Recording of the Month
Musiques du silence – Federico Mompou, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Henri Dutilleux, Alexander Scriabin, Frédéric Chopin, Toru Takemitsu, Claude Debussy, Enrique Granados
Guillaume Coppola, piano
Released on April 5, 2019 by Eloquentia
Builded around works by the pianist and composer Federico Mompou, this programme invites other composers who tried to express the return to basics, a stylistic purity, a form of asceticism and mysticism. The works are linked through the ages and styles, resonate with each other, and that creates a continuous journey renewed form of recital, as a work in itself. An incredible sound experience, almost hypnotic.
After five original and unanimously acclaimed CDs, Guillaume Coppola has now "confirmed his prominent place at the heart of the young generation" (Diapason). In addition to a verve and an expressive depth that make each of his performances keenly anticipated, his authenticity and simplicity have won the hearts of music-lovers.
His eclectic and eloquent discography – encompassing Liszt (2009), Granados (2012), Poulenc (2013, with baritone Marc Mauillon), Schubert (2014) and Brahms-Schubert (2016, four hands with Hervé Billaut) – has been enthusiastically welcomed by the world's press, with every release garnering the highest recognition: Diapason d'Or, ffff from Télérama, Selection from Le Monde, Les Echos, the Académie Charles Cros, five stars from BBC Music Magazine, "Maestro" from Pianiste, four stars from Classica, four stars from Pianist and so on.
To date, he has performed in some 20 countries, appearing at prestigious European venues such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Prague Rudolfinum, the Liège Philharmonie, the Reduta in Bratislava and the Liepaja International Piano Stars Festival, as well as in Asia and South America. In France too, of course: at the Musée d'Orsay, the Salle Pleyel, the Piano Festival of La Roque-d'Anthéron, the Folle Journée de Nantes, the Festival de l'Orangerie de Sceaux, Piano aux Jacobins, the Paris Chopin Festival, Solistes aux Serres d'Auteuil, the Radio France Montpellier Festival, the Lille Piano Festival, the Rendez-vous de Rochebonne, the Nohant Festival, the Auditorium de Dijon, the Auditorium de Bordeaux, MC2 Grenoble, the Dinard Festival and more.
In addition to solo recitals and concertos – the latter with the Orchestre National de Montpellier, the Saint-Etienne Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Victor Hugo Franche-Comté and the Orchestre Symphonique de l'Opéra de Toulon, under the baton of Arie van Beek, Enrique Mazzola, Laurent Campellone and Maxime Tortelier, among others – chamber music allows him to engage in fruitful collaboration with the violinists Régis Pasquier, Patrice Fontanarosa and Nicolas Dautricourt, the cellist Antoine Pierlot, the Voce, Parisii, Debussy and Alfama String Quartets.
While he occasionally plays four-hands and two-piano repertoire with Bruno Rigutto or David Bismuth, he has for several years performed as a duo with Hervé Billaut. Invited to accompany the baritone Marc Mauillon in a vocal recital, he also appears with the Latvian National Choir, Spirito/Britten Choir, the Bordeaux Opera Chorus under the direction of Māris Sirmais, Nicole Corti, Salvatore Caputo.
Guillaume is a generous musician who takes every opportunity to perform for audiences in prisons, hospitals and retirement homes. He participates in productions combining words and music, along with Marie-Christine Barrault, Didier Sandre, François Castang and Marie-Sophie Ferdane. His collaborations with composers have included giving the premieres of works by Marc Monnet (Paris, 2015), Isabel Pires (who dedicated a piece to him), Gao Ping, Steven Stucky and Sylvain Griotto.
Guillaume studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, in the class of Bruno Rigutto. Having taken first prizes in piano and chamber music, he proceeded to hone his skills in numerous masterclasses in France and abroad, with Jean-Claude Pennetier, Dmitri Bashkirov, Leon Fleisher and others. At the outset of his career, he received valuable support from sources such as the Radio France Génération Jeunes Interprètes programme, the Lions Clubs, the Cziffra and Bourgeois Foundations, and internationally from the Prix Déclic of the Institut Français and the New Masters on Tour series.
Next season, Guillaume will be performing in recital with his next CD Silence Music, a new 4 hands program with Hervé Billaut (Dreams from Spain), concerts with Spirito, will start a partnership with violist Arnaud Thorette and add Liszt's first concerto to his repertory.
Cello & Orchestra – Dmitri Shostakovich, Mieczysław Weinberg, Vladimir Kobekin
Anastasia Kobekina, cello
Conductor: Kevin John Edusei
Recorded September 24-27, 2018 at Diaconis-Kirche, Bern, Switzerland
Released on April 5, 2019 by Claves Records
This recording almost slipped by unnoticed. It opens with a neither here nor there performance of the first Shostakovich concerto, neither rippled with black comedy the way Slava Rostropovich played it nor invested with loving compassion like the mellifluous Heinrich Schiff. The Berlin-based soloist, Anastasia Kobekina, gives a good account of the piece and the Berne Symphony play well enough under the direction of Kevin John Edusei.
What follows is simply gripping. The 1956 Weinberg Fantasy, of which there appear to be only two extant recordings, has an arresting opening melody and the best atmospherics I can think of outside the moody-blues song book of Jacques Brel. Looking at the orchestration, I see that Weinberg has thrown in three saxophones, tenor, soprano and bass, and a Sarrusophone, which does exactly what its name suggests. And a Hammond organ, to leave you with a sense of unfulfilled longing.
The middle movements are chirpier but the ending goes back to Adagio for the opening theme, by which point you'll be reaching for the fifth tissue. I can't tell you much more about the work since the Claves booklet writes only about the performers and the Internet has yet to catch up on the Weinberg centenary wave. But rest assured that this is an indispensable addition to the cello repertoire and the main theme is one that you'll think you have known all life long.
I don't care what happens in the next eight months. This is my record of the year for 2019.
Source: Norman Lebrecht (myscena.org)
Benedikt Kristjánsson – Drang in die Ferne
Benedikt Kristjánsson, tenor
Tillmann Höfs, horn
Alexander Schmalcz, piano
Recorded August 16-18, 2018 at Teldex, Berlin, Germany
Released on April 5, 2019 by Genuin
It sounds like being in a dreamland when Icelandic tenor Benedikt Kristjánsson sings folksongs from his homeland. For his first Genuin album, the first-prize winner of the Greifswald International Singing Competition and Audience Award winner of the Leipzig Bach Competition has teamed up with the sought-after accompanist Alexander Schmalcz. Schmalcz congenially tunes into in Kristjánsson's nebulous landscapes when the singer juxtaposes the old melodies, sung a cappella, with Schubert's Romanticism. A different language, a different time – but the same feelings and human destinies! Full of deep earnestness, a fine sense of sound and artistic unanimity: a moving duo!
Seconda Donna – George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi
Julia Böhme, contralto
La Folia Barockorchester
Conductor: Robin Peter Müller
Recorded April 2015 at Palais im Groben Garten, Dresden, Germany
Released on April 5, 2019 by Accent
In all other respects, the primadonnas, the title figures and central heroines, stand at the centre of the spotlight. Handel and Vivaldi also had a special affection for the "women in the shadows" – for the queens, the servants or the spurned lovers, mostly sung in female alto voice. They were given breathtakingly beautiful arias: full of lament, sensuality, vengefulness or fury.
In recent years, the German contralto Julia Böhme has developed into one of the most in-demand performers of 17th- and 18th-century music. Her vocal elegance and expressiveness, historically sourced style and unique timbre are just as characteristic of her as a performer as her dramatic intensity and versatility. Concerts and opera productions have taken her to the Dresden Music Festival, the Vienna Musikverein, Prague, Leipzig, Halle, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Versailles, the Laieszhalle Hamburg and the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Franz Schubert: Winterreise
(Adaptation for bass-baritone, clarinet, trombone, accordion, violin, piano, and hurdy-gurdy)
Philippe Sly, bass-baritone, hurdy-gurdy
Le Chimera Project:
Félix de l'Étoile, clarinet
Karine Gordon, trombone
Samuel Carrier, accordion, piano
Jonathan Millette, violin
Roy Rallo, stage director
Doey Lüthi, designer
Recorded November 2018 at Église Saint-Joseph in Rivière-des-Prairies, Québec, Canada
Released on March 29, 2019 by Analekta
Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project revisit Schubert's Winterreise, and offer a captivating version of this masterpiece. From Schubert's score, only the vocal part remains intact and bass-baritone Philippe Sly's reading of it is touching and impressive. The piano part is replaced by the Chimera Project, an ensemble that comprises of trombone, violin, accordion, clarinet and a hurdy-gurdy.
This delightful instrumentation brings this great work into musical territories that are both familiar and foreign by giving it Klezmer / Roma colours. At once joyous and filled with longing, this form of music is associated with both celebration and a collaborative Roma spirit, making it an ideal genre to explore and highlight the intimate relationship between Schubert’s devastating music and Müller's poetic vision.
French-Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly has gained international acclaim for his "beautiful, blooming tone and magnetic stage presence" (San Francisco Chronicle). Mr Sly was the first prize winner of the prestigious Concours Musical International de Montréal and a grand prize winner Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions singing the varied repertoire of Mozart, Bach, Handel, Stravinsky, and Wagner. Recently, he was awarded Concert of the Year in Romantic, Post-Romantic, and Impressionist Music at the 16th annual ceremony of the Prix Opus in Québec.
Influences – Charles Ives, Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, Johann Sebastian Bach
Tamara Stefanovich, piano
Recorded June 21-24, 2018 at the Teldex Studio, Berlin
Released on March 15, 2019 by Pentatone
On her first Pentatone album, pianist Tamara Stefanovich presents a highly personal selection of solo works by Bach, Bartók, Ives and Messiaen. Influences shows how these extraordinarily original and idiosyncratic composers let themselves be inspired by the exterior world, thereby demonstrating how authenticity comes from looking outside as well as inside. The repertoire spans from Bach's embrace of Italian musical elements in his Aria variata alla maniera italiana, Bartók's incorporation of folk elements in his Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, and Messiaen's use of Hindu rhythms in Cantéyodjayâ to the collage of marching bands, sounds of trains and machinery, church hymns, ragtime and blues in Ives' first piano sonata. In all cases, the exterior influences lead to deeply original and personal sonic galaxies. In that respect, the pieces presented here underline how identity results from a constant dialogue with our surroundings, ever changing and enriching our perceptions of ourselves and the world.
Johann Sebastian Bach: St Mark Passion (Markus Passion), BWV 247 – Picander's libretto, 1744 version
Complete revision by Jordi Savall on the basis of research, reconstructions and adaptations for the choruses and recitatives proposed by Alexander Grychtolik.
David Szigetvári, tenor (Evangelist)
Konstantin Wolff, bass (Jesus)
Marta Mathéu, soprano
Raffaele Pé, countertenor
Reinoud Van Mechelen, tenor
Veus - Cor Infantil Amics de la Unió
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Le Concert des Nations
Conductor: Jordi Savall
Recorded March 26, 2018 at La Chapelle Royale du Château de Versailles
Released on April 5, 2019 by Alia Vox
The discovery in St Petersburg of a full libretto from the second performance in 1744 of Bach's missing Passion set the sleuths to work. And here's the result: Following this revised edition, a full-length creation emerges, the work of Jordi Savall based on research by German harpsichordist and musicologist Alexander Grychtolik. The music, all by Bach, has been borrowed from a host of different places, including the two surviving Passions and some cantatas. Savall's lively musical instincts and his flair not just for reconstruction, but also for imbuing it with vigorous life make this mandatory listening, especially given the quality of the performance.
The existence of a third Passion by Bach based on the Gospel of St Mark had long been known. Numerous studies carried out from the second half of the 20th century by specialist musicologists and musicians confirmed that on Good Friday, 1731, Bach presented this Passion set to a text by Picander, which the latter published one year later at the same time as his third volume of poetry. In 2009, the existence of this Passion was fully confirmed by the discovery at St Petersburg of a later version of the libretto used for a new performance of the work, which took place in 1744. Compared with the 1732 libretto, it contains a number of modifications to the texts, as well as a different ordering of some chorales and arias and the addition of two new arias. Thanks to the new version, we have a very clear idea of the form and content of this third Passion by Bach.
Created in Leipzig in March 1731 and then revised for the Holy Week of 1744, on a text by Christian Friedrich Henrici, aka Picander, the St Mark Passion was composed by Bach using existing works.
The autograph score is lost but recent musicological research shows that some pieces like the Funeral Ode BWV 198 or an aria from the cantata BWV 54 had been recycled.
Every performance is thus a reconstruction by the performing artist. Jordi Savall offers his own vision, made of subtle chiaroscuro, suffused with serenity and meditation.
Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde / The Song of the Earth
Anna Larsson, alto
Stuart Skelton, tenor
Conductor: Adam Fischer
Recorded January 11-15, 2018 at Tonhalle Düsseldorf, Germany
Released on March 29, 2019 by CAvi-music
...From the onset, the music in Das Lied von der Erde is permeated by a special mood. Even the texts, based on Far Eastern poetry, are more mood than content. Mahler repeatedly abandons the words' meaning, but the mood remains. The music implies so much more than the words! For instance, the third poem evokes the reflection of a mirror image in water, but I don't see those images anywhere in the music. Mahler is not concerned with helping us understand every syllable. If the voice, in its anguish, is drowned out by the orchestra, that is what the music is trying to achieve. Throughout a great number of passages, "beautiful tone" is not what is important. To the contrary. In Das Lied von der Erde, the singers are likewise required to declaim, cry, and shriek. I think that even those concertgoers who have no command of the German language have no problem in gaining a quite precise grasp of what is going on...
...It is somewhat surprising that Das Lied von der Erde, premièred by Bruno Walter after Mahler's death, went on to become one of the composer's great posthumous successes and gained immediate popularity. When the Mahler revival took place in the 1960s, only three works were performed on a regular basis, and Das Lied von der Erde was one of them. But already the fact that Mahler was not able to conduct the premiere himself poses a particular, new challenge to us today. In the case of all previous symphonies, he had the opportunity to make corrections after the first performance. But we don't have such marks here. We need to bear in mind that this is the first and only version we will ever have. It is astounding to imagine that Mahler was only able to hear Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony with the help of his inner ear. Under normal circumstances, a tactician and technician such as Mahler would certainly have made some modifications after rehearsing them with an orchestra. That is the open question mark that remains. I am so sorry that he bore such secrets with him into his grave.
Source: Adam Fischer (CD Booklet)
Johann Sebastian Bach: Harpsichord Concertos vol. 2
Fabio Bonizzoni, harpsichord
Recorded September 21-25, 2018 at Pieve di San Donato in Polenta, Forli, Italy
Released on April 5, 2019 by Challenge Classics
Here is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed first volume of Bach's Harpsichord Concertos by Fabio Bonizzoni and his group La Risonanza.
This second volume includes a more varied range of works as it starts with the most famous Brandenburg Fifth, which is the first ever harpsichord concert. After the BWV 1054, we have the rather rare BWV 1057,which is the harpsichord version of the Brandenburg Fourth. To end Bonizzoni's survey of all Bach's harpsichord concertos, we find the famous and beloved Triple concerto, with violin and flute.
Reason in Madness – Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Richard Strauss, Charles Koechlin, Claude Debussy, Henri Duparc, Hugo Wolf, Franz Schubert, Camille Saint-Saëns, Ernest Chausson, Francis Poulenc
Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano
Recorded January 2018 at Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England
Released on April 5, 2019 by BIS
Throughout history men have feared madwomen, burning them as witches, confining them in asylums and subjecting them to psychoanalysis – yet, they have also been fascinated, unable to resist fantasizing about them. For their new disc, Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton have created a programme that explores the responses of a variety of composers to women whose stories have left them vulnerable and exposed. As a motto they have chosen an aphorism by Nietzsche: "There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness".
Brahms' Ophelia Songs, composed for a stage production of Hamlet, appear next to those by Richard Strauss and Chausson, while Ophelia's death is described by both Schumann (in Herzeleid) and Saint-Saëns. Goethe's mysterious and traumatized Mignon appears in settings by Hugo Wolf as well as Duparc, while his ill-used Gretchen grieves by her spinning-wheel in Schubert's matchless setting. Sadness and madness tip into witchery and unbridled eroticism with Pierre Louÿs's poems about Bilitis, set by Koechlin and Debussy. Sampson and Middleton end their recital as it began, with a suicide by drowning: in Poulenc's monologue La Dame de Monte-Carlo, the elderly female protagonist has been unlucky at the gambling tables and decides to throw herself into the sea.
Joseph Haydn: Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze / Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ en croix / The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross
Conductor: Riccardo Minasi
Recorded July 2018 at Hauptkirche St Nikolai, Hamburg, Germany
Released on March 22, 2019 by Harmonia mundi
Following a disc of cello concertos and symphonies by CPE Bach (Diapason d'Or, ffff Télérama), the musicians of the Ensemble Resonanz continue their very personal exploration of Eighteenth Century orchestral music.
For several years now, under the direction of inspired conductor Maestro Riccardo Minasi, the ensemble has taken up the challenge of playing instruments with a "modern" setup (violins, violas and basses with metal strings) with complete mastery of historically informed performance practice.
Forty years after what has been called "the Baroque revolution", it's a pleasure to rediscover these nine orchestral movements literally inhabited by the divine words of Christ on the cross – and displaying that rhetorical skill of which Joseph Haydn was a peerless exponent.
Private Passions – Arnold Bax, Harriet Cohen
Mark Bebbington, piano
Recorded September 26-27, 2017 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham
Released on February 1, 2019 by SOMM Recordings
"Truly a remarkable pianist" — The Times
Pianist Mark Bebbington's long association with SOMM Recordings has produced a remarkable array of recordings championing newly discovered British music.
Pairing the piano music of Arnold Bax and Harriet Cohen, his latest disc includes eight first recordings and promises fresh insights into the music of a revered English master and revelatory performances of an overlooked composer who subsequently found fame as a pianist.
The result, Private Passions, is an illuminating dialogue between one of the pre-eminent British composers of the last century and his muse who together shared a 42-year-long love affair.
The eight first recordings here include Bax's vitally contrasted Four Pieces from 1947 and Cohen's evocatively coloured Russian Impressions – the first documented public performance of which Bebbington gave in London in 2015 – a suite dating from around 1913 that variously hints at the influence of Mussorgsky, Debussy and Glinka.
Heard here in its original version, Bax's E flat Piano Sonata of 1921 (which prompted the composer's First Symphony) is as vivid and rich a statement as he ever made. Completing the disc is Bax's In the Night (Passacaglia), an evocative piece that owes much to the intimacy of his relationship with Cohen, and Legend, boasting music of grandeur and poetry wholly suited to its title.
Mark Bebbington's previous release with SOMM featured piano concertos by Grieg and Delius (SOMMCD 269) – "A Grieg concerto the equal of any I have heard, the most enjoyable version of the Delius concerto I know and a novelty world premiere to boot. All round excellence" (MusicWeb International) – and was a CD of the Week for The Times, Classic FM and Mail on Sunday.
George Frideric Handel: Joseph and his Brethren, HWV 59
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
Abigail Levis, mezzo-soprano
Philip Cutlip, baritone
Abigail Levis, mezzo-soprano
Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Philip Cutlip, baritone
Gabrielle Haigh, soprano
Jonathan Smucker, tenor
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Music director and conductor: Nicholas McGegan
Recorded December 18-20, 2017 at the Scoring Stage, Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, CA
Released on April 5, 2019 by Philharmonia Baroque Productions
Nicholas McGegan has been called a "Handel master" by The San Francisco Chronicle and is considered a foremost Handel scholar around the world. So who better to present the rarely performed Joseph and his Brethren than Nic McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale. Handel's unfairly neglected – yet splendid – oratorio depicts the grandeur of Pharaoh's court in an intriguing plot of familial conflict and mistaken identity. With a cast of favorites including Diana Moore and Nicholas Phan, Nicholas McGegan and his historically informed Orchestra and Chorale present a lively studio recording of the program that delighted audiences and critics alike.
"...a beautifully rendered collection of arias and choruses done with characteristic zeal under the leadership of Music Director Nicholas McGegan." — Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
"His [McGegan's] beats – springy and upward-moving – animate his stellar orchestra and chorale..." — Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF
"...conductor Nicholas McGegan led his period-instrument orchestra in a rhythmically pulsating score..." — James MacBean, The Berkeley Daily Planet
"McGegan's sense of pacing was masterful..." — The Newsletter of the American Handel Society
Among Handel's large-scale works, Joseph and his Brethren is one of the most neglected. This recording is only the second commercial issue of the oratorio, and the first in over twenty years. Yet in Handel's lifetime, the work proved rather popular, with a warm initial reception and revivals for decades to come. Joseph's eighteenth-century popularity was attested to by the simple fact that Handel programmed the work season after season.
This release was recorded at the Scoring Stage, Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, CA, December 18-20, 2017. It marks the Orchestra's 11th recording under its Philharmonia Baroque Productions label and adds to its growing list of rare recordings.
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonatas for violin and keyboard
Renaud Capuçon, violin
David Fray, piano
Recorded December 17-21, 2017 at the Notre-Dame-du-Liban, Paris, France
Released on March 27, 2019 by Parlophone Records
Pianist David Fray already enjoys a fine reputation as a stylish Bach player: elegant, focused and alive to the rich fantasy that underlies so much of the music. Here, joined by Renaud Capuçon, he plays four of the six sonatas for violin and keyboard with a winning restraint and a songful beauty. Fray is wonderful at the fast-flowing counterpoint, his fingers skipping over the keys and making magic happen. Yet in a movement such as the "Adagio ma non tanto" of the Third Sonata, these two players find a stillness and poise that melts the heart. Heavenly music making.
Franz Schubert: String Quintet in C major & String Quartet in D minor "Death and the Maiden"
Quartetto di Cremona:
Cristiano Gualco, violin (Stradivarius "Paganini", 1727)
Paolo Andreoli, violin (Stradivarius "Paganini", 1680)
Simone Gramaglia, viola (Stradivarius "Paganini", 1731)
Giovanni Scaglione, cello (Stradivarius "Paganini", 1736)
Eckart Runge, cello (Hieronymus and Antonio Amati, Cremona ca. 1595)
Recorded September 18-22, 2017 at the Leibniz Saal, Hannover Congress Centrum
Released on April 5, 2019 by Audite
The Quartetto di Cremona present Schubert's greatest legacy to chamber music, recording on the Paganini Quartet's Stradivarius instruments for the first time. They are joined by Eckart Runge on a rare Hieronymus & Antonio Amati cello.
Quartetto di Cremona's First Recording on the Paganini Quartet: The new album offers the chance to listen simultaneously to four Stradivari instruments and an Amati cello: The Quartetto di Cremona plays the Stradivarius Paganini Quartet, one of the few quartet "sets" completed by Antonio Stradivari and once owned by the legendary violinist Niccolò Paganini. Eckart Runge plays a rare cello made by Hieronymus and Antonio Amati in their Cremonese atelier.
After completing the recording cycle of Beethoven's String Quartets, the Quartetto di Cremona's new double album is entirely dedicated to Franz Schubert, presenting two of his latest masterpieces: the String Quartet Death and the Maiden and the String Quintet in C major, with cellist Eckart Runge.
The albums were chosen by the owner and blog editor of "Faces of Classical Music", Alexandros Arvanitakis.
The best new classical albums: March 2019
The best new classical albums: February 2019
The best new classical albums: January 2019
The Faces of Classical Music Choose the 20 Best Albums of 2018