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 Awards, Gramophone Awards 2020 - The Shortlist

Gramophone Awards 2020 ShortlistThe six contenders in each category for the 2020 Gramophone Awards were announced yesterday evening; though there will be no live event this year, an online ceremony will be live-streamed on Medici TV on the evening of October 6th, when details of special prizes including Artist and Recording of the Year will also be unveiled...

Chamber

Vilde Frang (violin), Barnabás Kelemen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello), Alexander Lonquich (piano)

'Bartók’s Piano Quintet summons Brahms and Strauss as obviously influences…I think it fair to say that Kelemen, Frang, Katalin Kokas, Altstaedt and Alexander Lonquich sell this lovable product of youthful creative excess more securely than any oft heir predecessors on disc…But what makes this CD unmissable is the Veress Trio, a masterpiece and a performance to match.'

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

James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano)

'With some discs, you can just tell that everything’s going to go like a dream… The freshness and spontaneity of these interpretations is unfaltering, as is the instantaneous rapport and subtle, crystal-clear tonal beauty of the pair’s playing…These are, after all, ‘Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violin’ – a paradox that I’ve rarely heard so masterfully resolved on modern instruments. These players are simply on the same page as each other.'

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

Marc-André Hamelin (piano), Takács Quartet

'He has an unbeatable ability to convey and inspire belief in the value of the music he is performing, especially when that music is in need of special advocacy…Hamelin and the Takács bring a remarkable breadth of conception to bear, not just within each movement [of the Second] but across the entire work...They allow every passionate detail to come across yet preserve a sense of nobility and innate grace that I always associate with Dohnányi.'

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

Ensemble MidtVest

'[The performances] are sublime and knowing. I can think of few composers of the last half a century whose music is so disciplined yet so heartfelt, so original yet so rooted. These are precious values and the unassuming, plain-speaking nature of the music here only proves it.'

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

Gidon Kremer (violin), Yulianna Avdeeva (piano), Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė (cello)

'The Piano Trio (1945) is among the finest works of Weinberg’s early maturity...The outcome is a triumph of formal integration and expressive power...Highly immediate sound and decent notes round out a valuable addition to Weinberg’s discography in his centenary year.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, 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

Choral

Maximilian Schmitt (Evangelist), Krešimir Stražanac (Jesus); Collegium Vocale Gent, Philippe Herreweghe

'Contributing to the discerning unity of vision and character of this performance is how the instruments sit embedded at the heart of the vocal sound…This is indeed one of the most thoughtful, affecting and powerful St John Passions in recent years. It reveals the mature mastery of Herreweghe at his most perspicacious and consistent, with Collegium Vocale Gent paving the way with gold.'

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

Benjamin Bruns (Evangelist), Christian Immler (Christus); Toru Kaku (bass); Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

'The lingua franca of this recording is Suzuki’s incessantly perceptive blend of directly projected imagery and inward devotion, underpinned by theatrical fervour in the narrative; one never doubts Bach or Suzuki’s belief in its importance for mankind. The musicians convey it with infectious zeal...Generic early music politesse is relegated to the shadows.'

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

Ricercar Consort, Philippe Pierlot

'What we have here is a wonderfully full yet transparent sound, greatly enhanced by the sheer quality of the voices, and recorded with such luxuriance that the only concessions to the thinner forces are greater flexibility and a sense of a more focused expressive intent [...] Wholly absorbing.'

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

Joshua Ellicott, Sophie Bevan, Fflur Wyn, Mary Bevan, Jess Dandy, Hugo Hymas, Matthew Brook, Vitali Rozynko; Dunedin Consort, John Butt

'This new Samson now becomes the top recommendation: for its uniformly excellent soloists, its excitingly ‘present’ choral singing and, above all, its more urgent sense of theatre…Sophie and Mary Bevan, both natural Handelian stylists, are well-nigh ideal… Jess Dandy, a true contralto, is the oratorio’s voice of balm, singing the sublime prayer ‘Return, O God of hosts’ with warm, even tone and broad phrasing.'

Available Format: 3 CDs

Sarah Fox (soprano), Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Henry Waddington (bass-baritone); Crouch End Festival Chorus, London Mozart Players, William Vann

'Every aspect of this performance sounds like a labour of love. Rudge’s soaring, expressive singing as Meshullemeth gives the piece its real heart, and she’s accompanied with intense sympathy by the conductor William Vann, who avoids any suggestion of bombast or sentimentality, and builds Parry’s great paragraphs so eloquently and with such assurance that you’d think he’d been conducting this music all his life.'

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

Gabrieli, Paul McCreesh

'Some may find the extensive spoken liturgy excessive but such is Simon Russell Beale’s compelling delivery that the sheer beauty of the words offers a musical diversion of a different kind. Most impressive, perhaps, is how extremes of unalloyed opulence sit so movingly alongside intimate supplication…One can imagine the virtuosity required by every contributor, at every turn, to make this a reality, let alone a dazzling triumph.'

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

Concerto

Xenia Löffler (oboe), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

'Mingling athletic precision and devil-may-care abandon, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin relish the music’s seething energy and harmonic and dynamic shocks...Löffler is all you could ask in this repertoire, phrasing and colouring with spontaneous flair, bringing a twinkling sense of fun (not a word readily associated with CPE) to the finales and a singing eloquence to the slow movements.'

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

Martin Helmchen (piano), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Andrew Manze

'There is no danger of self‑indulgence or mannerism here, and certainly no distortion à la Glenn Gould: just pure individual pianism and freshness of outlook...Theirs is to all appearances a straight-down-the-middle approach. Yet it does stand high and proud for its artistry, poetry, stylish musicianship and, perhaps above all, rapport between soloist and conductor. This really does feel like a meeting of minds.'

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

Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Robin Ticciati

'Tetzlaff may at times excitedly rush his fences, but in collaboration with Robin Ticciati and his alert Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, he transforms aspects of what so many have treated as a sort of Holy Grail into a beer tankard…If Beethoven’s Concerto emerges as uncompromisingly provocative, Tetzlaff’s Sibelius also errs on the side of danger…In many respects, a real knock-out.'

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

Benjamin Grosvenor (piano), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Elim Chan

'Grosvenor takes a slightly old-fashioned approach that works both in his favour and disfavour here. With playing that can be quite big-boned, he occasionally sacrifices the elegance of his music on the altar of the modern concert grand, yet he has already lived with these works for long enough to strike a balance between thoughtfulness and youthful spontaneity…Chan and the RSNO offer solid support.'

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

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano), Manchester Camerata, Gábor Takács-Nagy

'Bavouzet and the Manchester Camerata are ideally poised in the fast music, with the conversational interplay between piano and woodwinds displaying the naturalness that is an evident hallmark of this cycle. This series of discs is shaping up to be a serious front-runner in a cycle of works that has never wanted for fine recordings.'

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

Isabelle Faust (violin), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding

'During the past decade or so, recordings by Hilary Hahn and Rolf Schulte have done excellent service in showing that, for all its difficulties, this really is music rather than an arid technical exercise; and for the 2020s Isabelle Faust performs the same function, with admirably alert support from the Swedish RSO under Daniel Harding. Building to its tersely triumphant final cadence, the whole performance is superbly sustained.'

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

Contemporary

Mark Stone (baritone), Kirill Gerstein (piano), Christianne Stotijn (mezzo), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Adès

'Gerstein and the Boston Symphony pull the piano concerto off with flair but this performance [Totentanz] is a cut above...it can hardly have sounded as focused or as forensically brilliant as in Boston, with the same structural nous, sustained tension (tempos and volume are expertly ratcheted) and pronounced undertow...for proof that Adès does what he does with mind-boggling brilliance, look no further.'

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

Nash Ensemble, Martyn Brabbins

'These compositions show increasing refinement of style and sharpening of dramatic atmosphere...The recordings are not only technically immaculate but also demonstrate the Nash Ensemble’s trademark commitment to contemporary repertoire that challenges performers in music blending forcefulness and economy, subtlety and spontaneity, to beguiling effect.'

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

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Symphonieorchester der Bayerischen Rundfunks, Stefan Asbury

'Sweet Disorder (2014) might seem a fanciful title but aptly evokes the interplay between methodical balance and playful anarchy characterising the dialogue between soloist and orchestra...Aimard sounds fully engaged in what is frequently a concertante part integrated within the texture…[Gawain's Journey] stands as both a cohesive paraphrase on that piece and a gripping autonomous work.'

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

Matthias Brandt, Topi Lehtipuu, Iris Vermillion Antonio Pappano, Peter Eötvös

'It is not difficult to appreciate the quality of the musical setting, nor the splendid live performance captured in Cologne in 2017. The performers sound at one in their presentation, whether in the hushed choral comments or the chiming percussion that dominates some sections. The whole is more than the sum of its fragments, compelling and involving.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Heinz Holliger (oboe/cor anglais/piano), Marie-Lise Schüpbach (cor anglais/oboe), Ernesto Molinari (bass clarinet/ contrabass clarinet), Sarah Wegener (soprano), Philippe Jaccottet (speaker)

'This disc celebrates the 80th birthday of Heinz Holliger, and although it explores his interpretative gifts as a performer rather than his full range as a composer, its focus on the dialogues between his own music and that of György Kurtág makes for a beautifully rounded double portrait.'

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

Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Giedrė Šlekytė

'Compared to [De profundis's] previous version, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla favours a more spacious and less visceral yet comparably intense approach – audibly relishing this music’s acute contrasts as its earlier anguish becomes progressively diffused towards a sombre and questioning close.'

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

Early Music

Les Arts Florissants, Paul Agnew

'Throughout this recording the unaccompanied voices underplay Gesualdo’s quirks, consigning actions and emotions to subtler, less frenetic planes than others have before, and maintain flowing, conversational tempos...The fleeting nature of Gesualdo’s flurried passages is a particular speciality of Les Arts Florissants.'

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

La Reverdie, Christophe Deslignes

'They do everything with verve and commitment, giving each piece its own colour and meaning. To say that their performances are technically flawless is perhaps to miss the point, but that helps everything to work…there is a quality of musical exchange, of understanding where the pressure-points must come and of clear projection that is a rare pleasure to hear.'

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

New York Polyphony

'Two standout pieces are the Stabat mater by Pedro de Escobar (fl.1507-14), a short but arresting setting of the first two verses. Rich and vibrant in texture, it again draws on this ensemble’s deep palette of vocal colours...The second is the Credo from Missa L’homme armé, which sits like a declamatory jewel in the middle of this disc.'

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

'Stras’s discovery almost doubles the length of the work and delightfully complicates its function...Musica Secreta begin rather carefully...The work, and indeed the performance, really begins to reveal its true richness at the first refrain, ‘Ierusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum’...As so often with Musica Secreta, the meeting of inspired musicology with passionate and committed performance generates something way beyond the sum of its parts.'

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

Per-Sonat, Sabine Lutzenberger

'What emerges most strongly here is the sense of music on a cusp. Many of the modal dances, with their primitive two- or three-part counterpoint, look back to earlier decades...The joy of this release is in the detail: the close recording that brings out the grit and gasp of the period strings, their rich colours illuminated against the white purity of the voices, the many stories of unlikely or curious provenance that emerge in the booklet notes.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Doulce Mémoire, Denis Raisin Dadre

'This personal journey through the Louvre’s Leonardo collection is the brainchild of director Denis Raisin Dadre, who has matched paintings to exact musical contemporaries. Sparked by careful research and fruitful obsessions, the resulting performances – recorded in front of large reproductions of each artwork – are deliciously atmospheric. The matchmaking process itself is fascinating.'

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

Instrumental

'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

'As you’d predict from an artist who combines acute intelligence and technical panache, it’s utterly absorbing. It’s also a cycle that doesn’t have favourites – Levit feels equally committed to every single piece…Above all there’s that sense of being completely at one with Beethoven himself. And that, in the end, is what makes this such a magnificent achievement.'

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

Stephen Hough (piano)

'Blend imaginative yet learned interpretation, profound sensitivity and poetry, and personal charisma, and you have here one of the finest accounts of Brahms’s late piano works on record, one that stands head and shoulders above most contenders in an ever-growing catalogue...Hough reveals each miniature as a compact piece of theatre, putting an array of timbres and varied accentuation at its service.'

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

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)

'The more notes per second – and Feinberg is up there with the notiest of them – the more the Canadian virtuoso is in his element...Hamelin does far more than tame these pianistic leviathans. He gives them momentum, character and individuality.'

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

'At first hearing, the pianist seems to be imparting a fresh spin to these frequently recorded sonatas. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals the extent to which Osborne takes Prokofiev’s texts seriously…Osborne is at his best in Sonata No 8… no pianist in my experience has matched Osborne’s finale for acuity of touch, pinpoint transparency and airborne suppleness.'

Available Formats: CD, 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

Opera

Emma Bell (Vanessa), Virginie Verrez (Erika), Edgaras Montvidas (Anatol), Rosalind Plowright (The Old Baroness); London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, Jakub Hrůša, Keith Warner

'Warner’s handsome and perceptive staging of Barber’s Vanessa has probably done more to silence the work’s naysayers than any in recent memory…Thanks to Warner’s perception and motivation this excellent cast really deliver…Shadowy, opulent, effulgent – Barber’s Vanessa is the opera that bridges Hollywood and the Broadway stage.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Emma Bell (Vanessa), Virginie Verrez (Erika), Edgaras Montvidas (Anatol), Rosalind Plowright (The Old Baroness); London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, Jakub Hrůša, Keith Warner

Picture format: 16:9

Sound format: LPCM Stereo / 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Available Format: Blu-ray

Iestyn Davies (Orfeo), Sophie Bevan (Euridice), Rebecca Bottone (Amor); La Nuova Musica, David Bates

'The chorus has much to do, and I lost count of the number of times it ravished the ear…The orchestra, too, is extremely accomplished…The soloists are magnificent. Iestyn Davies sings smoothly throughout…Sophie Bevan comes across powerfully, getting more and more stroppy as she rails at Orfeo for not looking at her. Rebecca Bottone has a perfect voice for Amore (Cupid), light and bright…High praise, then, for David Bates and his ensemble.'

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

Benjamin Bernheim (Faust), Véronique Gens (Marguerite), Andrew Foster-Williams (Méphistophélès), Jean-Sébastien Bou (Valentin), Juliette Mars (Siebel), Ingrid Perruche (Marthe), Anas Séguin (Wagner/Un mendiant); Les Talens Lyriques, Flemish Radio Choir, 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

Joyce DiDonato (Agrippina), Elsa Benoit (Poppea), Luca Pisaroni (Claudio), Franco Fagioli (Nerone), Jakub Józef Orliński (Ottone), Andrea Mastroni (Pallante), Carlo Vistoli (Narciso), Biagio Pizzuti (Lesbo), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Giunone); Il Pomo d'Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

'Benoit is a delectable Poppea, both knowing and sympathetic…Orliński sings with rounded tone and a sure feeling for Handelian line…Emelyanychev’s direction of his responsive band combines fizzing theatrical energy with due regard for the opera’s more reflective moments. With DiDonato nonpareil in the title-role and a uniformly strong cast, this now becomes a first choice for Handel’s Venetian masterpiece.'

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

Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Rowan Pierce, Carolyn Sampson (sopranos), Jeremy Budd (high tenor), James Way (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Ashley Riches (bass-baritone); Gabrieli Players, 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

Asmik Grigorian (Salome), John Daszak (Herod), Anna Maria Chiuri (Herodias), Gábor Bretz (Jokanaan), Julian Prégardien (Narraboth) Wiener Philharmoniker, Franz Welser-Möst, Romeo Castellucci

'Grigorian’s erotically charged Salome is outstanding and the main reason you should at least try to see this performance even if the production doesn’t appeal. The Lithuanian soprano sings the role superbly, a lighter soprano than many of the tungsten-plated heavies heard elsewhere, but flecked with steel nonetheless.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Asmik Grigorian (Salome), John Daszak (Herod), Anna Maria Chiuri (Herodias), Gábor Bretz (Jokanaan), Julian Prégardien (Narraboth); Wiener Philharmoniker, Franz Welser-Möst, Romeo Castellucci

Picture format: NTSC 16:9

Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD MA 5.1

Available Format: Blu-ray

Orchestral

MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis

'To make Beethoven’s Fifth sound fresh seems a Herculean task, yet that’s what Teodor Currentzis accomplishes here in a relentlessly intense performance that will likely keep you on the edge of your seat from the first note to the last...Despite the breathless phrasing and breakneck pace (hitting Beethoven’s metronome marking squarely on the nose), his MusicAeterna orchestra play with astonishing rhythmic security and poise, revealing how much care has been lavished on detail.'

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

Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth

'Much as I enjoyed Les Siècles’s earlier recording, this new disc sweeps that, and the rest of the competition, firmly aside...The success of this account is not just through the conductor’s close study of the autograph manuscript. Roth seems to have an emotional hotline to Berlioz, alive to every twist and turn of the composer’s fevered passions.'

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

'Wilson has always been clear that he’s interested primarily in the appropriate colour for any given repertoire, and for this Austrian-American exile symphony he evokes a great post-war US orchestra – the weighty, satin string tone, the skyscraping brass and questioning woodwinds that you might find on a 1950s Chicago or Philadelphia disc...Stirring, thought-provoking and superbly played, this disc is a tonic. .'

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

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek

'The Intermezzo wears its Mahlerian overtones discreetly, not least that mesmeric passage where the funeral-march theme dissolves into overlapping pizzicatos. The Czech Philharmonic give their collective all; with the best sound Decca has yet achieved at the Rudolfinum, this can be placed next to Charles Mackerras as the finest modern Asrael.'

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

Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko

'It seems churlish to complain of short measure when so much more of the symphony can be heard than on most rival versions. This is unapologetically German-sounding Tchaikovsky, albeit sung with a strong Russian accent. I came away from it not wrung out [...] but ever more humbled in the face of a masterpiece.'

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

Gidon Kremer (violin), Kremerata Baltica, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

'The appearance of this performance on a major prestige label will surely prove one of the highlights of this, his centenary year...It takes a performance of fierce concentration and absolute dedication to ensure this music’s hold on an audience...the CBSO, with its newly appointed fireball Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, is teamed up with Kremerata Baltica, lending extraordinary depth and power to the string sound...All in all, this has to be one of the most important symphonic releases of the year.'

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

Recital

Ruby Hughes (soprano), BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Jac van Steen

'Samuel’s musical language is accessible and powerful, with an appropriately craggy granitic strength to it...Jac van Steen gets excellent, vivid playing from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales but it’s Hughes’s performance that carries the whole enterprise: vivid, powerful and superbly committed, bringing a real complexity and vulnerability to the character. She’s impressive in the couplings, too, using her lightish soprano intelligently.'

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

Iestyn Davies, James Hall (countertenors), The King’s Consort, Robert King

'Absolutely on point: with two wonderfully matched countertenors and superb recorder-playing, bound together in the intimate acoustic of Alpheton New Maltings, Suffolk…The big draw is, of course, countertenor Iestyn Davies, and for me his performance of Purcell’s ‘O solitude’ is a clear standout…This is surely one of the best countertenor performances on disc…This whole disc is a trove of bittersweet delights.'

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

Kate Lindsey (mezzo), Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

'Her strong and assured voice slips easily into this music…and throughout she shows impressive technical control and agility. More strikingly, though, she brings her stage experience to bear in dramatic readings whose intelligent responses to the differing nuances of these three pieces are what really make the project spark...The playing of Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen is typically high-quality, and often heartbreakingly attendant to the drama.'

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

Jakub Józef Orliński (countertenor), Il Pomo d’Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

'It's music by Luca Antonio Predieri (a near-contemporary of Handel’s) that really hits the mark. Predieri’s gentle lyricism and clean lines suit Orliński’s soft-grained voice well. He’s no convincing bad boy...but this supple and sweet-toned instrument has plenty to bring elsewhere...Il Pomo d’Oro offer all their usual technicolour support and showmanship.'

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

Lucy Crowe, Mary Bevan (sopranos), London Early Opera, Bridget Cunningham

'This soundly made programme is both pleasing and intriguing…Crowe plays Cuzzoni as a bright soprano whose technical precision and agile upward-leaping ornaments combine with musicality to impress and move, while Mary Bevan offers a Bordoni with a lower centre of gravity, generally darker and more directly theatrical.'

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

Sandrine Piau (soprano), Le Concert de la Loge, Julien Chauvin

'With her silvery tone, immaculate sense of line and telling if understated way with words, Piau is very much at home in this repertory…[Chauvin and his orchestra] are outstanding throughout, unearthing subtleties in music that is often quite simply but always effectively scored. It’s a most engaging disc.'

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

Solo Vocal

Véronique Gens (soprano), Orchestre National de Lille, Alexandre Bloch

'A performance that ranks, unquestionably, among the finest to date. Superbly sung, and wonderfully well conducted and played by Alexandre Bloch and his Lille orchestra, this is an interpretation of great beauty and insight. Gens’s dark tone and her ability to fuse sound with sense allow her both to encompass the work’s rapturous lyricism and to map out the psychological subtlety of its depiction of the painful end of an affair.'

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

Tassis Christoyannis (baritone), Jeff Cohen (piano)

'Christoyannis, in what is in many ways a tour de force, is for the most part exceptional throughout. Just occasionally the recording itself captures a pulse in his upper registers when under pressure, but otherwise everything is beautifully phrased, melody and text are held in well-nigh ideal balance and the prevailing mood is one of almost confessional intimacy...It’s both a real treat and a fine set that immeasurably enhances our understanding of Hahn and his world. Do listen to it.'

Available Formats: 4 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Nicky Spence (tenor), Julius Drake (piano), Václava Housková (mezzo), VOICE, Victoria Samek (clarinet)

'Not only does Spence’s voice offer a rare mix of steely strength and velvety tenderness but his bright, vibrant timbre communicates a touching, wide-eyed sense of ardent longing, tinged with melancholy...[Drake] conjures up the cycle’s sound world superbly from the start…As persuasive an introduction to Janáček’s songs as you’ll find.'

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

Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano)

'Finley is never an artist, one feels, to let himself be rushed…and his new recording of Schwanengesang is well worth the wait…The Vier ernste Lieder are possibly even better: noble, refined, heartfelt, supremely moving and often beautiful in the extreme…totally sincerity backed up by superb vocalism, matched at every turn by Drake.'

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

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

'[Tilling is] a fine singer, her soprano bright and appealing (if occasionally a little glassy), and her interpretations well-turned...And there are certainly no disappointments from the baritone, who recaptures the wonderful feeling of studied spontaneity that made the first volume of the series so special…Certainly a top choice for this wonderful cycle.'

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

Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Jonathan Ware (piano)

'One of the most purely seductive recitals to have come my way for a long time… in Dreisig’s introspective, understated performances we hear the Four Last Songs anew, each one fascinatingly set apart from the others in its new context… And thanks to Ware’s superbly dappled and delicate way with the accompaniment, they come across less as pale imitations of the orchestral originals than something like evocative, distantly remembered echoes.'

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

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