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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - May 2019

Gramophone May 2019The past month or so has brought a slew of fine recordings of late Beethoven piano works, but it’s Steven Osborne who takes the palm for Gramophone - released on Hyperion just last Friday, his traversal of the last three piano sonatas is described by Martin Cullingford as ‘outstanding piano-playing…from extreme delicacy to energetic drama’. Iestyn Davies’s haunting recital of music by Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman with viol consort Fretwork features among the Editor’s Choices – you can read David’s interview with him about the recording here.

Recording of the Month

Steven Osborne (piano)

'From the first note, Osborne’s kinship with the composer is everywhere apparent and he conveys the vast contrasts of the last three sonatas unerringly...What is particularly winning about this new set is the way Osborne occupies the very different world of each sonata with equal conviction, which is by no means always the case, even with indubitably great pianists...Osborne has made many outstanding recordings but this is certainly among his finest. A magnificent achievement.'

Available Format: CD

Editor's Choices

Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano), Freiburger Barockorchester, Pablo Heras-Casado

'Bezuidenhout’s instrument is an echt Érard…It’s capable of a wide range of colours and dynamics [Bezuidenhout is] as happy to allow his passagework to rumble away within the body of the orchestra as he is to muse on more lyrical sections…The Freiburgers are on fine form, too, under Pablo Heras-Casado…The string sound, bleached of vibrato, contrasts vibrantly with the warmth of the winds.'

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

Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra, Fabio Mechetti

'The four-movement suite is absolutely delightful and quite original in its way. Nepomuceno’s influences are readily apparent… Yet the music also looks ahead, and sometimes in startling ways…This is the first instalment in what’s promised to be a 30-disc survey of Brazilian music… If subsequent volumes maintain the high standards heard here, we have a lot to look forward to. Urgently recommended.'

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

'The performances are all superbly judged and controlled, balancing fragility with strength, restraint with great depth of feeling… The early Divertimenti, played with considerable wit and elegance, provide some much-needed contrast to the intensity of it all…This is a major cycle, engaging and profound in equal measure, and you need to hear it.'

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

'Although most of these pieces have been collated on various anthologies of French piano music, few of them can match this new release in its balanced conception or consistency of execution…Soares has their measure in abundance, resulting in what could hardly be a more auspicious debut album.'

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

The Orlando Consort

'The Orlandos are so experienced in this repertory that, nearly always, the choice of tempo and tone is spot-on (and tempo is perhaps the most important decision, given that absolute tempos are never indicated), which maximises the music’s communicative potential and more than compensates for the occasional vocal blemish.'

Available Format: CD

Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Fretwork

'The Nyman performances are exemplary – crisp and cleanly articulated from Fretwork and dispatched by Davies with a vacant, unrippled purity that is so essential to the music, and must be hard won for this instinctively expressive performer… All [of the Purcell songs] are immaculately sung by Davies, whose Peter Pan voice sounds fresher and smoother than ever.'

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

Anna Lucia Richter (soprano), Gerold Huber (piano), Matthias Schorn (clarinet)

'Richter’s pure, vernal soprano, care for words and supple, expressive phrasing are well-nigh ideal…Der Zwerg and Totengräbers Heimweh are anything but natural territory for a light lyric soprano. Yet in both songs her musical intelligence and dramatic use of the text go far to compensating for a lack of tonal depth. A delectable recital from a young soprano whose combination of vocal freshness and unforced expressiveness make her a natural in Schubert.'

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

Winchester Cathedral Choir, Andrew Lumsden

'I am finishing this review precisely on what would have been John Tavener’s 75th birthday… [Annunciation] is followed by a superb rendition of As one who has slept, once again brought alive by the impeccable pacing and by the fantastic blend of the choir (do they ever breathe?). This is a showroom demonstration of just what boy and girl choristers singing together can achieve. A truly magnificent birthday present.'

Available Format: CD

Stéphane Degout (baritone), Simon Lepper (piano)

'It’s an exceptional disc, in many ways. The progression from mélodie to Lied seems both natural and inevitable, and the qualities one values so much in Degout’s Fauré – the integration of text and line, his almost instinctive use of colour and dynamics, the uncompromising directness of expression – are those that also make his Brahms and Schumann so utterly compelling...None of it would be quite so overwhelming, though, without Lepper. This is very much a partnership of equals.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Anja Harteros, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Ludovic Tézier; Salzburger Bachchor & Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann

'The setting here is clearly the present day… for the most part it works very well…The outstanding Anja Harteros is a chic Tosca in shades and slacks…Tézier’s aristocratic baritone suits the suave Godfather scenario…Thielemann wouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s – anyone’s? – idea of a natural Puccini conductor but there’s a certain plush symphonic grandeur to the Staatskapelle’s playing which is highly persuasive.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Anja Harteros, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Ludovic Tézier; Salzburger Bachchor & Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann

Sound format: PCM Stereo, DTS 5.0

Picture: NTSC 16:9

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue/Archive of the Month

'If the audience hadn’t already registered what a special artist they had before them, they must surely have done so with the four Scarlatti sonatas… there is some hair-raisingly imaginative pedalling, some precision-tooled ornamentation and in places some delectable humour in the sudden application of brakes… An authentic document of a young artist exalting in his powers before one of the world’s most discerning and demanding audiences.'

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