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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.

International Record Review Outstanding Recordings, February 2012

“Music for a Time of War” – Adams: The Wound Dresser; Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem; Ives: The Unanswered Question; Vaughan Williams: Symphony no.4. Oregon Symphony/Carlos Kalmar. PentaTone PTC5186 393
“a compelling and inspired example of intelligent programme planning… remarkable performances” – Nigel Simeone

Britten: Violin concerto; Double concerto; Lachrymae. Anthony Marwood (vn); Lawrence Power (va); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov. Hyperion CDA67801
“performances which it would be difficult to imagine could be improved upon… For me, the greatest revelation on this disc is the Double Concerto… the performance on this disc by Marwood and Lawrence Power reveals it to be an astonishing achievement as a work of art on several levels” – Robert Matthew-Walker

Kinsella: Symphonies nos.6 & 7; Prelude and Toccata for strings; Cúchulainn and Ferdia – Duel at the Ford. RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Proinnsias Ó Duinn, Gavin Maloney. RTÉ Lyric FM CD134
“It’s rare to find a composer who manages to encapsulate both Apollonian spontaneity and Dionysian drama, but John Kinsella, born in Dublin in 1932, is one such: his orchestral writing has an appealing freshness, and yet there’s no sense that the music is dodging the larger issues that the symphonic form is wont to address. … This is, in short, a knock-out CD that deserves your swift attention” – Martin Anderson

Reger: Violin concerto; Two Romances. Tanja Becker-Bender; Konzherthausorchester Berlin/Lothar Zagrosek. Hyperion CDA67892
“I have been a Reger admirer for most of my adult life, but I have not heard a performance of his Violin Concerto which has excited or moved me as much as this one” – Robert Matthew-Walker

“Dances to a Black Pipe”. Martin Fröst (cl); Australian Chamber Orchestra/Richard Tognetti. BIS SACD1863
“The playing is superb, and these dance-inspired pieces will put a skip in your own step. The sheer silky smoothness of Copland’s 1950 Clarinet Concerto, which begins the proceedings, is a delight… It’s obvious that Fröst and his Australian colleagues must have had enormous fun recording this programme” – Martin Anderson

“Delicias: Spanish delights for piano duo”. Anthony Goldstone; Caroline Clemmow. Divine Art dda25101
“this is more than a gimmick, and more than a collection of picture postcards, even if the music is rather on the light side… Rhythmic slackness would be particularly damaging in a programme of Spanish or Spanish-inspired delights. Fortunately, Goldstone and Clemmow don’t miss a trick… There is abundant colour in their pianism too” – Raymond S Tuttle

Rachmaninov: Piano sonata no.1; Ravel: Miroirs; Sonatine. Hannes Minnaar (p). Et’Cetera KTC1432
“an astonishing debut: the young Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar manages the prodigious feat of making Rachmaninov’s First Piano Sonata sound not a second too long… This is a disc which I will not be putting away for a long time yet” – Nicholas Salwey

Joseph-Hector Fiocco: Petits Motets. Scherzi Musicali/Nicolas Achten. Musique en Wallonie MEW1054
“should win Fiocco many new admirers… The vocal writing is elegant, melodically strong, and, in the solo sections, often very florid. The young fresh-voiced singers of Scherzi Musicali are more than equal to these challenges” – Andrew O’Connor

Telemann: Opera arias, with 2 violin concertos. Nuria Rial (sop); Julia Schröder (vn); Kammerorchester Basel. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88697 92256-2
“Rial has firmly established a reputation as an instinctive performer of Baroque music… the disc predominantly displays the crystalline purity of her voice and her rich seam of eloquent lyricism… absolutely first-rate orchestral support… What we learn from these outstanding performances is that, when it came to opera, Telemann was very much his own man, producing works of real individuality and distinction” – Marc Rochester

Gramophone Choice, March 2012

Beethoven: Violin concerto; Berg: Violin concerto. Isabelle Faust (vn); Orchestra Mozart/Claudio Abbado. Harmonia Mundi HMC90 2105
Recording of the Month. “an inspired piece of programme planning, with an account of the Berg that plumbs its depths of melancholy, setting off a radiant, life-affirming performance of the Beethoven” – Duncan Druce

Schumann: Symphonies nos.1 & 3. Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Järvi. RCA Red Seal 88697 96431-2
“His tempi are swift but never rushed; he runs the cursor along significant inner voices (these are extremely transparent readings), and his judgement of key musical transitions attests to genuine musical intuition” – Rob Cowan

Mussorgsky: Night on the Bare Mountain (original version); Pictures at an Exhibition (orch Ravel); Tchaikovsky: Symphony no.2. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits. Onyx 4074
“If there’s a single distinguishing feature of this generously filled disc it’s Karabits’s determination to convey the grass-roots spirit of the themes which breathe life into these pieces” – Edward Seckerson

Beethoven: String quartets nos.12 & 14. Brentano Quartet. Aeon AECD1110
“What is so satisfying about these performances recorded at Princeton University is the overall warmth of the playing, with speeds ideally chosen and never forced, with natural rubato and shading, and with wonderfully sustained pianissimos” – Edward Greenfield

Bach: Solo violin sonatas and partitas; Pisendel: Solo violin sonata. Amandine Beyer (vn). Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT110902
“These are fresh, spirited, finely judged performances… In the end, the thread that runs through all six works is Beyer’s essential Frenchness, which is something Bach himself would have admired” – Julie Anne Sadie

Liszt: Années de pèlerinage (complete). Bertrand Chamayou (p). Naive V5260
“a young French pianist of an impeccable pedigree and one to make even the finest Lisztians look to their laurels” – Bryce Morrison

Rachmaninov: Piano sonata no.1; Variations on a Theme of Chopin. Vladimir Ashkenazy (p). Decca 478 2938DH
“this great musician here returns to something like top form… This is his most successful disc for some time, a notable adjunct to the renowned Rachmaninov recordings of his youth for the same label” – Jeremy Nicholas

MacMillan: “Who are these Angels?” – choral music. Cappella Nova/Alan Tavener; Canty/William Taylor (harp); John Kitchen (org); Edinburgh Quartet. Linn CKD383
“Cappella Nova present illuminating performances which perfectly capture MacMillan’s profound sense of the sacred, but here the sense of looking back over the centuries is especially strong” – Marc Rochester

“Stimme der Sehnsucht” – lieder of Mahler, Pfitzner, Strauss. Christianne Stotijn (mez); Breinl (p). Onyx 4075
“sung not just with her customary mastery but always with something significant to discover with each listening” – David Patrick Stearns

Falvetti: Il diluvio universale. Namur Chamber Choir; Cappella Mediterranea/Leonardo García Alarcón. Ambronay AMY026
“this disc is not just some worthy exhumation but the rehabilitation of a composition bursting with imagination and gripping drama. Frankly, it is hard to believe it has lain unheard for so long – I even spent a while wondering if it was real” – Lindsay Kemp

Beethoven: String quartets op.18. Budapest Quartet (live recordings at the Library of Congress). Bridge 9342
“a dazzling overview of the Quartet’s Beethoven style during its latter years” – Rob Cowan

 BBC Music Magazine, March 2012

Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain; The Three-Cornered Hat; Homenajes. Raquel Lojendio (sop); Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (p); BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena. Chandos CHAN10694
Recording of the Month. “the level of engagement with the music [Nights…] is exceptional. Often spacious and dark, the performance reaches past its starlit, balmy surfaces to find the ache and stoicism of Spanish history… Vigour, tonal weight and characterful detail also enliven The Three-cornered Hat” – Robert Maycock

Berlioz: Les nuits d’été; Harold in Italy. Anne Sofie von Otter (mez); Antoine Tamestit (va); Les Musicians du Louvre, Grenoble/Marc Minkowski. Naive V5266
Orchestral Choice. “Minkowski gives [Harold in Italy] an energetic, crisp, emphatic reading. The sinewy sound of the Louvre players’ period instruments, though, lends it a rougher, almost folkier texture… von Otter, less bright than in her previous recording [of Les nuits d’été], has gained depth of feeling and soaring, plangent tone to become a worthy match for Janet Baker and Régine Crespin” – Michael Scott Rohan

Joplin: Treemonisha. Anita Johnson et al; The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra & Singers/Rick Benjamin. New World 80720-2
Opera Choice. “the work’s weaknesses never overshadow its fascinations; even its most drab recitative is worth enduring for the earthy warmth of its numbers inspired by ragtime and revival hymns” – Geoff Brown

“Mare Nostrum”. Montserrat Figueras; Lior Elmaleh; Hesperion XXI/Jordi Savall. Alia Vox AVSA 9888A+B
Choral/Song Choice. “With its beautifully illustrated book in nine languages, this double CD marks the latest stage in Jordi Savall’s musical crusade for peace in the Mediterran… a lovely tissue of local musics” – Michael Church

Debussy: Cello sonata; Poulenc: Cello sonata; Franck: Violin sonata transcribed for cello. Anne Gastinel (vc); Claire Désert (p). Naive V5259
Chamber Choice. “Gastinel marks her 20th anniversary as a soloist with this disc of Gallic works she has inhabited and honed for years. She and Claire Désert have a wonderfully intuitive partnership and both draw on subtle, inimitable soundworlds” – Helen Wallace

Beethoven: Piano sonatas volume 1 – nos.5, 11, 12 & 26. Jonathan Biss (p). Onyx 4082
Instrumental Choice. “a marvellously promising beginning by one of the most thoughtful and technically accomplished pianists of the younger generation” – Michael Tanner


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, Feb 2012”

  1. 1
    kez Says:

    It was nice to see Leonardo Garcia Alarcon’s new release of Falvetti’s oratorio “Il Diluvio Universale” on your list and also that you chose its CD cover for the beginning of your article. I just recently purchased the CD – had been dying to buy this one since last fall when I first learned of it and saw a video of the entire live performance at It really wowed me. If you’re interested in hearing the entire live performance, the video is still up here:

    The CD was recorded in the studio a few months after the live performance, I believe. I read that several critics blasted it due to Alarcon’s unconventional choice of adding percussion to the musical score, but I enjoyed the dramatic emphasis.

    I enjoy reading these lists. Thanks for your hard work in putting them together.

    There was one surprise in the list for me this time, though – I am amazed that Christina Pluhar & L’Arpeggiata’s new release “Los Pajaros Perdidos” isn’t here (unless I overlooked it). How in the world could that be?

  2. 2
    Stephen J. Nereffid Says:

    Kez, the short answer regarding the new L’Arpeggiata is that it wasn’t reviewed in those 3 issues. Thanks for the Falvetti link – the disc’s been on my radar for a while too.


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