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 BBC Music Magazine Choices, BBC Music Magazine - August 2020 Choices

BBCMM August 2020Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s survey of piano works by Beethoven's contemporaries Hummel, Dussek, Clementi and Wölfl is first among equals this month, with reviewer Michael Church praising the French pianist’s championing of the ‘genius in these four supremely gifted craftsmen’; look out for Bavouzet’s recording of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, directed from the keyboard, in early September.

Speaking of soloists doing double duty, Lars Vogt’s second instalment of Brahms with the Royal Northern Sinfonia on Ondine takes the palm in the Concerto category: you can read Katherine’s interview with Vogt about the challenges and rewards of taking this approach to these works here.

Recording of the Month

'This recording embodies a brilliant idea, brilliantly carried out…Each of the works that Bavouzet has programmed is a revelation, and reflects the fundamental changes that were taking place in pianism around the turn of the 19th century…[Wölfl’s] Sonata Op. 33 No. 3 is high-spirited and dashingly Mozartian, and Bavouzet despatches it with verve…Hummel was famed for the beguiling elegance of his playing, and his Sonata No. 3 in F minor, as Bavouzet plays it, corroborates that fact.'

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

Orchestral Choice

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck

'If Honeck’s interpretative tendency is to emphasise the score’s purely symphonic credentials, he still keeps one foot in the ballet theatre – witness the way he magics the slow movement’s long phrases; and the scherzo’s delightful pizzicato ripplings seem to conjure a choreographic scenario…Leshnoff’s soundworld, unashamedly tonal, possesses a melodic sensuality and textural piquancy reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s great Russian contemporary, Rimsky-Korsakov.'

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

Concerto Choice

Lars Vogt (piano), Northern Sinfonia

'This is Brahms playing of the highest quality. Lars Vogt secures an ideal balance between the intellectual and emotional components of these two epic works…Vogt’s achievement is all the more impressive since he directs the Concerto from the keyboard…Instead of the conventional battle-royal between soloist and orchestra, the Royal Northern Sinfonia respond to the nuances in his playing with solid ensemble and chamber music-like sensitivity.'

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

Chamber Choice

Jean-Frédéric Neuburger (piano), Yann Dubost (double bass), Thymos Quartet, Christoph Eschenbach

'In this delightful recording, the limelight is shared between Christoph Eschenbach’s crystalline piano playing and the creamy string sound, underpinned by the rumbling, bouncing bass. The tempo is elastic, yielding. And there’s no rigid ensemble, either; the mood is convivial, like conversing friends who occasionally interrupt each other. Eschenbach’s solo moments have memorable rhetorical swagger…I couldn’t stop smiling. '

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

Instrumental Choice

Grigory Sokolov (piano)

'If the programme sounds familiar, the reality is anything but. The first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 2 No. 3 emerges spacious and unhurried…The Op. 119 Bagatelles are an even greater revelation, each supposed trifle deeply pondered and each springs its surprises. And the Brahms works are glorious…Every track is special…in Rameau’s Le rappel des oiseaux each bird sings out in sweet merriment.'

Available Format: 2 CDs + DVD Video

Opera Choice

Erin Wall (Thaïs), Joshua Hopkins (Athanaël), Andrew Staples (Nicias), Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

'To Thaīs herself Erin Wall brings a clean, pliant soprano used with discretion and judgement…Dark of presence, Joshua Hopkins makes a vehement Athanaël…Davis presents a perceptive account of one of Massenet’s best creations, the Canadian orchestra offering fine-textured playing as they respond with assurance to the composer’s unerring gift for scene painting…It surpasses many earlier efforts not only in terms of casting and conducting, but also in taking one of Massenet’s finest scores seriously.'

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

Choral & Song Choice

Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava

'Here is choral singing of beguiling sophistication, beautifully recorded, that captures the score’s full range of expression, from hushed moments of introspective awe to rolling climaxes of intense celebration...The icing on the cake is provided by four choral rarities dating from the 1880s.'

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

Screen Choice

Joe Hisaishi (piano/melodica)

'For fans of Japanese Anime films, much of this is beloved music; for the uninitiated it’s a bit of a revelation…Hisaishi is seemingly Elmer Bernstein, Michel Legrand and Ryuichi Sakamoto rolled into one. There are moments of breathtaking beauty, playful magic and sweet emotion and this two-disc distillation of almost an entire career ought to win the composer many new followers.'

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

Jazz Choice

Shabaka & The Ancestors

'The narrative theme of this set of pieces is literally post-apocalyptic: the End of Days has already happened, so what happens next? It’s at this point that we begin to address the extraordinary music itself, which is uncontainable in its energy, gravity and the sense of indefatigable potential that it can’t help but generate…Irresistible.'

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