Pentatone, like many record labels, has a mission statement and it contains the pledge that ‘For all their diversity, our artists have one thing in common: they make music with their hearts and souls, drawing on every last drop of creativity, skill, and determination to perfect their work.’ Now that’s a statement that most labels would claim, but this year Pentatone has certainly provided ample support for this noble sentiment. As recently as September Denis Kozhukhin’s album of Grieg and Mendelssohn miniatures was selected as our Recording of the Month, Michelle Assay admitting that ‘once in a while a piano recording comes along that really plucks at the heartstrings. Denis Kozhukhin’s … is one such.’ And Pentatone’s championing of its artists, with regular releases, is one of the label’s strengths: last December Hugo Shirley was registering Kozhukhin ‘making light of the awkwardness and difficulty of Strauss’s writing, [proving] a brilliantly fleet and mercurial soloist: there’s no shortage of heroics but his playing is meltingly seductive in the work’s many gorgeous lyrical moments’.
Pentatone was founded in 2002 by a group of former Philips executives and is still based in the Dutch town of Baarn where the big multinational was housed for years. Continuing the major’s philosophy of fine and unflashy musicianship allied to high-quality sound, the label grew, drawing around it a classy roster of artists, including a few emigrés from the likes of DG and Decca. Now, in the care of a second generation of executives (though in these days of greatly slimmed-down companies a small team does everything), the label is in excellent shape and caught our eye (and ears) for its range and impressive style.
Editor’s Choices have included Anna Lucia Richter singing Schubert Lieder and Tamara Stefanovich’s ‘Influences’, an imaginative programme of keyboard music by Bach, Ives, Bartók and Messiaen, while Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers secured another Recording of the Month in August 2018: ‘it’s as fine a cast as has been assembled for a recording of Les Pêcheurs de Perles and immediately claims top spot on my shelves’ concluded Mark Pullinger. Schubert from Lawrence Foster, Mozart from Andrew Manze, Saint-Saëns and Poulenc from the Suisse Romande Orchestra, Dutilleux and Lutosławski from Johannes Moser, Melody Moore singing American songs and Vladimir Jurowski revealing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in new colours (‘a terrific new account’) all added to the overwhelming case for Pentatone to be named our Label of the Year for 2019. James Jolly