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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices November 2019

Gramophone Choices November 2019Gabrieli’s ‘spectacular and stirring’ account of Purcell’s King Arthur (in a new performing edition by Paul McCreesh and Christopher Suckling) occupies the top spot this month, winning over David Vickers with its ‘clarity, lucidity and intimacy’; Editor’s Choices also include the Academy of Ancient Music’s startling tercentenary account of Handel’s neglected Brockes-Passion, and the penultimate instalment of The Tallis Scholars’ venerable Josquin series on Gimell (you can read David’s recent interview with their director Peter Phillips about the album here).

Recording of the Month

Gabrieli, Paul McCreesh

'The eight soloists with two additional singers form an excellent chorus that is adept in every context...Throughout the opera McCreesh’s speeds are relaxed rather than driven – no bad thing, to my mind, and it results in Dryden’s wonderful poetry being acted with personable clarity, and the lucidity of musical gestures ensures that affection and intimacy are the hallmarks of a performance that conveys a humane smile.'

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

Editor's Choices

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Pablo Heras-Casado

'What’s really unmistakable here is the enthusiasm with which Heras-Casado conducts [El Sombrero], and the sheer exhilaration of the response he elicits from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He gives us a high-voltage interpretation, rich in detail, and strong on dramatic and narrative momentum. Rhythms are wonderfully precise, textures very sensuous throughout, the latter helped immeasurably by the vivid, immediate recording.'

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

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Louis Langrée

'His interpretation [of the Gershwin] is exceptionally clear (the crystalline recorded sound helps a great deal), and dances and shimmies without getting carried away. Some may find it a tad cool, but I rather like its air of Parisian elegance reading of the original 1922 version of Varèse’s Amériques may not be as joyously wild as Ludovic Morlot’s from Seattle (on that orchestra’s in-house label), but it still has gobs of character.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Quatuor Arod

'On this occasion the limelight is stolen from Schoenberg by Zemlinsky...This music requires little excuse to become overheated, and it is much to the Arod’s credit that they resist the temptation to press the bow into the string until really decisive moments...The coupling is as unique as it is insightful, and comparisons would seem beside the point: it’s an outstanding album.'

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

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Camerata Bern

'This is very much a concept album and, as such, it needs to be listened to as programmed. Kopatchinskaja’s playing is daring in her use of extreme dynamics, sometimes down to a spidery whisper. She is never afraid to produce a harsh, uningratiating sound...but there is sweetness too, especially from Camerata Bern in those Bach chorales...Not easy listening, but strongly recommended.'

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

'What is almost incredible is that the soloist Paul Wee is not a professional pianist but a highly successful international commercial London lawyer. The precision of his attack, the clarity of the part-playing, the linear focus and structural grasp of each movement of the Symphony are quite thrilling to experience...The spontaneity and drive of his playing smash the sterile confines of the studio.'

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

'Rana communicates her musical imagery with an ease and economy that belies its power...There’s no question that Rana is an immensely resourceful pianist who can pull off dazzling effects when warranted. But it is her sane, thoughtful music-making, inerrant in focus, often strikingly original and always from the heart, that sets her apart.'

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

Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr

'From the French-style opening tableau, the only extended chorus in the work, Egarr and his responsive forces hardly put a foot wrong. The superb playing and singing of the AAM go beyond mere notions of good Handelian style, while all the soloists ‘live’ their roles with operatic vividness. The words – overly sentimental or brutal for modern taste – always matter.'

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips

'Phillips’s albums with The Tallis Scholars continue to sparkle and inform...There are several outstandingly well-controlled spans of two-voice polyphony. Listen especially for the way these singers glide through the exotic chord-chains in the Sanctus: I can’t help but be reminded of the confident sweep of the Andrews Sisters. This is glorious stuff indeed.'

Available Format: CD

Benjamin Bernheim, Véronique Gens, Andrew Foster-Williams, Jean-Sébastien Bou; Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

'It’s little short of a revelation, in which some century and a half of performance tradition is scraped away to reveal a witty, fleet-footed work that comes close to the composer’s (and librettists’) original conception...It also happens to be a terrific recording on its own terms...Rousset underpins it all with conducting that is fleet and dramatically engaged.'

Available Formats: 3 CDs + Book, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

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

'The Violin Concerto by Harrison Birtwistle deserves a CD release to itself...Tetzlaff gave the first performances, and he continues to own the concerto, as it were, with playing of ferocious accuracy...the Enigma Variations [is] caressed into form with a knowing, 2019 version of the portamento used by the Queen’s Hall Orchestra on the work’s first recording. The ‘EDU’ finale receives an electric account and reception, and the film surely records a sign of things to come.'

Available Format: DVD Video + Blu-ray