Editor's Choice – the best new classical albums: December 2019


Martin Cullingford’s pick of the finest recordings from this month’s reviews

You can enjoy excerpts from the November issue's Editor's Choice albums via Apple Music below. To listen to complete tracks and albums, subscribe to Apple Music, free for three months.

Recording of the month

Berlioz Symphonie fantastique 

Les Siècles / François-Xavier Roth

(Harmonia Mundi) 

What better way to draw Berlioz’s anniversary year to a close than with this revelatory, highly compelling recording: François-Xavier Roth is a master of finding detail, and making it truly count. 

Read the review

Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 5

Martin Helmchen pf Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Andrew Manze 

(Alpha) 

This recording really stands out among the pre-anniversary Beethoven releases for its fine sense of collaborative musicianship. 

Read the review

 

Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending, etc 

James Ehnes vn Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrew Manze 

(Onyx)

An album of RVW’s most-loved orchestral pieces – and ones rarely performed with such grace and sensitivity as here. 

Read the review

CPE Bach Complete Original Works for Violin & Keyboard 

Tamsin Waley-Cohen vn James Baillieu pf 

(Signum) 

The real achievement here is the sense of lyrical line that Tamsin Waley-Cohen carries through all the sonatas, in a perfect partnership with the pianist James Baillieu.

Read the review

Beethoven Three Violin Sonatas, Op 12

James Ehnes vn Andrew Armstrong pf 

(Onyx) 

The second of two appearances this month for James Ehnes, joined here by Andrew Armstrong, in performances which gloriously justify these works’ status as truly collaborative sonatas. 

Read the review

Brahms Piano Sonata No 3. ‘Paganini’ Variations 

Nelson Goerner pf 

(Alpha) 

In the F minor Sonata, Goerner’s awareness of the architecture and ambition of the whole piece feels evident throughout, while the Variations possess a deep sense of the musicality within the virtuosity.

Read the review

D Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas, Vol 6

Pierre Hantaï hpd 

(Mirare) 

To join Pierre Hantaï on any leg of his long-standing and superb Scarlatti journey is to be shown joyful new sights, be introduced to delightful ideas, and ultimately offered a richly enjoyable listening experience. 

Read the review

Gesualdo Madrigals, Books 1 & 2 

Les Arts Florissants / Paul Agnew 

(Harmonia Mundi) 

Here is proof that Les Arts Florissants’s music-making is every bit as fine now under Paul Agnew as when the group first tackled Gesualdo some 30 years ago under founder William Christie.

Read the review

Handel Samson 

Dunedin Consort / John Butt 

(Linn) 

John Butt really does excel at these explorations of monumental major works; the performance is wonderful, while the level of historical and musical enquiry further enriches our appreciation.

Read the review

Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice 

La Nuova Musica / David Bates 

(Pentatone) 

Magnificent and moving singing from Iestyn Davies and Sophie Bevan, and playing of intensity from La Nuova Musica; a triumphant release from our new Label of the Year, Pentatone.

Read the review

DVD/blu-ray

Rossini Il barbiere di Siviglia 

Sols; Le Cercle de l’Harmonie / Jérémie Rhorer 

(Naxos) 

For reviewer and leading Rossinian Richard Osborne to so highly praise this production’s union of work and realisation is noteworthy acclaim indeed!

Read the review

 

Reissue/archive

Beethoven, Bach etc 

Lola Bobesco vn

(Melo Classic) 

This is Rob Cowan’s top pick from a whole host of fascinating historic releases from Melo Classic that he reviews this month.

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