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These are the best-reviewed discs in the latest issues of the three U.K.-based classical review magazines – Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and International Record Review.

Gramophone Choice, December 2011

[Recording of the month] Schumann: String quartets, op.41. Doric String Quartet. Chandos 10692

“here, at last, is a seriously recommendable version of all three [quartets]” – Harriet Smith

Ireland: Piano concerto; Legend; First Rhapsody; etc. John Lenehan (p); Royal Liverpool PO/John Wilson. Naxos 8.572598

“a splendid new recording of what is undoubtedly the finest of all British piano concertos… A CD not to be missed by all lovers of English music” – Ivan March

Saariaho: Clarinet concerto, ‘D’om le vrai sens’; Laterna magica; Leino songs. Kari Kriikku (cl); Anu Komsi (sop); Finnish Radio SO/Sakari Oramo. Ondine 1173-2

“As Kaija Saariaho approaches her 60th birthday, her music continues to extend in range and depth” – Guy Rickards

Stravinsky: The Firebird; ‘Les orientales’ – music by Arensky, Glazunov, Grieg, Sinding. Les Siècles/François Xavier Roth. Musicales Actes Sud ASM06

“an excellently played, brightly recorded performance of [the 1910 version of The Firebird]” – John Warrack

Vaughan Williams: Flos campi; Suite for viola and orchestra; McEwen: Viola concerto. Lawrence Power (va); BBC National Chorus and Orchestra of Wales/Martyn Brabbins. Hyperion CDA67839

“Lawrence Power’s playing is wonderfully varied, at times delicate and poetical, at others broad, passionate and generous” – Jeremy Dibble

Purcell: Twelve Sonatas in Three Parts. Retrospect Trio. Linn CKD374

“These delightful endeavours should win plenty of friends” – David Vickers

Giuliani: ‘Varie idee sentimentali’ – guitar works. Eduardo Fernández (g). Oehms 401

“Fernández delights in the simplicity and virtuosity alike of Giuliani’s music while bringing a vast dynamic and tonal palette to bear on its more subtle aspects” – William Yeoman

Herrmann: Moby Dick; Sinfonietta. David Wilson-Johnson (bar); Richard Edgar-Wilson (ten); Danish National Choir; Danish National SO/Michael Schønwandt. Chandos 5095

“[The cantata Moby Dick] is a remarkably vivid piece, displaying the dramatic skills learnt in the composing atelier of a radio studio, and deserves to be much better known and more often performed… In surround sound it is simply stunning with vivid singing and playing, all of the highest order” – Malcolm Riley

‘In the Beginning’. Choir of Merton College, Oxford/Benjamin Nicholas, Peter Phillips. Delphian 34072

“this debut CD will undoubtedly establish them as one of the UK’s finest choral ensembles. Listening to their superb performances and seamless blending of voices, it’s hard to believe that the choir is only four years old… An intensely moving recording” – Christopher Nickol

‘Lamentazione’ – music by D Scarlatti, Lotti, Legrenzi, Caldara, Leo. Les Arts Florissants/Paul Agnew. Virgin 070907

“Agnew and his choir deserve plaudits for a masterly and valuable recording” – David Vickers

The Complete Parlophone & Columbia Solo Recordings, 1933-45. Eileen Joyce (p). APR 7502

“She shares with Kreisler and Tauber the same unteachable ability to elevate the second-rate to the first-rate, and to illuminate familiar masterpieces with a convincing and unmistakable voice” – Jeremy Nicholas


BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2011

[Recording of the Month] Schubert: Winterreise. James Gilchrist (ten); Anna Tilbrook (p). Orchid 100018

“It is a profoundly considered reading, considered enough for some of the songs to be as penetrating as in almost any performance I have heard… I shall certainly treasure this disc as one of the indispensable readings, and also one of the best balanced between the two partners” – Michael Tanner

[Christmas Choice] ‘The Christmas Story’. Theatre of Voices; Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul Hillier. Harmonia Mundi HMU 807565

“contains many unfamiliar musical gems… The standard of singing is consistently outstanding. A marvellous issue” – Terry Blain

[Orchestral Choice] Bach: ‘Sinfonia’ – instrumental movements from cantatas. Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone. Decca 478 2718

“For anyone who enjoys the hypnotic rhythms, the exquisite contrapuntal logic, and the harmonic inevitability of Bach’s Italiante concerto style (and who could not?), this disc is a source of unqualified self-indulgence” – George Pratt

[Opera Choice] ‘Tragédiennes 3’. Véronique Gens (sop); Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset. Virgin 070 9272

“Gens performs with all the dramatic conviction of a born actress… In short, intense but compelling listening” – Kate Bolton

[Choral & Song Choice] Parry: Songs of Farewell; choral works by British composers. Tenebrae/Nigel Short. Signum SIGCD267

“Technically the singing is impeccable without being at all effortful or studied… Of this programme’s type, I can’t envisage hearing anything better” – Terry Blain

[Chamber Choice] Mozart: String quartet no.19; Schubert: String quartet no.13. Chiaroscuro Quartet. Aparté AP022

“this is an impressive debut recording, and the light and shade of the playing fully justifies the name the group has chosen for itself” – Misha Donat

[Instrumental Choice] Bach: Piano transciptions vol.10 – Saint-Saens. Nadejda Vlaeva (p). Hyperion CDA67873

“a parade of joys for pianophiles and Bach junkies alike” – Jessica Duchen


International Record Review Outstanding Recordings, December 2011

Dvořák: Symphony no.9; Czech Suite; 2 Slavonic Dances. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/José Serebrier. Warner 2564 66656-3

“The CD is announced as the first in a projected cycle of the Dvořák symphonies with this orchestra; if this quality of re-creative interpretative musicianship and outstanding recorded sound are maintained, it should surely rank with the finest – if not end up as being the best of all” – Robert Matthew-Walker

Pettersson: Symphonies nos.1 and 2. Norrköping SO/Christian Lindberg. BIS CD1860

“[Lindberg’s] impressively sustained take on the First Symphony embodies the courage of his editorial convictions… An impressive and significant release” – Richard Whitehouse

Crawford: String quartets nos.1-3. Edinburgh Quartet. Delphian 34091

“there’s an understated but important voice to be heard here… The Edinburgh Quartet plays with the near-religious intensity that the music seems to require: you can sense that it is aware that this recording is of unusual significance in the discovery of a long-neglected but praiseworthy composer” – Martin Anderson

Haydn: String quartets op.76 nos.2-4. Gewandhaus-Quartett. New Classical Adventure 60237

“Purely on sonic grounds, this is the best recording of Haydn quartets that I have ever heard. Musically I have never heard better… Even those already owning recordings of this repertory would do well to acquire this one” – Mortimer H Frank

Schubert: String quintet; String quartet no.12, ‘Quartettsatz’. Tokyo String Quartet. Harmonia Mundi HMU807427

“this is as fine an account of the Quintet as I have ever heard” – Mortimer H Frank

‘From the Street’ – music by Janáček, Prokofiev, and Ravel. Ivana Gavrić (p). Champs Hill 26

“A most impressive recital disc, outstandingly well recorded” – Robert Matthew-Walker

‘Orlando Furioso: Madrigali sul Poema di Ludovico Ariosto’. La Compagnia del Madrigale. Arcana A363

“The members of La Compagnia del Madrigale sing these refined and sophisticated madrigals with both fire and grace. They are passionate, full-blooded readings, alive to every musical and poetic nuance, while never compromising on vocal purity” – Andrew O’Connor

Stephen J. Nereffid lives near Dublin, Ireland, and spends far too much time listening to classical music.
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2 Responses to “Classical highlights – UK magazines, Dec 2011”

  1. 1
    kez Says:

    What a convenient and wonderful way to keep up with the latest and best classical releases! Thanks for all the hard work in compiling these lists, which I’ve made a regular routine to check every month. The Gramophone Choice ‘Lamentazione’ by Les Arts Florissants/Paul Agnew, and BBC’s recommendation of The Christmas Story by Paul Hillier/Theatre of Voices have me very much interested.

  2. 2
    Dave Sumner Says:

    Yeah, y’know, I find myself reading through these, too, even though I’m not really much into classical. But you never know. I have a bunch of those 100 Greatest classical comps I got cheap on Amazon, and while most of it didn’t click with me, I did run into a track the other day which I really really liked, and now I’ve got that bug, the one that keeps whispering in my ear, “What else is out there that I don’t know about?”



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