Gramophone's The Listening Room: Episode 98

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Opera arias from Aleksandra Kurzak, Bach from Benjamin Appl and Reinhard Goebel, Thomas Adès from Pekka Kuusisto and Aurora Orchestra and Jonas Kaufmann's Otello, plus some pre-release tracks ...

Some rather classy singing this week. A couple of arias from Aleksandra Kuzak's new recital album for Sony Classical – I've chosen Tatyana's Letter scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and that glorious soprano aria from Act 1 of Verdi's Ernani. She sings wonderfully and the album has been very well programmed. From the much talked-about new Otello, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, I thought the closing stretch would be a good place to sample Jonas Kaufmann's powerful Otello, but also the quite lovely Desdemona of Federica Lombardi, a performance that grows impressively as the opera forges on towards its horrifying climax. A new recording of Handel's Semele under Sir John Eliot Gardiner – his second – is also impressively cast, and from the few tracks that are available pre-release, there's the inevitable 'Where'er you walk' elegantly sung by Hugo Hymas and 'O sleep, why dost thou leave me?' sung by Louise Alder, beautifully done. And staying with the Baroque, Benjamin Appl has just released an album, conducted by Reinhard Goebel, of music by the Bach family, I've gone for the powerful 'Ich habe genug' by the great JS Bach, sung with Appl's usual flair and intelligence. And from a forthcoming album in Daniel Barenboim's Berlin Elgar series for Decca, one of the Sea Pictures sung by the Latvian mezzo Elīna Garanča.

On the orchestral front, a double concerto by Hummel - again conducted by Reinhard Goebel – and Thomas Adès's mesmerising violin concerto, Concentric Paths, played (on this its third recording) by the superb Pekka Kuusisto. Nicholas Collon (who I spoke to recently for a Gramophone Podcast) conducts Aurora Orchestra – but do listen to the whole album, 'Music of the Spheres', as it was conceived in a single arch, and it's superbly executed. On a larger scale, there's a new recording out from the Luxembourg Philharmonic of César Franck's Symphony. It's been a while since we had a new recording of the work, and it's impressively done under Gustavo Gimeno's baton. It's one of those works with an ear-worm of a theme that it's impossible to shake off.  

Rebecca Clarke's Viola Sonata, a work that has been recorded many times, receives a fine new performance by Dana Zemtsov and Anna Fedorova on an imaginatively conceived album from Channel Classics. If you don't know the sonata, do listen – it's a gem! And with a couple of other pre-release tracks to whet the appetite, here's my 98th Listening Room playlist! James Jolly

Listen below or on Apple Music

Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin – Act 1 scene 2, Tatyana's Letter scene

Aleksandra Kurzak; Morphing Chamber Orchestra / Frédéric Chaslin (Sony Classical)

Hummel Double Concerto in G, Op 17

Mirijam Contzen; Herbert Schuch; WDR SO / Reinhard Goebel (Sony Classical)

Elgar Sea Pictures – 'Where corals lie'

Elīna Garanča; Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim (Decca) PRE-RELEASE TRACK

Beethoven Sonata for piano and violin No 5 in G, Op 2, 'Spring' – Scherzo. Allegro molto

Tamsin Waley-Cohen; Huw Watkins (Signum) PRE-RELEASE TRACK

JS Bach Ich habe genug

Benjamin Appl; Berliner Barock Solisten / Reinhard Goebel (Hänssler Classic)

Franck Symphony in D minor

Luxembourg PO / Gustavo Gimeno (Pentatone)

Verdi Ernani – Act 1 scene 3, 'Surta è la notte... Ernani! Ernani, involami'

Aleksandra Kurzak; Morphing Chamber Orchestra / Frédéric Chaslin (Sony Classical)

Clarke Viola Sonata

Dana Zemtsov; Anna Fedorova (Channel Classics)

Verdi Otello – Act 4, final scene (Willow song to the end)

Federica Lombardi; Jonas Kaufmann; Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Sir Antonio Pappano (Sony Classical)

Adès Violin Concerto, 'Concentric paths'

Pekka Kuusisto; Aurora Orchestra / Nicholas Collon (DG)

Handel Semele – Act 2 scene 3 - 'Where'er you walk'

Hugo Hymas; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (SDG) PRE-RELEASE TRACK

Tilson Thomas Meditations on Rilke – IV 'Immer wieder'

Sasha Cooke; San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas (SFMedia) PRE-RELEASE TRACK

Handel Semele – Act 2 scene 2 - 'O sleep, why dost thou leave me?'

Louise Alder; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (SDG) PRE-RELEASE TRACK

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