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Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016

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Antonio Pappano and Joyce DiDonato at Wigmore Hall begins with ‘Les chemins de l’amour’ and ends with ‘Voyage’, summoning up both the light-hearted and the inwardly reflective facets of Poulenc’s musical personality. The disc takes its title from Reynaldo Hahn’s ‘L’heure exquise’, a lovely, quietly floated song of love to which his scintillating, rapturous ‘Les étoiles’ provides a gorgeous counterpart. Ranging through Fauré, Gounod, Chabrier (‘L’île heureuse’), Chausson, Berlioz (‘Le spectre de la rose’), Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Koechlin and Satie, this is a beautifully formed recital shining different lights on a central theme. It is distinguished by Coote’s thorough absorption in the stylistic character of each song, conveying their individual sentiments and sensitivities with her rich, liquid mezzo and relishing the colouristic potential of the poetic texts. Graham Johnson’s piano accompaniments are, as ever, wonderfully apt and complementary to the voice. Given the disc’s title, the mot juste might simply be  ‘exquisite’. Geoffrey Norris

‘Joyce & Tony’ ‘Live at Wigmore Hall’ Arlen Over the Rainbow I Berlin I love a piano Bolcom Amor E Curtis Non ti scordar di me C Dougherty Love in the dictionary S Foster Beautiful Dreamer Haydn Arianna a Naxos, HobXXVIb/2 Kern Leave it to Jane – The Siren’s Song. Oh, My Dear – Go little boat. Show Boat – Life upon the wicked stage; Can’t help lovin’ dat man. Very Warm for May – All the things you are Moross A Lazy Afternoon H Nelson Lovely Jimmie Rodgers My Funny Valentine Rossini Beltà crudele. La danza Santoliquido I canti della Sera Villa‑Lobos Magdalena Joyce DiDonato mez Sir Antonio Pappano pf Erato B b 2564 61078-9 (95’ • DDD • T/t)

Joyce DiDonato concerts are never demure events. The question is how the addition of Antonio Pappano – and the overall air of a musical holiday – makes a difference. Over these two discs, music that needs special pleading certainly gets it, especially with the little-known composers of the first half, though the second disc of more popular repertoire threatens to run amok. With its mixture of recitative and arioso, Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos scene can grow tedious. But DiDonato’s remarkable evolution as an actress now allows her to convey dramatic precision while respecting the music’s classical outlines. Where she might have pushed her voice harder in years past, she now seems to look more deeply into her vocal core for fine shades of emotion that catch the most minute change of mood. If there’s a single moment that illustrates DiDonato’s growth from an effective artist to one who achieves greatness, it’s the vocal decrescendo that suggests her lover’s ships fading into the


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