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April Editor’s Choices


ABRAHAMSEN Schnee Lapland Chamber Orchestra / John Storgårds Dacapo The sound world of Abrahamsen’s Schnee – ‘snow’ – is beguiling in its balance of mysterious fragility and strength, and masterfully performed and recorded here.

GERSHWIN. RACHMANINOV Rhapsodies Martin James Bartlett pf London Philharmonic Orchestra /

Joshua Weilerstein Warner Classics Martin James Bartlett makes a superb statement with playing of joy and virtuosity.

NIELSEN. SIBELIUS Violin Concertos Johan Dalene vn Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra / John Storgårds

BIS The violinist Johan Dalene further impresses with performances of two great concertos that sit among the very finest.

VIVALDI L’estro armonico JS BACH Concertos after L’estro armonico Concerto Italiano / Rinaldo Alessandrini

Naïve ‘I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a Vivaldi album as much as this,’ writes Charlotte Gardner: discover it for yourself!

SIBELIUS Complete Symphonies Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / Klaus Mäkelä Decca

This is an extraordinary debut from a remarkable young conductor; Klaus Mäkelä offering us an absolutely compelling journey through Sibelius’s symphonies.

MENDELSSOHN String Quintets Doric Quartet with Timothy Ridout va Chandos The Doric Quartet regularly impress, their collegiate sense of shared vision evident in drama and delicacy alike; this Chandos set of Mendelssohn quintets is as fine as we’d hope and expect.

BRUHNS ‘Cantatas & Organ Works, Vol 1’ Yale Institute of Sacred Music / Masaaki Suzuki BIS Masaaki Suzuki –

always a brilliant guide for us in the major musical figures – here introduces us to the lesser-known Nicolaus Bruhns, and it’s an invitation well worth accepting.

RACHMANINOV ‘Dissonance’ Asmik Grigorian sop Lukas Geniušas pf Alpha From the opening bars of each song, Asmik Grigorian brings passion, personality and drama to these Rachmaninov gems, matched at every step by Lukas Geniu≈as’s superb pianism.

HANDEL ‘Dualità’ Emőke Baráth sop Artaserse / Philippe Jaroussky Erato A fabulous soprano of our own age pays tribute to two stars of Handel’s day, and in so doing offers a wonderful programme of arias, spell-binding in its theatricality and virtuosity.

Stéphane Degout’s distinguished and priestly Christus.

In the St Matthew above all, the balance between momentum and stillness is a dark art rarely mastered, arguably presenting the greatest challenge to performers from the Koussevitskys and Mengelbergs of the late 1930s. If that’s one quality that marks out Masaaki Suzuki’s closely bound and beautifully framed reading of 2020, then Pichon’s is decidedly less ritualised, achieving many of the same aims from a very different perspective. Suzuki’s turba scenes fall largely within an Oratorian tradition of the consistently baying mob, whereas Pichon draws on a less binary solution: his crowd evolve their role in a more mercurial and volatile theatrical space. Likewise, the chorales don’t feel traditionally communal. Rather, they serve as pillars of observation in an almost marmoreal Greek fashion – apart from the final one, devastatingly presented unaccompanied.

It would, though, be misleading to overplay the notion of either secularity or objectivity here. Julian Prégardien’s Evangelist is completely mesmerising throughout and the main channel for setting the emotional parameters, with a tender religiosity at the heart of his performance. The rapport with Jesus is uncannily forthright, a ‘relationship’ strikingly contemporary in tone, especially the sense of Christ’s devastating loneliness in the garden as his disciples sleep and he is betrayed – all in a matter of seconds. Indeed, none of the singers recoils from incorporating musical gestures that avoid generic responses. Devieilhe’s ‘Ich will dir mein’ rejoices freely in its sensual roulades and she toys, smilingly, with prescient salvation. Soon after, Christian Immler presents ‘Gerne will ich’ as prayerful reflection, with subtle allusions to the Eucharist, the violins communing in the taking up of ‘Cross and Cup’. If Suzuki and Collegium Musicum Japan let the drama unfold in a gloriously enrapturing arc, Pichon and Pygmalion noticeably draw more on the qualities of the specific ‘tableaux’. But from

Barabbas’s release, one is unambiguously thrust towards Golgotha. With its glowing inner vitality and penetrating observations, this is a Passion that makes a very definite statement about what this work can communicate in our times. Some arias touch freshly in their human perceptiveness and others seriously challenge the ‘status quo’. If you’re able to leave aside your expectations, you will be rewarded by Lucile Richardot’s extraordinary ‘Erbarme dich’ cutting into the flesh as we beg for mercy, rather than merely assuming it. Likewise, ‘Komm, süsses Kreuz’, which often foreshadows the imminent murder within the ‘Act of the Cross’, provides balm so fragrant as to disorientate us temporarily from the normal run of events. Degout’s ‘Mache dich’ is a tantalising burst of adrenalin so palpable as to make us spring up and dance. Above all, sustained eloquence is the golden seam in a recording that markedly enriches the Passion’s famously illustrious discography through its quest for endless possibilities.


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