James Jolly's weekly playlist of new releases and archive favourites, with an emphasis on the piano in its many roles
The piano weaves its way through this week’s playlist, either centre stage, or as partner. And its predecessor, the harpsichord, under the inspired fingers of Kristian Bezuidenhout adds its own magic to a new set of JS Bach’s keyboard and violin sonatas with the inspired and inspiring - and multi-Gramophone Award-winning – Isabelle Faust, one of those rare musicians who can move between period and ‘modern’ performance practice, and jump from Bach to Berg with apparent ease. It’s a thrilling collection of some of Bach’s most glorious chamber music, and a must listen.
It may seems quite a jump from Bach to Philip Glass but I really enjoyed the juxtaposition and Glass’s Seventh String Quartet (2014) has, if I may put it like this, considerable more music in it than many of his detractor would have you believe. I find it a powerful and surprisingly moving piece where harmony seems to be a more central preoccupation than Glass’s characteristically rhythmic focus.
That lovely Swiss soprano Edith Mathis turns 80 in a couple of weeks and to mark the occasion DG has compiled a splendid set of her recordings for the label – everything from Bach cantatas to Strauss operas, and at the set’s heart comes a series of wonderful Lieder performances, often in the company of that superb song-pianist Christoph Eschenbach. I’ve chosen five of Schumann’s Lieder und Gesänge aus ‘Wilhelm Meister’ including a heart-stoppingly beautiful ‘Kennst du das Land’, done with rare poetry.
From an artist enjoying her retirement, I move to a young cellist, Edgar Moreau, a jewel in the Erato crown and a player of astounding maturity, as he demonstrates in Francis Poulenc’s characteristically inventive Cello Sonata.
A recording of choral works by Finzi and Howells, made in Beverly Hills, caught my eye and I’ve chosen Herbert Howells’s Requiem, a work he wrote before the death of his son at the horrifyingly young age of nine yet which became increasingly associated in his mind with that tragic event. Later, he would expand parts of the Requiem to create his wonderful Hymnus Paradisi, but hearing the work in its early a cappella garb is powerful indeed. And this fine Californian choir does it proud.
A work for two pianos next and the rarely encountered Suite No 1 by Rachmaninov (the second one is more frequently heard). Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva, both terrific players solo, make a simply wonderful duo and the magic of this utterly enchanting music sparkles from the speakers here.
And a quartet of single tracks from brand-new or soon-to-released albums – thrilling Verdi singing from Sonya Yoncheva and Joseph Calleja, a truly touching and intense performance of Chopin’s Fantasie in F minor from James Rhodes and a Prokofiev arrangement from the splendid Lisa Batiashvili.
Bach Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord No 4 in C minor, BWV1017
Isabelle Faust; Kristian Bezuidenhout (Harmonia Mundi)
Glass String Quartet No 7
Brooklyn Rider (Orange Mountain Music) - only on Apple Music and Spotify
Schumann 5 Lieder und Gesänge aus 'Wilhelm Meister'
Edith Mathis; Christoph Eschenbach (DG)
Poulenc Cello Sonata
Edgar Moreau; David Kadouch (Erato)
All Saints' Choir, Beverly Hills / Dale Adelmann (Gothic)
Rachmaninov Suite No 1
Charles Owen; Katya Apekisheva (Avie)
Verdi Il trovatore - 'Tacea la notte'
Sonya Yoncheva; Munich Radio Orchestra / Massimo Zanetti (Sony Classical)
Chopin Fantasie in F minor, Op 49
James Rhodes (Signum)
Prokofiev (arr T Batiashvili) Romeo and Juliet – Dance of the Knights
Lisa Batiashvili; Chamber Orchetsra of Europe / Yannick Nézet-Séguin (DG)
Verdi Aida - 'Celeste Aida'
Joseph Calleja; Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana / Ramón Tebar (Decca)