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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - July 2019

Gramophone July 2019The histoires sacrées of Marc-Antoine Charpentier - dramatised accounts of well-known Christian stories, taken both from the Bible and from the legends surrounding the early saints - provide fertile ground this month for Ensemble Correspondances, under their director Sébastien Daucé, to show their flexibility in performance, with subject matter ranging from the grisly assassination of Holofernes by Judith to the grief-stricken lament of King David for Jonathan.

Elsewhere there's a double helping of Mozart on the piano, with albums from both Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and Lars Vogt; cellist Matthew Barley's passionate account of Tavener's The Protecting Veil, which he talked about with David last week, also receives an honourable mention.

Recording of the Month

Ensemble Correspondances, Sébastien Daucé

'This is superb. Here is a generous selection of sacred pieces by Charpentier, impeccably performed by Ensemble Correspondances under Sébastien Daucé, [...] underpinned by violins, recorders and those plangent viols. Do not miss these wonderful performances.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs + DVD Video, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Editor's Choices

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano), Manchester Camerata

'Bavouzet and the Manchester Camerata are ideally poised in the fast music, with the conversational interplay between piano and woodwinds displaying the naturalness that is an evident hallmark of this cycle. This series of discs is shaping up to be a serious front-runner in a cycle of works that has never wanted for fine recordings.'

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

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo

'Sibelius in three different but vital modes - linguistic cornerstones, even - on which the BBC Symphony's chief conductor brings deep insights to bear. It is thrilling to hear the rarity Spring Song played with full acknowledgement that this is rather more than a seasonal ditty [...] We once again come close to the heart of Sibelius in an unlikely place.'

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

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek

'The Intermezzo wears its Mahlerian overtones discreetly, not least that mesmeric passage where the funeral-march theme dissolves into overlapping pizzicatos. The Czech Philharmonic give their collective all; with the best sound Decca has yet achieved at the Rudolfinum, this can be placed next to Charles Mackerras as the finest modern Asrael.'

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

Matthew Barley (cello), Sinfonietta Riga

'Barley directs the Sinfonietta Riga himself, from the cello, and the sense of complicity is very much a hallmark of this performance. [His] cello sings and the orchestra functions perfectly as the 'cosmic echo chamber' the composer desired. Even if you have other recordings of The Protecting Veil, I recommend this utterly beautiful and originally framed version unreservedly.'

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

Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko

'It seems churlish to complain of short measure when so much more of the symphony can be heard than on most rival versions. This is unapologetically German-sounding Tchaikovsky, albeit sung with a strong Russian accent. I came away from it not wrung out [...] but ever more humbled in the face of a masterpiece.'

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

Lars Vogt (piano)

'Today the pianist seeking to delivery some plausible representation of Mozart's musical imagination on a modern instrument must do so with a fearless blend of compromise, adjustment and conjury. Lars Vogt certainly possesses all these qualities [...] This is richly communicative Mozart-playing, capturing a youthfulness touched with wisdom.'

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

Ricercar Consort, Philippe Pierlot

'What we have here is a wonderfully full yet transparent sound, greatly enhanced by the sheer quality of the voices, and recorded with such luxuriance that the only concessions to the thinner forces are greater flexibility and a sense of a more focused expressive intent [...] Wholly absorbing.'

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

St John's College Choir Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha

'It's when the pedal goes down (literally and metaphorically) that this disc really soars, startling the ear into ecstasy with the sudden release of Rachmaninov's Cherubic Hymn, the 'bright Seraphim' of Parry's Blest pair of sirens and the 'triumphant shout' of Finzi's God is gone up. Hopefully it's a fanfare that will continue to sound for another 150 years.'

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

Simon O’Neill (Siegfried), Gerhard Siegel (Mime), Iain Paterson (The Wanderer), Martin Winkler (Alberich), Clive Bayley (Fafner), Malin Christensson (Woodbird), Anna Larsson (Erda), Rachel Nicholls (Brünnhilde), Hallé, Sir Mark Elder

'One of Elder's principal achievements in this cycle - and nowhere more so than in this newcomer - is that he has got this special sheen of stage experience from his symphony orchestra. An outstanding achievement, [...] and one which should be placed very high in the 'form order' of competing versions.'

Available Formats: 4 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

DVD/Blu-Ray of the month

Leonor Bonilla (Giulietta), Raffaella Lupinacci (Romeo), Vasa Stajkic (Tebaldo), Christian Senn (Lorenzo), Leonardo Cortellazzi (Capellio), Paoletta Marrocu (Adelia), Orchestra Accademia Teatro alla Scala, Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza, Sesto Quatrini (conductor), Cecilia Ligorio (director)

'Raffaella Lupinacci's characterful, fruity mezzo is matched by detailed and lively acting, and Leonor Bonilla brings a bright, elegant soprano and oodles of charm to Giulietta. I defy anyone not to find their tomb scene deeply moving - down as much to their excellent performances as to Vaccaj's score.'

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Leonor Bonilla (Giulietta), Raffaella Lupinacci (Romeo), Vasa Stajkic (Tebaldo), Christian Senn (Lorenzo), Leonardo Cortellazzi (Capellio), Paoletta Marrocu (Adelia), Orchestra Accademia Teatro alla Scala, Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza, Sesto Quatrini (conductor), Cecilia Ligorio (director)

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

Wilhelm Backhaus (piano)

'The very personification of good musical judgement, especially in Beethoven. This is big playing, impulsive at times but never contrived. Also included is an Emperor Concerto under Joseph Keilberth from 1962 which features one of the loveliest accounts of the central Adagio un poco mosso that I have ever heard.'

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, FLAC