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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - Awards Issue 2020

Gramophone Awards Issue 2020Paavo Järvi’s recording of the complete symphonies of Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon takes the palm this month - as Hugo Shirley points out in his review, the Järvis have form when it comes to championing the Austro-Hungarian composer’s music, with Paavo’s father Neeme having recorded these works around thirty years ago and his brother Kristjan tackling the mammoth oratorio Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln in 2008.

Jamie Barton’s spellbinding recital of songs by Jake Heggie (with the composer himself at the piano) on Pentatone continues to work its magic, with Edward Seckerson captivated by the mezzo’s ‘powerful presence and spectacular vocal equipment’ and Heggie’s ‘consistently illuminating’ settings of poetry by Sister Helen Prejean (the inspiration for Dead Man Walking), Gene Scheer, and his late friend Laura Morefield, who died of cancer in 2011. In case you missed it last month, you can read Katherine’s interview with Barton and Heggie about their joyous first meeting and ensuing close musical partnership and friendship here.

Recording of the Month

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

'At its best this is music of great power and harmonious adventurousness, beautifully crafted and patiently built up. At other times, admittedly, it can seem to lose its way…The achievement of Järvi and his orchestra, though, is in making it all seem necessary and inevitable: these are compelling, supremely persuasive performances that constantly underline the music’s great qualities.'

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

Editor's Choices

Thibaut Garcia (guitar), Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, Ben Glassberg

'Rarely has such a combination of virtuosity, intelligence, character and flair been brought to bear on this most popular of all concertos… Garcia’s ability to meticulously mould the trajectory of a strum as much as a phrase, without the slightest hint of premeditation, stems from locating the emotional epicentre of the Rodrigo in the Adagio’s cadenza and working outwards.'

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

Adrien La Marca (viola), Quatuor Van Kuijk

'They repeatedly strike an incredibly fine emotional balance, and make it sound as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. There’s nothing precious or overwrought about these accounts: they’re buoyant, intelligent readings, vividly recorded…Time and again, they seem to me to catch this music exactly where it speaks most powerfully: balanced perfectly – poignantly – between laughter and tears.'

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

Natalia Prishepenko (violin), Dina Ugorskaja (piano)

'Given Ugorskaja’s tendency to rapt introspection at leisurely tempos I was initially taken aback by the duo’s focused take on these David Oistrakh-inspired works. The Prokofiev comes first in physical format, its disparate moods consciously held within bounds… Next, the balder abstractions of Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata – not so much softened as made to sound spontaneous.'

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

Bertrand Chamayou (piano)

'The danger with this kind of CD is that you end up with so much slow, quiet music that you find yourself drifting off into the most pleasant slumber…But not here, for the programme is full of surprises and ranges wide, both geographically and historically… A treasure-trove of an album.'

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

James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Christian Immler (Jesus), Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

'Here we have a reading that feels as if, deep in the psyche of the performers, they know this is all happening close to the wire. Gilchrist is again on masterly form, risking pinpoint precision for graphic description in a way that makes the experience feel ‘live’ in every respect… Suzuki takes us as co-travellers in a search of faith, not necessarily assuming us all as believers.'

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

Jamie Barton (mezzo), Jake Heggie (piano), Matt Haimovitz (cello)

'Barton’s all-embracing talent – her powerful presence, her spectacular vocal equipment – has a whole lot of Heggie to get hold of here. But there’s a whole lot of motivation…Heggie’s way with music, the way in which his choices unlock and intensify the poetry and drama of the words, is consistently illuminating, full of surprises.'

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

Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Alexandre Tharaud (piano)

'It makes for an entertaining hour, far more varied in mood than the disc title ‘Chanson d’amour’ (after Fauré’s song) may suggest… It is a joy to hear these 29 mélodies sung so well, with superb French diction…There’s never any sense of Devieilhe pushing her light soprano; this offers a feeling of great intimacy.'

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

Damien Guillon (countertenor), Café Zimmermann

'Seventy minutes with Death for company may look like hard going but such is the expressive depth and profound consoling beauty of the works assembled here, and so committed and responsive the performances, that it compels the attention…This is a release you will want to listen to over and over again for its beauty, but perhaps also for its power to heal.'

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

Ermonela Jaho (soprano), Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Andrea Battistoni

'She has a slender tone, definitely more lyric than spinto, and is often so deeply invested in her role that it’s not always a very ‘pretty’ sound. Yet it’s exactly these qualities that are her strengths here…Jaho invests each and every role with a sense of drama that translates across the speakers, even though there are no visuals.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Gábor Bretz, David Stout, Anna Goryachova; Wiener Symphoniker, Daniel Cohen, Mariame Clément

'Musically everything is well sorted and balanced under the baton of Daniel Cohen, who keeps a good pulse while never exaggerating the more choreographed scenes. Filmed with good attention to both the rhythm and geography of the production and well recorded from an audio point of view, this new set can be warmly recommended.'

Available Format: DVD Video

Gábor Bretz, David Stout, Anna Goryachova; Wiener Symphoniker, Daniel Cohen, Mariame Clément

Filmed in 4K HDR Ultra HD Picture format: NTSC 16:9 Sound format: PCM Stereo, DTS 5.1

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue/Archive Issue of the Month

Suzanne Danco (soprano)

'As soon as Danco starts to sing, her identity is unmistakable, a bright, vibrant voice, impassioned in its delivery, with perfect diction and an intuitive grasp of text. ‘The Decca Recitals’ is chock-full of such riches, none more potent than Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis, especially the central ‘La chevelure’.'

Available Formats: 8 CDs, MP3, FLAC