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April Editor’s Choices

RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

JS BACH Orchestral Suites Zefiro / Alfredo Bernardini ob Arcana These Bach overtures grab the listener’s attention with a thrilling theatricality and sense of joyful drama, all wonderfully directed by Alfredo Bernardini.

R STRAUSS Tone Poems, Vol 5 SWR Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden and Freiburg / François-Xavier Roth SWR Music

Dramatic detail, effervescent energy and excellent sound make this a super addition to François-Xavier Roth’s SWR Symphony Orchestra Strauss series.

D MATTHEWS Complete Piano Trios Leonore Piano Trio Toccata Classics These are imaginative and captivating contemporary chamber works. Lyrical lines are played with a poignancy and delicacy by an ensemble who thoroughly believe in the music.

MOZART Violin Sonatas, Vol 3 Alina Ibragimova vn Cédric Tiberghien pf Hyperion This is developing into a delightful series – Vol 3 sees Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien find immense charm and character in these sonatas from across Mozart’s life.

JS BACH Goldberg Variations Beatrice Rana pf Warner Classics Another new Goldbergs set, from another young pianist? Yes, and a really remarkable one it is too. Beatrice Rana’s interpretation of the familiar work is fresh, fun and reflective in turn.

BRAHMS ‘The Complete Piano Music, Vol 4’ Jonathan Plowright pf BIS Jonathan Plowright continues his Brahms series in impressive style – virtuosity and thoughtfulness both to the fore.

GLASS Études Víkingur Ólafsson pf DG Philip Glass’s piano music moves between a feeling of otherworldliness and an intense inwardness, two facets which Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s deeply musical playing seems to embody perfectly.

‘MUSIC FOR THE 100 YEARS’ WAR’ The Binchois Consort / Andrew Kirkman Hyperion The excellent presentation – both in terms of the Binchois Consort’s very fine performance and the album’s thoughtful packaging – vividly conjure a historical period.

MOZART Arias Anett Fritsch sop Munich Radio Orchestra / Alessandro De Marchi Orfeo Fully formed characters seems to leap straight out of this delightful recital of Mozart arias, all convincingly portrayed by the German soprano Anett Fritsch.

thrilling quickness in the crowd choruses. Gardiner asks for a lot of quiet singing from them and they execute it with superbly controlled beauty. The orchestra is as skilled and musical as you like in their obbligatos, and exquisitely responsive to Gardiner’s subtle shapings – the string accompaniments to Christus’s recitatives, for instance, normally thought of as ‘haloes’, have never sounded so alert to the meaning of the Word. The experienced Evangelist of James Gilchrist and Christus of Stephan Loges are not to be faulted, and none of the nine young aria soloists is a weak link, to the extent that I’m loath to single out any one of them at the expense of another; suffice to say that each one lives up to their moment in the drama. Any or all of these are things you may find in other Matthews; but you will rarely find the same careful relishing of text, which treats the German words almost as rhythmical and textural sounds in themselves rather than theological pronouncements, as in Hannah

Morrison’s lilting ‘Ich-h will hier mein Herze strenken’ or the choir’s impatient ‘L-lass ihn kreuzigen!’ What really makes this one special, however, is its emotional integrity, coming not from affected theatricality but from a pervading air of profound sadness. If ‘sad’ seems a weak word, it is not meant to be; it is just that the actors of this piece are not tearing at their hair but letting the weight of the events they are witnessing sink deep into their beings as individuals. The aching ‘Erbarme dich’ of alto Eleanor Minney and violinist Kati Debretzeni expresses it perfectly, assuming the pain further unto itself in a barely breathed da capo, like a wounded bird.

This is just one strongly moving moment among many, which more often than not are achieved through tender phrasing, confident (but never exaggerated) articulation and measured (but not sluggish) tempos. Though this at first may seem like a surprisingly lightgramophone.co.uk

Click on a CD cover to buy/stream from touch reading from Gardiner, it is in fact one with a firmly controlled atmosphere of hurt and vulnerability. And when an individual performance does break through to something more outwardly emotional, as in Minney’s imploring ‘Können Tränen meiner Wangen’ or the heavy-laden strokes of Reiko Ichise’s gamba in ‘Komm süsses Kreuz’, it thus emerges all the more truly.

In his booklet-note Gardiner repeats his assertion that Bach’s great skill as an artist lay in his ability to write music with supreme power to console, and it is clear that this is what he has looked for here. That his considerable experience has enabled him to find it in such a thoughtfully moulded, expertly executed and deeply committed reading, so honestly communicative of its intent and so free of self-conscious monumentalism, sententiousness or melodramatics, is why I believe it to be one of his finest achievements. Lindsay Kemp

GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017 11

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