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Gramophone awards shortList 2015


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Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, Op 38a. Sea Pictures, Op 37 Sarah Connolly mez aStuart Skelton ten a David Soar bass BBC Symphony aChorus and Orchestra / Sir Andrew Davis Chandos F b Í CHSA5140 (125’ • DDD/DSD • T)

This is unquestionably the strongest Gerontius to have come my way since Sir Mark Elder’s

Gramophone Award-winning Hallé account (1/09). A superbly paced and lovingly shaped Prelude immediately proclaims Sir Andrew Davis’s formidable credentials in this repertoire; indeed, his patient and scrupulously observant conception of the whole work evinces a selfless authority, wisdom and instinctive ebb and flow, and he certainly secures a splendidly disciplined and consistently fervent response from his massed BBC Symphony forces. Just occasionally I find myself craving a touch greater thrust – I personally prefer ‘Sanctus fortis’ to move on a fraction more than it does here, and perhaps the last ounce of exhilaration and edge-of-seat danger is missing from the Presto marking at fig 43 onwards (disc 2, tr 7) in the Demons’ chorus – but these tiny quibbles pale into insignificance when set beside the ineluctable sweep and glowing dedication of Davis’s reading in its entirety.

As for the vocal team, Stuart Skelton’s stamina, dramatic range and ringing, Vickers-like tone are a tremendous asset. He may not yet be a match for Heddle Nash on Sir Malcolm Sargent’s pioneering 1945 set (still the touchstone all these decades later), but he brings exactly the right awe-struck hush to ‘Novissima hora est’ and really shines in the oratorio’s later stages. David Soar, too, sings with lofty projection and unstinting eloquence (his Angel of the Agony is an especially pleasing achievement). Arguably best of all, though, is Sarah Connolly, who brings a deeply affecting radiance, sense of wonder and intelligence to everything she does.

Disc 2 also contains a majestic performance of the Gerontius Prelude with its concert ending, while the main offering is preceded by a wholly sympathetic rendering of Sea Pictures, which (once again) finds Connolly in glorious voice. Davis and the BBC SO play their full part in a performance to rival such distinguished forebears as the Baker/Barbirolli (EMI), Greevy/Handley (CfP) and, yes, Connolly’s own conspicuously fresh and rewarding interpretation with Simon Wright and the Bournemouth SO (Naxos, 12/06).

Chandos’s thrillingly tangible SACD sound packs an almighty punch in terms of lustre, amplitude and range (Croydon’s Fairfield Hall was the helpful venue). Andrew Achenbach (November 2014)

Ešenvalds Amazing Grace. The Earthly Rosea. The Heavens’ Flock. Merton College Service. The New Moon. Northern Lights. O Emmanuel. Only in sleep. O salutaris hostia. Psalm 67. Rivers of Light. Stars. Trinity Te Deumb. Ubi caritas. Who can sail without the winda The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge / Stephen Layton with abSally Pryce hp bTrinity Brass Hyperion F CDA68083 (68’ • DDD • T/t)

Born in 1977, Latvian E ¯ riks E≈envalds is principally known as a composer of choral music. This album commemorates a twoyear stint as Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge, whose choir is here joined by Trinity Brass and harpist Sally Pryce. E≈envalds’s style is resolutely tonal, at times harking to the Anglican tradition (in the Trinity Te Deum and the Merton  College Service), and at others to a more ethereal form of post-minimalism, though without the processual apparatus that sometimes pertains in the latter style. It is, in other words, particularly well suited for mixed modern choirs, whether or not accompanied by brass, organ or (in E≈envalds’s more playful mood) Jew’s harp or tuned glasses.

Trinity College’s choir sounds as though its members relish the experience of recording his music. The sonority is secure from top to bottom (one is used to fine female trebles, but basses of this depth and solidity are rarer in such choirs), and the recording has clarity, detail and presence. For myself, I find E≈envalds at his most convincing when dwelling on natural phenomena of his homeland; too often, the sacred music flirts with bombast (Te Deum), predictable harmonic progressions (Magnificat) or clichéd spirituality (O salutaris hostia). Nevertheless, lovers of this corner of the choral repertoire will find here much to enjoy. Fabrice Fitch (March 2015)

Haydn Die Jahreszeiten, HobXXI/3 Christina Landshamer sop Maximilian Schmitt ten Florian Boesch bass Collegium Vocale Gent; Champs-Elysées Orchestra / Philippe Herreweghe PHI M b LPH013 (129’ • DDD • T/t)

Haydn’s glorious celebration of the rural world in which he, a wheelwright’s son,

grew up has done notably well on disc, with bracing period-instrument recordings from Gardiner (Archiv), Harnoncourt and Jacobs (both Harmonia Mundi), and Colin Davis’s lovingly observed, large-scale performance on the LSO Live label. On his own label, Philippe Herreweghe here directs a performance of comparable vividness, one to reinforce my long-held feeling that The  Seasons is every bit a match for The Creation in inventive power. While less bucolically uninhibited than Jacobs, especially, Herreweghe has a sharp ear for the score’s manifold colours, and never misses a trick with Haydn’s delectable tone-painting: say, in the flitting, gambolling woodwind in Spring’s ‘Freudenlied’, the charming wind sallies in the Autumn trio and chorus ‘So lohnet die Natur den Fleiss’, or the hushed, bleak introduction to Winter. Each of the woodwind principals emerges as a poet in their own right.

Christina Landshamer, pure and luminous of tone, sings this with an ideal mix of grace and wondering innocence. She is delightful, too, in the song where artful country girl outwits aristocratic lecher, and in her Autumn love duet with the dulcetvoiced young tenor Maximilian Schmitt. His sensitive singing of the cavatina depicting the summer heat (the hushed, muted strings marvellously evocative here) is one of the performance’s highlights. Florian Boesch makes a genially relaxed


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