Monday, June 15, 2020
What are our musicians listening to during lockdown? We asked them each to nominate one recording that speaks to them at this particular time …
Julian Lloyd Webber
Cellist and Principal of the Birmingham Royal Conservatoire
The cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is Principal of the Birmingham Royal Conservatoire and the founder of the In Harmony music education programme. He has recorded extensively, including the Elgar Cello Conncerto (with Yehudi Menuhin) which he discusses in a Gramophone podcast.
CPE Bach Cello Concerto in A, Wq172 Lucerne Festival Strings / Rudolf Baumgartner (DG)
I have been revisiting some of the wonderful recordings by my teacher, Pierre Fournier, which include the underrated Concerto in A by CPE Bach. In his day Fournier was sometimes referred to as ‘the slow-movement’ cellist – a description of which he was not particularly fond as he thought it implied that he wasn’t as good in the other movements! Listening to his beautiful bel canto line in this concerto’s gorgeous Largo it is easy to see how he acquired this sobriquet and I defy anyone to identify a more beautiful recorded cello sound.
Anthony Marwood enjoys an international career as soloist, director and chamber musician and is co-founder of the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival in East Sussex. His next release, of Steven Mackey’s violin concerto Beautiful Passing, recorded live at Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony and David Robertson, will be released soon on Canary Classics (USA).
R Strauss Four Last Songs. Six orchestral songs Jessye Norman; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra / Kurt Masur (Philips/Decca)
This glorious recording has been something of a leitmotif in my life. Jessye Norman inhabits these songs as though they were written for her. The sadness and hope of 'Morgen!' is both unbearable and deeply comforting at the moment. I am rediscovering every twist and turn of this sumptuous performance from the contemplative stillness of my Sussex cottage, sitting in lush rolling green hills – an unexpectedly good counterpart to the experience. Music and artistry like this are such a gift, and remind us how much we have to fight for.
Francesca's most recent DG release was of music for violin and piano by Respighi, Stravinsky and Castelnuovo-Tedesco: 'Dego dashes and darts: she dispatches her fireworks with aristocratic hauteur' wrote Gramophone of it in January 2019.
Debussy. Ravel String Quartets Quartetto Italiano (Philips/Decca)
I somehow always end up going back to this recording, which I first discovered in my early teens. What enchanting and uplifting music, and what grace and depth of interpretation! I find there is nothing as formidable as a string quartet, and the amount of work and thought needed to reach this level of perfection and communication between four elements forming a single soul is almost unnerving. Chamber music is one of the highest expressions of that instinctive empathy that drives us to seek similar minds to share our thoughts and solidarity with. I honestly can’t think of anything more healing at such an unsettling time as this. The iconic Quartetto Italiano were even chosen by NASA to represent humanity’s cultural achievements with their interpretation of Beethoven’s Op 130, launched into space on Voyager 2 in 1977. We will never stop wanting to share music with anyone who will listen and I for one can’t wait to be able to experience that magical gesture, breath and dimension that doesn't need words and can only be found when playing together.
Ergodos Records has just released, digitally, 'Joy', an album of music for voice and violin written and performed by Andrew Hamilton. It is his debut album as a soloist performing his own material. His previous album, 'music for people', for NMC, was warmly welcomed in our July 2018 issue.
Bach Mass in B minor Soloists; Tölzer Knabenchor; Tavener Consort and Players / Andrew Parrott (Virgin Classics/Erato)
I discovered the Bach Mass in B minor as a 15 year old from the 1967 LP recording by Otto Klemperer which my violin teacher Maeve Broderick loaned me. I fell completely in love with the work and during this lockdown I have returned to Bach as he offers an unflinching insight into human suffering but also the promise of deliverance and transcendence of that suffering whether you are a believer or not. The recording of this work I return to is that of the Tavener Consort conducted by Andrew Parrott, I love especially the directness of the boys from the Tölzer Knabenchor. The whole performance feels raw, honest and goes straight to the heart.
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Miloš Karadaglić's latest album for Decca is 'Sound of Silence'. He was Gramophone's Young Artist of the Year in 2011.
'Mysterium' Angela Gheorghiu; LPO / Ion Marin (Decca)
The silver lining in these strange times is all the free hours that suddenly entered our artistic lives. With concert schedules wiped for the time being, we suddenly have a unique opportunity to explore and rediscover old repertoire and recordings, as well as the new. Days may be filled with a lot of worries and angst, but music heals the soul and gives comfort like nothing else.
It was only a week or so ago that, while enjoying a quiet dinner at home in London, a chance online video encounter reminded me of the magic of Angela Gheorghiu’s 2001 album 'Mysterium'. Sacred arias are not something that often excite me, but this surely has to be an exception. It’s perhaps the combination of the Orthodox Christian (which is my own heritage too) and Western repertoire that blends so beautifully here. Angela’s voice will forever remain my favourite of all time. Hearing it at the peak of its colour and power, in this repertoire, is indeed something magical. It gave me the comfort and warmth in the moment I needed it. The first track, Tatal Nostru ('Our Father') is particularly poignant.
Gramophone's Young Artist of the Year in 2010, Sol Gabetta records for Sony Classical where her catalogue includes a much-praised album combining the cello concertos by Elgar and Martinů (No 1).
Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante Mstislav Rostropovich; USSR State Symphony Orchestra / Gennady Rozhdestvesnky (Warner Classics)
I am using this unusual time to listen to a lot of new and old recordings, and artists as well, and to rediscover a work that I played the last time when I was 19 years old in St Petersburg, Sergei Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante. Prokofiev dedicated the work to Rostropovich and for a long time it was considered quite unplayable. It is a great challenge for a cellist – technically, physically and also mentally. In the past years my concert diary was so busy that I never found the time and the right state of mind that I needed to work on this symphonic piece, but now is the time and I enjoy every minute, discovering the music and also myself and my emotions while playing it.
Eugene Tzikindelean has been announced as the new Leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, taking up his role at the start of the 2020-21 season. Born into a musical family in Romania and educated in Bucharest and Paris, Tzikindelean is a top prize winner of international competitions such as Enescu, Nielsen, Long Thibaud, to name a few. After holding a position with the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, he has been Concertmaster of the Odense Symfoniorkester in Denmark since 2012.
Beethoven String Quartet in A minor, Op 132 Borodin Quartet (Erato)
Beethoven headed the third movement of his Op 132, 'Holy song of thankfulness to the Deity by a convalescent'. Quite an appropriate message by 'the old Ludwig Van' in these mad times. This recording stands out for me as not only a landmark example of the Borodin Quartet at its best, but simply of string quartet playing in general. Having played a number of full Beethoven cycles I can recall this movement every single time I performed it. There is something so human, so vulnerable about it; the loneliness and void of the last man on earth...The Borodin’s palette is of course extraordinary as they transfigure some passages as if Beethoven would predict the Shostakovich cycle.
Board member and former Principal Clarinet of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Andrew Marriner has recorded extensively both as soloist and orchestral musician.
Mozart Piano Sonata, K448 Schubert Fantasie, D940 Murray Perahia; Radu Lupu (Sony Classical)
Being cajoled by my son into finally finding the optimum positioning for the Quad speakers, we listen to this recording, which is always to hand. This sublime partnership of two of the greatest pianists, perfectly captured from live performance, never fails to move me. Such extraordinary synchronicity of touch, of musical thought and emotional response is hard to believe. Yes, the Schubert is one of the most captivating works, but also their rendition of the second movement of the Mozart Sonata, culminating in the little coda at 7'27", is further perfection, a moment of exquisite beauty that renders both these listeners overwhelmed.
Founder and Director of The Tallis Scholars
The Tallis Scholars' latest release, on its own Gimell label, pairs Josquin's late Missa Mater Patris with the disputed Missa Da pacem (could it be by Noel Bauldeweyn?). The recording was reviewed last November and selected as an Editor's Choice that month.
'Ten Summoner’s Tales' – Sting (A&M)
I often wonder what happens to ageing rock stars. They can make so much more money than even the most successful classical music practitioners that one imagines they can retire when they like. One that I have always admired for the poignancy of his songs is Sting. I last saw him in 1998 in the National Gallery, when he agreed to join us by reading a poem of Cavafy to music by John Tavener, and then by singing his 'Fields of Gold' as the encore. We provided an a cappella backing. It remains one of the most beautiful musical experiences I’ve taken part in. A real privilege.
Johannes Moser's most recent album is of the Tchaikovsky A minor Piano Trio with Vadim Gluzman and Yevgeny Sudbin for BIS, a recording described in January's Gramophone 'as competitive as any of its dozen rivals'.
'Cité de la Musique' – Dino Saluzzi Trio (ECM)
Bandoneon legend Dino Saluzzi teams up with his fantastic Trio, engulfed in lavish and spacious ECM reverb, with music that makes me always dream of distant places and long lost moments. One of my Desert Island albums (aka corona quarantine playlist), full of melancholy, pure beauty and really just what you need to curl up on the sofa to accompany that 1200 page novel you decided to dive into. Highly addictive!
(Florian Schötz, Pinchas Adt vns Christoph Vandory va Raphael Paratore vc)
The Goldmund Quartett released its new album 'Travel Diaries' on April 24 on EDEL/Berlin Classics, a highly personal journey through their memories and encounters of 10 years in the shape of five contemporary pieces (including Fazil Say, Wolfgang Rihm and Bryce Dessner).
Schubert String Quartet No 14 in D minor, 'Death and the Maiden' Alban Berg Quartet (Warner Classics)
We try to focus on the positive sides of staying at home. For instance, finally having the luxury of plenty of time for practising and studying without the constant burden of having to travel around. At the moment we are learning one of the greatest masterpieces of quartet repertoire: Schubert’s Death and the Maiden”. We will be performing this work next season. Listening to recordings can be a source of inspiration while preparing a new piece. One of our favourite recordings is the Alban Berg Quartet's, from 1986. It’s full of energy and deepest expression and has become a reference recording for this work. One aspect that we are discussing at the moment is what tempo to choose - especially in the first movement. We know from our former teacher, the ABQ's Leader, Günter Pichler, that they deliberately chose to play slightly different tempi within the movement to emphasise the characters of each section. Listening to their tempi on this recording is really stunning and sets an example of how to handle timing!
The Chinese-born, London-based pianist, Ji Liu, has launched his ‘Live for Love’ live-stream sessions on Instagram as his artistic and creative response to the circumstances caused by the current Covid-19 pandemic and in support of NHS charities. His next concerts will take place on May 23.
Schubert Lieder & piano works Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; Edwin Fischer (Warner Classics)
At this difficult and uncertain time globally, it's hard not feeling nostalgic sometimes. This album by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Edwin Fischer – two great artists whom I admire very much – is a treasure, full of sensitivity, humanity, expression and warmth. I learned so much from the fluidity and the silky textures played by Fischer, as well the way in which the piano part complements and supports the vocal part seamlessly and vividly. The distinct personalities and artistries of these two musical figures shine through every corner of the album, together with a well-balanced programme. It always helps to melt and relax the distress of the reality that we face these days.
Cellist and composer
A regular guest performer at the Malboro Festival and a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Artist, the Sicilian cellist and composer has recorded his first album for Rubicon.
Bach Goldberg Variations Glenn Gould Sony Classical (1981 recording)
It is a time to be mindful, to pay attention, to discover things about ourselves and our societal systems, and that's the masterful lesson which Gould offers with this album. This recording is much slower and deeper than his earlier one from 1955, and in it Gould unravels Bach's music thanks to a good attitude to working at home in isolation. I would love that we all could learn something from Gould’s integrity and choices. I wish that could be a cue for us all to have a better life, giving back to the arts and our world humility, compassion and dignity.
(Lea Hausmann vn Sam Shepherd vc Mengjie Han pf)
Within weeks of forming as an ensemble, the Amatis Trio won the audience prize in Amsterdam’s Grachtenfestival-Concours, which quickly led to their debut in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Hall. Between 2016 and '18 they were included in the BBC New Generation Artists scheme.
Beethoven String Quartet No 16 in F, Op 135 Schubert String Quartet No 14 in D minor, D810, 'Death and the Maiden' Hagen Quartet DG
For us the Hagen Quartet is the epitome of chamber-music performance. Their interpretation of Classical and Romantic works is rich in expression, bold in character and delicate in balance, imparting to the listener a truly mercurial experience that feels incredibly organic and satisfying. Perhaps the most impressive feature of their playing is the vast wisdom they exhibit, never ceasing to treat the music with reverence. Even after having heard their rendition of Schubert’s masterful Death and the Maiden dozens of times we can’t help but be in awe again and again at the visceral emotions their playing evokes.
Recipient of a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship in 2010, Gabriele studied with Andrea Lucchesini at the Accademia di Musica in Pinerolo and with Aldo Ciccolini in Paris, followed by studies with Nicholas Angelich at the Conservatoire National Superior de Musique as well as with Marie Françoise Bucquet. Since autumn 2015 he has taught at the Accademia di Musica in Pinerolo. He has recorded a solo album for Rubicon as well as a duo programme with violinist Stephen Waarts.
Pergolesi Stabat mater. Salve Regina Barbara Bonney; Andreas Scholl; Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset Decca
Pergolesi was one of my first love affairs with Baroque music. I keep on coming back to it. It embeds different characters of Italian Baroque style and gives already a glimpse of what will be coming next: truly a turning point. I especially love Rousset's version, having heard him live too. I wonder why I turn to different Baroque music at this time, Pergolesi, or Bach's Passions or Monteverdi's operas? Perhaps because in Baroque music emotions are imitated and represented rather than expressed and manifested. It seems to me to be suitable for this period of suspended time, during which we experience the world exclusively from our windows.
Vasily Petrenko has just concluded an acclaimed Richard Strauss cycle with the Oslo PO on LAWO Classics, and his latest Elgar album with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is just out from Onyx. The RLPO is currently streaming performances of past concerts conducted by Petrenko on its Facebook page.
Prokofiev The Fiery Angel Mariinsky Opera / Valery Gergiev (Philips/Decca)
At the moment I’m listening to Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel, on which music the composer’s Third Symphony is based. I have wanted to learn both better for quite some time, with the aim of conducting them (maybe recording them, as well) in the future. It is incredible music! It’s Prokofiev in transition from his early rebellious years to wisdom and clarity, finding more and more the core essence of his own genius. This music was mainly written in New York in 1918-19, during a serious pandemic, and it’s very special to read Prokofiev's diaries aside of listening to the music, comparing the situation over 100 years ago with the present.
Delphine Galou's Alpha album 'Agitata' won Gramophone's Recital Award in 2018, and her latest recordings for Naïve were a twinned pair focusing on Vivaldi's sacred and secular music, all with Accademia Bizantina and her husband, Ottavio Dantone
JS Bach Schübler Chorale for Organ Helmut Walcha (Archiv Produktion)
Music is always with us and organ in particular. First of all because we are lucky to have an organ at home and my husband plays all the time (even when he’s needed to help me in the garden!). We also make music together and often choose the organ instead of the harpsichord. I love to listen to Bach it gives me a feeling of purity and peace, and especially these chorales for organ played by Helmut Walcha (who was blind and learned everything by heart). I like to imagine how it must have been for him to have such a different perception of the music, highly spiritual. We need it so much...
Ian Venables's new album,‘Love Lies Beyond the Tomb’, featuring Allan Clayton, Mary Bevan and the Carducci Quartet, comes out on April 24 on Signum Classics
Ferguson. Finzi. Austin. Rawsthorne Works for piano and orchestra Mark Bebbington; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Howard Williams Somm
This wonderful recording was released back in 2008 and it reminded me that there is some fine British music for piano and orchestra. I have always loved Howard Ferguson’s Piano Concerto with its at times elegiac, second movement set of variations: their constantly shifting moods in many ways reflecting my own feelings of being unsettled and unsure.
I then remembered that Ferguson was the administrative driving force behind the Myra Hess National Gallery Concerts during the Second World War. These took place at a time when this, and many other countries were experiencing both national adversity and collective fear. Music then provided succour from the ravages of war, and although our war may be a different one, it is in part through music, that we can continue to find some comfort and consolation during such an insecure and difficult time.
Harpsichordist and conductor, Music Director of Accademia Bizantina
Ottavio Dantone is undertaking a recording project of the complete keyboard works of Benedetto Marcello (for the Concerto label), and he and his Accademia Bizantina have recorded albums for Naïve's Vivaldi Edition with the violinist Alessandro Tampieri and the contralto Delphine Galou
John Cage Piano music Giancarlo Simonacci (Brilliant Classics, four volumes)
I know it may sound provocative to a Baroque-music performer, but lately I've been listening to John Cage's music; in particular to a recording of all his work for piano, from 1933 to the 1960s, because I find its evolution interesting. In general, detachment from conventional form and language has always attracted me, but in Cage's music it causes me an almost mystical sense of abstraction.
It seems incredible but sometimes I listen to it before falling asleep, because it gives me a sense of peace and tranquility.
Simon Trpčeski most recently partnered Eldbjørg Hemsing for a BIS recording of the Grieg violin sonatas, just out
Grieg Lyric Pieces Emil Gilels (DG)
I have always admired the indescribable inner peace of Grieg's music, interwoven with such a creativity and colourful yet so warm and honest musical description of the Norwegian nature's purity. The most intimate human feelings, inspired by different sources of the ‘Norwegianness’, expressed here in a captivating and respectful to Grieg performance by the piano poet, Emil Gilels. Moments where we can all re-think the humanity during these dark times for all of us.
Marc Albrecht's DVD of Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, recorded live for Naxos at the Deustche Oper Berlin, was reviewed in Gramophone's Awards issue 2019: 'Hugely recommended: an in-at-the-deepest-end introduction to Korngold’s art'
Beethoven Fidelio Soloists; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Wilhelm Furtwängler (Warner Classics, Naxos et al)
In this moment of standstill, there is suddenly time to revisit this fascinating live recording from 1953, which to me is one out of a handful of recordings that miraculously preserve their ageless beauty. When I listen again to Martha Mödl’s Leonore, I recall the deep impression her singing already made on me as a boy in the 1970s. Her incredible voice, the only instrument needed to express the inner essence of the music. The truthfulness and consequently the beauty of her singing seems unmatched ever since. ‘O Hoffnung, lass den letzten Strahl’ ('Come hope, let not the last bright star / In my anguish be obscured!') – listening to Martha and the great Furtwängler immediately makes me feel much better these days!
Ana de la Vega
Ana de la Vega has recorded works by Haydn and Stamitz with the oboist Ramón Ortego Quero for Pentatone, an album reviewed in March: 'They play all this undemanding music (for the listener, at least) with ideal poise and balance.'
Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 1-5. Choral Fantasy Daniel Barenboim; New Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto Klemperer (Warner Classics)
Until my twenties, life in Australia (boarding school and horse riding) left little opportunity for listening to classical music: no streaming services, and the shop in my town only had Guns N’ Roses CDs in it. But in my first week in Paris, I went to FNAC at the Opéra Bastille and bought a Discman (!!) and Beethoven’s piano concertos with Barenboim, conducted by Klemperer. I discovered the streets of Paris with the phenomenal world of Barenboim’s Beethoven playing in my ears. I don’t know which was more overwhelming. 15 years later I am excited to be listening again. And the same astonishment is there... For me Barenboim is the pianist of the last 100 years. It is a Beethoven full of wonder, joy, discovery and love. Immaculate and forever speaking. Often we focus too much on Beethoven’s tumultuous, dark and tormented nature. Here his sparkle is also celebrated. The orchestra emanates the same luminosity with not a note or phrase left un-loved. Here Klemperer and Barenboim remind us that being a perfectionist, task-master and a technician, need not ever be at odds with tear-welling and transporting emotion. They are partners. Like Chaplin and Disney: the beautiful dictators.
'Tedd Joselson - The Complete Album Collection' was released by RCA Red Seal last year and reviewed in Gramophone's September 2019 issue
Schubert Symphony No 9 in C, 'Great' Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Wilhelm Furtwänger (DG)
It's a favourite piece of mine, as are the orchestra and conductor. Why? In the right hands, this massive work explodes. Its underlying powers are scary. In the wrong hands, it's a dud. Furtwängler, in my opinion, not ever having known or worked with him, had the most intense and fiery musical imagination in combination with a highly disciplined and realistic willingness to take musically calculated and uncalculated risks, absolutely necessary attributes for a great performance.
Esther Yoo will begin the 2020/21 season with an Asian recital tour with her Z.E.N Trio, following the release of their second album on DG this summer
'Missing You' – Sumi Jo (DG)
While self-quarantining in Seoul, I perused through my father’s album collection and noticed Sumi Jo’s album ‘Missing You’ among the rows of CDs. Being back in Korea, and in a current state of missing many things during lockdown, the artist and the title of the album called out to me. All 16 tracks consist of beautiful folk-songs from around the world and Sumi Jo sings them so elegantly in a multitude of languages including French, Greek, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, English and of course, Korean. These ambiguous and isolated times makes us crave for the human voice conveying positivity, and this album uplifted my spirits not only through song, but also through the virtual trip around the world.
Appropriately, the album cover pictures Sumi Jo ready to jet-set off on a plane and it makes me look forward to the future, once we have all overcome this and can start traveling and sharing music with one another again! (Sorry I took your CD, Dad!)
Gramophone's Young Artist of the Year in 2016, Joseph Moog's latest recording on Onyx Classics, ‘Between Heaven and Hell’, focuses on Liszt and charts the striking breadth of the Hungarian composer's piano music
'Gotcha Now Doc' – Cory Henry (Cory Henry)
There is no question that, when I first read about this mysterious virus from Wuhan some time back in January, the situation seemed unreal. It reached all of us so frighteningly quickly and has hit the arts world extremely hard. During this current period of self-isolation, I have turned to listening to some of my all-time favourite music albums. I have picked 'Gotcha Now Doc' by the outstanding multi-instrumentalist Cory Henry from New York City. It is a stunning mix of Gospel, Jazz and Funk, and Cory shines through as the sensational organist of his early years. The album was recorded live at Rockwood Music Hall.
Composer & pianist
The subject of a Gramophone Contemporary Composer feature in the May issue of Gramophone, Huw is about to release the first volume in a complete Beethoven sonatas for piano and violin series with Tamsin Waley-Cohen (Signum)
'Colouring Book' – The King's Singers (El Records)
The CD I keep taking off the shelf these days, is this one, recorded in the 1970s by the King’s Singers. I grew up with this music. I know it’s a kind of escapism, but it’s a very classy kind; arrangements by Richard Rodney Bennett, Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, Patrick Gowers, that taught me more about harmony than three years at Cambridge University. But one mustn’t knock Cambridge, because without it, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy a sound quite like this one.
Composer, producer and DJ
'Beethoven Reimagined', which includes Gabriel Prokofiev's 'Beethoven9 Symphonic Remix' has just been released by Naxos. His next album, featuring his Concerto for Turntables No 1 and Cello Concerto will be released by Signum Classics on May 22
‘In Schubert’s Company’ - Maxim Rysanov; Yakov Katsnelson; Riga Sinfonietta (Onyx)
It’s interesting how this Coronavirus Lockdown has inspired so much revisiting of old favourites, and in our house that been from the rare-groove and jazz of my teens, through to timeless Bach and Scarlatti on the piano. But I’ve also been discovering many new albums...
Just after the lockdown was imposed, I starting making sketches for a new Viola Concerto for Maxim Rysanov (to be premiered in April 2021), and so I’ve been listening to the (sadly small) repertoire of viola concertos and also all of Maxim’s back catalogue. His incredible lightness of touch and musicality is so inspiring, plus he’s put together some very creative albums. The one which has been really uplifting escapism from the worries of the pandemic is his recent recording: ‘In Schubert’s Company’. I love Schubert, and it’s a lot of fun to rediscover his music in these new Viola focused arrangements, and enjoyable to hear the contemporary Neo-classical responses. The album ends with the wonderful proto-jazz of Schubert’s D911 ‘Der Leiermann’ sounding surprisingly Baltic in Dobrinka Tabakova’s new orchestration. In lockdown, I am more grateful than ever for the music streaming services that open up such endless music libraries, even when we can’t get to a record shop.
Vadim Gluzman's recordings for BIS include the Brahms Violin Concerto (an Editor's Choice in July 2017) and, most recently, an album of music by Vasks with the Finnish RSO and Hannu Lintu
'Library of Congress Concert April 13, 1940' – Bela Bartók; Joseph Szigeti (Vanguard Classsics/Musical Concepts)
I would like to introduce to 'Lockdown Listening' the legendary 1940 recital of Joseph Szigeti and Bela Bartók at the Library of Congress. Performed just two days after Bartók’s arrival in the USA and less than half a year before his untimely death from cancer: Bartók’s own Violin Sonata No 2 and Rhapsody, Debussy’s Sonata and finally the great Kreutzer Sonata of Beethoven in what is, and will surely remain, one of the greatest recitals ever. Listening to their performance of Kreutzer is an incredible experience – extraordinary balance of architecture and style, sense of direction, blazing virtuosity and most importantly, a feeling that each and every note speaks with great purpose and emotion.
The first volume in Boris Giltburg's complete Beethoven piano concerto series for Naxos was released last year. During Lockdown, he is live streaming concerts from his home in Haarlem, The Netherlands, each Monday and Wednesday, as well as on a Friday when he is not performing his Beethoven piano sonata series
'Three Ravens/Wraggle Taggle' Gypsies Alfred Deller (Alto)
Alfred Deller’s voice goes directly to my heart. I love his unique timbre, so pure and humane, overflowing with emotion, but always artless, never overdone – so powerful! And these days, I cherish the freedom which this recording exudes: the utter musical freedom in Deller’s phrasing and vocal colouring, the inspired freedom of Desmond Dupré’s accompaniment – as if improvised for himself, yet magically meshing with Deller’s voice. I once heard that for inspiration, Deller used to walk in nature between recording sessions. No idea if this is true, but that’s where my mind takes me when I hear these songs: forest glades and open fields, unhurried strolls and freedom.
Steven Sloane's series of the orchestral music of Jospeh Marx with the Bochum Symphony Orchestra is available from Naxos
Monteverdi Vespers Soloists; Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv Produktion)
As a young musician in Los Angeles one of my biggest passions was choral music and oratorio repertoire in particular. I remember hearing the first time the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 performed by John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir. I was sitting in my car at around midnight outside my apartment. I was overwhelmed from the beauty of the music and the excellence of the performance. I believe I stayed in the car almost all night, listening to the recording over and over again. This sublime experience has never left me and every time I either perform this work personally or hear another recording or performance, the same feeling comes back to me. Last week during this difficult corona situation, I listened again to this original recording and was once again spiritually and musically moved.
Paavo Järvi’s most recent releases are, with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, a DVD of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (C Major) and, with the Estonian Festival Orchestra, a collection of music by Erkki-Sven Tüür (Alpha). He was Gramophone's Artist of the Year in 2015.
Brahms Symphony No 3 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Leonard Bernstein (DG)
Long ago, I was driving with my brother in Los Angeles, late to a dinner party. In the car, we were listening to Brahms Symphony No 3, not knowing who was conducting. It was one of the most unusual, exaggerated, self-indulgent and emotional interpretations I had ever heard, yet totally captivating and impossible to switch off.
We arrived at the restaurant very late and sat for another 20 minutes in the car, parked in front. We had to find out who it was, who had dared to take so many liberties and had re-imagined this Brahms symphony from what we used to know.
At the end the announcer said that it was Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic.
The reason why it was so important, was because it gave me courage as a young musician to dare to follow my intuition and not be ‘intimidated’ by legendary interpretations from the past. In that way this recording remains very important for me. Now with a little time on my hands, I want to listen to it again and see if time has changed my perception.
Recent releases conducted by Markus Stenz include Theo Verbey's Lied for Trombone with Jörgen van Rijen and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (BIS) and Bernard Rands's Piano Concerto with Jonathan Biss and the BBC Scottish SO (Lyrita). His Hyperion recording of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder won Gramophone's Choral Award in 2016.
Wagner Parsifal Soloists; Hallé Orchestra / Sir Mark Elder (Hallé)
Parsifal in general is both the most profound and the most uplifting experience. It always springs to my mind at Easter. There is a spirituality about this opera that truly transports me to other worlds. As this other worldliness is juxtaposed with very real desires, struggles and abysses Parsifal also in some ways connects with our extraordinary situation. In these days of standstill and turmoil it feels good to know that there are things out there in the world of music that are larger than life. And beyond our current scramble for normalcy. Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra with a brilliant cast have put together a mesmerising reading, and once you start listening to it it is bound to put you and your soul into a good place.
Anna Katharina Wildermuth
Violinist, Aris Quartet
The Aris Quartet records for Genuin. Its most recent release couples Shostakovich's Eighth Quartet with Schubert's Death and the Maiden
R Strauss Der Rosenkavalier Soloists; Bavarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Carlos Kleiber (Orfeo or Opera d'Oro)
Historical recordings have always fascinated me. And as I have been a great opera fan since my earliest childhood, I’ve chosen a recording of Der Rosenkavalier from 1973, the legendary Carlos Kleiber on the conductor's podium. It is a live recording and, because of that, it’s already special because there are incredibly few recordings with him. Everyone who saw him live tells of unique concert experiences and in his few recordings you can hear a part of his extraordinary spirit. Carlos Kleiber suffered all his life from the greatness of his father Erich. Also his studio recording of Der Rosenkavalier is a milestone in the recording history and so this was always a benchmark for the son. So Carlos’s recording is an exciting contemporary document for me in every respect!
Conductor & Founder of The Sixteen
Harry Christophers’s most recent recording for Coro is of James MacMillan’s Symphony No 5 'Le grand Inconnu' and The Sun Danced (with various soloists; The Sixteen; Genesis Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia)
Bruckner Symphony No 5 Berliner Philharmoniker / Daniel Barenboim (Teldec)
For someone who has spent most of his life immersed in the music of the Renaissance and the Baroque, with the odd excursion into the 21st century, it might come as a bit of a surprise to know that when I was at university I soaked up Mahler. Give me Mahler's Second, Fifth and Ninth any day of the week and I’m a happy man. Bruckner didn’t do the same for me but then a few years ago a friend told me to get Barenboim’s set with the Berlin Philharmonic which I duly did but until now I’ve never listened to them. Now I have time on my hands, it’s Easter week and I’m listening to the most overtly Catholic of the lot, No 5 and they are quite right when they talk about a ‘cathedral of sound’. This is a pouring out of raw human emotion. Amazing – I’m hooked.
Joseph Middleton has recently released albums with Louise Alder (Chandos), Mary Bevan (Signum) and Carolyn Sampson (BIS) and, next month, joins Samuel Hasselhorn for an album of Schumann Lieder for Harmonia Mundi
Bach Viola da Gamba Sonatas Daniel Müller-Schott; Angela Hewitt (Orfeo)
A new-found freedom to listen to so much music, a saving grace in this time of lockdown, has brought me back to a first love – Bach on stringed instruments. I've been a total slouch these past weeks with regards piano playing, save an hour or two each day when I've worked on Bach, Handel or Scarlatti, but I've really enjoyed having my violin out for the first time in years and am learning the D minor Partita. The recording I'd like to pick here though, is of the gamba sonatas as stylishly played by Müller-Schott and Hewitt. The Andante from the Sonata in G is extraordinary writing. I don't mind that the recording is on non-authentic instruments. The music-making is of the most intelligent and heart-felt kind and the recorded balance is superb. Bach is balm for the soul at a time like this.
Eldbjørg Hemsing’s latest release is of the Grieg violin sonatas with Simon Trpčeski (BIS)
Szymanowski Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (with Britten Violin Concerto*) Frank Peter Zimmermann; Warsaw PO / Antoni Wit; *Swedish RSO / Manfred Honeck (Sony Classical)
In this new reality of sudden free time, I find myself going back to an old favourite recording I used to listen to a lot: Szymanowski and Britten concertos with Frank Peter Zimmermann. I was introduced to the world of Szymanowski from quite a young age and immediately found it so curious; on one hand it reminds me of fairy tales and myths with explosion of sound and impressions, all in completely freedom and with quite a lot of teasing – you never quite know where you are taken. And at the same time it has the most quiet, tranquil moments of the purest beauty. I’m very happy to have both concertos in my repertoire and I love this recording by Frank Peter Zimmermann. He is a big inspiration for me and the fine, silvery tone he has in Szymanowski is so fitting. This is a recording I always find something new in and I love that!
Composer and recording producer
Michael Fine’s most recent release, as a composer, is ‘Five for Five’ (Evidence Classics), a collection of his chamber music with winds - five quintets with five wind soloists.
Wagner Die Walküre Soloists; Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, New York / Herbert von Karajan (Met Opera on Demand)
As a teenager, I managed to find the time to listen to complete operas in the evening and my drug of choice back in the 1960s was Wagner, in particular, the Ring cycle. When I learned that Herbert von Karajan was coming to New York with his Salzburg cycle, I was one of devotees in line for over 24 hours in the bitter cold to get a standing room ticket for his Walküre. A year later on March 1, 1969, the Maestro led a Saturday matinee broadcast of the opera with a stunning cast – Birgit Nilsson, Régine Crespin, Josephine Veasey, Jon Vickers, Theo Adam, Martti Talvela and I was there, AWOL from university, as well. My only disappointment was that Christa Ludwig would not be singing Fricka. The standees used to call the opera 'Fricka' when Ludwig was in the cast. I can still remember the ovation when Karajan entered the Met pit and of course, the sound of those voices in the huge theatre.
Listen at Met Opera on Demand
Three of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s orchestral work, including his Ninth Symphony, ‘Mythos’, have just been released by Alpha, featuring the Estonian Festival Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi
Sumera Symphonies No1-3 Malmö Symphony Orchestra / Paavo Järvi (BIS)
Lepo passed away 20 years ago. AD 2020 is his 70th anniversary year and this recording reminds us the timeless quality of his seemingly quasi-minimal music. This album is recorded by Malmö Symphony, the first orchestra for young Paavo to be at the helm of.
Kenneth Fuchs’s latest release on Naxos, with the LSO and JoAnn Faletta, is of his Piano Concerto, ’Spiritualist’, Poems of Life, Glacier and Rush
Walton Symphony No 2 Cleveland Orchestra / George Szell (Sony Classical)
The music of William Walton has been an enduring inspiration throughout my life as a composer. I admire enormously the elegant craft and masterful coloristic orchestration of each of his works. Symphony No 2, with its pristine concision and forceful musical drama, continues to capture my musical imagination. Of George Szell’s magnificent 1961 premiere recording with the Cleveland Orchestra, Walton had one word to say, ‘Stupendous!’
Daniel Llewellyn Roberts
Violinist, Castalian Quartet
The Castalian Quartet, winners of the RPS's 2019 Young Artist Award, have recorded Mendelssohn's Octet with the Merel Quartet (Solo Musica)
Brahms String Quartet No 2; Piano Quintet Elizo Virzaladze; Borodin Quartet (Teldec)
I usually find it a nigh on impossible to detach myself enough from the interpretative process to listen to recordings of pieces that are on the season’s repertoire list. So, perhaps I should see it as a lockdown luxury to revisit a CD I idolised a decade or so ago. I’d just turned 21 and was celebrating my birthday in Paris with oysters and food poisoning at the apartment of a former pupil of Rostropovich and Berlinksy, Masha Yanouchewskaya. She played me the Borodin Quartet’s Brahms Op 51 No 2 and I was bewitched. We were supposed to be performing it this June as part of our Brahms series at the Wigmore Hall. Instead, I’ll listen to Kopelman and Co and raise a glass to Masha – sadly no longer with us, but an enduring inspiration.
Composer, producer, songwriter, DJ and instrumentalist
'Mustt Mustt' Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Michael Brooke (Real World)
Nitin Sawhney's new album for Sony Music Masterworks, 'Immigrants', is released this autumn with a number of singles appearing over the coming months, most recently 'Down the Road' with Sawhney on electric and bass guitars alongside the tabla player Aref Durvesh together with vocals from YVA, Dhruv Sangari and Nicki Wells.
My favourite album currently is the timeless 'Mustt Mustt' by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brooke. This seminal album from 1990 brought together the incredible power of traditional Qawwali music from its most celebrated, legendary master and Michael Brooke’s innovative production for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. The album highlight is the classic remix by Massive Attack of the title track. The dubby, ambient flavours of this album preceded much of the ‘trip hop’ and experimental global club music that followed. This is a wonderful palette of sounds from a unique, highly influential, inspirational collaboration that, for me, remains unparalleled.
Kate Lindsey’s latest Alpha Classics release ‘Arianna’ was reviewed in February. She has recently appeared to great acclaim in Handel’s Agrippina at the Met and before that created the title-role in Olga Neuwirth’s Orlando at the Vienna State Opera.
'Song Recital' Janet Baker; Gerald Moore (Warner Classics)
Whenever I’m starting to work on a new piece of repertoire, I always turn to Janet Baker’s voice to guide me into the world of study. Time after time, I’m so humbled by the thoughtfulness and reverence she consistently puts into each project. I’ve always wished I could have been around to experience one of her live recitals, which seemed to be the one thing that would coax her to New York City’s Carnegie Hall each season. Therefore, during this time of isolation, I’d finally like to have a Janet Baker recital at home. Hers is the voice that comforts – that brings me back to earth. The particular recording of hers I’ve chosen is the Warner Classics recording: 'Janet Baker – Song Recital' with Gerald Moore on piano. It will be a welcome salve during these uncertain days.
Gramophone's Young Artist of 2016, Benjamin Appl's next Sony Classical release, out on April 17, is 'The Secret Fauré' Vol 3, featuring the Requiem, conducted by Ivor Bolton.
Haydn Die Schöpfung Barbara Bonney; Hans Peter Blochwitz; Jan-Hendrik Rootering; Edith Wiens; Olaf Bär; Südfunk-Chor; Stuttgart RSO / Neville Marriner
Until they were postponed because of the current crisis, I had been preparing for performances of Haydn’s Creation in Seattle. I listened a lot to this recording, and it was a somewhat surreal experience: listening to this piece which celebrates nature and humanity’s relationship with it, while people were being forced to self-isolate at home. The human bond with nature and the environment is so fragile and easily lost. The positive message of this piece is most uplifting, and gives us a glimpse into a hopefully brighter future.
Gramophone's 2018 Young Artist of the Year, Lise Davidsen's most recent release of Richard Strauss and Wagner was an Editor's Choice in June 2019. Her critically acclaimed performance as Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio, from the Royal Opera House earlier his year, will be screened on BBC4 next month.
JS Bach St John Passion Soloists; The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists / John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv Produktion)
The last weeks have been emotional on many levels, and a lot of music passed through my mind when I was asked to suggest one album. From lighter pop-music to the Sieben Frühe Lieder by Alban Berg. But as so many times before, I go back to Bach to find a distraction from what I’m studying and performing, but also as a reminder of what I still think of as 'my music', even though I don’t perform it any more. What can beat a great St John Passion when we are facing a stay-at-home Easter? There are many wonderful recordings, but this was one of the first that I was introduced to and it has stayed with me ever since. I love the conductor’s choices in both tempi and phrasing. The simplicity from both choir, soloists and orchestra is maybe why I enjoy it so much and also return back to it all the time. And when we can’t go and listen to it live during Easter I would suggest this one as a small comfort.
Bryan Register's recent stage performances have included Tristan for Teatro Comunale di Bologna and Florestan (Fidelio) for The National Theatre Opera, Prague, and his role debut as the Prince in Dvořák's Rusalka for Opéra national du Rhin. This autumn he's scheduled to sing Tristan in Tokyo in concert performances conducted by Jonathan Nott.
Bizet The Pearl Fisher’s Duet Jussi Björling; Robert Merrill; RCA Victor Orchestra / Renato Cellini (RCA)
The recording which I refer to as ‘Jussi and Friends’ has always been my go-to comfort food. I was first introduced to it in undergraduate music theory. I can still remember the exact day and the feelings of shock, excitement, disbelief and pure joy when our teacher played the first track which happens to be ‘Au fond du temple saint’. I immediately ran out after class to buy a copy and over the years have played and replayed it: it still brings me back to the same place of joy and wonderment that I felt the first time I heard it. I actually listened to it last week after having a dream that I was coaching a group of Swedish songs with Jussi (we are on a first name basis in my dreams!), and he suggested that I listen to the recording again. He thought that it would ease my anxiety. He was right. Thanks, Jussi!
Sarah Traubel is the grand-niece of Helen Traubel, the famous Metropolitan Opera (and Hollywood) star soprano of the 1940s and 1950s. She holds a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Her latest release is 'Arias for Josepha - Mozart's First Queen of the Night', now available digitally from Sony Classical.
Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Soloists; Bavarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Wolfgang Sawallisch (Warner Classics)
Wagner has always been with me, and not just because of my great-aunt and leading Wagnerian, Helen Traubel. My opera for these times of isolation would be his Meistersinger, his funniest and most humane work. If I had only one role to sing for the rest of my days, it would be Eva. The closing quintet offers some of the most beautiful yet devilishly difficult music ever written for the human voice. In this recording by Wolfgang Sawallisch, the conductor leads a legendary cast which includes Bernd Weikl as a Sachs of warmth and wisdom and Siegfried Lorenz as a Beckmesser, who for once is not a contorted fool but a real singer. Most importantly, Cheryl Studer’s Eva with her amazing 'O Sachs! Mein Freund!' totally gets me every single time.
Charles Owen's recital of Brahms late piano works for Avie was reviewed in December 2018 and he joins the violinist Augustin Hadelich for the Janáček Sonata and works by Suk and Dvořák on a Warner Classics release, 'Bohemian Tales', due out on July 3.
Beethoven Violin Sonatas Yehudi Menuhin; Wilhelm Kempff (DG)
With the Beethoven 250th anniversary concerts currently on hold I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to recordings of his masterly chamber music. The fascinating musical conversations and dialogue seem more important than ever as we all shelter in our own private spaces. This recording of the 10 violin sonatas was made by Menuhin and Kempff during what must have been an intense week of sessions in June 1970. The intimate setting of London’s Conway Hall provided an ideal acoustic in which to capture the extraordinary collaboration of two utterly compelling, insightful artists. Their music making has wisdom, balance, joy and many rapturous moments, most particularly in the Op 96 sonata where the limpid flexibility of Kempff’s piano playing is truly miraculous. I also love the sense that these performances sound almost improvised at times and are not afraid to include the rough-hewn, earthy quality which was an undeniable part of Beethoven’s own character.
I feel so fortunate to have studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School during the mid to late 1980s where we pupils received inspirational coaching and guidance from the charismatic figure of Menuhin himself. One of my abiding images is of witnessing the master violinist demonstrate various yoga style headstands surrounded by incredulous students! At this stage of his life Menuhin’s violin playing may have lost some of its security but his glorious sense of deeply moving spiritual communication remained and still resonates in my musical memory.
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 Sergey Rachmaninov; Philadelphia Orchestra / Leopold Stokowski (RCA)
Hee-Young Lim is the first Korean musician ever appointed as Professor to the Beijing Central Conservatory and was previously appointed as the Principal Solo Cellist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the first female Asian cellist to ever lead a section in a major European orchestra. Her second Sony Classical album, cello sonatas by Rachmaninov and Prokofiev, is released in June.
I would like to recommend Rachmaninov himself playing his own Second Piano Concerto. It’s truly awe-inspiring and I never get tired of listening to how he performs his own work. His phenomenal playing and authentic interpretation have been a great inspiration for me. I’ve always listened to his playing of this Second Concerto when I am frustrated and it helps me get through challenging times. Knowing that he also went through depression – and this concerto was written after that difficult period in his life – makes me think that perhaps without the hardship, this concerto would not have been composed in this way or become such a masterpiece.
Evan Johnson Forms of Complaint Peter Neville; Graeme Jennings; Mabel Kwan; Mieko Kanno; Elision; Exaudi / James Weeks (Kairos)
A few weeks ago – in between my Bach performances with Giuliano Carmignola and the South Netherlands Philharmonic – I started listening to composer Evan Johnson’s new CD, which has been on repeat since then. Evan is a master at creating crystal clear magical sound worlds with an internal logic that is totally mesmerising. Worth mentioning that the works are incredibly well performed and recorded. Now with the lockdown I am enjoying this sonic travelling even more. Highly recommended for the adventurous listener!
Colin Currie's two latest releases were Gramophone Editor's Choices – 'The Scene of the Crime' with Håkan Hardenberger (January 2019) and 'Live at Fondation Louis Vuitton', music by Steve Reich (June 2019), both on his own label.
Tippett Symphonies – Nos 1 & 2; Nos 3, 4 and B flat BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins (Hyperion - two discs)
I sometimes like to double down on projects, and as such I just finished Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a train and now have the Hitchcock film downloaded for later. In a similar vein, I’m looking forward to listening to the new Tippett symphony cycle with the BBC Scottish Symphony and Martyn Brabbins and reading the very fine-looking Tippett biography by Oliver Soden, which Helen Grime gave to me on the occasion of the premiere of her Percussion Concerto. I actually only really know the Second Symphony in any detail, and relish a bit of time, the kind of time needed, to have a proper investigation of this music.
Download from Hyperion
Artistic Director, The Mozartists / Classical Opera
‘Sturm und Drang’ Vol 1, music by Gluck, Traetta, Jommelli, Beck and Haydn, will be released by Signum Classics on May 15
Schubert Impromptus, D899 & D935
Murray Perahia (Sony Classical)
Maybe it’s because of the very notion of isolation that I have found myself gravitating towards solo piano music. I nearly went for Maurizio Pollini’s magisterial account of Schumann’s Fantasie – a recording I grew up with and have no expectation of hearing bettered – but in the end I’ve chosen Murray Perahia playing Schubert’s Impromptus. Schubert is the ideal companion in times of turmoil and uncertainty, evoking a startlingly anguished expression of human fear and despair while simultaneously conjuring a halcyon, transcendental vision of hope and consolation. Perahia is the consummate pianist, no self-conscious ‘interpreter’ but a natural poet who phrases so exquisitely and makes the instrument sing like no other.
Anna Lucia Richter
Anna Lucia Richter’s Pentatone album of Schubert Lieder, ‘Heimweh’, was chosen as a Gramophone Editor’s Choice in May 2019
Schumann Dichterliebe Fritz Wunderlich; Hubert Giesen (DG)
One of the most important and inspiring recordings for me is Fritz Wunderlich singing Dichterliebe by Schumann, accompanied by Hubert Giesen. It is the last recording that Wunderlich made before he died, and one of the most authentic and truthful interpretations of this masterpiece I know. I remember listening to it as a child over and over and crying all the time, because I could not believe that there could be so much beauty in the world. Especially in these times, when we cannot really enjoy the beginning of spring, this music eases my soul and mind.
James Ballieu’s most recent recording, of CPE Bach’s violin sonatas with Tamsin Waley-Cohen (Signum Classics) was chosen as a Gramophone Editor’s Choice in December 2019
Clifford Curzon Edition: The Complete Decca Recordings (Decca)
The recording I am looking forward to getting to know is the ‘Clifford Curzon Edition: The Complete Decca Recordings’. I've always loved his playing. I remember being absolutely transfixed when I heard his recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto, K488, I don't think I have ever heard a finer or more exquisite recording of that piece. I discovered this complete edition a few months ago and never thought I would have the time devote to listening to it ... And now I do – all 25 hours and 26 minutes of it! It consists of some of the key works in the repertory, including a lot of virtuoso repertoire I wouldn't naturally have associated with Curzon. I can't wait to dive in!
Brian Elias was the subject of a Gramophone Contemporary Composers feature in August 2017. His 1992 Olivier Award-winning score for Sir Kenneth MacMillan's The Judas Tree was heard again when the production was revived by the Royal Ballet in 2017
Berlioz Les nuits d’été Régine Crespin; Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Ernest Ansermet (Decca)
I have always loved and been inspired by Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, the first-ever orchestral song cycle. The 1963 Decca recording of Régine Crespin performing the work conducted by Ernest Ansermet with L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is unparalleled in its evocation of the heady dream worlds of the texts. The recording remains totally fresh on each hearing, and I listened to it repeatedly when I started work on my own Five Songs to Poems by Irina Ratushinskaya; the exquisite timing and pacing of the performance remain a great lesson for me.
Natalie Murray Beale
Conductor and Creative Director at Independent Opera
Vivaldi The Four Seasons Europa Galante / Fabio Biondi vn (Erato)
A friend gave me this CD of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons saying ‘You must listen to this’ – I shrugged, but boy was he right! I haven’t heard much that captures the sheer fun and brilliance of performing as this disc does. It sounds like old and modern music all at once, and I can picture these guys jamming in the studio as I listen to them. Hats off to everyone at Europa Galante, with a special shout out to the fabulous harpsichordist! Thanks for bringing some verve to my isolation.
Viola-player, Kuss Quartet (top right in photo)
The Kuss Quartet’s Beethoven string quartet cycle, recorded live last year at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, has just been released by Rubicon
Beethoven String Quartets – No 14 in C sharp minor, Op 131; No 15 in A minor, Op 132 Busch Quartet (Warner Classics)
Well, Sting, obviously! In addition, Beethoven’s String Quartets, Opp 131 and 132, played by the Busch Quartet. There was a wonderful Desert Island Discs with Mark Rylance, where he requested Op 131 with the Busch Quartet. I was out running, and it brought me skidding to a halt; the raw fierceness of it, the imperfections, the struggles – the excitement of it. Opus 132’s Heiliger Dankgesang, written after a prolonged illness, a chorale-like holy song of thanks, interspersed with two spring-like dances, seems also so appropriate right now. Tokyo, June 2019, seems now a world away, but we played and recorded the complete Beethoven cycle in Suntory Hall, and they’ve just been released on Rubicon. The buzz, the crackle, of a live recording, the excitement and emotion of that time and these live recordings, seem more important now than ever before.
Judith van Driel
Violinist, Dudok Quartet Amsterdam
The Dudok Quartet’s releases for Resonus Classics include Haydn's Op 20 quartets as well as – appropriately at this time – ‘Solitude’, music by Josquin, Gesualdo, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Weinberg. 'Métamophoses' received a Gramophone Editor's Choice accolade in November 2015
Messiaen Quatuor pour la fin du temps Vera Beths; George Pieterson; Anner Bylsma; Reinbert de Leeuw (Philips/Decca)
In these strange and confusing weeks, there is one recording I can recommend to anyone: Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, performed by Vera Beths, George Pieterson, Anner Bylsma and Reinbert de Leeuw. If I try to imagine the circumstances under which Messiaen composed this piece, the heavenly beauty of this music, particularly in the slow movements, touches me deeply every time I listen to it. And especially in this live recording by four of the greatest Dutch musicians of 20th century. With the Dudoks, I had the great honour to work with Reinbert de Leeuw a few times. He passed away in February, so we also came to this recording to commemorate him.
Violinist, Calidore Quartet
The Calidore Quartet’s last album ‘Resilience’ (Signum Classics), of music by Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Golijov and Janáček, was warmly welcomed by Gramophone: ‘Everything here has a clarity and an underlying rhythmic energy that I found enormously invigorating.’
Beethoven Violin Sonata No 9 in A, Op 97, ‘Kreutzer’ David Oistrakh; Lev Oborin Decca
I’ve dedicated some of my new-found free time to learning and studying Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. In the process I discovered many wonderful recordings, especially the one by David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin. What makes this recording particularly special is that the performers do not rely on overly fast tempos for the first and third movements (both marked Presto). In this way the music is not just a vehicle for virtuosity. Instead there is room for clear shaping and nuance in the phrasing. The colours achieved by Oistrakh and Oborin are breathtaking. Oistrakh presents his characteristic resonant sound and incisive articulation in full form. All one needs to hear is the opening of the first movement to be transported to another world!
Shai Wosner’s latest album for Onyx, of Schubert’s Piano Sonatas D845, D894, D958 & D960, was released on March 20. He has just announced that he will be joining the faculty of Bard College Conservatory of Music, New York State.
Verdi Requiem Herva Nelli; Fedora Barbieri; Giuseppe di Stefano; Cesare Siepi; Robert Shaw Chorale; NBC Symphony Orchestra / Arturo Toscanini (RCA)
It may not seem advisable to listen to a requiem during a pandemic but I promise you, dear readers, that Giuseppe di Stefano's radiant, golden voice singing of the absolution of Mary Magdalen in Carnegie Hall in 1951 will bring tears of joy to your eyes regardless – even if you weren't exactly brought up Roman Catholic (take it from me). This recording, specifically, must be one of the greatest of all time of any piece of music. There is electricity in the air throughout, a palpable sense of ecstasy and reverence in every note – for Saint Giuseppe (Verdi), certainly, but also to the very act of a live performance which here feels like a ritual. The playing is extremely tight of course (it is Toscanini after all) and the singing, too, is the perfect embodiment of the glory of Verdi's vocal writing but without sounding too operatic (it is a requiem after all). And in what is perhaps the single-most exciting (and chilling) moment I have heard on a recording, in the 'Tuba Mirum' section, at the pinnacle of that crescendo - as the trumpets of the apocalypse gather up a storm con tutta forza - one actually hears what must be Toscanini yelling at the orchestra: ‘more! more!!’
Artistic Director, Opera Rara
Carlo Rizzi’s next project for Opera Rara will be Donizetti’s Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo.
Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf Roberto Benigni; Orchestra Mozart / Claudio Abbado (YouTube)
Like for many children, Peter and the Wolf was my first encounter with classical music. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear it in a memorable performance conducted by Claudio Abbado and narrated by Roberto Benigni, two giants of Italian art and culture. I remember the feeling of happiness and joyful mischief emanating from Abbado, Benigni and each member of the orchestra that completely captivated everyone in the audience. Today, when many people are suffering in Italy and around the world, let's treasure Benigni’s words (at 4’28” in the video): ‘Music heals people! With a note, an instrument, a tune, people immediately feel better.’
Julian Lloyd Webber (Thousand Word Media), Anthony Marwood (Sussie Ahlburg), Andrew Hamilton (Peter Campbell), Francesca Dego (Davide Cerati), Miloš (Andy Earl/Mercury Classics), Sol Gabetta (Julia Wesely), Andrew Marriner (Benjamin Ealovega), Peter Phillips (Albert Roosenburg), Goldmund Quartet (Gregor Hohenberg), Alessio Pianelli (Francesco Ferla), Amatis Trio (Marco Borggreve), Gabriele Carcano (Alessandra Tinozzi), Vasily Petrenko (Svetlana Tarlova), Delphine Galou (Giulia Papetti), Ian Venables (Graham Wallhead), Simon Trpčeski (Benjamin Ealovega), Marc Albrecht (Marco Borggreve), Ana de la Vega (Neda Navaee), Esther Yoo (Marco Borggreve), Vadim Gluzman (Marco Borggreve), Boris Giltburg (Sasha Gusov), Steven Sloane (Marcus Witte), Paavo Järvi (Julia Bayer), Markus Stenz (Kaupo Kikkas), Harry Christophers (Firedog), Eldbjörg Hemsing (Nikolaj Lund), Kenneth Fuchs (Dario Acosta), Nitin Sawhney (Nina Manandhar), Kate Lindsey (Rosetta Greek), Benjamin Appl (Uwe Arens), Lise Davidsen (Ray Burmiston), Bryan Register (Dario Acosta), Sarah Traubel (Harald Hoffmann), Charles Owen (Sim Canetty-Clarke), Hee-Young Lim (Beijing Fang Studio), Erik Bosgraaf (Marco Borggreve), Colin Currie (Marco Borggreve), Anna Lucia Richter (Kaupo Kikkas), James Bailieu (Kaupo Kikkas), Brian Elias (Benjamin Ealovega), Natalie Murray Beale (Chris Gloag), William Coleman (Rüdiger Schestag), Carlo Rizzi (Tessa Traeger)