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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - August 2020

Gramophone August 2020Pick of this month’s crop is Gianandrea Noseda’s ‘formidable’ account of his countryman Luigi Dallapiccola’s one-act opera Il Prigioniero, premiered on Italian radio in 1949) and described by reviewer Tim Ashley as ‘one of the great works of witness to the catastrophes of the mid-20th century. Also mentioned in despatches is Sir Mark Elder’s ‘finely calibrated’ recording of Debussy’s Images and Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune with the Hallé – you can read about how he approached the challenges of pacing these works in his recent interview with Katherine.

Recording of the Month

Anna Maria Chiuri (La Madre), Michael Nagy (Il Prigioniero), Stephan Rugamer (Il Carceriere/Il Grande Inquisitore; Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Concert Choir, Gianandrea Noseda

'Noseda’s performance is nothing if not formidable. Its impact derives largely from his ability to think in terms of cumulative span while focusing on textural clarity and immediacy of expression… Noseda is helped immeasurably throughout both by his Danish orchestra, who play with marvellous commitment and finesse, and by Chandos’s immaculate recording… The cast, meanwhile, combine lyricism with declamation… It’s an outstanding, essential album, every second of it.'

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

Editor's Choices

'Speed and pace are finely calibrated, giving the music enough space to allow detail to register without losing sight of momentum or cumulative tension… The outer movements of ‘Ibéria’ are thrilling in their clarity and precision, with some wonderfully impertinent woodwind solos… At the work’s centre, ‘Les parfums de la nuit’ is all heady sensuality, the Hallé strings sounding very lush and sweet… It’s a very fine achievement indeed.'

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

Inbal Segev (cello), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Marin Alsop

'In the final movement of Anna Clyne’s DANCE, a cello concerto in all but name, a bear-hug of a theme emerges through angry, percussive col legno snaps that is so beautiful, so heartfelt that it instantly drew tears on first hearing…Segev has performed the work a couple of times in concert and plays it here with dark tone and deep insight, closely supported by Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra… Here is a cellist with something to say.'

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

Augustin Hadelich (violin), Charles Owen (piano), Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Jakub Hrůša

'How warmly his dolce playing seems to smile… Note, too, the way Hadelich suggests a wiry-sounding folk fiddle in the finale’s D minor interlude… Jakub Hrůša has the Bavarian RSO playing with vigour and a comparable sense of care…Hadelich and his longtime recital partner Charles Owen transform the last of Dvořák’s Four Romantic Pieces, Op 75, into an aching, darkly passionate miniature tone-painting… A superb disc on all counts.'

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

NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

'Järvi’s version of Zarathustra strikes me as one of the finest ever, a recording to stand alongside those of Reiner, Karajan and Previn. The performance of the opening ‘Sunrise’ makes such an impact that I initially wondered whether the rest of the piece might sound anticlimactic in comparison, but Järvi sustains the intensity through to the end…. The eloquence of the orchestra’s strings also makes a strong impression in Metamorphosen.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Huw Watkins (piano), Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin)

'Their complementary personalities (recorded with a balance in the violinist’s favour, unlike Ehnes and Armstrong) meet most harmoniously in the Spring Sonata’s Adagio, where Watkins draws an appealing, fortepiano-like resonance from the piano and Waley-Cohen’s phrasing taps the music’s pastoral roots… Each of the three sonatas inhabits its own costume, made to measure.’

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

'It takes a certain kind of temperament and a superior finger technique to take [Alkan] on. Those who cut the mustard are few and far between. Mark Viner is such a one and with this, the third volume of what will form the complete works, he can claim a place at the top table as one of the preeminent Alkan players de nos jours…His day is yet to come, but come it surely will. And whether or not you care for Alkan’s music, here is a disc of piano-playing out of the top drawer.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

'In Timete Dominum and Credo quod redemptor, technical fluency is matched with accents of real poignancy...As one has come to expect, Cinquecento’s singers render these touches admirably, while intricate textures are delivered with exemplary clarity. While the album’s tenor is undeniably solemn, their sonority, soft and intimate yet full, gives real pleasure. Of all their recordings devoted to ‘minor masters’, this strikes me as one of the finest.’

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

National Youth Choir of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Christopher Bell

'From that first earth-shattering orchestral down-beat…you are pinned in place, attention seized, ears ringing…The NYCOS and Royal Scottish National Orchestra seize the possibilities of a piece so much bigger in stature than length and refuse to relinquish a moment of drama, articulation, contrast or precision…It’s a supremely effective work impeccably delivered by these young and agile singers. The choir’s superb technique is even more evident in the two Eric Whitacre works.'

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

Stephen Gould (Der Kaiser), Camilla Nylund (Die Kaiserin), Wolfgang Koch (Barak), Nina Stemme (Die Farberin), Evelyn Herlitzius (Die Amme); Wiener Staatsoper, Christian Thielemann

'Nylund is probably today’s reigning Empress, bringing shining tone – more silver than steel – to a role she’s made her own… Stemme is predictably fine as the Dyer’s Wife, too, offering the necessary powerful integrity to counter the character’s less appealing traits… Koch remains an eminently likeable Dyer…The chief glory, however, is undoubtedly the conducting and playing.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta

'Plenty of the Phil’s strengths are on show, chief among them the rhythmic sophistication and clarity instilled during 17 seasons under Esa-Pekka Salonen and his diet of 20th-century music including Lutosławski…The orchestra plays lovingly for Dudamel in the suite from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, finding even more sensuality here than in Zubin Mehta’s airy La valse…Dudamel has the best technique of all three and is great to watch on screen, the music always seeming to surprise him and widen his eyes still further.'

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta

Picture Format: 1080i / 16:9

Sound Format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD MA 5.1

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue/Archive Issue of the Month

'It soon transpires that there isn’t just one Barbirolli but many… Vaughan Williams is represented by a bold performance of the highly inventive Eighth Symphony…Readers who like to explore beyond the relative audio comfort of digital, stereo and mono tape are served by 26 discs’ worth of transfers from shellac… for the most part Studio Art et Son have done a fabulous job with the transfers…Warner Classics’ 109 CDs will offer you a lifetime’s worth of musical joy and stimulation.'

Available Format: 109 CDs