RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR
warned: attracted or repelled, Beethoven may well have the last word. He advocated Gehfühlstempo, the tempo of feeling.
Thus it is that kaleidoscopic distinctions are never underestimated. Neither is attention to detail. Repeats are observed, some decorated. Reactions to emotional currents governing the expansion and contraction of phrases are unflinchingly dramatic. The pliant line is always present, introspectively so in the slow movement of Op 102 No 2, Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto, for Anton Schindler ‘among the richest and most deeply sensitive inspirations of Beethoven’s muse’, its third section (from 6’21”) a whispered exchange between the musicians. In contrast is the Scherzo of Op 69 – with a difference, not new to disc but now far more resolutely proffered. The second of two similar notes tied across bar-lines isn’t silent, for, according to Czerny, Beethoven wanted it to resound like a vibrato. Levin varies his choice of pairs, Isserlis does not; and his repetitions are like echoes feverishly urging the music onwards.
Theirs is a shared experience of audacity and spirituality. Small changes in recorded levels plus a few sniffs are insignificant. They don’t detract from the riches born of scant regard for the superficiality of toeing conventional lines or selecting safe options, shared with listeners in even the less mighty works, the variations and Horn Sonata. This is Beethoven fleshed out by Levin and Isserlis – and anodyne he ain’t here.
February Editor’s Choices
CORELLI Concerti grossi, Op 6 Gli Incogniti / Amandine Beyer vn Zig-Zag Territoires M b ZZT327 ‘The violins and cello sparkle with conversational animation in quick music and slow movements are always enriched by immaculately balanced suspensions.’
LIGETI Orchestral Works Benjamin Schmid vn Finnish RSO / Hannu Lintu Ondine F ODE1213-2 ‘Lintu unexpectedly drops us as though from a terrifying height directly inside the scorched-earth roasting magma of Ligeti’s orchestra.’
PROKOFIEV. RACHMANINOV Piano Concertos Yuja Wang pf Simón Bolívar SO / Gustavo Dudamel DG F 479 1304GH ‘Making her virtuoso credentials clear throughout, Wang dismisses every difficulty with nonchalant ease.’
CPE BACH ‘Württemberg’ Sonatas Mahan Esfahani hpd Hyperion F CDA67995 ‘The “Baroque” rhetoric and “proto-Classical” Sturm und Drang offered by the instrument are caught perfectly by Esfahani’s supple touch and disarming sense of rhetorical pacing.’
BEETHOVEN ‘Piano Sonatas, Vol 2’ Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf Chandos M c CHAN10798 ‘His freshness and directness are delightful, the virtuosity often breathtaking, but his control is as much musical as technical.’
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis Sols; Monteverdi Choir; ORR / Sir John Eliot Gardiner SDG F SDG718 ‘Such is the visceral intensity of the musicmaking, a certain girding of the loins may be required before a second hearing.’
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Steven Isserlis listens to playbacks
8 GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2014
SCHUMANN. REIMANN Lieder Wolfgang Holzmair bar Imogen Cooper pf Wigmore Hall Live M WHLIVE0063 ‘A recital that brings together two artists who are in complete harmony with the repertoire and with one another.’
HANDEL Orlando Soloists; Pacific Baroque Orchestra / Alexander Weimann ATMA Classique M c ACD2 2678 ‘Alexander Weimann’s pacing of the action, choice of tempi and shaping of orchestral ritornellos are frequently marvellous.’
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‘CHE PURO CIEL’ Opera Arias Bejun Mehta counterten Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin / René Jacobs Harmonia Mundi F HMC90 2172 ‘The most enjoyable, intelligently planned countertenor recital to have come my way in years.’