Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016
touching sensitivity and slight vulnerability in the timbre – a Heldentenor with a ringing top who retains some lyrical colour. Like Haveman, he has all the notes under his belt. Claudia Mahnke’s Waldtaube is richvoiced and moving, occasionally reminiscent of Brigitte Fassbaender on the Chailly set – high praise indeed. Gerhard Siegel is a fine Klaus-Narr, though not quite as multicoloured as Philip Langridge (Abbado and Rattle), and Thomas Bauer does his bit for nominative determinism as a lively Bauer. There are benefits, too, to having Johannes Martin Kränzle, a baritone in his prime, filling out the Speaker’s Sprechgesang strongly, without the mannerisms some bring to it – his ‘Ach, war das licht und hell!’ is rapturously done.
Negatives? The massed choruses feel to me as though they’re balanced a little far back, sounding a touch hazy – the concluding ‘Seht die Sonne’ isn’t quite as heart-stopping as it might be as a result. I’m not sure, either, whether Stenz finds as much darkness in Parts 2 and 3 as others. In sum: the set might not jump immediately to the top of a well-stocked pile, but it shines a new light on this fascinating piece and has a fierce conviction and integrity all its own. I can’t imagine anyone interested in the work will want to be without it. Hugo Shirley Selected comparisons: Berlin RSO, Chailly (3/91R) (DECC) 473 728-2DF2 VPO, Abbado (5/95R) (ELOQ) ELQ480 7055 BPO, Rattle (A/02) (EMI) 557303-2 or 457562-2
‘Poetry in Music’ Britten Hymn to Saint Cecilia East When David heard Gurney Since I believe in God the Father Almighty WH Harris Bring us, O Lord God. Faire is the heaven Howells Take him, earth, for cherishing MacMillan The Gallant Weaver Pearsall Lay a garland Ramsey When David heard Rubbra Eternitie. There is a spirit Tippett Dance, clarion air Tomkins When David heard Weelkes When David heard The Sixteen / Harry Christophers Coro F COR16134 (71’ • DDD • T/t)
MacMillan’s The Gallant Weaver. Four tracks and less than 20 minutes into this disc it is clear that this is something really special.
That specialness comes not just from the fact that The Sixteen elevate everything they perform through their opulent musicality and supreme clarity of tone, but from Harry Christophers’s intuitive grasp of the marriage of music and words in all 14 of these powerfully perceptive musical responses to beautifully crafted English texts. Many of these anthems will be familiar to those with a grounding in the great Anglican choral tradition, but none sounds familiar here. Rather, these performances reveal a depth of expression and artistic intensity in music we thought we knew but now realise we only partially comprehended. These performances are, in every sense of the word, revelatory.
Of the less familiar items, Ivor Gurney’s setting of Robert Bridge’s reimagining of the Creed, Since I believe in God, is a deeply intense work, written while the composer was incarcerated in a mental hospital in Dartford (a doubly grim location for such a sublime creation), while Rubbra’s free-flowing There is a spirit provides a lovely vehicle for the exquisite soprano of Julie Cooper. It is also good to be reminded that Robert Pearsall contributed far more to the repertory of English choirs than his famous version of In dulci jubilo, echoes of which are, however, never far from the surface in The Sixteen’s warmly expressive account of Lay a Garland. Marc Rochester
‘Amuse-bouche’ ‘French Choral Delicacies’ Daniel‑Lesur La cantique des cantiques Françaix Ode à la gastronomie Milhaud Deux Poèmes Poulenc Hôtel. Sept Chansons. Un soir de neige Ravel Piano Concerto in G – Adagio (arr R Williams) Satie Gnossiennes – No 4; No 5; No 6 I Fagiolini / Robert Hollingworth with Anna Markland pf Decca F 478 9394 (81’ • DDD • T/t)
The glowing textures of Harris’s classic anthem Faire is the heaven give way to an exuberant and rhythmically incisive account of Tippett’s Dance, clarion air, while the direct, heartfelt expression of Weelkes’s When David Heard is beautifully countered by the luminous, angelic wafting of high sopranos in
Sensuality doesn’t so much ooze as burst in ecstatic, convulsive spasms from I Fagiolini’s latest recording. If it weren’t for the imagination of the programming and the bold, cheeky intelligence that guides the choice and juxtaposition of repertoire, then ‘Amuse
16 GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2016
bouche’ – the group’s homage to all things French – would be frankly indecent.
As it is, the collection is the very best kind of musical pleasure, and one rather more substantial and enduring than the title might suggest. Robert Hollingworth and his singers roam widely across 20th-century France, through works by Poulenc, Ravel, Satie and Milhaud, but also pausing at two larger works – Jean Francaix’s genre‑defying Ode à la gastronomie (recorded here for the first time) and Jean‑Yves Daniel-Lesur’s choral song‑cycle Le Cantique des Cantiques.
Pleasure dominates both works. For Francaix it’s the delights of the stomach that preoccupy him as he pricks the pompous, ballooning belly of French gastronomy in his satirical, surrealist reworking of Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s La physiologie du goût. I Fagiolini bring all the madrigalian clarity and responsive, soloistic singing of their early music performances to this contemporary repertoire, catching the wit and the filth of Francaix’s extended musical joke in all its truffle-infused glory.
Only a tiny palate cleanser – Satie’s Fourth Gnossienne, delicately performed, as all of the piano works here, by Anna Markland – separates this extraordinary oddity from the purer ecstasies of DanielLesur’s series of Song of Songs settings. While The Sixteen’s 1996 recording achieves a misty fragility, I Fagiolini’s 12 solo voices give the work an operatic freedom and scope that makes sense of these fragrant texts and their amplified emotions.
Poulenc’s chilly and chilling Un soir de neige cuts deliciously against the shifting, ambiguous sensuality and languor of Milhaud’s Deux Poèmes, where a vocal quartet provides sudden intensity after so many denser works. The album closes with a second premiere recording – of a new arrangement by Roderick Williams of the Adagio from Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G for solo piano and voices, who take up the orchestral lines. It’s a fascinating idea and elegantly executed by Williams, who manages both to preserve and to reinvent.
‘Amuse-bouche’ marks I Fagiolini’s 30th anniversary. It’s in keeping with Hollingworth and his agile, chameleonlike group that, instead of the inevitable greatest hits album, we get something entirely fresh and unexpected, a recording that’s a bit sexy, a bit silly and absolutely, unmissably superb. Alexandra Coghlan Daniel-Lesur – selected comparison: Sixteen, Christophers (11/96R) (CORO) COR16023