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 Gramophone Choices, Gramophone Editor's Choices - January 2021

Gramophone January 2021Frank Peter Zimmermann's 'benchmark' recordings of the Martinů violin concertos with the Bamberger Symphoniker and Jakub Hruša (supplemented with a 'beautifull phrased' account of Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin) is pick of the crop for January, with reviewer Guy Rickards observing that the German violinist 'evinces a sympathy with Martinů's idiom that is, if anything, even stronger than [Thomas Albertus] Irnberger’s, a knowledge to rival Bohuslav Matoušek’s on Hyperion and a peerless technique'.

Editor's Choices include an intriguing programme of Veress, Ginastera and Francisco Coll from Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Camerata Bern on Alpha, a 'compelling' recital of York Bowen from Georgian pianist Nicolas Namoradze, and Michael Spyres and Lawrence Brownlee's 'must-have' Rossini album Amici e rivali - one of our own Top 10 Recordings of 2020.

Recording of the Month

Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Bamberger Symphoniker, Jakub Hruša

'Hrůša is as fine a Martinů interpreter as anyone on the podium currently...What impresses most here, however, is the clarity and naturalness of Zimmermann’s performances, remarkable in combining an intimate knowledge of the music (the result of long study) with a freshness of approach. This is, for me, the top recommendation for these two works and, frankly, is how Martinů should always be played.'

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

Editor's Choices

Camerata Bern, Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Sol Gabetta (cello)

'Musica concertante and Ginastera’s Concerto are both concerti grossi, which allows Kopatchinskaja to take on the roles of concertante soloist, section leader and indeed director, as both works, following Camerata Bern tradition, are given without a conductor. As such, she is very much part of an ensemble of equals, and the playing throughout is superb in its focus, precision and concentration.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

'In terms of ensemble, the Trio Zeliha are impressive, and I’m particularly delighted by their meticulous attention to dynamic markings. The scherzos in both the Arensky and Mendelssohn are as dazzling for their delicacy as for their vivacity. The programme is intelligently planned so the three works seem to connect in an illuminating way, and the recorded sound is first-rate. A truly auspicious debut.'

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

Members of the Concertgebouworkest, Alexei Ogrintchouk

'As in all the best performances, the wind players of the Concertgebouw (the brand speaks for itself) combine refinement of blend and ensemble with a sense of spontaneous enjoyment...When they choose, the Concertgebouw players are as mellifluous as you could wish. But they’re not afraid of a touch of abrasiveness...this superlatively played new recording immediately joins the shortlist for this most sumptuous of serenades.'

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

Francesco Corti (harpsichord)

'Erudition and virtuosity take back seat to the sheer pleasure of music-making in one of the most enjoyable Baroque recitals I’ve heard in a very long time...Most striking is the loving performance of the Capriccio on the Departure of His Beloved Brother...Corti is able to convey this quintessentially youthful music with a persuasive candour and open-hearted enthusiasm that, I suspect, will surely spoil a few other recordings.'

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

'A terrific pianist...with all the colouristic and stylistic attributes one could wish for allied to a formidable technique, the kind of musician whose artistry is like a compelling novel where you can hardly wait for what comes next...Superbly recorded and performed with such distinction, this release must be an early Awards nominee.'

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

Behzod Abduraimov (piano)

'Each ‘picture’ in the gallery unfolds its own enticing universe, vividly elucidated by the most genial and compelling of tour guides...Abduraimov’s visionary interpretation is on a par with the very finest. His secret ingredient is an acute awareness of orchestral colours (not necessarily from Ravel) and an ability constantly to vary timbre and texture without damaging the natural flow...All in all, a serious candidate for a benchmark recording, capping a most distinguished recital.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

'The real headline performance on this album is the lai En demantant et is here performed TTB, with voices taking the texted part in turn as the others vocalise. The result is rich, mesmeric and deeply moving...The famous rondeau Ma fin est mon commencement (‘My end is my beginning’) is especially pleasing in this thoughtful, clear performance. The Orlando Consort bear Machaut’s virtuoso writing lightly and keep the text clearly in the foreground..

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

Cut Circle, Jesse Rodin

'This is pathbreaking. Certainly Cut Circle are not the first to sing late 15th-century songs without instrumental participation...But there is something quite new about the way Cut Circle resist any kind of external contrasts to ‘vary’ the sound...tempos are perfectly judged, with lots of lovely space within the lines and between the stanzas...I think this recording sets new standards for the recording of such music and will be a model for many more to come.'

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

Michael Spyres (tenor), Lawrence Brownlee (tenor), I Virtuosi Italiani, Corrado Rovaris

'Their voices contrast very well. Brownlee’s tenor fits the Giovanni David mould, light and flexible with glistening brilliance in his upper register. Spyres, with his darker, baritonal tenor, suits the Nozzari roles, powerful and weighty, but with top notes that can really zing...With I Virtuosi Italiani offering sterling support under Corrado Rovaris, this is a must-have disc for discerning fans of vocal fireworks.'

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

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month

Florian Sempey (Don Fernand d'Aragon), Roberto Lorenzi (Don Gaspar), Konu Kim (Leone de Casaldi), Lidia Fridman (La comtesse Sylvia de Linares), Federico Benetti (Le Moine); Orchestra Donizetti Opera, Jean-Luc Tingaud, Francesco Micheli

'Francesco Micheli’s staging – hardly any props, no scenery as such but carefully rationalised and colourful medieval costume – is ingeniously set...The cameras of the filming and the detailed and careful preparation of conductor Tingaud and director Micheli provide viewers of the DVD, through excellent sound and vision, with a more complete visual and aural experience than might have been possible for the real-life audience...Cunningly and efficiently done, both staging and musical interpretation fit the score like a glove. Hugely recommended.'

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Florian Sempey (Don Fernand d'Aragon), Roberto Lorenzi (Don Gaspar), Konu Kim (Leone de Casaldi), Lidia Fridman (La comtesse Sylvia de Linares), Federico Benetti (Le Moine); Orchestra Donizetti Opera, Jean-Luc Tingaud, Francesco Micheli

Sound format: PCM Stereo 2:0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5:1

Picture Format: 1080i60

Available Format: Blu-ray

Reissue/Archive Issue of the Month

Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Nikolaus Harnoncourt

'These brilliantly played performances, caught in a warm, clear acoustic, at their best marry minute precision of dynamics, accentuation and articulation with a devil-may-care spontaneity. With his characteristic balancing of sonorities – lithe, crisp strings, sharply incisive flutes and oboes, unabashed brass – Harnoncourt is forever seeking out the music’s disruptive, discordant elements.'

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

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