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BBC Music Magazine Choices, BBC Music Magazine - October 2020 Choices

BBC Music Magazine October 2020Sergei Babayan’s Rachmaninov recital on Deutsche Grammophon is first among equals in next month’s issue, impressing Erik Levi with his ‘astute programming’, ‘sense of wonderment’ and ‘ability to emulate the depth and grandeur of a full symphony orchestra’. Also mentioned in despatches are John Wilson’s Respighi Roman triptych with Sinfonia of London (one of our recent Recordings of the Week), Kian Soltani’s Dvořák concerto with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, and archive recordings of Sir Arthur Bliss conducting his own music on Decca Originals.

Recording of the Month

'There’s some extraordinary playing on this beautifully recorded disc. The Armenian-born American pianist exhibits a profound empathy for Rachmaninov’s music, revelling in its richness of sonority, its contrasting moods of elation and melancholy, and its structural fluidity. What really binds this recital into an utterly compelling musical experience is the sheer range and tonal variety of his pianism.'

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

Orchestral Choice

Sinfonia of London, John Wilson

'Wilson takes an altogether more balletic approach [than Tortelier]. But there is no lack of wallop: the opening of ‘Circenses’ has tremendous adrenaline…The Triton Fountain sparkles with vitality…There are dozens of versions of Respighi’s ‘Roman Trilogy’ available, but I’ve heard none better than this. The orchestral playing is magnificent, and its joy and exuberance are a tonic at this anxious, isolated period.'

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

Concerto Choice

Kian Soltani (cello), Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim

'He’s an exceptionally free, agile and fluent player, and youthful impetuosity powers the first and third movements, only occasionally marred by a rather hectic vibrato. There’s a sense of real partnership with the orchestra, a lovely chamber-like dialogue, the rounded woodwind and brass timbres of the Berliners providing an ideal foil for his brightly-lit line.'

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

Chamber Choice

'One of the performers’ tasks [in the Franck] is to grade the excitements so that we get some feeling of shape in a whole movement. Here this task is fulfilled admirably, helped by discreet vibrato here and there…Fauré’s quartet is less about drama than efflorescence, and in this Mami Shikimori’s attention to the bass is vital…This ensemble is virtually flawless, making intelligible what in less observant performances can become a meaningless jumble.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Instrumental Choice

'This disc serves to remind us how much marvellous music Beethoven wrote where there isn’t a scowl in sight…Throughout, Paul Lewis plays with the most natural, relaxed but concentrated enjoyment, instantly communicated to the happy listener. A delightful disc altogether, warmly recommended.'

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

Choral & Song Choice

Choir of St John's College Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha

'Pious Anthems and Voluntaries aspires, in Finnissy’s words, ‘to be a work of guts and brains’. It embodies both in spades…Nethsingha and his forces do it proud. Indeed one of their greatest achievements is to make the music sound as lived-in as more customary chapel fare such as Byrd or Howells. The warmth of sound never obscures the clarity of Finnissy’s contrapuntal thinking.'

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

Opera Choice

Michael Spyres (Chapelou/Saint-Phar), Florie Valiquette (Madeleine/Madame de Latour), Franck Leguerinel (Le Marquis de Corcy), Yannis Ezziadi (Louis XV); Accentus, Orchestre de l'Opera de Rouen Normandie, Sebastien Rouland

'Adam’s neat, charming writing is impeccable, and one recognises the sinuous melodic lines of the composer of Giselle…Michael Spyres possesses exactly the supple, agile voice required for the title-role, and revels in the role’s delicious top notes. As his wife Madeleine, Florie Valiquette offers character in abundance and a technical fluency equivalent to her tenor partner.'

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissues Choice

London Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Arthur Bliss

'This is a convenient, well-transferred compilation of some of the finest performances of music by a still-underrated composer. Bliss’s version of the Colour Symphony is better paced than many of its successors…A pity that this and the Introduction and Allegro missed being recorded in stereo, but the mono sound from 1955 is more than acceptable.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC

Jazz Choice