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The releases highlighted below are just some of the best-reviewed albums in the latest issues of International Record Review (May), Gramophone (June), and BBC Music Magazine (June).

Four string quartets by “Danish maverick” Rued Langgaard (Dacapo 6.220575) are a Choice of both Gramophone and BBC Music. In the latter, Stephen Johnson praises the Nightingale Quartet for understanding “the provocative vitality, the fragile romantic sensitivity and the striking intellectual independence behind it all”, while in Gramophone David Fanning notes that the quartet “throws itself into the music with a vehemence and sense of purpose”. Both of these magazines also praise pianist Yuja Wang’s “Fantasia” (DG 479 0052GH), a collection of her favourite encores; BBC Music’s Michael Church says that “Given that these bonnes bouches were never designed to be consumed in bulk, this young virtuoso has pulled off a remarkable feat”, and Bryce Morrison in Gramophone says “Wang is clearly one of the major talents of our time and her playing throughout is of an astonishing verve, style and dexterity”. Morrison also finds plenty of praise for the latest from Olli Mustonen, a disc of Scriabin (Ondine ODE1184-2): “This is Scriabin as you have never heard him before, played by one of music’s most formidable and compusive free spirits… The music is made to leap flame-like and uncontained from the page”. Guitarist David Russell, too, is a Gramophone Choice with a disc of transcriptions entitled “The Grandeur of the Baroque” (Telarc TEL33223-02) in performances that William Yeoman calls “revelatory”; for instance, Russell’s performance of four three-part Sinfonias by Bach “is the epitome of clarity, grace, humour and melancholy”.

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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

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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

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Of the 500 or so albums examined in the latest American Record Guide, here are those that received the best reviews:

Borodin: Symphonies nos.1-3. Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz. Naxos 572786

“Here are all the splashes of color and soulful Slavic melody anyone could ask for at a price I know you can afford, and this is a treasurable introduction to the music of Borodin.” – Steven J Haller

Delius: Life’s Dance; Poem of Life and Love; Irmelin suite; A Village Romeo and Juliet suite. Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones. Dutton 7264

“David Lloyd-Jones has established himself as one of the prime Delius interpreters. His dedication to the composer’s music has also brought forth treasures few of us would have believed possible a decade or so back.” – Alan Becker

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Snippets from the latest issue of Fanfare. These are the best-reviewed discs for November/December, in the order in which they appear in the magazine.

Liszt: Piano sonata; Fantasy and fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem”. Garrick Ohlsson (p). Bridge 9337

“As skillful as Busoni’s 1897 transcription is, Ad nos is not an easy piece to pull off on the piano. Ohlsson does it brilliantly, using a dynamic palette with huge fortissimos that never sound forced and a pianissimo spectrum of infinite gradation. … This B-Minor Sonata is so unlike any other I can think of, it comes dangerously close to beggaring description. … an interpretation of profound wisdom and almost excruciating beauty” – Patrick Rucker

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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

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About 450 releases and rereleases were reviewed in the September/October 2011 issue of American Record Guide. These are the ones that generated most enthusiasm:

Johann Christian Bach: Symphonies opp.6, 9, 18. Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/David Zinman. Newton 8002065

“These recordings, made from 1974 to 1977 and originally released on Philips, made me ask, “Johann Christian Bach, where have you been all my life?” Here’s wonderful, incredibly inventive music in performances that are simply the best” – Gil French

Blow: Venus and Adonis. Amanda Forsyth, Tyler Duncan, Boston Early Music Festival/Paul O’Dette, Stephen Stubbs. CPO 777614

“This is a beautiful release in every aspect… a topnotch production, and I would not hesitate to recommend it for a first choice or only one for people who are less than die-hard collectors” – Ardella Crawford

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The aim of this regular column is to highlight the classical CDs that have been getting great reviews in the major English-language review magazines – Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, International Record Review, American Record Guide, and Fanfare. Given the relative sizes of the five magazines, I’ll be treating the two big bimonthlies ARG and Fanfare separately, and the three monthly UK publications together.

The reviews below appear in the order in which they appear in the print edition of Fanfare.

Alessandro Scarlatti: Nisi Dominus; Salve Regina; etc. soloists; Concerto de’ Cavalieri, Marcello di Lisa. CPO 777 476

“All of these works demonstrate that Scarlatti was a master of vocal music, knowing when to unleash the often tortuous melismatic coloratura and when to hold it back for simplicity” – Bertil van Boer

Bach: Cello suites, played on viola. Helen Callus (va). Analekta 2 9968-9

“Callus’s playing should be considered Exhibit A for anyone with remaining doubts about the viola’s ability to stand alongside the other strings as a viable solo instrument. … This is among the very best of recordings of the suites on any instrument” – Michael Cameron

To The Point – music by Higdon, Rudin, Schuller, Cascarino and Reise. Orchestra 2001, James Freeman and Gunther Schuller. Innova 745

“it is a joy to become acquainted with these new pieces via an ensemble of the quality of Orchestra 2001. … Go buy this CD now. You’ll thank me after you hear it” – David DeBoor Canfield

Marx: Lieder. Angelika Kirchschlager (mez); Anthony Spiri (p). CPO 777 466

“If you have even the slightest interest in late-Romantic vocal music, snap this up. … both singer and pianist seem deeply in love with the music, and both bring it vividly to life” – Henry Fogel

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