Queue 'Gramophone Top 10s'

Top 10 Grieg recordings

Gramophone Wed 13th April 2016

Gramophone's guide to the essential recordings of Edvard Grieg's music – from Dinu Lipatti to Anne Sofie von Otter

Top 10 Grieg recordings
Top 10 Grieg recordings

Piano Concerto

Leif Ove Andsnes pf Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Mariss Jansons

(Warner Classics)

'However many times he has performed the Grieg, Andsnes retains a freshness and expressiveness that never sounds contrived, always spontaneous. That inspirational quality is more markedly perceptible with the new version’s faster tempi, but the expressive flights remain just as broad. In that contrast, Andsnes is firmly supported by Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic, with playing not just refined but dramatic too in fiercely exciting tuttis...' Read the review

 

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Piano Concerto

Stephen Kovacevich pf BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis

(Philips)

'Kovacevich’s indelibly fresh performance has enchanted for over three decades now. Felicities abound, not least the agile bravura of the first-movement cadenza and captivating skip of the finale.' 

 

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Piano Concerto

Dinu Lipatti pf Philharmonia Orchestra / Alceo Galliera

(Warner Classics)

'Very special playing from Dinu Lipatti; the poetry and rapt beauty of this famous 1947 performance linger long in the memory. It is included here on a seven-disc retrospective – pure gold, all of it!'

 

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Lyric Pieces – excerpts

Leif Ove Andsnes pf

(Warner Classics)

'Taking you on a journey of increasing subtlety and introspection, he makes you aware that so much of this music is for those long winter nights. At the same time the music is so richly varied: the insistent dactylic rhythm of ‘Melody’ creates a strange unsettling poetic ambience, while the central oasis of calm in ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ would surely melt a heart of stone. All Andsnes’s performances have that deceptive simplicity which is his touchstone...' Read the review

 

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Lyric Pieces

Emil Gilels pf 

(DG)

'Here, surely, is a classic recording, one of calibre and status for all time. Rarely can a great artist have declared his love with such touching candour. By his own admission Gilels discovered in Grieg’s Lyric Pieces a “whole world of intimate feeling” and at the 1974 sessions fought tirelessly to capture their intricate mix of innocence and experience. The results are of an unblemished purity, grace and contained eloquence...' Read the review 

 

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Songs

Anne Sofie von Otter mez Bengt Forsberg pf

'A superbly vigorous and urgent account of A Hope, a wistful, sweetly voiced and played account of Spring (another well-known piece)—extraordinary intensity in the second verse—the charming account of the teasing While I wait and a deeply poetic one of the justly renowned From Monte Pincio are just three definitive interpretations towards the end of a recital that will unquestionably be one of the discs of the year and is a 'must' for any collection of songs, indeed a collection of any kind. It cannot help but afford pleasure. Don't miss it...' Read the review

 

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Cello Sonata

Steven Isserlis vc Stephen Hough pf

(Hyperion)

'Isserlis and Hough balance the urgency of the opening theme of Grieg’s glorious sonata with a luminous reading of the rhapsodic second idea and everywhere their reading glints with conviction. Hough sets a slightly faster pace in the second movement than Pascal Amoyel for Bertrand (another exceptionally fine interpretation), and Isserlis is matchless in the way he tugs at the simple melody to heart-rending effect. The cellist is also deeply moving in the solo opening of the third movement before the lively Halling bursts in...' Read the review

 

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Ballade in G minor

Sigurd Slåttebrekk pf

(Simax)

'His way with the Piano Concerto is magnificently assured and free of self-serving idiosyncrasy but it is in the Ballade that he achieves his greatest stature and distinction. Played on Grieg’s 1892 Steinway in Troldhaugen, these performances are of a moving poetic empathy and musical devotion...' Read the review

 

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Peer Gynt Suites

BPO / Herbert von Karajan

(DG)

'Very impressive indeed. Somehow one feels that one could stretch out and touch the players, so vivid is the sound here. Peer Gynt is most beautifully done. At times you might think the wind could have been a shade more distant, particularly in the ‘By the seashore’ movement but there’s no want of atmosphere here – quite the contrary! Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a marvellous recording.'

 

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In Autumn. Lyric Suite, etc 

WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne / Eivind Aadland 

(Audite)

'The first two discs in this ‘Complete Symphonic Works’ series were outstanding. This third is wholly exceptional. The presence of the overture In Autumn and the Old Norwegian Romance with Variations gives the programme a Beechamesque feel. But Aadland and his astonishingly well-integrated German ensemble – by this I mean that they are guided into a natural-sounding Nordic style – need fear nothing by way of competition, not even from the RPO’s dream woodwind section...' Read the review

 

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And one more – if you can find it!

Piano Concerto

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli pf New Philharmonia Orchestra / Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

(BBC Legends)

'A sense of joyous rhapsody buoys up Michelangeli’s playing from first note to last, yet everything is founded on a bedrock of high intelligence, taste and natural authority. And I nearly forgot to mention the fabulous tone-colours he draws from the instrument. His slow movement is by turns balmy and ecstatic, and the finale has terrific drive. Scarcely a phrase that does not sound newly minted; never a note that sounds contrived or unspontaneous. And the virtuosity … ! If your hair is not standing on end in the finale’s coda I suggest an urgent medical check-up. Forget the boxy recording and the hissy background. This is a performance that entirely merits the hysterical cheers that greet it...' Read the review

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Top 10 Ives recordings

Gramophone Thu 21st April 2016

Many of Ives's works present unique challenges for the performers brave and dedicated enough to tackle them, let alone commit them to disc. Here are some of the finest Ives recordings in the catalogue...

Top 10 Ives recordings
Top 10 Ives recordings

Psalms

Kay Johannsen org SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart / Marcus Creed

(Hänssler Classic)

'These 10 psalms are not first recordings but most of them have dropped out of the catalogue, so this is largely unknown Ives. This fine collection is a revelation in performances like these from the outstanding Stuttgart choir under its British conductor...' Read the review

 

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Symphony No 2. The Unanswered Question

New York Philharmonic Orchestra / Leonard Bernstein

(DG)

'This wonderful symphony begins sounding for all the world as though it longs to be Brahms's Second or Dvořák's Eighth. The old European traditions roll out in well-nourished strings and text-book counterpoints; here and there a hint of New England rural is tempered with a little Johann Sebastian; but only when ''Columbia, Gem of the Ocean'' pops up in the horns do we know we are well and truly in Ives country. Bernstein makes a point of playing it like Brahms, with bows richly drawn in appreciation – a thanksgiving hymn from old America. He conducted the scandalously belated premiere back in 1951 and is known to love it more than any other American symphony...' Read the review

 

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‘A Song - For Anything’

Gerald Finley bar Julius Drake pf

(Hyperion)

'Gerald Finley has made many excellent records and, as far as I can recall, never a poor or indifferent one. But if he is not by this time universally recognised as a singer of the front rank, this should leave no doubt of it. These songs can encourage at one extreme a rough declamatory style and at the other an almost voiceless intimacy. Without in any way underplaying, Finley is always essentially a singer – his tone and command of the singing line are a pleasure in themselves. But he also has the absolute mastery of the composer’s idioms and, with Julius Drake, his fearless and totally committed pianist, the technical, virtuosic skills to realise his intentions with complete conviction of naturalness...' Read the review

 

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Piano Works and Songs

Susan Graham mez Pierre-Laurent Aimard pf

(Warner Classics)

'Ives’s imagination – his rampant theatricality – should have made for great operas. Instead he wrote songs: capsule dramas laid out not in scenes or acts but moments in time. Susan Graham inhabits 17 such moments – nostalgic (‘Songs my mother taught me’), visionary (‘A sound of distant horn’), cryptic (‘Soliloquy’), brutal (‘1, 2, 3’), expectant (‘Thoreau’) – and the feminine and masculine qualities of her voice, to say nothing of her musical sensibility, easily encompass the ‘expectancy and ecstasy’ promised by the song ‘Memories’ – which appropriately enough recalls her (and others like her) as a little girl ‘sitting in the opera house’. Aimard is again a one-man band. Almost literally so in ‘The Circus Band’. When Graham shouts ‘hear the trombones’, you really do...' Read the review

 

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Violin Sonatas

Curt Thompson vn Rodney Waters pf

Naxos

'In reviewing ECM’s Hansheinz Schneeberger and Daniel Cholette, I indicated problems that European performers can have with Ives. Compared with Gregory Fulkerson and Robert Shannon they failed to swing and their recorded sound is unattractive. There’s no problem with the Texan-born Curt Thompson, who has delved deeply into Ives in a doctoral thesis on these sonatas. He and Rodney Waters make an excellent duo...' Read the review

 

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'Charles Ives - An American Journey'

Thomas Hampson bar San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus / Michael Tilson Thomas

(RCA)

'If anyone has a hot­line to the cortex of Ives’s imagination‚ it is Michael Tilson Thomas. The programme he has devised here is not so much a journey‚ more a stream of consciousness through the hinterlands of Ives Americana. An alternative American dream. It’s about the things that mattered to Ives: the times‚ places‚ events that fashioned the nation and enabled it to find its own way. It’s a landscape of ballad songs and snatches‚ of hymns‚ marches‚ tall tales and short orders‚ assembled exactly as the man remem­bered them and entirely in keeping with the chaotic comedy of life. But above all‚ it’s about the spirit within us all – great and small...' Read the review

 

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Concord Sonata

Philip Mead pf

(Metier)

'Philip Mead’s performance is loud, rude and jammed with idiosyncratic corners. Charles Ives would have been hugely appreciative and admiring...'

Gramophone Collection: Charles Ives's Concord Sonata

 

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Three Orchestral Sets

Malmo Chamber Chorus; Malmö Symphony Orchestra / James Sinclair

(Naxos)

'The novelty here is the Third Set. The first two movements come from sketches edited by David Gray Porter. The opening Andante has a structure similar to Central Park in the Dark with typical Ives chords and a texture building to a crisis with something left hanging softly at the end. The second movement is called “During Camp Meetin’ Week: One Secular Afternoon”. This again is Ives’s idiosyncratic territory with lots of quotations including “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” twice and a four-part hymn about the Day of Judgement – not so secular after all?...' Read the review

 

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Central Park in the Dark. Three Places in New England, etc

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra / Sir Andrew Davis

(Chandos)

'The two early Ives symphonies recorded by the same team (5/15) are relatively plain sailing compared with some of these pieces, which are just as shocking as they always have been. I mean the great blasts of glorious frenzy in Central Park in the Dark; ‘The Fourth of July’; and the second and third movements of Three Places in New England, all written – amazingly – in the early years of the last century. The difference between the many recordings depends on which elements of an overcrowded texture are allowed to dominate. For example, Ives quotes his own Country Band March in ‘Putnam’s Camp’ – it’s first heard early on in the strings, but at the last climax, with everything else going on as well, it’s less prominent with the Melbourne performance than in some. That’s all part of the richness of the Ives experience...' Read the review

 

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Symphony No 4

Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Chorale / Ludovic Morlot

(Seattle Symphony Media)

'From the start of the Fourth Symphony, the Seattle engineers raise the piano in the mix, its basso profundo low register punching above its weight as expressionistic strings swarm. And you begin to get an inkling of the symphony’s vistas and perspectives: solo strings, then flute, join the piano in invoking the chamber music sections of the Concord Sonata as the orchestra and chorus muscle up the volume. The second movement is especially fine, the ragtime rhythmic energy of the opening frogmarched towards thunderous burn-out as Morlot keeps subliminal details ticking over: the microtonal skid of a honky-tonk piano shyly peeks above the orchestral frame before dragging a solo violin into its orbit, all abruptly snuffed out by a loud-mouthed, raucous marching band...' Read the review

 

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Explore Charles Ives's life and music...

Charles Ives: lonely American giant

'He plunged ahead solely on the basis of his ear, his stamina, his conviction, his talent and his need to create' (John McClure, Gramophone, April 1967)... Read more

Gramophone Collection: Charles Ives's Concord Sonata

Charles Ives left his Concord Sonata for solo piano unfinished for a reason. But what that reason was remains unclear – which, says Philip Clark, presents a challenge to pianists who tackle the work on record... Read more

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Top 10 Mozart recordings

Gramophone Tue 14th January 2014

Mozart was arguably the most naturally gifted musician in history; these are classic recordings of his 10 key works

No 1

Symphony No 41, ‘Jupiter’

Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Sir Charles Mackerras

'There is no need to argue the credentials of Sir Charles Mackerras as a Mozart interpreter, so let us just say that this double CD of the composer’s last four symphonies contains no surprises – it is every bit as good as you would expect. Like many modern-instrument performances these days it shows the period-orchestra influence in its lean sound, agile dynamic contrasts, sparing string vibrato, rasping brass, sharp-edged timpani and prominent woodwind, though given Mackerras’s long revisionist track-record it seems an insult to suggest that he would not have arrived at such a sound of his own accord. And in any case his handling of it – joyously supported by the playing of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra – is supremely skilled; rarely will you hear such well judged orchestral balance, such effective marrying of textural transparency and substance....' Read the review

 

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No 2

Piano Concerto No 22

Northern Sinfonia / Imogen Cooper

'The qualities that make Cooper quite simply one of the finest pianists this country has produced make her perfect for Mozart duty. Clear but velvety ringing tone, perfect voicing of chords, unsleeping alertness to the necessary subtleties of rubato and line, and above all an ability to realise this music’s intimate poetry that can make you catch your breath, make these performances the kind that any musician should listen to and learn from...' Read the review

 

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No 3

Così fan tutte

Sols; Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra / Karl Böhm

'Karl Böhm’s cast could hardly be bettered, even in one’s dreams. The two sisters are gloriously sung – Schwarzkopf and Ludwig bring their immeasurable talents as Lieder singers to this sparkling score and overlay them with a rare comic touch. Add to that the stylish singing of Alfredo Kraus and Giuseppe Taddei and the central quartet is unimpeachable. Walter Berry’s Don Alfonso is characterful and Hanny Steffek is quite superb as Despina. The pacing of this endlessly intriguing work is measured with immaculate judgement. The emotional control of the characterisation is masterly and Böhm’s totally idiomatic response to the music is arguably without peer....' Read the review

 

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No 4

String Quartet in B flat, ‘Hunt’, K458

Jerusalem Quartet

'Something both grand and reflective is suggested in the first movement, grand in the “hunting” motif of the exposition, reflective in the F major beginning of the development to which a touch of sobriety is added as the music sinks into F minor a little later. These artists aren’t stratified. Bowing varies from precise attack to breathy delicacy; and lines are supple, contoured through flexure of phase and the easing or tightening of pace without ever disrupting pulse...' Read the review

 

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No 5

Clarinet Concerto

Wolfgang Meyer; Concentus Musicus Wien / Nikolaus Harnoncourt

'There are happy and shapely performances of all three concertos here, but the particular delight is that of the latest and greatest of them, the Clarinet Concerto, which Wolfgang Meyer plays on a basset clarinet – that is, an instrument with an extension allowing it to add four semitones at the bottom of its compass. This is the instrument for which the work was originally composed, although only a text adapted to the normal clarinet has come down to us. The reconstruction used here, slightly different in some of its detail from others I have heard, works very well, making the familiar text’s rough places plain and logical; and it serves ideally for Meyer, with his rich and oily bottom register...' Read the review

 

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No 6

Piano Sonatas

Daniel Ben Pienaar (pf) 

'Of the utmost importance in conveying convictions is Pienaar’s strong, independent left hand. It tightens harmonic tension and supports rather than accompanies treble lines. Be it high drama or lyrical contemplation, Pienaar scans phrases with a fluidity that releases the music from rhythmic inertia. Ignore the odd insignificant pianistic smudge, because keyboard prowess is formidable. But as his performance of the Alla turca Sonata, K331, shows, technique isn’t allowed to edge ahead of emotional and intellectual depth. A much-mistreated piece emerges in a different light. Pienaar pays attention to the oft-forgotten grazioso element in the first movement, eschews metrical stiffness in the Minuet, yields to the Trio’s distinctive flow and refuses to turn the March into a janissary bash. Extend such thoughtful, profound probity to the whole set and you have interpretations where within the letter critically observed, a numinous potency breaks free. Momentous Mozart...' Read the review

 

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No 7

Requiem

Soloists; Dunedin Consort / John Butt

'Purely on grounds of performance alone, this is one of the finest Mozart Requiems of recent years. John Butt brings to Mozart the microscopic care and musicological acumen that have made his Bach and Handel recordings so thought-provoking and satisfying....' Read the review

 

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No 8

The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro)

Soloists; Concerto Köln / René Jacobs

'The cast is excellent. Véronique Gens offers a beautifully natural, shapely ‘Porgi amor’ and a passionate and spirited ‘Dove sono’ (with the piano rampant near the end). The laughter in Patrizia Ciofi’s voice is delightful when she is dressing up Cherubino, and she has space in ‘Deh vieni’ for a touchingly expressive performance. Then there is Angelika Kirschlager’s Cherubino, alive and urgent in ‘Non so più’, every little phrase neatly moulded. Lorenzo Regazzo offers a strong Figaro, with a wide range of voice – angry and determined in ‘Se vuol ballare’, nicely rhythmic with some softer colours in ‘Non più andrai’, and pain and bitterness in ‘Aprite’. The Count of Simon Keenlyside is powerful, menacing, lean and dark in tone. Marie McLaughlin sings Marcellina with unusual distinction...' Read the review

 

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No 9

Don Giovanni

Soloists; Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra / Carlo Maria Giulini

'There is no doubt that the orchestral playing here is unsurpassed. From the depth and precision of the opening chords to the fugitive spirit of dance which no one else quite captures, the Philharmonia under Giulini become a second cast on their own. So often the tiniest detail – the weight of a chord, the length of a silence, the linking curve of a phrase, the parting of the inner voices of the strings – stage-manages the drama more shrewdly than a good many theatre directors ever do...' Read the review

 

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No 10

The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte)

Sols; Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Mahler Chamber Orchestra / Claudio Abbado

'Had this new set been to hand when I discussed all versions of Die Zauberflöte in January, it would have been high on my list of recommendations. This is certainly the most desirable version using modern instruments to appear since Solti’s second recording in 1990. That said, its characteristics are rather nearer my period-performance choice, Christie’s 1995 set...' Read the review

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Top 10 Rachmaninov recordings

Gramophone Fri 8th April 2016

There are many truly great recordings of Rachmaninov's passionate music, but these 10 recordings would grace any classical collection

Top 10 Rachmaninov recordings
Top 10 Rachmaninov recordings

Piano Concerto No 2

Krystian Zimerman pf Boston SO / Seiji Ozawa

'A romantic to his fingertips, Zimerman inflects one familiar theme after another with a yearning, bittersweet intensity that he equates in his interview with first love. Hear him at 6'52" and ask yourself when you last heard this melody played with such a rapt sense of inwardness. Every page is alive with a sense of wonder at Rachmaninov’s genius. Seiji Ozawa and the Boston orchestra are ideal partners and DG’s sound and balance are fully worthy of this memorable release...' Read the review

 

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Symphony No 2

 

London Symphony Orchestra / André Previn

'It has to be André Previn, whose rehabilitation of this symphony ranks among his most enduring contributions to our musical life.'

Read Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2 – which recording is best?

 

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Preludes

Steven Osborne pf

'It’s all too easy to coarsen Rachmaninov’s melodic genius with an overtly applied emotionalism, its clearly drawn lines becoming smudged. But Osborne conveys both the monumentality of these pieces, even the most fleeting, and their very human qualities. It’s rare to find the balance so acutely achieved – with Ashkenazy, Donohoe and Richter tending more towards the former, Lympany and Shelley (Hyperion) towards the latter. The composer himself, of course, knew how to achieve that equilibrium, but then he had a head start.' Read the review

 

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Piano Concerto No 3

Vladimir Ashkenazy pf LSO / André Previn

'What nobility of feeling and what dark regions of the imagination he relishes and explores in page after page of the Third Concerto in particular. Significantly his opening is a very moderate Allegro ma non tanto, later allowing him an expansiveness and imaginative scope hard to find in other more ‘driven’ or hectic performances. His rubato, his sense of the music’s emotional ebb and flow, is as natural as it is distinctive and his way of easing from one idea to another (the first movement Allegro – Tempo precedent ma un poco piu mosso) shows him at his most intimately and romantically responsive...' Read the review

 

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The Bells

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle

'Such a small thing as being able to appreciate the timbre of the piano in the first movement makes all the difference, emphasising the fact that Rachmaninov had the skill and imagination to conjure up the sonority of bells with little recourse to bells themselves. The performance is strong on mood, individual movements probingly characterised and eloquently drawn together as a structural entity...' Read the review

 

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Piano Sonata No 2

Steven Osborne pf

'This is Osborne’s own conflation of Rachmaninov’s two versions plus some borrowings from Horowitz’s composer-sanctioned version. Osborne justifies it as ‘a natural extension of the interpretative process’. So, does it convince? In a word, yes. What comes across most winningly is the ebb and flow of the work: the more inward passages are allowed to breathe; the extrovert ones are absolutely fiery. It’s not a work that could ever be summed up by a single interpretation: Horowitz is of course essential; so too, I would argue, is Kocsis. And the list could go on. But this is another terrific addition to the shelvesy' Read the review

 

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The Miserly Knight

Soloists; BBC PO / Gianandrea Noseda

'Rachmaninov decided in The Miserly Knight to set almost exactly word-for-word a prose poem-cum-play by Pushkin, one of his so-called “little tragedies”. Its central panel is a long monologue for the Baron (the Miserly Knight of the title), a role conceived with Chaliapin in mind and here sung with commanding presence and rich, malleable tone by Ildar Abdrazakov as he drools over his wealth and the cruel ways in which it has been amassed. He is well matched by, and contrasted with, the passionate tenor of Misha Didyk as his resentful son, Albert, and by the sly, ingratiating characterisation of the Moneylender by tenor Peter Bronder. Orchestral atmosphere, backed by a spectrum of colour comparable to that of the Second Symphony, is compellingly established by Noseda, whose theatrical instincts also reflect and enhance the opera’s dramatic thrust...' Read the review

 

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Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Daniil Trifonov pf Philadelphia Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin

'The opening bars tell you this is going to be a good ‘Pag Rhap’. As things turn out, it is a great one, up there with the very best. That includes the indispensable benchmark recording with the composer and the same orchestra made in 1934, just six weeks after they had given the premiere under Leopold Stokowski. Let’s deal first with DG’s sound: in the Rhapsody it is sumptuous, full-bodied and realistic, with a near-perfect balance between piano and orchestra. The Philadelphia’s silky strings and characterful woodwind are a joy, while the percussion department is suitably punchy without being overcooked.' Read the review

 

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Etudes-tableaux, Op 39

Nikolai Lugansky pf

'A pianist who has sometimes shrouded his mastery in detachment, he is here at his most audacious, willing to step outside convention and declaim Rachmaninov’s glory to the heavens. There is nothing reserved in what is surely the most freely expressive, personal and, at the climax, seething performance on record of No 2. No 3 is of a shot-from-guns virtuosity that makes you cry out like Miranda in The Tempest: "If by your art, my dearest father, you have put the wild waters in this roar, allay them."'

Read Rachmaninov's Etudes-tableaux, Op 39 – which recording should you buy?

 

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Vespers, 'All-Night Vigil'

Latvian Radio Choir / Sigvards Kļava

'Despite a wide dynamic range (which never sounds congested or harsh), the balance remains transparent. There is a wonderfully kaleidoscopic (though carefully graded) palette of vocal colours throughout, with plenty of sonorous bloom for those celebrated deep bass notes. Praise also goes to the tenors, whose highest notes sound so effortlessly sweet and fluid, and to the upper voices, who bring out the tolling bells in the Nunc dimittis most beautifully...' Read the review

 

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Composer: 

Top 10 Janáček recordings

Gramophone Fri 18th March 2016

In any gathering of the finest recordings of Janáček's music, one particular conductor's name is always going to loom large...

Top 10 Janáček recordings
Top 10 Janáček recordings

Glagolitic Mass

Sols; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Supraphon)

'It is a measure of the respect in which Sir Charles Mackerras is held in Czechoslovakia that this recording should have been possible. The compliment is no less than his due, for no man has done more to win acceptance in this country for Janáček as one of the great composers of the twentieth century...' Read the review

 

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The Excursions of Mr Brouček

Sols; BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiří Bělohlávek

(Deutsche Grammophon)

'What a lovable work this is. The first excursion in particular is packed with vivid invention; the second dips deeper into wells of Czech history. It all needs the sharp hand and light touch with the agile rhythms which Bělohlávek brings to it...' Read the review  

 

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Kát'á Kabanová

Sols; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Decca)

'Sir Charles's superlative performance hardly needs further recommendation; nor does the wonderfully moving interpretation of the title-role by Elisabeth Soderstrom establishing by an infinity of subtle touches and discreet, sensitive singing the picture of Kát'á as the richest and most human character in the drama...' Read the review

 

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String Quartet No, 2, 'Intimate Letters'

Pavel Haas Quartet

(Supraphon)

'Try the third movement at 2'58" where, having fined the texture down to a whisper, Janáček gives the first violin an electrifying outburst; if that contrast has been made more emotionally real on record it is certainly not so on the half-dozen LPs and CDs I picked off my shelves. The very fine recent Talich Quartet version (Calliope, 6/06) does not even run the Pavel Haas Quartet close. I would almost be inclined to recommend the new disc for this moment alone...' Read the review

 

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Jenůfa

Sols; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Decca)

'Söderström phrases Janáček's soaring melodic lines with a full understanding of their Romantic passion without ever allowing them to loosen into sentimentality; she has a sharp appreciation of the cut of his often difficult rhythms; her voice is flexible in expression, ranging from a sorrowful warmth in the scenes over the loss of the baby to a pride of utterance in the confrontations with Steva and a moving dignity in the closing reconciliation with the Kostelnicka...' Read the review

 

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The Cunning Little Vixen

Sols; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Decca)

'Mackerras keeps a tight rein on the score, right up to the end. It is a remarkably unsentimental work, however touching and moving, especially when one considers the dangers of putting animal weddings and so forth on the stage. Mackerras never lingers over anything, in true Janáček style, violently though he can discharge the bursts of emotion, shock or satire that explode throughout the score...' Read the review

 

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Sonata 1.X.1905, 'From the Street'

Karim Said pf

(Opus Arte)

'Janáček’s Sonata 1.X.1905, a response to the death of a 20-year-old worker in a demonstration, is wonderfully well played, with Said creating a palpable mood of desolation in the spare Adagio second movement (‘Death’) before its impassioned climax...' Read the review

 

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From the House of the Dead

Sols; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Decca)

'From the House of the Dead (the 1980 Gramophone Record of the Year) was here recorded for the first time in its proper, original version; and this, the fruit of brilliant musicological work by Dr John Tyrrell, revealed it as even more of a masterpiece – a work, indeed, to count among the handful of masterpieces produced by 20th-century opera...' Read the review

 

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Sinfonietta. Taras Bulba

Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra / Tomáš Netopil

(Supraphon)

'A superb programme – and not only because it represents, in effect, a useful gathering of Janáček’s mature orchestral oeuvre. The substantially gifted Tomáš Netopil has the full measure of all four works, balancing the Sinfonietta’s closing build-up so that the reappearance of the fanfare trumpets (the Band of the Castle Guards and Police of the Czech Republic) is allowed to achieve an effective climax rather than hogging the limelight prematurely. The excitable brass that dominates the Moderato third movement is very well captured and elsewhere there’s a combination of alertness, poetic phrasing and clear musical thinking...' Read the review

 

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The Makropulos Case

Sung in English (translation by Norman Tucker)

Sols; ENO Chorus and Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Chandos)

'This is Mackerras’s second recording. The first, in 1979, in his series of groundbreaking Janáček recordings for Decca, had the Vienna Philharmonic in radiant form accompanied a fine cast singing in Czech. It says much for the quality of the ENO Orchestra that for this new version in English the playing is equally polished, and often outshines that of the Viennese in its extra dramatic bite...' Read the review

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