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Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016

K oeln

L eclaire

P aul


p h o t o g r a p h y

The Gürzenich Orchestra and massed choruses performing Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder in Cologne respects. Attention to dynamic detail, especially the hushed quality of the Magnificat, brings out the ethereal, not to say numinous character of this highly original miniature, imbued as it is with a whiff of French Impressionism. The splendid recorded sound also allows us to hear the fuller role of the tenor soloist in the Nunc dimittis, close surely to what Howells intended as Simeon’s song of joy, yet shot through with a typically English introspective melancholy. The darker, modal hues of the Te Deum and Jubilate benefit from the lavish role of the Coventry Cathedral organ, especially at points of climax (with which both movements abound), while moments of more characteristic Anglican prayerfulness are shaped by Layton and the Trinity choir with true, intimate poetry. I think particularly of the Te Deum’s magnificent lyrical closing bars – ‘O Lord, save thy people’ – with its reference to plainsong and the contrapuntal intricacy of the ruminative coda ‘Vouchsafe, O Lord’, both of which contrast with the sublime cri de coeur of ‘Let me never be confounded’. It is good, too, to hear the more sinewy Communion Service for King’s, written almost a decade later, juxtaposed with the more fulsome postRomantic canticles, whose material is reworked with intriguing, cyclic ingenuity. The other two anthems on this recording, Behold, O God our defender, written for the 1953 Coronation, and the setting of

Robert Bridges’s ‘I love all beauteous things’ of 1977, are magical gems, sung here with tender care. And for all those devoted to art of Howells, the early psalm chants and the slightly more mature Rhapsody in D flat of 1917 (a little redolent of Parry perhaps?) provide a window into the world of the composer’s apprenticeship in the organ loft. Jeremy Dibble


Gurrelieder Barbara Haveman sop Claudia Mahnke mez Brandon Jovanovich, Gerhard Siegel tens Thomas Bauer bar Johannes Martin Kränzle spkr Netherlands Female Youth Choir; Cologne Cathedral Choir, Male Voices and Vocal Ensemble; Chorus of the Bach-Verein, Cologne; Kartäuserkantorei, Cologne; Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra / Markus Stenz Hyperion F b CDA68081/2 (108’ • DDD • T/t)

This new Gurrelieder, a follow-up in some ways to Hyperion’s wellreceived disc of Strauss tone-poems with the Gürzenich Orchestra (5/13), marks something of a departure for the label. Though recorded in Cologne with a local production team, however, it’s a release that still seems to capture the essence of the label’s ‘house style’, presenting a profoundly musical performance of clarity and intelligence. Technically, too, it’s a formidable achievement, not just in terms of engineering that is transparent and gloriously detailed – especially when heard in Hyperion’s Studio Master download – but in playing and singing that is able to encompass all of the vast work’s demands.

The Gürzenich Orchestra does not, admittedly, make as luxurious a sound as, say, Abbado’s Vienna Philharmonic or Rattle’s Berliners, whose players – particularly the richly seductive upper strings and luxurious horns – bring a greater Romantic swell and swoon to such key passages as Part 1’s Zwischenspiel. The sound Stenz gets from his orchestra is leaner, the strings more silk than velvet, but no less beautiful as a result, offering a more delicate picture of longing in the first part, occasionally displaying more languour than ardour; the musical structure and essential clarity are never lost in the clatter of Part 3. And Stenz retains a canny knack for opening the lyrical floodgates when required: the ebb and flow he brings to Tove and Waldemar’s final songs in Part 1 is exquisite.

He’s helped by very fine soloists. Barbara Haveman might not have the compelling charisma of Karita Matilla (for Rattle), but the voice is wonderfully rich and expansive, soaring up to a powerful top B. Brandon Jovanovich brings a rugged vocal handsomeness to Waldemar, and there is a

GRAMOPHONE AWards 2016 15

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