in stone; they are too personal and spontaneous-sounding for that…Gerhardt can sound deliciously at ease in this music…And his sound is glorious – a silvery tenor register capping an overall tone that is rich without ever being overbearing.'

Available Format: 2 CDs

'Cohen’s four Russian Impressions prove a charming find, the first two especially. Bebbington lends them atmosphere and deftly affectionate advocacy…However, the real meat comes with the large-scale [Bax] Sonata in E flat…With his rock-solid technical armoury and supreme composure, Bebbington brings thrilling power and intoxicating poetry to Bax’s turbulent, ruggedly beautiful inspiration.'

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

Lukas Geniušas (piano)

'There is an abundance of fairy-tale characterisation in this first instalment of a promised complete survey of Prokofiev’s sonatas…And story-telling fantasy, conveyed with a seemingly infinite variety of touch, teams up with youthful bravado, fire and mercurial temperament in Genuišas’s superior accounts of all three works… Genuišas is certainly a bold and immensely idiomatic entrant into the already highly competitive arena of recorded Prokofiev cycles.'

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

'The overall excellence of Tamara Stefanovich’s interpretations is enhanced by a superb multichannel recording characterised by full-bodied ambience an concert-hall realism. Stefanovich voices Ives’s thick and ringing choral dissonances from the bottom up, taking full measure of the music’s spaciousness and resonant potential…After more than an hour of substantial 20th-century fare, the appearance of Bach proves a veritable tonic in Stefanovich’s hands.'

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

Elizabeth Llewellyn, Elgan Llŷr Thomas, Roland Wood, Christopher Purves. Alastair Miles; Huddersfield Choral Society, Orchestra of Opera North, Martyn Brabbins

'[Brabbins] brings an electricity and Straussian Schwung to the orchestral sound throughout…There are some fine performances here from the soloists. Roland Wood is very much up to the weighty role of Caractacus…Llewellyn lends some lyrical respite to much of the forceful rhetoric of the work’s warrior spirit…The well-prepared Huddersfield Choral Society provide a range of sensitive light and shade, as well as muscular tone.'

Available Format: CD

Guy Cutting (tenor), Emma Tring (soprano); Choir of Merton College, Oxford, Benjamin Nicholas

'It’s a work closely bound up with the college’s history and community, but one that gives every promise of a rich future life beyond both…A 10-piece ensemble, dominated by the glitter of harp, percussion and high woodwind, gives the work its dramatic scope, by turns taut and lean and then thickly spread, rich with melodic embroidery.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Xavier Sabata (countertenor), Vespres d’Arnadi, Dani Espasa

'Sabata sings this complex programme with his customary elegance and flair. His dark, warm alto has always sounded good in slower arias, where the long lines flow with ease and his breath control is exemplary…His coloratura, always placed at the service of characterisation or drama, can be spectacular…A wonderfully accomplished recital, and highly recommended.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Mari Samuelson (violin), Daniil Trifonov (piano), Aida Garifullina (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Ludovic Tézier (baritone); Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu

'It’s no harm at all to hear these chestnuts of the repertoire with a lack of attention-grabbing Hollywood Bowl glitz and swagger…Carmina Burana: don’t be put off by its seeming laid-backness. This aspect of Yu’s interpretation serves to heighten the folk aspects of the work…Soloists and choir are uniformly excellent, Tézier being especially subtle, hypnotic and genuinely witty as opposed to crude buffo…Recommended for both the music-making and the occasion.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Mari Samuelson (violin), Daniil Trifonov (piano), Aida Garifullina (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Ludovic Tézier (baritone); Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu

Picture format: 1080i High Definition 16:9

Sound formats: PCM Stereo

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue/Archive of the Month

'A true piano giant; Schubert performances which reveal Artur Schnabel’s hallmark dramatic and spontaneous-sounding style.'

Available Formats: 5 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC