Gramophone's Listening Room: Episode 5

James JollyFri 24th November 2017

James Jolly's weekly playlist includes Schubert and Beethoven from James Ehnes, Bach from Sir John Eliot Gardiner and much more besides!

Track list:

Bach Magnificat

Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / John Eliot Gardiner (SDG)

Rachmaninov Symphonic Variations

André Previn; Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca)

Schubert (orch Mottl) Schwanengesang - Ständchen

Stanislas de Barbeyrac; Insula Orchestra / Laurence Equilbey (Erato)

Schubert Rondo in A

James Ehnes; Royal Liverpool PO / Andrew Manze (Onyx)

Schubert (orch Berlioz) Erlkönig

Stanislas de Barbeyrac; Insula Orchestra / Laurence Equilbey (Erato)

Beethoven Romance in F

James Ehnes; Royal Liverpool PO / Andrew Manze (Onyx)

Berlioz Les Troyens - Royal Hunt and Storm

Strasbourg PO / John Nelson (Erato)

Debussy Suite Bergamasque - Passepied

Seong-Jin Cho (DG)

Listen on:

Spotify, Apple Music or Qobuz

It's a particularly rich time of the year for new releases and this autumn has seen some terrific new recordings. Top of the list is Sir John Eliot Gardiner's new version of Bach's Magnificat - characteristically uplifting singing and playing from the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, but just as arresting are the moments of calm and poise which bring out some glorious woodwind playing from the EBS, particularly from the oboe. 

From the late 1970s, I couldn't resist returning to a favourite piano recording that finds André Previn and Vladimir Ashkenazy (who, as conductors, have given us some magnificent Rachmaninov) here joining forces at the piano for the Symphonic Dances, one of the those pieces that's as thrilling and moving in its instrumental version as it is in its magnificent orchestral plumage.

A new recording from Erato (which has released the finest monthly collection of any company in years) finds the young French tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac singing Schubert songs orchestrated by various hands - I've opted for Britten, Berlioz and Webern here. What a fine voice he has - a great future surely lies ahead!

One of the most spoken-about series of concerts in the past few weeks came from the Canadian violinist James Ehnes - he played solo Bach in Birmingham and London and everyone I've met who went was reaching for superlatives. Well, he's just released a magnificent new recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the RLPO and Andrew Manze - from it I've taken a couple of the 'extras', a Romance by Beethoven and a lovely concertante Rondo by Schubert. Here is a musician on his absolute prime, the technique effortless, the personality rounded and interesting, and no sign anywhere of an ego that ruins so much great artistry.

A real discovery in recent weeks has been the Symphonic Rhapsody by Zygmunt Stojowski (1870-1946), a Polish composer with a rich, late-Romantic language at his disposal. A piano concerto in all but name, this rhapsody pushes all the right buttons, especially when played with the style that Jonathan Plowright brings to it.

Tasters of brand-new releases this week include what, for me, is the classical recording of the year, John Nelson's set of Berlioz's Les Troyens - next week I'll dip into the set for some of the vocal gems, but for now, here's the Royal Hunt and Storm. (By the way, you catch me in conversation with Nelson, Joyce DiDonato and Michael Spyes this coming Sunday on medici.tv at 4.30GMT (so, 5.30pm in Continental Europe and 11.30am in East Coast America) when we'll be talking about this new recording. 

And as a coda, a track from Seong-Jin Cho's new Debussy album - a fine player worth keeping an eye out for ...

James Jolly

James Jolly is Gramophone's Editor-in-Chief. His blogs explore live and recorded music, as well as downloading and digital delivery.

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