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Tchaikovsky plus one, Vol 1
Title: Tchaikovsky plus one, Vol 1
Artist: Barry Douglas (piano)
Label: Chandos
Format: CD

In this recent CD for Chandos, the first of a series, Barry Douglas turns his attention to the solo piano music of Tchaikovsky, beginning with the well-loved The Seasons. In this set of twelve pieces Tchaikovsky offers portraits of the months of the year, and several of the pieces have become great favourites with audiences, notably the Barcarolle (June). The ‘Plus One’ on this first CD is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, as it happens the work that appeared on Douglas’ first release back in the 1980s. The coupling of Tchaikovsky’s evocative miniatures with Mussorgsky’s tour of a picture gallery is surely inspired, and, one suspects, highly personal.
An Immortal Legacy
Title: An Immortal Legacy
Artist: Harry Christophers And The Sixteen
Label: Coro
Format: CD

This astute CD program celebrates the music that was written by British composers affected by the turmoil of the late 16th, and 17th centuries, and in the troubled 20th. Harry Christophers and the Sixteen present major sacred works from both sides in the bitter religious debate, by Tallis and Byrd, and for contrast, madrigals by Byrd and Morley, and Gibbons incomparable Silver Swan. The Five Spirituals from Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time of 1941, and the Choral Dances from Britten’s opera Gloriana, written for the 1953 coronation, express the parallel unease of their times. Two Latin motets by James MacMillan complete the program.
Allegri Miserere
Title: Allegri Miserere
Artist: Harry Christophers And The Sixteen
Label: Coro
Format: CD

The Miserere mei by Gregorio Allegri is one of the few sacred works that almost all music-lovers will recognise, but it is only in more recent years that we have been able to hear it as Allegri intended, as in this delectable performance by the Sixteen. The larger part of this CD, however, is given over to Palestrina’s historically significant and magisterial Missa Papae Marcelli, the mass that he is rumored to have written to demonstrate that music could be both contrapuntal and intelligible. Whether the legend is true or not, this is one of the loveliest works of the dying years of the Renaissance.
Handel Acis and Galatea
Title: Handel Acis and Galatea
Artist: Harry Christophers And The Sixteen
Label: Coro
Format: CD2

Handel’s charming pastoral opera has a libretto by John Gay, of Beggar’s Opera fame, based on an episode in Ovid’s Metamorphoses concerned with love and jealousy. Recorded with only five singers and nine instrumentalists, this is a rare chance to hear a work of Handel in its original, deft, 1718 version.
Stravinsky Complete Music For Solo Piano
Title: Stravinsky Complete Music For Solo Piano
Artist: Oxana Shevchenko (piano)
Label: Delphian
Format: CD2

Stravinsky was a very fine pianist, and frequently performed his own music. As a result he wrote piano music during most of his long career—only in his very late, experimentally modernist, period did he neglect his instrument almost entirely. This 2CD set gives us all of his piano music, from the early, Tchaikovskian, F sharp minor Sonata, to the probing Sonata of 1924, and provides a partial portrait of this stylistically protean composer. Included are Guido Agosti’s transcribed excerpts from the Firebird, and Stravinsky’s own—and terrifyingly difficult—Three Movements from Petrushka. Oxana Shevchenko plays this demanding music with power and flair, as if born to it.
Shostakovich Complete String Quartets
Title: Shostakovich Complete String Quartets
Artist: Brodsky Quartet
Label: Chandos
Format: CD6

Shostakovich’s fifteen String Quartets are widely regarded as one of the most important chamber music cycles of the 20th century. Unlike his symphonies, the quartets are intimate works and follow an elaborate and very personal program; hearing them in their entirety adds a dimension to our understanding of these subtle and expressive works. The Brodsky Quartet’s outstanding cycle was recorded live at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw.
Petits Fours
Title: Petits Fours
Artist: The Brodsky Quartet, Philip Edward Fisher (piano), Bob Smissen (viola)
Label: Chandos
Format: CD

Unapologetically a collection of transcriptions (by the members of the quartet), this CD of pleasing bite-size encores takes us on a trip around Europe—with a hint of jazz at times—from the Spain of Falla and Sarasate to Elgar’s French-titled bonbons Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit, past the Vienna of Kreisler and Godowsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich’s Russia, to the France of Ravel and Debussy (and that’s not even the finish of it). Released in 2012 to celebrate the Quartet’s 40th anniversary, this disc exemplifies Harry Chapin’s dictum: “It's got to be the going not the getting there that's good”.
Haydn Piano Trios
Title: Haydn Piano Trios
Artist: Trio Wanderer
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

This is Trio Wanderer’s second CD of Piano Trios by Haydn. The first, released in 2002 and reissued in 2009, includes works Haydn wrote in London and received high praise: “Supported by outstandingly vivid sound, Trio Wanderer give marvellously exhilarating performances. The players encompass all the wit and passion of these inspired compositions written during Haydn's two visits to London” (BBC Music Magazine). The Gramophone said that Haydn’s Trios are “music whose profundity is still not fully acknowledged, but surely irresistible when performed with such flair and imagination”. This new (2018) release includes five late trios, “all of which combine substance and charm as winningly as any of the mature symphonies” (Sunday Times), and was a Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice.
Tchaikovsky, Arensky Piano Trios
Title: Tchaikovsky, Arensky Piano Trios
Artist: Trio Wanderer
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

It would be hard to think of a more heart-warming pairing of Piano Trios than those of Arensky and Tchaikovsky. The work by Tchaikovsky, dedicated to the memory of Nicolai Rubinstein, lasts nearly 50 minutes despite only having two movements. The second movement is an extended set of Variations, and the whole work has a tone of elegiac melancholy. Arensky’s Trio, while smaller, is still quite substantial, and is itself a memorial work, rich in brooding sadness. Trio Wanderer perform both demanding works with their usual flair and near-telepathic unanimity.
Sarasate The Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra
Title: Sarasate The Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra
Artist: Tianwa Yang, Orquesta Sinfonica de Navarra, Ernest Martinez Izquierdo
Label: Naxos
Format: CD4

Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908) followed in the footsteps of Paganini and H W Ernst as one of the outstanding violinist-composers of the 19th century. He was born in Navarre, and began to perform in public from the age of eight. Like his predecessors he wrote highly idiomatically for his instrument; even so, his music is astonishingly virtuoso, frequently leaving the listener in a state of disbelief. His music was also influenced by Spanish, and what was then called Gypsy, folkmusic—one of his most popular piece is the Zigeunerweisen, or Gypsy Airs, based on Roma themes, and he wrote a Carmen Fantasy, based on themes from Bizet’s opera. Both of these lovely works are included in Tianwa Yang’s panoramic exploration of Sarasate’s remarkable music.
Haydn Piano Sonatas Nos 32, 40, 49 and 50
Title: Haydn Piano Sonatas Nos 32, 40, 49 and 50
Artist: Paul Lewis (piano)
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

It is gratifying to see, in our post-post-modern times, that the old established pecking order of Classical composers is being eroded. No longer do concerts feature Beethoven and Mozart exclusively; Schubert’s magnificent Piano Sonatas are being heard regularly, and even those of Weber—ask Paul Lewis, he’s recorded both. But on this recent release Lewis focuses on the unjustly neglected composer who had a major influence on just about everyone who followed: Papa Haydn. The four Sonatas on this CD are relatively late, and have a maturity that can embrace both sobriety and playfulness. They are also intelligent and extraordinarily charming music we should get to know.
Beethoven Complete Piano Concertos
Title: Beethoven Complete Piano Concertos
Artist: Paul Lewis (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek (conductor)
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD3

It is perhaps in his complete Beethoven Piano Concertos that the real Paul Lewis is most apparent, as he brings both assertiveness and insight to bear on this familiar music. Released in the same year that Lewis played all five concertos at the Proms, this CD presents the works in an unaffectedly modern style—no fortepianos here!—with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jiri Belohlávek. As the Gramophone said on its first appearance: “Lewis's partnership with Jiri Belohlávek is an ideal match of musical feeling, vigour and refinement...Throughout the cycle Lewis is enviably and naturally true to his own distinctive lights, his unassuming but shining musicianship always paramount...you return refreshed and with a renewed sense of Beethoven's range and beauty...This is a cycle to live with and revisit”.
The Classical Music Collector Retail Group
Written and compiled by Chris Dench

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