Browsing: Lebrecht Weekly

In these diminished times, any year that yields a couple of releases that can rank with, and perhaps displace, the legends of recording history must be counted a good one. On these terms, 2017 was a pretty good vintage. There was an impressive Berlioz Requiem from Erato, a Hänssler retrieval of the last known recital of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the first in a promising Chandos series of the orchestral works of Richard Rodney Bennett and, at the opposite end of the scale, a Jonas Kaufmann assault on both tenor and mezzo parts of Das Lied von der Erde – a Sony…

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Schubert: Trout quintet (DG) Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), Daniel Trifonov (piano). Hwayoon Lee (viola), Maximilian Hornung (cello) and Roman Patkolo (bass). There are five trouts on the cover of DG’s new release and it’s clear from the photo that some are more pouty than others. Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin) takes up the most space, reclining on a divan. Sitting on the bare floor is Daniel Trifonov (piano). In the dark background are Hwayoon Lee (viola), Maximilian Hornung (cello) and Roman Patkolo (bass). If this were just a ranking of record industry hierarchies it would hardly be worth a mention, but the recording…

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John Blow: An ode on the death of Mr Henry Purcell (Hyperion) For a brief window in the 1690s – until the night Mrs Purcell shut her husband out in the cold – London was the go-to place for young composers in search of top tuition and an appreciative audience. Italians like Arcangelo Corelli were keen to study with Henry Purcell and English composers grew in confidence. Then, one November night in 1695, Mrs P decided not to stay up til her old man got back from the theatre and poor Henry caught cold and died, or so the story goes.…

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Brahms: An English Requiem (Delphian) Mary Bevan, soprano Marcus Farnsworth, baritone James Baillieu and Richard Uttley, piano Choir of Kings College London, conductor Joseph Fort This has to be the least expected record of the year – a performance of Ein deutsches Requiem in the original English, at least in the texts of the original English Bible. The work was so popular on reception, at a time when Bismarck was planting German boots all over Denmark, Austria and France, that London impresarios felt it might be prudent to produce it in a less contentious language. Since Victorian concertgoers knew their…

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Cecilia and Sol: Dolce Duello (Decca) Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo Sol Gabetta, cellist I am about to break another of my hard-and-fast rules. A while back, I swore never to give another three-star review as long as lived on the grounds that such things are cop-outs for critics who cannot make up their minds, one way or another, about the recommendability of a record. One way or another, I stand by that judgement. So why the exception? The present album brings together the super-mezzo Cecilia Bartoli, the highest-selling diva on record since Callas, and Sol Gabetta, an Argentine cellist of mostly…

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Schubert: Sonatas D959, D960 (DG) Some records grab you by the ears, others take longer to impress. It is in no sense to Krystian Zimerman’s discredit that his first attempt at late Schubert took three spins on my deck before I grasped the originality of his interpretation. Rather, it is a mark of Zimerman’s thoughtfulness that the heart of the music is revealed layer by layer in a manner that makes you want to listen again and again. Winner of the 1975 Chopin competition, the Polish pianist has been playing these pieces for half his life before he was ready…

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Berlioz: Les Troyens (Erato) John Nelson, Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Marie-Nicole Lemieux Almost every new release I sampled this week should never have been made. One album after another lacked conviction, coherence and, sometimes, pulse. These are records where label and artist ask one another what to do next without either side asking aloud whether this project is absolutely necessary. None of which can be said about the present release. The need for a new-gen recording of Berlioz’s epic opera is pressing, given that the last two trustworthy attempts, by the late Sir Colin Davis, are wearing thin. Erato’s no-holds-barred…

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George Martin: Film scores and orchestral music (Atlas Realisations/Pias Classics) How good a musician was the Beatles’ producer? I talked to George Martin three or four times and, while I found him very likeable, was unimpressed by his musical curiosity. Like many other producers I knew at Abbey Road, he was a purposeful fixer who knew what needed to be done to make a track work and which of London’s hundreds of freelancers he had to call in to patch up a session that, somehow, lacked the finishing touch. String quartet for ‘Yesterday’, piccolo trumpet for ‘Penny Lane’, George Martin…

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Leo Weiner: Five Divertimentos (Chandos) It was George Solti who first mentioned Weiner to me as his most sympathetic teacher in Budapest, an astute encourager of musical temperament. Solti returned to Weiner in what would be the last recording of his life, an affectionate account of the 1906 f-minor Serenade, perhaps Weiner’s trademark work though scarcely known beyond Hungarian borders. This new account by Neeme Järvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra is strikingly fresh and virtuosic – just wallow in that sumptuous third-movement clarinet – less relaxed than Solti’s and altogether more together. The rhythms might sound a shade…

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Daniil Trifonov: Chopin Evocations (DG) FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (Arr. By Mikhail Pletnev), Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” Works by Barber, Grieg, Mompou, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Daniil Trifonov, piano; Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Mikhail Pletnev, conductor 2 CDs, 0289 479 7518 2 The 2011 Tchaikovsky winner has lost none of his capacity to surprise. Daniil Trifonov thinks nothing of coming on stage with one wrist in a bandage, no explanation offered, or of asking the audience not to applaud at any time through a 90-minute recital. His powers of concentration are phenomenal and he expects no less from his listeners.…

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