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December Editor’s Choices

RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

‘GRANDISSIMA GRAVITA’ Rachel Podger vn Brecon Baroque Channel Classics Splendid musicmaking from an artist, Rachel Podger, whose own performances are matched by her ability to inspire her colleagues.

GRANADOS Goyescas José Menor pf IBS Classical José Menor is a committed champion of the music of Spain and Granados, and on the strength of this wonderful performance, what a gift to his country’s culture he clearly is.

BACH Magnificat Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner Soli Deo Gloria Sir John Eliot

Gardiner’s new recording celebrates music Bach wrote for Christmas in Leipzig – a release stamped with his hallmark of musical excellence.

SCHUBERT Nacht und Träume Wiebke Lehmkuhl mez Stanislas de Barbeyrac ten Accentus; Insula Orchestra /

Laurence Equilbey Erato Fresh from Paris’s newest venue come these orchestrations of Schubert songs.

‘GOLD’ The King’s Singers Signum What better way for the ever-impressive King’s Singers to mark their half century than by new recordings exploring the rich diversity of repertoire – modern, early, sacred and secular – for which they are known?

‘PARLE QUI VEUT’ Sollazzo Ensemble Linn This album emerged from the York Early Music Young Artists

Competition – and the competition’s 2015 winners here offer vivid, charismatic and skilful performances of this 14th-century music.

‘SECRETS’ Marianne Crebassa mez Fazıl Say pf Erato Fin de siècle song from Duparc to late Fauré

forms the basis of this impressive recital, Crebassa’s tone and shading ideal in this repertoire, well matched throughout by pianist Fazıl Say.

DEBUSSY Pelléas et Mélisande Sols; London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle LSO Live

Expectations are high for Sir Simon Rattle’s new partnership with the LSO; this is a work he clearly loves, and the result bodes well for all that lies ahead.

‘MIRAGES’ Sabine Devieilhe sop Alexandre Tharaud pf Les Siècles / FrançoisXavier Roth Erato

2016’s Recital Award winner takes us, like Crebassa’s ‘Secrets’, to fin de siècle France – this time, however, to the opera stage. Wonderful, glorious music-making.

the Choeur de l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, offer tremendously fullblooded singing.

Erato is perhaps a little naughty in describing the score as ‘absolutely complete’, an accolade surely only true of Charles Dutoit’s recording, which includes the scene where Sinon, a Greek spy, convinces the Trojans that the wooden horse must be brought inside the city (a scene which Berlioz cut from the score in 1861) and the Act 3 prelude, composed for the 1863 performance of Acts 3 to 5, The Trojans at Carthage. But everything else is here, including all the ballet music including the sinuous Pas d’Esclaves nubiennes.

Nelson’s cast is simply to die for. Marie‑Nicole Lemieux captures all the wildness and unhinged desperation of Cassandre, her burnt caramel contralto utterly compelling. Hers is a far weightier voice than Deborah Voigt (Dutoit) or Petra

Lang (Davis/LSO) and, considering she’s never sung the role on stage, Lemieux’s is an astonishingly three-dimensional, no-holdsbarred portrait. She is joined by Stéphane Degout as a vibrant, urgent Chorèbe, as sheerly beautiful a baritone as Peter Mattei for Davis. Their duet ‘Reviens à toi’ is an early highlight.

Énée is sung thrillingly by Michael Spyres, the Berlioz tenor de nos jour, his ‘Inutile regrets’ virile and ecstatic but refined too. He doesn’t have as huge a voice as Heldentenors Jon Vickers and Ben Heppner but this is very exciting singing. His love interest in Carthage comes via Joyce DiDonato’s noble Didon, her lighter, brighter mezzo providing a nice contrast to Lemieux’s Cassandre. Her distinctive flutter at the top may not be to everyone’s taste but her performance – another role debut – is remarkably assured, full of tender ecstasy in the duet ‘Nuit d’ivresse’ with Spyres, and blending sumptuously with Hanna Hipp’s sympathetic Anna. DiDonato’s vehement response to Énée’s desertion reveals her as a great tragedienne.

The luxury casting of the minor roles is jaw-dropping: Marianna Crebassa (bringing crystalline purity to Ascagne), Cyrille Dubois (a honeyed Iopas), Stanislas de Barbeyrac (Hylas) and Philippe Sly (a firm-voiced Panthée). I harbour doubts over Nicolas Courjal’s woolly Narbal, but this is the tiniest quibble in a remarkable cast.

In short, this is a peach of a recording, with the strongest cast across the board of any Troyens recording setting a thrilling new benchmark for this epic opera. Mark Pullinger Selected comparisons: Royal Op, C Davis

(5/70R, 12/86R) (PHIL) D 416 432-2PH4 Dutoit (12/94R) (DECC) D 478 5577DC17 LSO, C Davis (8/01) (LSO) LSO0010

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GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017 29

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