INTERNATIONAL Recordings Of The Year 2012
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INTERNATIONAL FOUNDER Len Mullenger
As I recorded this time last
year I had started getting hearing problems with tinnitus
and distortion. This has continued throughout the last
12 month with the tinnitus whistling getting louder. So
once again I do not think it appropriate for me to select
any discs as being the best of the year.
EDITOR Rob Barnett
150th Anniversary Edition rec. 1929-1999
EMI CLASSICS 0841752
It was a close call between two big EMI British Composer
Edition boxes. The other one was the Holst. Given the
riches and allusive power of the Delius and because
it is 150 years since the composer’s death the
honours must go to this remarkable set. It encompasses
every aspect of the composer’s output and often
in close to exhaustive and certainly satisfying detail.
Violin Concerto Jean
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto Efrem
Zimbalist (violin) Boston SO/Serge Koussevitzky, Cleveland
O/Rudolf Ringwall rec. 1944/6 PRISTINE AUDIO
Pristine are another powerhouse of reissue activity.
Their sheer industry and productive diligence tells
against them when discs like this are swamped by one
monthly avalanche of reissues after another. The Zimbalist
disc offers very special performances and the recordings
have been made to sound very healthy indeed. Zimbalist’s
silky and friction-less legato is combined with a juicy
succulence of tone. If there is a touch of Hollywood
limelight it has a wonderfully seductive glow. Violin
aficionados need to hear these Brahms and Sibelius concertos.
It was a close run thing between this and the Hanson-conducted
Orchestral works BBC Ntl O Wales/Richard Hickox
Chandos have been surprisingly abstemious when it comes
to reissuing from their princely back catalogue. Bucking
that trend is their Richard Hickox Legacy series. Of
this series (surely a lot more to come) their unprecedented
six CD Frank Bridge orchestral set comes at a good price
and in a single well documented and space economical
box. It reminds us of the mastery and inspiration of
the late Richard Hickox. It also further makes the case
for Frank Bridge’s standing alongside that of
Walton, RVW and Elgar.
Tchaikovsky Edition: Symphonies, tone poems,
suites, ballets, operas, chamber works, piano pieces,
songs, a cappella choral works BRILLIANT CLASSICS
Just when you think you have a handle on Brilliant
Classics they shake themselves free with yet another
unique big bargain box. Much of my teenage conversion
to classical music was down to Tchaikovsky; not Bach,
Beethoven or Brahms. This 60CD set ranges far and wide
among every facet of this passionate composer’s
oeuvre. It also strikes into comparative listening territory
with a selection of historic Russian recordings. Interesting
that for the symphonies they did not use the Muti cycle
which the label have issued in previous years. Still,
their choice of the Rozhdestvensky/LSO last three is
deeply satisfying. There’s a lifetime of discovery
here and many fine performances that do full justice.
It was a close-run thing with their other big composer
box: Richard Strauss and I am still at work on their
latest Rimsky-Korsakov Edition.
British light classics Concert Orchestra/Iain
Sutherland rec. 1983/8 ALTO ALC1192
Sutherland's craft and inspiration irradiates this
crashingly exuberant and poetic collection. This is
really splendid – the epitome of life-enhancing
British light music standing out in a crowded market.
Alto and Musical Concepts can take a well-deserved bow.
The Delius Collection Anthony Rolfe Johnson,
Thomas Allen, Felicity Lott, Julian Lloyd Webber, Eric
Parkin, Ambrosian Singers, Royal PO/Norman Del Mar,
Eric Fenby, Vernon Handley rec. 1972-90 HERITAGE
Would I include this or not? Yet more British music
on a list already dominated by it and by the EMI Delius
set? Sorry but it has to be included. These properly
acclaimed and refined early digital Unicorn recordings
of works are conducted by masters of the Delian idiom:
Eric Fenby, Norman Del Mar and Vernon Handley with soloists
of similarly exalted empathy. Fabled recordings at last
available at a remarkably low price and in a single
well presented edition. I hope that Heritage will be
able to license other Unicorn originals if this is anything
to go by.
Symphony 9 Berlin PO/Simon Rattle rec. 2012
EMI CLASSICS 9529692
This important addition to the catalogue brings the completed
version of the Ninth Symphony to the forefront of attention
in the musical world. Bruckner left more of his finale
than Mahler did of his Tenth Symphony, and it is well
worth hearing in this fine performance by one of the world’s
leading orchestras and conductors.
Schicksalslied, Alto Rhapsody, Warum ist
das Licht gegeben, Begräbnisgesang, Gesang der Parzen
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo) Collegium Vocale
Gent Champs-Élysées O/Philippe Herreweghe
rec. 2011 PHI LPH003
Brahms was always at the height of his powers when writing
for chorus, but the choral music is not among his best
known. These marvellous performances will bring rich rewards
for anyone wanting to explore the composer’s genius
to the full.
String Quartet 12 'American' Bedrich
SMETANA String Quartet 1
Josef SUK Meditation
on the Old Czech Hymn Saint Wenceslas Sacconi
Quartet rec. 2010 SACCONI RECORDS SACC104
So far and away the best recording I heard this year,
I could have left it as my only selection for the year,
and not felt that I was shortchanging myself (though as
you can I see, I didn't). The Dvorák is given an
emotionally charged reading, while the Smetana is so good,
you might be forgiven for thinking that it belongs in
the masterpiece category along with the American quartet.
Concerti Grossi The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk
rec. 2011 LINN CKD411
Too often, the beauty in baroque music is lost by an
apparent belief that tempos must be rapid, dynamics extreme
and emotion absent. The Avisons get the mix for this set
of famous concerti absolutely right. The dance movements
in concertos 9-12 are particular standouts.
Violin Favourites Henning
Kraggerud (violin) Dalasinfoniettan/Bjarte Engeset rec.
2011 NAXOS 8.572827
An imaginative selection that avoids the usual suspects,
expertly played with just the right sense of playfulness
and feeling. The music may not demand too much of you,
but it will make you smile, and in these troubled times,
that is a pretty good outcome.
Triptychon, Arabesken, Divertimento, Venezianische Suite
Munich RSO/Ulf Schirmer rec. 2008 CPO
CPO has been slowly releasing Wolf-Ferrari's little-known
orchestral works, and each release has been good, but
this one is a real standout. The four works all date from
the mid 1930s, when they would have seemed very outdated.
Hindsight reveals them to be little gems.
String Quartets 13-15 Artemis Qt rec. 2009
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6025122
A very good year for string quartet recordings, then.
A few years ago, I was very impressed by the Artemis recording
of the Schumann and Brahms piano quintets (with Leif Ove
Andsnes) and with this new release containing my favourite
quartet (Death and The Maiden) it was a compulsory purchase.
Their Maiden is a very good one but it was the performances
of the other two works which were absolute eye-openers.
As in previous
years - stand-out discs for me need to present interesting
repertoire well performed and finely engineered. Two discs
stood out but did not make my final six for the simple
reason that the artists had featured in previous years
and I wanted to highlight other performers too! So with
a heavy heart Xiayin Wang's superb recital of Rachmaninov
on Chandos and the ever-interesting programme of transcriptions
"Magical Places - Evocative Symphonic Poems for Piano
Duet" from Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow
on Divine Arts do not make the final six. In no particular
Song of Farewell – Music of mourning and consolation
Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh rec. 2009 SIGNUM
The first line of my review says it all
- "This is a disc of staggering beauty and effortless
sophistication". The tradition of British Choral
singing at its best.
A Summer’s Tale, Prague BBC SO/Jirí
Belohlávek rec. 2012 CHANDOS CHSA5109
Suk is being reappraised slowly but the
main work here is still far too little known or appreciated.
This stunning performance should help redress the balance
- helped by some of the best Chandos engineering I have
heard in recent years this is also a fine farewell to
Belohlávek as he steps down as the BBC SO's principal
Sebastian BACH/Ignaz MOSCHELES 5
Studies in melodic counterpoint Ludwig
van BEETHOVEN/Carl CZERNY Kreutzer Sonata Paul
HINDEMITH Cello Sonata Jelena Ocic (cello)
Federico Lovato (piano) rec. 2011 CHALLENGE CLASSICS
An artistic team who do merit a second top
six finish in two years. Moscheles' melodic studies based
on Bach's Well-tempered Clavier is one of the year's discoveries
for sure. Stunningly passionate but assured advocacy throughout
from Ocic and Lovato.
By Arrangement – Volume 1: String quintets Zebra
String Trio, Krysia Osostowicz (violin) Richard Lester
(cello) James Boyd (viola) rec. 2011 TOCCATA CLASSICS
Another triumph for a small independent
label. Brilliant thought provoking re-evaluations of 'standard'
works by Brahms. The double viola version of the clarinet
quintet in Brahms' own arrangement is especially rewarding
featuring some of the most beautiful viola playing I have
ever heard from Steven Dann. Life-enhancing stuff.
A Bugle Will Do, Symphony 3, French Overture,
Revelations New Zealand SO/Tecwyn Evans
rec. 2010 ATOLL ACD741
Music of instant appeal and considerable
depth and power. Played with real commitment and flair
by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Of particular impact
was Revelations - a work that resonates in the memory
long after the music stops.
Clarinet Concertos by Stanford, Finzi & Arnold BBC
SO/Michael Collins (clarinet) rec. 2012 CHANDOS
Michael Collins has a long and distinguished discography
- but I'm not sure even he has produced anything finer
than this. Exceptional versions of the Stanford and Arnold
2nd concerti flank an interpretation of the Finzi concerto
which raises it to the status of one of the finest British
concerti of the 20th Century regardless of instrument....
and Collins conducts proceedings too. A major achievement
in beautiful sound.
Musiche Concertate 1619 La Capella Ducale, Musica
Fiata/Roland Wilson rec. April 2009 CPO 777533-2
Many-sided, expressive, ambitious and aesthetically delectable
love songs of considerable originality that deserve to
be heard alongside those of Gabrieli and Monteverdi. La
Capella Ducale's performances here, often requiring considerable
virtuosity, are sensitive, communicative and persuasively
authentic-sounding, with ensemble singing as harmonious
as the soloists are assured. The period instruments sound
splendid, their individual contributions delineated with
admirable transparency. Excellent sound.
A Minnesinger and his 'Vale of Tears' - Songs and Interludes
Ensemble Leones rec. 2010 NAXOS 8.572449
This superb CD proves that time travel is possible. To
listen to these outstanding performances by Ensemble Leones
of Neidhart's beautiful music and witty, sophisticated,
sometimes outrageous poetry is to be transported back
eight hundred years to an incredible period in the history
of music and civilisation in general. All who care about
that heritage should hear this recording.
Ferita d'Amore Evangelina Mascardi (theorbo)
Mónica Pustilnik (theorbino) Marco Beasley (tenor)
rec. 2010 ARCANA A368
Anyone seeking sanctuary from the stresses of modern
life could do much worse than to listen to Castaldi's
beautiful music and be wafted back to a time long before
mobile phones, cars, pop stars and billions of people
all competing with each other for attention and the planet's
resources. This recital provides an hour's worth of direct
nourishment for the soul and the senses. Fine performances,
LISZT Symphonies 2 & 6 Yury
Martynov (piano) rec. 2011 ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES
Martynov's performance on an 1837 Erard is little short
of sensational, particularly in the Sixth where he tackles
the phenomenal difficulty of the 'Storm' movement with
a stunning virtuosity that would have had Liszt the performer
nodding in approval, and the sublime serenity of the 'Scene
beside the Stream' with a spiritual expressiveness that
would have moved Liszt the abbé. In Liszt's words,
he and Martynov "help to propagate knowledge of the
masters and the appreciation of the beautiful" with
22 Tarots, Sonata de Fuego Marcello Fantoni (guitar)
rec. 2010/11 DYNAMIC CDS708
All three of Marco's works on this bountiful CD are brimming
with interest and attractiveness, with memorable melodies,
atmospheric harmonies, suave surges of animation and nostalgic
moods, all adding up to an irresistible recital by Marcello
Sounds, Spring Seas
James Nyoraku SCHLEFER
Haru No Umi Redux, Shakuhachi Concerto
Daron HAGEN Genji
James Nyoraku Schlefer (shakuhachi) Yumi Kurosawa
(20-string koto) Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods,
David Curtis rec. 2011 MSR CLASSICS MS1429
An accessible introduction to the timbral and expressive
capabilities of the traditional shakuhachi and the 20-string
koto, as interpreted by contemporary, but decidedly audience-friendly,
American composers also employing normal occidental forces.
Recordings as arresting and entertaining as either composer
could wish for. Sound quality throughout very good indeed,
warm and well balanced.
Fragments of Requiem Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul
Hillier rec. 2006/11 DACAPO 6.220571
One of those recordings which haunts the memory and brings
you back, wondering, ‘was it really like that..?’
Earworm alert for the sensitive – this may end up
inhabiting your dreams more than you expected.
Orchestral Works Royal Scottish Ntl O/Stéphane
Denève rec. 2011/12 CHANDOS CHSA5102
Keenly observed performances in recordings which reveal
the kinds of colour and depth which has one discovering
Debussy anew. With verve and impact as well as ethereal
and evocative atmosphere, this set has it all.
La Cetra Concertos Rachel Podger (violin) Holland
Baroque Society rec. 2011/12 CHANNEL CLASSICS
A real breath of fresh air through your speakers, this
release glows with joyous and stylish music making –
Rachel Podger is brilliant as ever, and she has chosen
her collaborators very well indeed.
Missa pro defunctis Josquin
DES PREZ Nymphes des bois, Miserere
mei, Deus Cinquecento rec. 2010 HYPERION
As I said in the review, “the music seems to enter
your soul though some kind of osmosis rather than something
so banal as mere listening.” Truly excellent and
rarely heard music performed by masters in their art.
Argerich and Friends - Live from Lugano 2011 rec.
2011 EMI CLASSICS 6447012
Showcasing old favourites and perhaps some new nuggets
in a package of festive vibrancy, Martha Argerich’s
Lugano Project stands as a unique beacon in classical
music. With bags of that irreplaceable ‘live’
feel and never a dull moment, studio sterility is blown
away by spontaneity and spicy zip.
Piano sonata 21 Franz LISZT
Piano transcriptions of songs by Schubert Rian
de Waal (piano) rec. 2010 VALTHERMOND RECORDINGS
A Holy Grail for intelligent pianists and a horrendously
elusive piece to find in an ‘ideal’ performance,
this recording of Schubert’s last piano sonata has
grown on me every time I have heard it. There’s
no such thing as a perfect recording of D960, but this
one goes in my Desert Island rucksack.
Exultent superi - Motets Choisis Collegium
Novum, Ch New College Oxford/Edward Higginbottom (organ)
rec. 2011 NOVUM NCR1384
These are scrupulously prepared performances of François
Couperin’s (Couperin le Grand) rarely heard sacred
choral works, using soloists from the Choir of New College
Oxford directed by Edward Higginbottom. Demonstrating
extraordinary assurance I found their vocal sonority and
unity particularly impressive. I have not heard a more
gratifying recording of sacred music all year. In all
respects this Novum release is quite stunning!
Edward ELGAR The
Apostles Rebecca Evans, Alice Coote, Paul
Groves, Hallé Ch & O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2012
This release of Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles was
recorded at one of those very special occasions when the
excellence of the music, the quality of the performance
and the atmosphere of the live concert combined to produce
something quite remarkable. Sir Mark Elder conducted his
excellent group of soloists; Chorus of Apostles; Hallé
Choir; Hallé Youth Choir and Hallé Orchestra
in an intensely powerful and dedicated reading. Elgar’s
music was performed beautifully throughout achieving an
elusive spirituality. If proof were needed of the importance
of Elgar’s The Apostles then this marvellous release
is the documentary evidence.
Biblical Songs Maurice RAVEL
MAHLER Rückert-Lieder Magdalena Koená
(mezzo) Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2012 DEUTSCHE
Recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie Czech mezzo-soprano
Magdalena Koená is in irresistible form with
this beautiful and often affecting programme of orchestral
songs titled Love and Longing from the pens of Dvorák,
Ravel and Mahler. Best of all is the intensely melancholic
writing of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost
to the world) with Koená communicating a
real sense of yearning to moving effect which felt like
a spiritual experience. Offering the finest support the
Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle are in awesome
Requiem Francis POULENC Four
Motets for a Time of Penitence Sunhae Im (soprano)
Konrad Jarnot (baritone) Bavarian Radio Ch, Munich CO/Peter
Dijkstra rec. 2010/11 SONY CLASSICAL 88697911082
This disc of French sacred choral music came as a breath
of fresh air. The Fauré Requiem is a highly familiar
and much loved repertoire work while the Poulenc Motets
are nowhere near as well known. These are highly sympathetic
performances by the impeccably rehearsed Bavarian Radio
Choir and Munich Chamber Orchestra under the assured direction
of Peter Dijkstra. Stunningly performed and recorded this
disc of French sacred choral repertoire is a marvellous
mix of the familiar and the not so familiar.
Sonatas 1-3 Ulf Wallin (violin) Roland Pöntinen
(piano) rec. 2009/10 BIS BIS-SACD-1784
Robert Schumann’s set of three Violin Sonatas are
glorious works that are said to mirror the composer’s
physical problems and mental torments. These works certainly
deserve to be heard far more often. I have been waiting
for a recommendable recording of all three violin sonatas
for a while and this release fits the bill splendidly.
Wallin and Pöntinen provide fresh and vibrant playing
that feels completely natural and never forced. With highly
impressive playing, great sound and presentation it is
hard to find fault with this excellent release.
Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano) Age of Enlightenment
O/Harry Christophers UNIVERSAL 4765970
The singing of soprano Elin Manahan Thomas on this recording
was a revelation to me, revealing a glorious voice of
elevated quality which is so wonderfully suited to Renaissance
and Baroque music. Of the sixteen well chosen tracks not
one disappoints. In addition there are two ‘killer’
tracks that are exceptional, containing a special element
of spirituality that one rarely encounters on record:
Handel’s ode Eternal Source of Light Divine and
Purcell’s When I am laid in earth (Dido's Lament).
Violin Concerto, Romantic Fantasy, Elegy, Waltz and Toccata
Lorraine McAslan (violin) Sarah-Jane Bradley
(viola) Royal Scottish Ntl O/John Gibbons rec. 2011
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7279
Arthur Benjamin's three concertos for stringed instruments
have long been neglected in concert halls as well as on
disc. So this beautifully played and excellently recorded
release does Benjamin's finely crafted and warmly lyrical
music full justice.
Symphony 2 Overture for a Festival John
IRELAND Sarnia Royal
Scottish Ntl O/Martin Yates rec. 2011 DUTTON EPOCH
There is no such thing as Moeran's Second Symphony although
it is well known that he worked on it repeatedly during
the last years of his life but failed to complete it to
his entire satisfaction. Martin Yates, however, did a
really remarkable job in editing, completing and recording
this impressive work that sounds like vintage Moeran,
which must be credited both to the composer and Yates.
This release is also a must for Moeran enthusiasts since
it includes the somewhat earlier Overture that quite often
hints at the celebrated Symphony in G.
Suite Rústica 1, December Poem, Festival March,
Symphony Royal Scottish Ntl O/Álvaro Cassuto
rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572892
Lopes-Graça as well as his slightly younger colleague
Joly Braga Santos was an important figure in Portuguese
contemporary music. His music had been well served many
years ago but most recordings are now out of print. So
this generous release including his impressive Symphony
is most welcome and is the best possible introduction
to Lopes-Graça's music so far. Both performances
and recording are excellent.
Schelomo, From Jewish Life, Voice in the Wilderness
Kol Nidrei Natalie Clein (cello) BBC
Scottish SO/Ilan Volkov rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67910
This is the only release featuring the three works for
cello and orchestra of Bloch. This in itself would be
enough to commend it, but the other decisive asset is
the immaculate playing and the subtle musicality of Natalie
Clein that are a pure joy from first to last.
Cello Concerto 2, Modificata, Percussion Concerto
Truls Mørk (cello) Colin Currie (percussion)
Helsinki PO/John Storgårds rec. 2011 ONDINE
The main attractions in this release are the two recent
concertos i.e. the Second Cello Concerto and the Percussion
Concerto which are amongst his finest works while the
inclusion of a revised version of an early work Modificata
also adds to one's appreciation of the composer's stylistic
progress over his long creative life.
Last year I noted
that I found many of the sixty or so opera recordings
I had reviewed during the year difficult to consider,
either as Recordings of the Month or under the present
heading, despite the singing often being good. This was
because on video the current predilection in Europe for
avante garde or regietheater productions are more to do
with being seen to be different, or more tenuously, relevant
to our present times than doing justice to the composers
creative intentions. The sung words might be about swords,
but the scene on the screen involves armalite rifles and
terrorists with faces covered by a balaclava with sadistic
practices ramming the message home. An added bete noire
this year has been up dated productions with minimalist
sets. However, these tendencies have been partly offset
by the issue, or re-issue, of productions from yesteryear
of a more traditional nature, even if they are in black
and white or 4:3 aspect ratio, my selections involve some
of the latter.
Xerxes Ann Murray (mezzo) Valerie Masterson
(soprano) Lesley Garrett (soprano) English National Opera
Ch & O/Sir Charles Mackerras rec. 1988 ARTHAUS
It is very difficult to obtain a recording of a Handel
opera that is not updated in some way. This classic excellently
sung production, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, manages
to break this mould and portray the work in a meaningful
natural context and staging.
Die Zauberflöte Ileana Cotrubas
(soprano) Peter Schreier (tenor) Edita Gruberova (soprano)
Vienna State Opera Ch, Vienna Philharmonic O/James Levine
rec. 1982 ARTHAUS MUSIK 107199
This 1982 production from the Salzburg Festival is outstanding
in respect of singing, production and orchestral playing.
Anna Bolena Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Elina Garanca (mezzo) Vienna State Opera Ch &
O/Evelino Pidò rec. 2011 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
Soloists Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca lead an excellent
cast and performance of the opera that launched Donizetti’s
career in 1830.
Il trovatore Sondra Radvanovsky (soprano)
Marcelo Alvarez (tenor) Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)
Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Marco Armiliato rec. 2011
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 0734797
Reviewed by colleagues, it was a toss up whether this
Metropolitan Opera performance, or that of Macbeth
from Covent Garden, made it onto my list. Both are available
on Blu Ray as well as DVD.
Musical Odyssey in St Petersburg
Renée Fleming (soprano) Dmitri Hvorostovsky
(baritone) Ivari Ulja, Olga Kern (piano) State Hermitage
O/Constantine Orbelian rec. 2009 DECCA 0743383
Wonderful singing in fabulous locations with splendid
photography of the city and its environs.
Musical Journey: Norway - A
musical tour of Troldhaugen, Bergen and the Norwegian
landscape. Music by Edward Greig. NAXOS 2.110274
I have reviewed several of this series; many are confused
in their objectives with boring repetitive content. A
few, such as this and that of Seville, are worth seeing
and hearing and, at their modest price, would make good
Christmas stocking fillers.
By sheer coincidence
I have picked six recitals with as many wonderful women.
Still I regret to have to leave out Felicity Lott’s
superb Poulenc disc and Cecilia Bartoli’s much hyped
but truly excellent Mission with arias by the little known
Steffani. There was also a twofer, Ladies Sing Baroque,
with marvellous recordings from the last decade or so
and not a dull aria, not a reading that wasn’t top-notch.
I would also have liked to include Daniel Behle’s
Strauss recital. And there were several others that have
enriched my reviewing year. After all there are many more
good than bad discs issued. Isn’t that comforting?
Chen Reiss (soprano) L’arte del mondo/Werner
Ehrhardt rec. 2010 ONYX 4068
It’s always a pleasure to hear a young singer for
the first time. Chen Reiss isn’t exactly new, her
first disc with songs by Schubert and Donizetti was issued
in 2007, but I hadn’t heard it and thus was really
stunned by the beauty of her tone and her accomplished
singing in repertoire that is largely un-hackneyed.
Pierrou & en Stradivarius rec.
1974-93 OAK GROVE CD2027
Nilla Pierrou was, on the other hand, well known to me,
having heard her on a number of occasions in her native
Sweden. Having recently retired she has been spending
a lot of time searching out recordings from sundry archives
and the resulting three-disc box is delightful. It is
in particular valuable for the inclusion of several rarities.
Her playing is always tasteful and her tone is golden.
Best of all: there is another box recently issued which,
at the time of writing this, I haven’t yet had time
to listen to.
Bei dir allein! Camilla Tilling (soprano)
Paul Rivinius (piano) rec. 2010 BIS BISSACD1844
When I first heard Camilla Tilling more than fifteen
years ago I was convinced that here was a rising star.
As early as that she was an accomplished Lieder interpreter,
and her two recent song CDs – there was a Strauss
recital a couple of years ago – are ample proof
that she has developed into one of the foremost of her
trade. This is Lieder-singing with rare insight and deep
Herminie, Les Nuits d’été
Gens (soprano) O Ntl des Pays de la Loire/John Axelrod
rec. 2000-10 ONDINE ODE1200-2
On a previous disc, also a Recording of the Year, former
baroque specialist Veronique Gens ventured into the 19th
century world and sang Malheureux Roi from Berlioz’s
Les Troyens marvellously. On this new disc she further
explores his music and comes down with a disc that challenges
the former hegemony in Les nuits d’ètè:
Regine Crespin and Janet Baker. As a bonus we also get
the rarely heard Herminie.
Arias by Gluck, Mozart & Grétry Christiane
Karg (soprano) Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen rec. 2012
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300389BC
Christiane Karg was also a new name to me and she too
explores largely unknown territory. Three of the arias
are even world premiere recordings and all fourteen were
composed within a ten-year-period, 1774 – 1784.
The music is wonderful and so is her singing. “Don’t
miss this disc!” I wrote in my original review.
I haven’t changed my mind.
Elina Garanca (mezzo) Filarmonica del Teatro
Comunale di Bologna/Yves Abel rec. 2012 DEUTSCHE
My last choice is another of my recent favourites, the
Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca. The musical world
is well endowed with excellent mezzos and Garanca is no
doubt one of the foremost. Besides good looks she has
the creamiest voice imaginable and she uses it with the
utmost taste. Some listeners may find her cool, I would
say that she sometimes sings with restraint, which in
most cases is preferable to too much heart on the sleeve.
Even her repertoire is slightly off the beaten track.
Der Ring des Nibelungen Vienna PO/Georg
Solti rec. 1958-68 DECCA 4783702
The remastered Decca recording from 1958-65 has to be
one of the most important issues of the year. Notwithstanding
some minor cavils at the performance and the remastering
this remains the best ever recording of Wagner's massive
masterwork, and the studio recording overcomes the inevitable
errors that arise during live performances.
Complete Orchestral Works O Ntl de Lyon/Jun Märkl
rec. 2007-11 NAXOS 8.509002
This is quite simply the most comprehensive recording
ever made of Debussy's orchestral music, including many
arrangements by other hands. Individual performers may
have surpassed some of the items here, but Jun Märkl
and his Lyon forces do the music proud.
The Great Operas Jussi Björling, Victoria
de los Angeles, Maria Callas, Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe di
Stefano rec. 1953-8 REGIS RRC9011
This compendium is inevitably a mixed bag, but this budget
compilation includes the best of the recordings of Puccini
operas made in the 1950s, some of which remain among the
best ever recorded. A real bargain.
Piano Trio, Alborada del gracioso Kees
OLTHUIS Voyage à l’horizon
… Seul Trio Suleika rec. 2010
This disc must be recommended for the piano trio Voyage
a l'horizon...seul by Dutch composer Karl Olthuis,
quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of modern
music that I have heard this year. It is superbly played
by the Trio Suleika, who do well by the Ravel items too.
Cotswolds Symphony, A Winter Idyll, Walt Whitman Overture,
Indra, Japanese Suite Ulster O/JoAnn Falletta
rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572914
It is marvellous to see Naxos and JoAnn Falletta riding
to the rescue of Holst's scandalously neglected early
music (a neglect aided and abetted by the composer's daughter).
All of these works have been recorded before, but Alsop
brings a fresh eye to the music.
for males voices and orchestra Lund
Student Singers, Malmö Opera O/Alberto Hold-Garrido
rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572871
I include this disc purely and simply because of the
rarity of some of these works on disc, even if the performances
sometimes leave something to be desired. It is disgraceful
that these pieces, some of which are superb examples of
their composer's work, have been almost totally neglected.
Symphonies 5 & 6 Basel CO/Giovanni Antonini
rec 2008/9 SONY 88697648162
Take the Pastoral Symphony, here’s warmth of tone
yet lightness of articulation and a rhythmic precision
intrinsic to the performance so you feel the whole piece
growing organically. Such a combination of horizontal
and vertical clarity is easier to achieve in, but also
a particular delight of, chamber orchestra performances.
A Ceremony of Carols, Saint Nicholas Trinity
College Cambridge Ch, Holst Singers, City of London Sinfonia,
/Stephen Layton rec. 2007/12 HYPERION CDA67946
A Ceremony of Carols was first performed by women’s
voices and those here sing so well: as fresh as boys but
more creamy and with sensitive attention to dynamics.
There’s similarly attractive choral work in Saint
Nicholas but what you remember more is Allan Clayton’s
expressive interpretation of the anguished ariosos.
Violin Concerto, Double Concerto, Lachrymae Anthony
Marwood (violin) Lawrence Power (viola) BBC Scottish SO/Ilan
Volkov rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67801
In Britten’s Violin Concerto Anthony Marwood superbly
conveys a lyricism that is also anguished with a burning
forward momentum and you appreciate the almost tangibly
unified approach by soloist and orchestra. It’s
good as well to have the less familiar Double Concerto
performed with a sense of youthful exploration and exhilaration.
Sacred music by Byrd & de Monte Gallicantus/Gabriel
Crouch (baritone) rec. 2008/11 SIGNUM CLASSICS
With contrasting examples of their most sober works here’s
a fascinating exchange of motets between Philippe de Monte
and Byrd, the former beauteously sorrowing in meditation,
the latter light and airy in serene conviction. But what
sets this disc apart is the gorgeous attention to vocal
colour and glowing smoothness of tone.
Concerti grossi, op. 3 Concerto Copenhagen/Lars
Ulrik Mortensen rec. 2009 CPO 777488-2
Decorum is the watchword here. Brightness and clarity
too but above all a sense of the discipline of form and
satisfaction in the expression of this. These are performances
to savour again and again: they don’t try to knock
you off your feet but quietly shepherd you along.
Piano Sonatas - Vol. 3 Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10689
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet takes risks. Haydn becomes chameleon
like in ever changing variety of mood: now pausing, now
bounding forward, now smoothly flowing, now trenchantly
snappy. Though there’s a fundamental lyricism it’s
tempered by bold assertions. These are highly emotive
accounts which nevertheless also seamlessly project the
drama of the music.
A Mass of Life, Prelude and Idyll Janice Watson
(soprano) Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo) Andrew Kennedy
(tenor) Alan Opie (baritone) Bach Ch; Bournemouth SO/David
Hill rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572861-62
This year there have been many memorable new recordings
of Delius’s beautiful music, but this one impressed
me the most. The reviewer has well said, “David
Hill brings the score to life in a way that you seldom
Sketches for Symphony 2, Overture for a Festival
John IRELAND Sarnia
Royal Scottish Ntl O/Martin Yates rec. 2011
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7281
Thanks to Martin Yates sympathetic realisation and completion
of Moeran’s sketches for his Symphony No. 2, we
now have another Moeran treasure; and Yates’s imaginative
orchestration of John Ireland’s Sarnia
is equally compelling.
Complete Piano Music David Owen Norris (piano)
rec. 2004 EM RECORDS EMRCD002
Owen Norris’s notable performance brings back cherished
memories of Quilter’s exquisitely fragile, magical
music redolent of a gone-by ‘innocent era - a comfortable,
safe, golden age of fantasy and childhood dreams’.
Concerto for Orchestra, A notte alta, La donna serpente
Martin Roscoe (piano) BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea
Noseda rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10712
Colourful, melodic and cinematically exciting. What more
could Late Romantic music fans want?
TALBOT Alice in Wonderland
Lauren Cuthbertson, Sergei Polunin, Edward Watson,
Simon Russell Beale Royal Opera O, Covent Garden/Barry
Wordsworth rec. 2011 OPUS ARTE OA1056D
An entrancing, imaginative new look at the familiar story.
Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography is brilliant,
the costumes glitter and the special effects amaze. Lauren
Cuthbertson as Alice, on the brink of womanhood, mesmerizes
and Jody Talbot’s colourful percussive music fits
Raymonda Olesia Novikova, Friedemann
Vogel, O Teatro alla Scala/Michail Jurowski rec. 2011
A lavish production; a feast for the eye; with marvellous
dancing from the principals especially Olesia Novikova
as Raymonda - her dancing always poised and assured, expressive,
elegant and graceful – her point work is awesome.
Goldberg Variations, 15 Sinfonias (arr. Sitkovetsky)
Dmitry Sitkovetsky (violin) Yuri Zhislin (viola) Luigi
Piovano (cello) rec. 2010 NIMBUS NI6199
One of the most beloved musical works ever written, arranged
with such affection and skill that the result sounds in
no way inferior to the original, and performed with authority
and passion. This is music of a kind that can bring tears
of happiness to one's eyes. And an arrangement that should
Symphonies 2 & 3 New York Philharmonic/Alan
Gilbert rec. 2011/12 DACAPO 6.220623
A disc I just can't stop listening to! The old lethargic
New York Philharmonic is gone, and this is a highest-voltage
reading of two striking symphonies. Oh, the brass! The
conducting is inspired, and the result is completely magical
and stunning. Sorry, have to run back to listen to it!