Spotlight on new classical CDs

This week we bring together some 21st century works and a couple of Baroque masters.

Circles: Piano Concertos, Bach, Glass. Performed by Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry.
A Far Cry is a Boston-based string orchestra that performs without a conductor; no mean feat! Together with pianist Simone Dinnerstein they perform two pieces composed 280 years apart, the Glass concerto, composed in 2017 for Dinnerstein, featuring here in its world premiere recording. The Bach concerto (BWV 1058) is a transcription (by the composer) of the violin concerto in A minor (BWV 1041).

The Händel Album. Performed by Artaserse and Philippe Jaroussky.
“This album, which focuses on arias from Handel’s more rarely-performed operas, is the first that Philippe Jaroussky has devoted entirely to the composer … Jaroussky brings his impeccable Handelian credentials to an entire album devoted to arias by the composer, who produced thirty-five operas for the London stage between 1711 and 1741… Jaroussky’s new album puts the emphasis on operas we are less likely to hear in the theatre or concert hall: Amadigi di Gaula; Arianna in Creta; Flavio, re di Longobardi; Giustino; Imeneo; Radamisto (represented by no fewer than four arias); Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra; Siroe, re di Persia and Tolomeo, re di Egitto” (Catalogue).

Doctor Atomic, John Adams. Performed by Gerald Finley and other soloists with the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Adams.
“In this first recording of John Adams’s 2005 opera, Doctor Atomic, the composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with a cast led by Gerald Finley, who originated the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars created the libretto, drawing from original sources to explore the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July 1945. ‘A magnificent accomplishment that easily takes its place alongside the other Adams-Sellars triumphs,’ exclaims the Los Angeles Times. ‘It contains music of unearthly splendor.'” (amazon.com).

New Classical CDs

Aimi Kobayashi album cover

Today’s selection of new classical music CDs features a couple of compilations of religious choral music book-ending three centuries, from Vivaldi and Vaughan Williams. We have also added our first recording from Aimi Kobayashi, a successful young pianist and Chopin-expert.

Gloria, Vivaldi. Performed by Julia Lezhneva, Franco Fagioli with Coro Della Radiotelevisione Svizzera.
“The brightest stars of Italian baroque combine in a dream team for Vivaldi’s ever-popular Gloria in D major. Julia Lezhneva’s ‘serene, sleek voice’ (The Financial Times) is also heard in the sacred motet Nulla in mundo pax sincera, while Franco Fagioli’s ‘distinctive and almost feminine sound’ (The Guardian) is perfectly matched to Vivaldi’s psalm setting Nisi Dominus with its haunting ‘Cum dederit’.” (cover)

Solo Piano, Chopin, Liszt. Performed by Aimi Kobayashi.
“A teenage gold medallist in both the Asia-Pacific and ASIA International Chopin competitions, and a finalist in the ultimate Chopin Competition in Warsaw 2015, just past her 20th birthday, young virtuoso Aimi Kobayashi has enjoyed a close relationship with the music of the Polish composer throughout her skyrocketing career. Here she pairs the great Second Sonata with dazzling works by Chopin’s contemporary and friend Franz Liszt on a programme showcasing the musicianship she would share with the world…” (cover)

Mass in G Minor, Vaughan Williams. Performed by The Choir of St John’s, Cambridge.
Marking the centenary of the 1918 Armistice is this recording of Vaughan Williams choral works performed by The Choir of St John’s with Andrew Nethsingha at the helm. Many of these works were composed shortly after the end of the First World War, perhaps in response to the composer’s experience.

New Classical Music CDs

Mozart in London cover image

This week in new classical CDs we highlight the child genius of Mozart and his inspirations, Debussy on period instruments, and an American treasure (Aaron Copland).

Mozart in London. Performed by The Mozartists.
“The ensemble The Mozartists presents an unprecedented survey of Mozart’s childhood stay in London from 1764-65. The wide-ranging programme includes Mozart’s remarkable first symphony (composed when he was eight years old), along with his two other London symphonies and his first concert aria. The repertoire also explores music that was being performed in London during Mozart’s stay, including works by J.C. Bach, Thomas Arne, Abel, Pescetti, Perez, George Rush and William Bates.” (Catalogue)

Préludes du 2e Livre, La Mer, Debussy. La Mer transcribed by Debussy. Performed by Alexander Melnikov and Olga Pashchenko.
Harmonia Mundi describes Debussy as “the magician of melody and timbre, the great ‘colourist’ and father of modern music.” Alexander Melnikov performs on a “‘period’ piano (an Erard piano) that he breathes new life into Book II of the Préludes, but also – with the help of Olga Pashchenko – the extraordinary transcription of La Mer by the composer himself.” (Back cover)

Orchestral Works 3 – Symphonies, Copland. Performed by BBC Philharmonic.
The Chandos retrospective of Copland orchestral works continues with volume three, including Symphony No. 1, Dance Symphony, interspersed with two interludes, An Outdoor Overture, and Statements.

New Classical CDs

This week in the classical collection we highlight new additions by the pianists Stephen Hough, Boris Giltburg and Paul Lewis.

Piano Sonatas Nos. 32, 40, 49, 50, Haydn. Performed by Paul Lewis.
A collection of some of the last piano sonatas written by Haydn: “… highly attractive music… that combines mischievousness, ingenuousness, eloquence and lyricism. A whole art of contrast, interpreted with unique grace by Paul Lewis.” (back cover)

Stephen Hough’s Dream Album.
“It is seldom these graceful, delightful pieces have such consummate musicianship lavished upon them. Few pianists today besides Stephen Hough could devise such a recital featuring his own compositions beside works by Liszt, Sibelius, Elgar, Mompou and many more. Such stuff is what dreams are made of.” (amazon.com editorial review)

Piano Concerto No. 3; Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Rachmaninov. Performed by Boris Giltburg and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
“Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is a complex, epic narrative that moves from a simple opening melody to the triumphant apotheosis at its conclusion. The composer ingeniously links motifs, melodies and at times whole sections between the movements, unifying the concerto into a single overarching storyline. In the Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Rachmaninov reworks the original theme using his unique harmonic language until there is no trace left of its Baroque or Renaissance origins.” (back cover)

Brand new Classical CD additions

Debusyy & Ravel album cover

This week we highlight some fresh new chamber music, and a world premiere recording of the Italian 1774 version of Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck. If you are interested in the journeys works of music can go on, we also have a 2015 recording of this work, being the 1762 version (in Italian), with highlights from the 1774 Paris version (in French).

Orfeo ed Euridice, Gluck. Performed by Philippe Jaroussky, Amanda Forsythe with Diego Fasolis, conductor.
“A sumptuous world-premiere recording of Gluck’s masterpiece of operatic reform, as it was presented in its Naples premiere at the Court Theatre of the Royal Palace in February of 1774, several months before the pastiche version with expanded cast debuted at the Teatro San Carlo. Here the work retains the intimate three-role cast of the well-known 1762 version, yet with fascinating customisations: the title role’s melodic line reshaped for a male soprano, a substitute aria offering a penetrating psychological portrait of Eurydice. In all, the genius of the work shines with new, astonishing colour, taking on a peculiar pace and unexpected brightness.” (cover).

Quatuor a Corde, Op. 10, Debussy, and Quatuor a Corde, Ravel. Performed by the Jerusalem Quartet.
“A century after his death on 25 March 1918, many harmonia mundi artists are eager to pay tribute to Claude Debussy, the magician of melody and timbre, the great ‘colourist’ and father of modern music. The musicians of the Jerusalem Quartet offer a new reading of his only String Quartet, in the logical coupling with its Ravelian counterpart: in some respects, the two works might seem like twins – and yet what differences there are between them!” (cover).

Oktett, Franz Schubert. Performed by Isabelle Faust and other string and wind performers.
“In response to a commission from Count Troyer, who wanted a work closely modelled on Beethoven’s famous Septet, op. 20, Schubert – despite his fervent admiration for the older composer – resolutely struck out on his own way by delivering an… octet. While the enlarged forces opened his path towards symphonic writing, examination of the form and expression reveals a much more accomplished and personal composition than has generally been recognised by commentators. Isabelle Faust and her partners, enthralled by what is an exceptional work in every respect, offer us a new interpretation of it on period instruments.” (cover).

New Classical CD arrivals

Mahler cover

In this week’s classical CD additions we highlight some new orchestral recordings from much-loved composers.

Symphony No. 7, Bruckner. Performed by the Gewandhausorchester, with Andris Nelsons.
“The continuation of Andris Nelsons’s much-admired Bruckner cycle with the Gewandhausorchester. Here they play the Seventh Symphony – premiered in 1884 by this orchestra and now recorded live to mark its 275th anniversary and Nelsons’s inauguration as Kapellmeister. ‘Under Nelsons the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester is clearly at the very top of its form, savouring its great Bruckner tradition to sonorous effect’ (BR Klassik…)” (cover).

Le Quattro Stagioni, Vivaldi. Performed by Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque.
“Together with the star players of Brecon Baroque, Podger guides listeners through the cycle of nature and life. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons have become one of classical music’s best loved works. However, most recordings adopt a strikingly similar approach to these scores, and familiarity has blunted the music’s edge. Podger’s new recording aims to reset the clock – refocusing on the ingredients that make The Four Seasons so special and reminding listeners of the remarkable freshness of Vivaldi’s invention.” (amazon.com).

Symphony No. 6, Mahler. Performed by Minnesota Orchestra, with Osmo Vänskä.
“…Osmo Vänskä has a reputation for engaging with even the most iconic scores at face value, avoiding preconceived ideas and ‘time-honored’ traditions. His and the Minnesota Orchestra’s recording of Mahler’s Sixth follows upon the 2017 release of the composer’s Fifth Symphony. Nominated to a 2018 Grammy Award, that interpretation has been described as at once committed and detached, intense and transcendentally timeless (Norman Lebrecht) and an exceptional performance that promises great things to come (allmusic.com).” (amazon.com).

Recent Classical CD additions

Symphony No. 5, Symphony No. 6

This week we highlight three additions to the classical CD collection that bounce from a cornerstone of the Baroque vocal music tradition, the cantata, to 20th century treatments of grand orchestral works, the symphony and the concerto for violin.

Cantata: Yet can I hear…. Performed by Bejun Mehta.
“A selection of solo cantatas, both secular and sacred, from the Italian, German, and English traditions. Including works by Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach in settings large and small, with obligato instruments ranging from oboe to chimes, the magnificent cantatas on this album create a portrait of this intimately transcendent repertoire” (cover).

Symphony No. 5, Symphony No. 6, Vaughan Williams. Performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Andrew Manze’s interpretations of Vaughan Williams’ symphonies have met with acclaim from audiences and critics alike. This third album in the series contains two masterpieces. The 5th Symphony of 1943, displaying a ‘greatness of soul’, as one commentator at the time wrote, draws on material for The Pilgrim’s Progress from 1906. The 6th Symphony of 1948 stunned the audience at its premiere… The composer, shocked by the nuclear wasteland talk, commented, ‘we can get in words nearest to the substance of my last movement in “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” from The Tempest’.” (cover).

Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, Bartók. Performed by Renaud Capuçon and the London Symphony Orchestra.
“Renaud Capuçon expands his wide-ranging concerto discography with Bartók’s two violin concertos. Composed almost three Decades apart, they are highly contrasted, inhabiting very different emotional and musical worlds. Partnering Capuçon is the London Symphony Orchestra under its Principal Guest Conductor, François-Xavier Roth.” (amazon.co.uk).

Some recent classical CD additions

Image from amazon.co.uk

We’ve added to our chamber music (marked with a yellow dot) CD collection recently with some interesting small ensemble combinations; here we spotlight a couple of Dvořák works. Also noteworthy are a new Jóhann Jóhannsson album, and the debut album of rising star Pretty Yende.

String Quintet, op. 97, String Sextet, op. 48, Antonin Dvořák. Performed by the Jerusalem Quartet.
“The Jerusalem Quartet explores two aspects of Dvořák’s chamber music: one of the first big successes in the genre of a Bohemian composer who now enjoyed a well-established reputation in Europe (op. 48), and one of the masterpieces from the years of American exile which brought him worldwide fame (op. 97). A chance to discover two places, two periods, but always the same depth of expression in this indefatigable composer endowed with remarkable creative faculties.” (back cover)

Englabörn & Variations, Jóhann Jóhannsson. Various performers.
First released in 2002, Englabörn – a remastered version here – appears with variations and reworkings of many of its pieces, one on each of two discs. His untimely death in February this year makes this a somewhat melancholic addition to the collection. If you enjoy the music of Max Richter or Olafur Arnalds, or if you enjoyed the film Arrival for its soundtrack, then perhaps listen to this.

A Journey. Performed by Pretty Yende.
“Born in the small town of Piet Retief, South African soprano Pretty Yende has risen to the top of the opera world with unparalleled speed. Yende’s début album celebrates the milestones of her sublime musical journey; starting at the age of 16, when she first discovered opera by hearing Delibes’s ‘Flower Duet’ on a television advertisement, to her début at La Scala and her international breakthrough at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.” (back cover)

Recent classical music additions

This week in classical music we have three new CDs featuring a wealth of well-loved composers, from Tchaikovsky through Rameau to Schumann, and Piazzolla and Scott Joplin for good measure.

Intuition. Performed by Gautier Capuçon.
Intuition, a captivating album of short pieces for solo cello with piano or orchestra, has been conceived by Gautier Capuçon to ‘reflect the story of my life and follow the various stages in my emotional development’. It brings together much-loved numbers by composers such as Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Elgar with newer music by Astor Piazzolla, the Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima and the pianist Jérôme Ducros, who also appears on the album. As Gautier Capuçon says: ‘In music,in life, communication is the essence of everything and of anything … You share something.'” (amazon.co.uk).

Quartets Nos. 2 & 3, Schumann. Performed by the Elias Quartet.
“‘We have always had a special affection for Robert Schumann’s Third Quartet. It’s one of the first works we played together. Since then we have often come back to it, as if to a splendid and familiar region that we think we know thoroughly, but which yields up new secrets with each visit. The Second Quartet, on the other hand, was a much later and more complicated discovery for us. The writing is so personal, so unidiomatic for the instruments, so full of nuances, that to begin with we found it hard to come up with a unanimous voice for this work. The enthusiasm of the first movement can easily turn into anxiety if you push it a bit too far. In the slow movement, the texture is sometimes so bare that to convey its tenderness you have to sustain it with great fervour. The capricious Scherzo is bristling with rhythmic pitfalls and requires a diabolical mastery of the instruments,while the Finale is an endless explosion of joy!'” (Elias Quartet via amazon.co.uk)

Enfers: Famous Opera Scenes & Pygmalion, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Christoph Willibald von Gluck, Raphaël Pichon. Performed by Stéphane Degout.
“Raphaël Pichon has invited Stéphane Degout to make his recording debut for Harmonia Mundi in a multifaceted exploration of the underworld. The French baritone reincarnates the figure of Henri Larrivée, the famous tragedian of Rameau and Gluck. Around a reconstruction of an imaginary Mass of the Dead, sacred and secular merge, revealing some of the most extraordinary pieces from the operatic repertory of the enlightenment. Music of death and mourning on an epic scale that inspires Pygmalion to overwhelming heights of pathos.” (cover).

Some new Classical music picks for March

There is a pleasing cultural diversity to our new classical music additions for March: here’s a selection!

Inspiration. Performed by Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
“When Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician competition in 2016, aged seventeen, his playing entranced innumerable music-lovers around the UK. So did his story: not only is he the first black winner in the competition’s history, but he is also one of seven exceptionally gifted musical siblings” (programme notes). In Inspiration, Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs an eclectic repertoire, ranging from Saint-Saëns to Leonard Cohen.

Dreams. Performed by Pretty Yende.
“Through the eyes of young opera heroines, Pretty Yende slips into the world of dreams with arias from the bel canto and Romantic repertoires. With this album, she also refers to her very own fairytale, which continues to this day. From a girl in a remote town in South Africa she turned into one of today’s most sought-after sopranos, living her dream on the world’s opera stages” (cover).

The Verdi Album. Performed by Sonya Yoncheva.
“One might say that Verdi’s works contributed to the success of the very paradigms of operatic art that he had set out to revolutionize. Born of Sonya Yoncheva’s musical curiosity, this project combines earlier gems such as Stiffelio, Luisa Miller, and Attila with eternally beloved masterpieces such as Il trocatore or Otello to show us a composer in perpetual quest of the innovation and transformation of his art” (programme notes).