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

Beatrice RanaThanks in no small part to an exceptionally unsettling Samiel, Marek Janowski’s atmospheric new recording of Der Freischütz on Pentatone (starring Lise Davidsen and Andreas Schager) makes for apposite Hallowe’en listening, whilst Beatrice Rana also summons up devilish effects aplenty in solo piano transcriptions of Stravinsky’s Firebird and Ravel’s La Valse and Roderick Williams does battle with a macabre visitor in Howard Skempton’s quirky new setting of DH Lawrence’s Man and Bat.

This is some of the most exhilarating, electrifying pianism I’ve heard all year: in Guido Agosti’s transcription of The Firebird Suite the young Italian summons a range of colours and textures that rival the best orchestral accounts of the work, maintaining absolute clarity even in the densest passages, and the way she varies the repeated phrases at top speed in the final stretches of Ravel’s La Valse is a marvel.

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

Daniil Trifonov (piano), Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin

As on the first leg of his Rachmaninov Journey, Trifonov wears the technical demands of the music so lightly that both concertos feel like chamber-music on the grandest scale rather than virtuosic war-horses - he’s every bit as compelling in the role of accompanist as he is when holding the spotlight, and the Philadelphia players (particularly the horns and clarinets) respond in kind. Surely two of the finest accounts of these much-recorded works on disc, and his pair of transcriptions are a treat too.

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

Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Quatuor Arod

Imaginatively programmed and superbly performed, this second album from the Paris-based string quartet is named for Mathilde Schoenberg (née Zemlinsky) and features works by her husband and brother, prefaced with a surprisingly voluptuous account of Webern’s Langsamer Satz. Soprano Elsa Dreisig is ideal ‘casting’ for Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet, integrating seamlessly into the texture and delivering Stefan George’s texts with exemplary diction.

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

Roderick Williams (baritone), James Gilchrist (tenor), Tim Horton (piano), Ensemble 360

Skempton’s sparse, economical setting of Man and Bat flutters with nervy energy, with Williams a relatable and often witty protagonist; another of Lawrence’s animal poems, Snake, is given expansive treatment in the chamber version of The Moon is Flashing (originally scored for full orchestra), the narrator’s conflicted emotions and eventual crisis of conscious beautifully conveyed by James Gilchrist.

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

Lea Desandre, Bruno Philippe, Peter Whelan, Thomas Dunford, Jupiter

These red-blooded accounts of concertos and arias by The Red Priest rival Naïve’s superb Vivaldi Edition for vibrancy and vim, and all four soloists dig into the virtuosic writing with glee – Peter Whelan’s pyrotechnics in the Bassoon Concerto are little short of astonishing, and Franco-Italian mezzo Lea Desandre rivals Cecilia Bartoli for agility without having inherited any of the Roman diva’s mannerisms. The poppy We are the ocean makes for a rather bathetic coda after her breathtaking Agitata da due venti, but that’s only a minor quibble.

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

Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Tristan Raës (piano)

I first came across this classy young French tenor in the small but stratospheric role of Iopas on John Nelson’s multi-award-winning recording of Les Troyens two years ago, and the elegance and ease in the upper register which marked him out as something special there are very much to the fore on his second solo album: the voice has blade without nasality, fielding considerable fire-power in Vergiftet sind meine Lieder, and exquisitely controlled at the hushed close of Die Lorelei.

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

Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Camilla Tilling (soprano), Gerold Huber (piano)

The clean-voiced Swedish soprano Tilling kicks off this lovely sequel to the award-winning Frage with a sincere, unsentimentalised Widmung, and her unaffected but eloquent delivery sits well with the Gerhaher-Huber aesthetic throughout; both singers come across especially well in the Scottish songs, though it’s Gerhaher who unobtrusively steals the show in the introspective last three numbers.

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

Lise Davidsen (Agathe), Andreas Schager (Max), Sofia Fomina (Ännchen), Alan Held (Kaspar); Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Marek Janowski

With plenty of bucolic bite, Janowski's orchestra conjures a real Brothers Grimm atmosphere in Weber's dark fairy-tale. The Wagnerian voices of the two leads are flatteringly recorded: Davidsen is a womanly, three-dimensional Agathe, her big dusky soprano still flexible enough to navigate the florid passages of her first aria, whilst the heroic writing for Max holds no terrors for Schager, a veteran Siegfried. A female Samiel (Corinna Kirchhoff) puts an interesting slant on things, though some may find her cackling Papagena-as-Old-Lady narration between numbers a touch wearing.

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