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 Presto Editor's Choices, Presto Editor's Choices - September 2019

Eric CoatesMy heavy rotation this month has included an opulent oceanic triptych from Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Paul Daniel and the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Wagnerian early Puccini from Sir Mark Elder, Ermonela Jaho and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and an utterly irresistible album of Eric Coates from John Wilson and the BBC Philharmonic.

Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Robin Ticciati

The hell-for-leather finale of the Sibelius makes for an exhilarating white-knuckle ride, but buy this for the beautifully-paced, luminous Beethoven – I mean no disrespect to Christian Tetzlaff when I say that I was absolutely captivated even before he arrives on the scene, thanks to Ticciati’s knack for balancing light and shade in the long introduction. This is the violinist’s third recording of the work, and it shows in an interpretation that has all the irreverent good humour of a witty sparring-match with an old friend.

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

BBC Philharmonic, John Wilson

Wilson’s way with Coates is every bit as idiomatic and irresistible as his recent advocacy for Korngold with Sinfonia of London (and once again his ability to makes waltzes really dance makes me want to lobby for him to receive a New Year’s Day invitation to Vienna some day); every detail of the imaginative orchestration in The Jester at the Wedding (given here in his own new edition) registers loud and clear, and the two Symphonic Rhapsodies unfold with a Hollywood-esque grandeur. Delicious.

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

Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto) Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Paul Daniel

It’s quite a rarity to hear a non-native English-speaker in Elgar’s great song-cycle, but the Canadian singer’s diction is impeccable throughout, and her plush contralto uncovers some rich, strange colours in songs which are more often the province of lyric mezzos these days (the high A of ‘The Swimmer’, for instance, sounds like a voice pushed to its limits in the best possible way). Part Debussy, part Wagner, Victorin Joncières’s ‘ode symphonique’ La mer is a real discovery, and fits Lemieux like a glove.

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

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Pablo Heras-Casado

Falla’s two ballets swagger, stomp and sizzle in these vivid, sun-scorched accounts from the Spanish conductor and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra – the rasping horns and almost jazzy cor anglais at the opening of the Miller’s Dance are a delight, and after enjoying Carmen Romeu’s clean soprano in El sombrero de tres picos the earthy roughness of flamenco diva Marina Heredia Rios in El Amor Brujo offers a delicious gear-change.

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

Ning Feng (violin), Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias, Rossen Milanov

The Chinese violinist’s distinctive, honey-sweet timbre suits these two contrasting showcases by virtuoso violinist-composers to perfection: Feng wears their often fearsome technical demands disarmingly lightly, and is fully alive to the operatic qualities of the Paganini in particular, phrasing bel canto melodies and filigree passagework like a nineteenth-century diva at the top of her game. Read his thoughts on the two works here.

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

Ed Lyon (tenor) Theatre of the Ayre

This lovingly-crafted debut album from the English tenor (currently appearing in the title role of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at English National Opera) is easy listening in the most positive sense – though most of the material here was new to me, several of the songs wormed their way into my consciousness after a single hearing, and Lyon approaches them from a standpoint of sound historical awareness spiced with the odd audacious anachronism. Recommended for casual listeners and early music aficionados alike.

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

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Camerata Bern

If Lyon’s playlist works just as well on the move as it does at home with the texts and translations to hand, this release from the maverick Moldovan violinist really demands full and undivided attention (and is ideally experienced in a single session), but it’s well worth the investment: on paper, Machaut, Hartmann and Polish folksong seem an unlikely combination, but taken as a whole it’s an illuminating and often deeply moving listening experience.

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

Ermonela Jaho (Anna), Arsen Soghomonyan (Roberto), Brian Mulligan (Guglielmo); Opera Rara Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder

The original one-act version of Puccini’s first opera comes across as a concise, compelling drama in its own right here, as well as offering a foretaste of great things to come: Elder (not someone I’ve previously associated with Italian opera) plays up the young composer’s infatuation with Wagner in the orchestral passages, and Ermonela Jaho charts the heroine’s swift journey from ingénue to avenging fury with absolute conviction. Arsen Soghomonyan (who sang as a baritone until two years ago) is still audibly settling into the higher tessitura, but is definitely one to watch.

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