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October Editor’s Choices

RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 2, ‘Lobgesang’ Monteverdi Choir; London Symphony Orchestra / Sir John Eliot Gardiner LSO Live

This uplifting performance concludes Gardiner’s rewarding cycle of the composer’s symphonies: a fitting end.

RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No 2 Boris Giltburg pf Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Carlos Miguel Prieto Naxos

That such familiar music can sound this thrilling is testimony to both the work’s enduring appeal and its soloist’s skill.

CPE BACH Fantasias & Sonatas Alexei Lubimov tangent pf ECM New Series An absolutely fascinating release, both for the unusual instrument and for what Alexei Lubimov, highly tuned to its unique sound world, achieves with it.

DEBUSSY Piano Works Steven Osborne pf Hyperion Steven Osborne explores some of Debussy’s most sublime, poetic and painterly music with a real sense of its intrigue, drama and beauty. A very fine recording, from a very fine pianist.

BLOW An Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen Hyperion Arcangelo under

Jonathan Cohen go from strength to strength; on this latest album they offer expert and engaging advocacy of the music of Purcell’s teacher, John Blow.

DAVID ‘Portraits, Vol 4’ various artists Ediciones Singulares 19th-century French composer Félicien David couldn’t be better served than by this exploratory presentation of his music on a label earning a real reputation for being at all times high quality and thoughtprovoking.

‘EIN FESTE BURG IST UNSER GOTT’ Luther and the Music of the Reformation Vox Luminis / Lionel Meunier Ricercar As we mark 500 years since the Reformation, Vox Luminis offer a wonderfully performed – and packaged – survey of its impact on music.

‘MUSIC FROM THE PETERHOUSE PARTBOOKS, VOL 5’ Blue Heron / Scott Metcalfe Blue Heron American choir Blue

Heron offer us extremely fine singing on this superb recording of little-heard repertoire from the latter years of Henry VIII.

MOZART Il sogno di Scipione Chorus and Orchestra of Classical Opera / Ian Page Signum Early Mozart gets a characteristically committed and compelling performance from the ever-impressive Ian Page and his Classical Opera group.

the pianist describes as ‘the many repeated notes in Schubert … turning into Prokofiev’. Add to that the recording, made in the Performing Arts Centre in Kashiwazaki, a hall rebuilt after the earthquake of 2007, and you have the ideal circumstances for some very courageous Schubert.

Every element of these two sonatas has been thought out, considered; in the hands of a lesser artist the results could have been pernickety but instead they tend towards the transcendent. Take the second movement of the A major Sonata, D959. Just listen to the accompaniment, the way that the minutest of shifts in terms of touch recolours it. And then there are the gradations of colour, of dynamic. Nothing is ever fixed, but living, breathing. The movement’s extraordinary ‘nervous breakdown’ (as Uchida calls it) begins almost beguilingly, beautifully. He is much more controlled than some in the cataclysmic chords – passionate, yes, but less overtly desperate; some may not agree with this, but within the context of his reading of the movement, it works. As Zimerman leads back to the opening material, the sense of the initial music being scarred by what has happened is searing.

Time and again, Zimerman flouts received wisdom – his opening movement to D960 (of course with the repeat) sets off at a flowing pace but there’s plenty of time for the unexpected. Again, some might want a more simply flowing account but Zimerman holds you in thrall, suspends reality just as surely as Richter did (though in utterly different ways). He does the same thing in the slow movement: the first 30 seconds draw you into a world of such detail it’s as if you’ve never heard the piece before. And yet – and this is the miraculous bit – there’s no sense of that detail winning over long-term thinking (which can happen in

Zimerman’s concerto performances). The instrument comes into its own where the music builds to climaxes without ever losing clarity in the bass.

The Scherzo of D960 is fascinating – it’s elfin, yes, but rather than mere playfulness there’s a gentleness to it. And rather than emphasising the contrasts of the Trio, Zimerman instead draws parallels between it and the Scherzo. The perfection with which he weights the closing chords is another heart-stopping moment. In the finale, there’s again so much that is inimitable: the opening octave is brusque in attack and yet not snatched, while the rhapsody of the playing is staggeringly beguiling, as is the interplay between silence and sound. It is a journey of great intensity.

Enough words from me: the playing speaks for itself. This is a marvellously life‑enhancing release. Go and hear it for yourself.

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GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017 25

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