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March Editor’s Choices

RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

DOHNÁNYI Concertos Sols; Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz / Modestas Pitrėnas Capriccio

A superbly performed selection of Dohnányi works from players entirely immersed in his musical voice, led by a conductor who inspires them all the way.

RAVEL Orchestral Works Sinfonia of London / John Wilson Chandos John Wilson brings his extraordinary ability to find the colour and soul in an orchestral score to bear on Ravel: together with his hand-picked soloists he offers us ravishing riches indeed.

MOERAN Chamber Works Fidelio Trio Resonus That Moeran’s music means so much to the players of the Fidelio Trio is clear from the very beginning of this delightful album, the lyrical lines delivered with evident affection, as well as musical excellence.

‘HORN & PIANO’ Teunis van der Zwart hn Alexander Melnikov fp Harmonia Mundi What a feast of sounds! Teunis van der Zwart’s natural horn and Alexander Melnikov’s fortepiano offer us a captivating and wholly glorious tribute to the 18th-century virtuoso Giovanni Punto.

BACEWICZ Piano Works Peter Jablonski pf Ondine Following up his superb Stanchinsky album last year, Peter Jablonski turns his attention to Bacewicz, offering equally fine advocacy to a composer whose music is coming to be much more widely recognised.

‘B-A-C-H’ ‘Anatomy of a Motif’ Simon Johnson org Chandos An extraordinary instrument – that of St Paul’s Cathedral, London – in repertoire perfectly chosen to show off its sonic splendour, all performed by an artist of formidable skill and musicality.

JS BACH St John Passion Sols; Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / John Eliot Gardiner DG

‘An immersive Passion which takes no prisoners’, says Jonathan Freeman‑Attwood of this performance, from one of the foremast Bach conductors of our age.

‘EDEN’ Joyce DiDonato mez Il Pomo d’Oro / Maxim Emelyanychev Erato An album to focus us on our relationship to nature, delivered with passion by Joyce DiDonato and her colleagues – a powerful example of how music can relate so well to our wider world.

‘RUSSIAN ROOTS’ Katharina Konradi sop Trio Gaspard Chandos Kyrgyzstan soprano Katharina Konradi and Trio Gaspard offer us a diverse range of Russian-related works spanning centuries – from Beethoven to Auerbach, via Weinberg – all brilliantly performed.

between desk partners when it gets to that harmony. But it can be stultifying, too. Théotime Langlois de Swarte reminds me why I fell in love with the Baroque violin in the first place and chose to lead a life on gut. His playing is joyful; it is wild and beautiful, inventive and efficient.

Langlois de Swarte first caught my attention duetting with lutenist Thomas Dunford on their album ‘The Mad Lover’ (12/20). The pair brought us an account of aching melancholy, but it was the violinplaying that grabbed my ears. I described his ‘seething virtuosity’ and ‘seductive fury’, concluding that ‘I might very well be in love’. Well, with this new recording I’m ready to scratch out that ‘might’. We’ve since also had his recital album ‘Proust, le concert retrouvé’ with pianist Tanguy de Williencourt (Recording of the Month, 5/21). Reviewer Tim Ashley was practically giddy, too: ‘a breathtaking, astonishing disc, and I cannot recommend it too highly.’ Langlois de Swarte, I’m not scared to write, is the real deal.

If you want to sample this album’s stunning array of delights, go straight to the Largo of Locatelli’s Concerto in E minor. The strings churn like a stomach filled only with coffee. Langlois de Swarte enters with laser intent, and so we might think we’ve heard this before: a soul-baring Baroque aria. But this diva is immediately malleable, retreating into wistfulness for the relative major and tenderly feeling out the spaces between the harmonies. When checking against Locatelli’s L’arte del violino, published in 1733 in Amsterdam, I was surprised at how little there was in the musical notation. Langlois de Swarte’s ornamentation – swerving, bluesy, capricious – does what so little recorded ornamentation manages to do: it sounds utterly improvised and untethered to ink. Sucked back into the oily torrent of the orchestral tutti, Langlois de Swarte’s closing statements sketch out a cadenza that comprises not so much notes as moonlit vapour.

Really, that choice of track was arbitrary. Keep going and in the concerto’s final movement, Allegro – Capriccio, you’ll encounter dizzyingly good playing. Les Ombres produce a luxuriously fine sound; and spearheaded by cellist Hanna Salzenstein – and a gorgeous amount of bassoon! – the drama never ceases. All the while, Langlois de Swarte is an acrobat of double-stops, joyful arpeggio flicks, G‑string kicks and a written-out cadenza of astonishing virtuoso ability. For one acquainted with this particular passage, the apparent ease with which Langlois de Swarte trills with his fourth finger simply defies belief.

The playing throughout is so excellent – from Langlois de Swarte and Les Ombres – that there is not much else to say. These are performances so special that I feel a changed man from listening to them. Buy it, tell all your friends: if you’re lucky, this recording will clamp on to you like a barnacle to a boat. It will infuse your life with joy. It might even make you believe again.

gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONEGRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2022 9

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