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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, March 2012

Nørgård: Helle Nacht; Borderlines; Spaces in Time. Peter Herresthal (vn); Ida Mo (p); Stavanger Symphony Orchestra/Rolf Gupta. BIS CD1872
“Both of the violin concertos [Helle Nacht and Borderlines] have been recorded previously, but to have them performed by the same musician is an ideal way to get to know two works, which, written 15 years apart, shed revealing light on the evolution of a composer whose determination not to repeat himself with each major work has helped make him one of the most significant figures in contemporary music.” – Richard Whitehouse

Ó Riada: Orchestral works. Cathal Breslin (p); RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra/Robert Houlihan. RTÉ lyric fm CD136
“the music on this CD dates from a mere five years, 1955-59, and its sheer quality rubs lemon juice in the wound left by Ó’Riada’s ridiculously early death… I urge you to investigate this splended release with uncommon haste.” – Martin Anderson

Ruders: Symphony no.4; Trio Transcendentale; Songs and Rhapsodies. Frode Andersen (accordion); Flemming Dreisig (org); Nicholas Wearne (org); Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen; Odense Symphony Orchestra/Robert Minczuk. Bridge 9375
“It contains an exhilarating range of emotions, from whimsical humour to barnstorming grandeur, and the sheer craftsmanship of Ruders’s writing is a joy in its own right… Bridge has managed to release this CD while much of the music is still damp on the page, and the sense of freshness attends also the performances and the works themselves.” – Martin Anderson

Medtner: Dithyrambs and other short piano works. Hamish Milne (p). Hyperion CDA67851/2
“Without exception, each [piece] is very listenable, very likeable and very engaging… Milne’s dedicated and perceptive playing is of the highest order” – Colin Anderson

Josquin Desprez: Missa “Ave maris stella”; Marian motets. Weser-Renaissance Bremen/Manfred Cordes. CPO 777 590-2
“this is so sublime a recital of the great master’s wonderful music no Josquin afficionado, whether ardent or more lukewarm, should be able to resist it… almost the perfect ensemble for Franco-Flemish polyphony, sounding smooth and luminous but simultaneously finely etched and colourfully varied.” – Christopher Price

“Jauchzet dem Herren alle Welt” – music by G Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Pallavicino, Peranda, Praetorius and Schütz. Amarcord; Cappella Sagittariana Dresden/Norbert Schuster. Raumklang 10110
“Amarcord is a Leipzig-based quintet of five male voices who, on this disc, are joined by a sixth as well as two sopranos, and the sound they make is utterly amazing. Technically precise, with breathtaking articulation and stunning ensemble…  they inject into everything here a vivid sense of drama which transforms this programme from being one of unquestionable historic interest into a truly exciting listening experience.” – Marc Rochester


Gramophone Choice, April 2012

Rautavaara: Modificata; Incantations (Percussion concerto); Towards the Horizon (Cello concerto no.2). Colin Currie (perc); Truls Mørk (vc); Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds. Ondine ODE1178-2
[Recording of the Month] “This is an immensely noteworthy issue, not as a potential epitaph for Rautavaara the concerto-composer but for the quality of the music-making itself” – Guy Rickards

Gubaidulina: Seven Words; In croce; Kadenza; Et exspecto. Iñaki Alberdi (bayan); Asier Polo (vc); Basque National Orchestra/José Ramón Encinar. Etcetera KTC1433
“the major work on the record, the half-hour Seven Words… is a remarkable, compelling work” – John Warrack

Liszt: Totentanz; Three Petrarch Sonnets / Tchaikovsky: Piano concerto no.1. Sergio Tiempo (p); Svizzera Italiana Orchestra/Ion Marin, Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky. Avanti Classic 10382
“[Tiempo] more than fulfils his early and extraordinary promise. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that he may well be the most dazzling and spontaneous pianist of his generation… this is a record in a thousand.” – Bryce Morrison

Lutoslawski: Symphonic variations; Piano concerto; Paganini variations; Symphony no.4. Louis Lortie (p); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner. Chandos CHSA5098
“Throughout, Gardner secures some first-class playing from the BBC SO; Ralph Couzens’s engineering is, needless to say, state-of-the-art.” – Andrew Achenbach

Ruders: Symphony no.4; Trio Transcendentale; Songs and Rhapsodies. Frode Andersen (accordion); Flemming Dreisig (org); Nicholas Wearne (org); Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen; Odense Symphony Orchestra/Robert Minczuk. Bridge 9375
“I do not expect to come across another disc of contemporary music as richly rewarding as this one in a hurry.” – David Fanning

Tchaikovsky: Symphony no.5 / Shostakovich: Festive Overture. Toulouse Capitole Orchestra/Tugan Sokhiev. Naive V5252
“This is a performance which sounds composed in the playing of it, which feels organic… There is a singing quality to all the playing” – Edward Seckerson

Debussy, Franck, Poulenc: Cello sonatas. Anne Gastinel (vc); Claire Désert (p). Naive V5259
“In her interpretative stance and application of colour Gastinel is ideally matched by Désert; the recorded balance is judivious and there is a real sense of a performance being created in complete accord.” – Geoffrey Norris

Fauré: Cello sonatas, etc. Alban Gerhardt (vc); Cecile Licad (p). Hyperion CDA67872
“Gerhardt and Licad… sound free as air, intellectually confident, full of verve, with niceties of balance and intensities never an issue; a convincing frame of colour, movement and sound in place for every momevement, every piece.” – Stephen Plaistow

Moritz Rosenthal: The Complete Recordings. Moritz Rosenthal (p). APR 7503
“one of the indisputably great pianists in history, albeit captured when he was judged to be past his prime… this is, quite simply, pianophile heaven.” – Jeremy Nicholas

Bach: Cantatas nos.54 and 170; Concerto for oboe and violin after BWV1060; Suite for violin and strings after BWV1067. Daniel Taylor (cten); John Abberger (ob); Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra/Jeanne Lamon (vn). Analekta AN2 9878
“Taylor’s gentle singing has the perfect atmosphere of sincerely beautiful piety.” – David Vickers

Joplin: Treemonisha. Anita Johnson (sop) et al; Paragon Ragtime Singers and Orchestra/Rick Benjamin. New World NW80720
“the subliminal impact of all Benjamin’s attention to various tiny details makes this Treemonisha feel instinctively right… This is the most important document about the history of American composed music to have appeared in a long, long time.” – Philip Clark


BBC Music Magazine Choice, April 2012

Berg, Beethoven: Violin concertos. Isabelle Faust (vn); Orchestra Mozart/Claudio Abbado. Harmonia Mundi HMC902105
[Recording of the Month] “Despite their stylistic and emotional disparities, the coupling in this outstanding recording… is surprisingly effective. Indeed, listening to these wonderful performances side by side is cathartic” – Erik Levi

Shostakovich: Piano concertos nos.1 & 2; Violin sonata. Alexander Melnikov (p); Isabele Faust (vn); Jeroen Berwaerts (tpt); Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Teodor Currentzis. Harmonia Mundi HMC902104
[Orchestral Choice] “Unhesitatingly recommended as one of the best versions of all three works currently available.” – Calum MacDonald

Massenet: Don Quichote. Ferruccio Furlanetto et al; Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev. Mariinsky 0523
[Opera Choice] “In recent recordings [Don Quichote] has been sung nobly by Nicolai Ghiaurov… and by José van Dam… On this disc, Ferruccio Furlanetto’s basso cantante makes a fine compromise – rich but smooth in fluent French – and Valery Gergiev whips up the score more vigorously than either predecessor.” – Michael Scott Rohan

Brahms: Alto Rhapsody; Schicksalslied; Warum ist das Licht gegeben; Begräbnisgesang; Gesang der Parzen. Ann Hallenberg (mez); Collegium Vocale Gent; Orchestre des Champs-Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe. Phi LPH003
[Choral & Song Choice] “This is one of the most impressive collections of Brahms’s shorter chorus-and-orchestra works that’s come my way for some time. It’s partly because of the particular combination of works… But it’s also the luminous transparency of the performances themselves that’s remarkable.” – Calum MacDonald

F Couperin:  La Parnasse ou l’apothéose de Corelli; Concert à la mémoire de Lulli / Rebel: Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully. Ricercar Consort/Philippe Pierlot. Mirare MIR150
[Chamber Choice] “The consort’s performance is superbly stylised, from the disarming simplicity of Corelli’s ‘sleep’ to the delicate cross-rhythms of a gentle Lullian ‘air’… The programme is excellently recorded in a glorious acoustic.” – George Pratt

Berg: Piano sonata op.1 / Janáček: In the Mists / Liszt: Piano sonata. Dénes Várjon (p). ECM 476 4585
[Instrumental Choice] “from the very start of the CD, the luminous playing of the opening of Berg’s Sonata Op.1 tells us this is a pianist of rare sensitivity… All in all, a very impressive and intelligently planned programme.” – Calum MacDonald

Stephen J. Nereffid lives near Dublin, Ireland, and spends far too much time listening to classical music.
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