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 BBC Music Magazine Choices, BBC Music Magazine - March 2021 Choices

BBC Music March 2021A 'sexy, sparkling' first professional recording of John Eccles's 1707 opera Semele (setting the same Congreve text which Handel would use for his 'musical drama' forty years later) occupies pride of place in this month's issue: Anna Dennis is the self-adoring heroine, Richard Burkhard her divine lover, and Helen Charlston his vengeful wife. Look out for David's interview with conductor Julian Perkins early next month.

Category Choices include an assured debut recording from South Korean coloratura soprano Hera Hyesang Park, Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Caroline Shaw's Narrow Sea (for soprano, piano and percussion ensemble), and the ninth instalment in Giovanni Antonini's Haydn symphonies project, which features a scintillating guest appearance from Sandrine Piau in the Scena di Berenice.

Recording of the Month

Anna Dennis (Semele), Richard Burkhard (Jupiter), Helen Charlston (Juno), Aoife Miskelly (Ino), William Wallace (Athamas), Héloïse Bernard (Iris); Academy of Ancient Music, Julian Perkins

'Cast, band, director and sound are all top-notch, restoring Eccles’s score to its full glory...Thanks to Perkins’s deft casting, each principal’s vocalism and dramatis persona are wonderfully matched...Charlston’s Juno flares magnificently, unafraid to sound ugly when furious...The Academy of Ancient Music’s playing is just as fascinating. Perkins directs from the harpsichord with a demonic intensity.'

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

Orchestral Choice

Sandrine Piau (soprano), Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini

'Antonini’s standing among the most vital of current Haydn conductors is as evident here in the hushed intensity he brings to the remote Adagio of the Farewell Symphony as it is in the driving impetus with which he dispatches its turbulent opening movement, and he draws a remarkable range of expressive nuances and powerful shocks from the modest period forces of Il Giardino Armonico.'

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

Concerto Choice

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

'Two threads run through this adventurous disc – the spirit of Béla Bartók and the Camerata Bern’s prowess – but the force of personality at the centre of it all comes from the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja...It opens with Sándor Veress’s Musica concertante per 12 archi, written in 1965-6 for the then newly formed Camerata Bern, and which in this performance comes across with fiery, searing spirit.'

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

Opera Choice

Hera Hyesang Park (soprano), Wiener Symphoniker, Bertrand de Billy

'Park has recorded one of the most satisfying debuts for many a day. This is a voice that rises to every challenge...Park ‘lives’ her characters too, with coloratura decoration and cadenzas always at the service of the drama...Bertrand de Billy is her perfect partner, conducting the matchless Vienna Symphony Orchestra...It makes you hear these old familiar arias as if for the very first time.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Choral & Song Choice

Sō Percussion, Gilbert Kalish (piano), Dawn Upshaw (vocals/percussion), Caroline Shaw (organ)

'Shaw continues to make waves with her imaginative and expressive works that glide effortlessly between genres. This short but exquisite disc showcases Shaw’s 2017 Narrow Sea, recorded by its outstanding original performers...The five-movement work is at once joyful and mesmeric spare, but Shaw is unafraid to spin a tune and the paired songs that open and close the work have a wonderful lilt which Upshaw carries off with gorgeous lyricism.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Chamber Choice

'A triumph, both musically and technically. Encapsulating the best of all worlds, the Armida play with the exquisite nuancing of the finest old-school outfits, yet with a take-nothing-for-granted interpretative inquisitiveness that takes historically informed practice to a whole new level...Most striking of all is the ensemble’s meticulous tonal matching, so that one is beguiled anew by Mozart’s infinite variety of scoring.'

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

Instrumental Choice

Mahani Teave (piano)

'She is in her late 30s, but sounds more like an artist of the 1950s/’60s, following in the footsteps of an Arrau or Nikolayeva: someone with an entirely natural feel for what the piano is all about and a personality that can meld ideally with the composers’ worlds. She has a rich, luminous tone which complements a splendid instinct for rubato, expert voicing and colouring...This is sincere, pure and magnificent artistry.'

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

Jazz Choice

QOW Trio

'The double bassist associated with respected indie strum-rockers Turin Brakes convenes a superb band featuring a veteran Britjazz drummer who doubles as a priest and an award-winning young tenor sax player. Hands up if you saw that coming...This music is wonderful stuff and failing to buy this album would be a terrible mistake.'

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

Ritual Traditions of the Bonpos

'The rituals here are based in chants whose repetitive simplicity makes a perfect background for meditation. You will go – as I did – into a trance, out of which the final track will wake you with its exultant cymbals, pipes slowly ascending in unison, a grainy bass horn, and the regular thud of a drum, all combining to create a wonderful feeling of release.'

Available Format: CD