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Contents

GRAMOPHONE

LETTERS

Life is hard for a contralto EDITOR’S CHOICE

The best new recordings of the month

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SOUNDBITES FOR THE RECORD

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Instant EMI recordings; Christian Thielemann moves to Dresden MY TOP 10 17 Enough carols? Jeremy Nicholas picks a clutch of wordless Christmas works INTERVIEW 19 Sir Andrew Davis on recording an Elgar world premiere DIARY 21 Violinist Anthony Marwood keeps a record of his Australian tour PHILIP KENNICOTT 23 It’s great to have friends, but is it good to make music with them? Not always SIMON CALLOW 24 The BBC may have its critics, but music-lovers should give thanks THAT STRAIN AGAIN 26 Solti gave us the studio Ring, but who made the first opera recordings? THE GRAMOPHONE DEBATE 28 Composing contests are hotly contested. Time to ask if they do any good USA (North American edition only) A1 George Steel may have one of the toughest jobs in music, but he’s excited

FEATURES COVER STORY

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It’s been 50 years since the Solti Ring amazed the music world – an oral history A CAROL FOR KING’S 42 Behind the scenes as a new carol is created for Cambridge PICK OF THE CHRISTMAS DISCS 44 Seasonal albums for your Christmas list... and the ones it’s best to avoid CRITICS’ CHOICE 48 Our reviewers select their favourite recordings of the year THE COLLECTION 60 Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony

REVIEWS ORCHESTRAL

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Gustavo Dudamel’s LA debut; Mitsuko Uchida’s rapturous Mozart; Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s superb Ravel CHAMBER 88 Argerich and Freire deliver a classic album of piano duets INSTRUMENTAL 94 Leif Ove Andsnes’s remarkable Pictures at an Exhibition; the rarely-performed Vaughan Williams Piano Concerto VOCAL 102 Danielle de Niese sings Mozart; some tantalising Belgian fragments OPERA 112 Nixon in China from Marin Alsop; Joyce DiDonato’s Rossini arias DVD 116 The Wagner dynasty continues; Simon Rattle shows off his Berlin Philharmonic REPLAY 120 Rudolf Barshai at a bargain price; Jussi Björling’s Roméo BOOKS 124 Exploring Tchaikovsky’s life; a new history of English National Opera

SOUNDWAVES TUNE SURFING

Harnoncourt at 80, and a well-stocked download store from France

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MUSICAL JOURNEYS SEEN AND HEARD 131 Dudamel arrives in LA; British composers celebrated in Kraków LIVE MUSIC 135 Haydn Day in Porto; Christmas in London

HIGH-FIDELITY AUDIO AND VISUAL

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Sony’s new home cinema, on a budget

FINALE MY MUSIC

Shine director Scott Hicks SUBSCRIPTIONS

CLASSIFIEDS

NEW RELEASES

REVIEWS INDEX

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COVER DECCA CONTENTS DECCA, MALCOLM CROWTHERS/ANDREW HOUSTON/INTERMUSICA, MARC RIBES/VIRGIN CLASSICS, KEVIN SPENCER COVER CD SNOWDON/EMI CLASSICS, SIEFRIED LAUTERWASSER, ARTHUR UMBOH/DG, FELIX BROEDE

36 It changed recording history: the Solti Ring

42 King’s College choir, part of the Christmas tradition

48 Critics’ Choice recordings of the year, featuring Anderszewski’s Carnegie hall recital

136 Marantz’s great new offerings

154 Scott Hicks’s musical passions www.gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE DECEMBER 2009 3