The Listening Room: Episode 9

James JollyFri 22nd December 2017

An Award-winning Mozart violin concerto, a Prokofiev symphony, a Beethoven quartet, a Bach motet and some seasonal fare selected by Gramophone's Editor in Chief, James Jolly

There is a wealth of Christmas music around (Gramophone offers its own playlist here for festive cheer) so I’ve stuck to ‘pure’ classical music, though with a light dusting of appropriate seasonal fare along the way (so there are a few carols as well as one of those heavenly moments from Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ – and I love the flavoursome sounds of Philippe Herreweghe’s orchestra here).

Isabelle Faust’s Gramophone Recording of the Year set of the Mozart violin concertos definitely needs a Christmas outing and I’ve plumped for the best-loved of the five, the Third Concerto – and listen out for Andreas Staier’s witty and inventive cadenzas written especially for this recording. I’ve listened to the set countless times and still find it quite entrancing.

Marin Alsop’s Prokofiev symphony cycle has reached the one I play more than any other, the seldom heard (in concert at least) Seventh, a work of glorious melodies which seems to breathe the same air as the ballets. If there was one Prokofiev symphony perfect for listening to at this time of the year, it’s surely this one, and Marin Alsop draws some lovely playing from her fine São Paulo orchestra.

A dip into the archive ahead of 2018’s Debussy year (he died in 1918), and I’ve chosen Bernard Haitink’s unequalled (and Gramophone Award-winning) Concertgebouw recording of Jeux, his ‘poème dansé’. Rarely has this music sparkled and danced as this, and even more rarely has it been recorded with the skill and fidelity than Philips’s Volker Straus managed. A classic recording that never ages.

A new recording of the Bach motets from the very fine Norwegian Soloists’ Choir has recently appeared from BIS and I’ve been greatly enjoying it. There are numerous different ways of tackling these pieces and Brete Pedersen makes, to my mind, some very sensible and effective decisions.

The Elias Quartet’s Beethoven quartet cycle for Wigmore Hall Live has been attracting a lot of positive attention and Vol 4, as with its predecessors, mixes quartets from the three periods of Beethoven’s compositional output. I’ve opted for the Second of the Op 18, playing of freshness with surprisingly intensity too.

Tasters of very new or forthcoming releases this week introduce us to DG’s new cello signing, Kian Soltani (playing Schumann), a terrific Naxos recording of George Dyson’s Choral Symphony (I’ve been playing the whole thing a lot), and Alexander Baillie treating us to music for The British Cello – Kenneth Leighton’s haunting Elegy is included here.

Listen on:

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The tracks:

Berlioz L'Enfance du Christ - L'adieu des bergers

Collegium Vocale Gent; Orchestre des Champs-Elysées / Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi)

Mozart Violin Concerto No 3

Isabelle Faust; Il Giardino Armonico / Giovanni Antonini (Harmonia Mundi)

Schubert Die schöne Müllerin – Morgengruss

Christian Gerhaher; Gerold Huber (Sony Classical)

Debussy Jeux

Concertgebouw Orchestra / Bernard Haitink (Philips/Decca)    

Chilcott Jesus, Springing

Choralis (Signum)    

Prokofiev Symphony No 7

São Paulo SO / Marin Alsop (Naxos)    

Darke (arr tpt) In the Bleak Midwinter

Ting Helseth et al (Simax)    

Geist Pastores Dicite Quidnam Vidistis

Theatre of Voices / Paul Hillier (Dacapo)    

Leighton Elegy for cello and piano

Alexander Baillie; John Thwaites (Somm)  

Bach Singet dem Herr ein neues Lied, BWV225

The Norwegian Soloists’ Choir; Ensemble Allegria / Brete Pedersen (BIS)  

Beethoven String Quartet in G, Op 18 No 2

Elias Quartet (Wigmore Hall Live)

Hewitt Jones What Child is this?

Choir of Merton College, Oxford; Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra / Benjamin Nicholas (Delphian)    

Schumann Myrten – Du bist wie eine Blume

Kian Soltani; Aaron Pilsan (DG) 

Dyson Choral Symphony – III. Largo

Soloists; Bach Choir; Bournemouth SO / David Hill (Naxos)

Buxtehude Jesu Dulcis Memoria, BuxWV57

Theatre of Voices / Paul Hillier (Dacapo)

  

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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