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 BBC Music Magazine Choices, BBC Music Magazine - February 2021 Choices

BBC Music Magazine February 2021A 'beautifully conceived' album of medieval and contemporary choral music from Paul Hillier and Ars Nova Copenhagen is first among equals this month: the enigmatically-titled …and… interweaves excerpts from a thirteenth-century Tuscan manuscript with pieces by Julia Wolfe, Caroline Shaw and Arvo Pärt, the 'outstanding programming' and 'huge expressive range' of Hillier's singers making a strong impression on reviewer Natasha Loges.

I was also rather pleased to see one of my own personal favourites of 2020, the Emerson Quartet's Schumann recording on Pentatone, as this issue's Chamber Choice, with Stephen Johnson praising their 'natural, vital feel' for the music - I couldn't agree more!

Recording of the Month

Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier

'Thematic connections are to be teased out everywhere...Above all, this is consummate choral singing, Paul Hillier’s singers create moments of exquisite tenderness and stillness luminous, multi-coloured and virtuosic, each word lovingly and clearly enunciated, each line beautifully shaped, in a performance of deep, rapt spirituality...This recording offers spiritual revelation and sonic pleasure from start to finish.'

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

Orchestral Choice

Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard

'Both [works] need this wide soundscape and the art that conceals art for the details in a clear, broad picture. We still get the timbres of woodwind and harps adding their splashes of colour; from shrieking piccolo to silky bass lines, as quiet as the grave in Strauss’s first fugue, the dynamic range is impressive...I’d thought of Dausgaard as a febrile kind of conductor, but he knows when to go slow and spacious here, when to drive to thrilling climaxes.'

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

Concerto Choice

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

'Zimmermann has fully absorbed the slightly eclectic style of [the First Concerto] and produces a performance of conviction, not to mention dazzling virtuosity. Hrůša accompanies with understanding and flexibility...[In the Second] the sprung rhythms of the first movement and robust ebullience of the finale are brilliantly captured in one of the most satisfying recorded performances available.'

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

Chamber Choice

Emerson String Quartet

'Here’s playing that penetrates this music to a degree that surprised even a fully paid-up [Schumann] fan like me. The Emerson are such a fine ensemble, but they’re also four strongly individual personalities. The element of dialogue in Schumann’s quartet-writing is forefronted beautifully...This is also, hand on heart, the first time that I’ve really grasped these three works as a cycle. Listen to them in one sitting if you can: it’s wonderfully illuminating and moving.'

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

Instrumental Choice

'Bowen’s Fragments from Hans Andersen are ten musical vignettes, each capturing a scene or character inspired by the master of fairytales. Namoradze brings a deft touch to these charming works, teasing out their respective tenderness, melancholy and wit with subtlety and poise...[In the Op. 46 Studies] Namoradze once more brings total technical assurance alongside exuberance and an unshowy sense of integrity to these fiendish pieces. An altogether enjoyable disc.'

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

Choral & Song Choice

Ensemble Correspondances, Sebastien Dauce

'Daucé gives expressive shape to the music’s ebb and flow; tempos are beautifully judged, responding to the texts and their sacred context. The ensemble’s luminous vocal sound and instrumental colours add to the lush sonic canvas...In short, this is an inspiring programme which highlights the reasons why Italy had such an overwhelming impact on the impressionable young Parisian.'

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

Opera Choice

Martin Mkhize, Frederik Bergman, Paride Cataldo, Dominic Kraemer, Lucas van Lierop, Cameron Shahbazi; Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Geoffrey Paterson

'Jeths’s story about the meaning and purpose of art is a powerful and accomplished piece of music theatre. His own post-modernist style helps...It’s invidious to single out individuals from the young cast...but Verity Wingate is compelling as Luisa, and Paride Cataldo’s posturing D’Annunzio all but steals the show. Laurels, too, for Geoffrey Patterson who conducts the Amsterdam Sinfonietta with complete conviction.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Historical Choice

The American Decca Recordings

'Early music performance was in its infancy when these discs were recorded in Paris...Nowadays, we do things differently; but what illuminates these performances, often with dazzling radiancy and always with deep insight, is Boulanger's intuitive feeling for the music itself. Her direction possesses enormous vitality which is communicated to her splendid musicians...Eloquence Classics deserve special gratitude for the sympathetically remastered reissue of these early 1950s recordings, most of them appearing on CD for the first time.'

Available Format: 5 CDs

Jazz Choice

Rob Barron

'Barron joyfully plunders some of the greatest, most enduring tunes in the jazz and popular songbooks...He plays with incisiveness, sinewy strength and grace, making imaginative use of the melodies and chords, and is well matched with Brown and Morrison. His CV stretches from here to way over there as a sideman and session musician with big names in the jazz and classical fields as well as appearing on film soundtracks – and this is classic piano trio jazz at its best.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC

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