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 BBC Music Magazine Choices, BBC Music Magazine - December 2019 Choices

BBCMM December 2019First among equals this month is Russian pianist Andrey Gugnin, whose ‘transcendental technique’ impressed David Nice on his debut recording of Shostakovich’s Preludes & Fugues and First Piano Sonata on Hyperion. Igor Levit takes the Instrumental Choice, winning over Michael Church with his combination of ‘sheer physicality’ and ‘mercurial playfulness’ in the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, whilst Anne-Sophie Mutter’s ‘unimagined intensity’ in bespoke transcriptions of film music by John Williams comes up trumps in the relatively new ‘Screen’ category (you can read James’s exclusive interview with her about her friendship with the composer here).

Recording of the Month

'An all-Shostakovich disc might sound like a winner - and in the most important sense it is - but none of the works represented here is ingratiating...Gugnin rivets us in orchestral-sounding climaxes…and the metaphysical twilight zones in between…Gugnin finds surprising poetry in the music...[The Limpid Stream] requires only poetic sensibility, but the rest of this programme shows a ferocious new talent who can also accomplish the introspection. Masterly.'

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

Orchestral Choice

Christian Tetzlaff (violin), London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle

'The dazzling panache of the LSO’s playing has you wondering all over again at the mesmerising range of options that Adès’s ear and technical command can summon…And Elgar’s Enigma Variations yet again sound as fresh as the day they were written: Rattle conjures a stellar orchestral response in each one, with the camera-work catching the players’ faces as they savour a score that truly offers something for all of them.'

Available Format: DVD Video + Blu-ray

Concerto Choice

Peter Herresthal (violin), Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Clément Mao-Takacs

'The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra are on fine form as they embrace Kaija Saariaho’s unique soundscape in this collection of works spanning the last 25 years…In both [Vers toi qui es si loin] and Graal Théâtre, Herresthal is a dazzling soloist, at once neat and carefree, imbuing the often-abstract score with tenderness and tackling the extended techniques with aplomb.'

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

Opera Choice

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

'Even at the age of 25 [Puccini] was already a composer of considerable skill, able to come up with musical ideas of exceptional quality. As the abandoned Anna, Ermonela Jaho is right inside the role dramatically. Armenian tenor Arsen Soghomonyan gives an intelligent and idiomatic interpretation, delivered in generous, exciting tone…The chorus and orchestra are both impressive, while conductor Mark Elder delivers a lively and loving account of the score.'

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

Choral & Song Choice

Ian Bostridge (tenor), Thomas Adès (piano)

'Even Bostridge’s sometimes jarring crescendos sound as bleak cries from the hollowed soul. There is a terrifying icy detachment in Adès’s evocative touch. Above it, Bostridge’s weary wanderer cries out against an unlistening world – for why should it listen, the poet seems to ask. In this devastating, brilliant interpretation, Bostridge’s tone is dark, expressive and fluid.'

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

Chamber Choice

Kronos Quartet

'It’s an intriguing, often moving paean to the twin mysteries of outer space and inner nature. Interweaving mysticism, science and art, and part-written in the aftermath of 9/11, two of its ten movements are choral prayers for universal peace…It’s a pity that the words sung by San Francisco choir Volti are largely submerged. But the singers’ ardency is plain under their director Robert Geary.'

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

Instrumental Choice

Igor Levit (piano)

'What you will get is a new sense of the sheer physicality of the music…What’s fascinating about Levit’s whole cycle is the crazy tempos at which he takes the first Allegros and Prestos…Where savagery is required, Levit provides it in spades…Not a definitive cycle, then, but with this music no cycle could ever be that; it’s enough that this one should delight, provoke and intrigue in equal measure.'

Available Formats: 9 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Screen Choice

Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles, John Williams

'You can hear that Mutter really believes in this music as she puts her heart and soul into the performances, many themes taking on a hitherto unimagined intensity under her bow…Williams’s melodic gifts are well know and oft-celebrated, but hearing these pieces reimagined by a composer free of the constraints of film frames and time-codes is not just a thrill, it’s often revelatory.'

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

Jazz Choice

Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter

'Much of the group’s original sound hinges on Hussain’s array of percussion…He uses his instruments not just rhythmically but also as sources of pitched notes. Often resulting in a form of partial counterpoint that bears comparison to both melodic timpani parts and gamelan music. Potter and Holland weave flowing, inventive lines into this framework with results that are engaging, refreshingly original and genuinely surprising.'

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