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March Editor’s Choices

RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

BACH FAMILY ‘Dynastie’ Keyboard Concertos Jean Rondeau hpd et al Erato Directing from the harpsichord, Jean

Rondeau leads his colleagues – who all seem to share a happy rapport – in a highly enjoyably and characterful survey of music by Bach father and sons.

BEACH. CHAMINADE. HOWELL Piano Concertos Danny Driver pf BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Rebecca Miller Hyperion

A nice parallel to this month’s Specialist’s Guide, three unfamiliar works, by women (a first in Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series), given strong advocacy.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No 9. Job Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Andrew Davis Chandos

Two major works, conducted with an authoritative sense of journey; evidence of the wisdom of Chandos’s bond with both Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic.

BEETHOVEN ‘Complete String Quartets, Vol 3’ Elias Quartet Wigmore Hall Live A crowded catalogue certainly, but on the evidence of both this and the first volume’s Editor’s Choice accolade, the young Elias Quartet are building an impressive Beethoven cycle.

LISZT. SAINT-SAËNS Works for Two Pianos Ludmila Berlinskaya, Arthur Ancelle pfs Melodiya A hugely enjoyable opportunity to hear one of the most familiar and formidable piano sonatas in an unfamiliar form – great virtuosity, with the added challenge of collaboration!

MARTINŮ Cantatas Prague Philharmonic Choir / Lukáš Vasilek Supraphon These four cantatas are richly atmospheric, seeming to grow out of the language and culture on which they draw. Beautifully performed, and indeed recorded, throughout.

‘HEIMAT’ Benjamin Appl bar James Baillieu pf Sony Classical The beauty of voice and thoughtfulness in interpretation that led us to name Benjamin Appl our Young Artist of the Year – and for Sony Classical to sign him – are very evident on this recital.

‘SACRED DUETS’ Nuria Rial sop Valer Sabadus counterten Basel Chamber Orchestra Sony Classical This is a delightful disc: two voices – a pure, agile soprano and rich, rounded countertenor – which feel perfectly suited both to this repertoire, and to each other.

BERG Wozzeck Sols; Houston Symphony Orchestra / Hans Graf Naxos Taken from concert performances, but ones which combine a powerful sense of drama and story-telling (so crucial in this work) with a quite intense focus on the music-making.

The real joy in this set comes via the Third Symphony, dubiously nicknamed the Polish on account of its polacca finale. It’s the least performed of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies in concert. In fact, you’re more likely to encounter it at the ballet than in the concert hall, as most of it is used as part of the score to Balanchine’s Jewels (Diamonds) and MacMillan’s Anastasia, both of which form part of The Royal Ballet’s current season. It’s easily the most dance-like of the composer’s symphonies. Petrenko offers a coruscating reading, sparkling with imperial brilliance.

After a stately marcia funebre introduction, the accelerando into the Allegro brillante section (from 3'09") is full of anticipation, greeted by springy rhythms perfect for dancing. This really is Tchaikovsky-playing that bursts with sunshine, the strings imitating strummed balalaikas (7'25"). Petrenko makes Valery Gergiev’s LSO Live account sound sluggish,

with an especially thrilling first-movement coda (from 12'50").

Like Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Third is in five movements, which means there are two faster ‘scherzo’type inner movements. After the Third’s premiere, Tchaikovsky modestly wrote to Rimsky-Korsakov: ‘It seems to me that the Symphony does not present any particularly successful idea, but technically it’s a step forward. Above all I’m satisfied with the first movement and both scherzos, the second of which is very difficult.’ The Alla tedesca trips along daintily, carefree lines exchanged between flute and strings, while the RLPO woodwinds burble and ripple like a playful mountain stream in the jaunty Allegro vivo fourth movement. In between them, a lugubrious bassoon ponders in the Andante elegiaco, but Petrenko always keeps it fluid with a fine sense of the movement’s sweeping gramophone.co.uk

Click on a CD cover to buy/stream from architecture. The RLPO strings aren’t as lush as their LSO counterparts but they sound quite glorious here. There is plenty of pomp in the finale, but Petrenko never allows the brass to bludgeon.

Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic are in the midst of an excellent survey on their own label, with just the Second and Third to come. However, with his excellent Manfred on Naxos thrown in as a supplement, I commend Petrenko’s as the finest modern cycle of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies currently available. Mark Pullinger Symphonies Nos 4 & 6 – selected comparison: Leningrad PO, Mravinsky (6/61R, 11/61R, 8/87)

(DG) 419 745-2GH2 Symphony No 3 – selected comparison: LSO, Gergiev (12/12) (LSO) LSO0710 Symphony No 6 – selected comparison: Czech PO, Bychkov (10/16) (DECC) 483 0656

GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017 9

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