Friday, 29 December 2017

Review of the year - 2017 in CDs

Berlioz: Les Troyens - John Nelson - Erato
The CD highlight of 2017 must be the new, live recording of Berlioz' Les Troyens from John Nelson, but other delights on disc include Simon Callaghan's new disc of Roger Sacheverell Coke's surviving piano concertos, David Skinner and Alamire's recording of the newly discovered Thomas Tallis contrafactum based on Katherine Parr's English text, Louise Alder's debut disc, and Kitty Whately in Jonathan Dove, not to forget the first recording of John Joubert's Jane Eyre and RVW's Introduction and Fugue for two pianos.

Here is our disc of the year, and our selection of the top 20 plus discs that we have reviewed this year.

Disc of the year
  • A reflection of 19th century style & coruscating performances: Berlioz' Les Troyens - Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Orchestre philharmonique de Strasboug, John Nelson; ERATO. John Nelson conducts Berlioz opera in live performances with a substantially Francophone cast and a terrific amount of style
Roger Sacheverell Coke: Piano Concertos - Simon Callaghan - Hyperion
CD reviews
  • Richly sophisticated: odes by John Blow from Arcangelo: John Blow An ode on the death of Mr Henry Purcell; Samuel Boden, Thomas Walker, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen; Hyperion. Blow's ode for his great pupil in an attractive programme of odes by this neglected composer
  • A link with history: Alamire in Thomas Tallis. Thomas Tallis, Queen Katharine Parr & songs of Reformation; Alamire, Fretwork, David Skinner; Obsidian. An important historical document, but also some terrific performances
  • Rachmaninov & beyond: the piano concertos of Roger Sacheverell Coke on Hyperion. Roger Sacheverell Coke Piano Concertos Nos. 3, 4 & 5; Simon Callaghan, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins; Hyperion. The surviving concertos by a neglected British composer, out of synch with the British mid-20th century main-stream but striking and fascinating nonetheless, in stunning performances
  • Scarcely a problem: Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony from Semyon Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic. Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Semyon Bychkov; Decca; Richly dramatic account of Tchaikovsky's 'problem' symphony from Bychkov
  • Rich rewards: Kurtág complete from Asko|Schönberg & Reinbert de Leeuw; György Kurtág complete works for choir and ensemble; Reinbert de Leeuw, Asko|Schönberg, Netherlands Radio Choir; ECM; Often challenging, frequently fascinating, a brilliant survey of music by the great Hungarian composer
  • Daring: Fieri Consort's Tears of a lover; Monteverdi, Ben Rowarth, Marenzio, Ingegneri; Fieri Consort; Fieri Records. Ancient and modern combine in Ben Rowarth's contemporary response to Monteverdi's Arianna
  • New music for choir and ancient instruments. James McMillan, John Kenny, Stuart MacRae, Bill Taylor, Francis Grier, Stevie Wishart, Stephen Bick; Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber. The imaginative combination of choir, contemporary composers and reconstructed ancient instruments creates a terrific disc
  • Delight & imagination: Buxtehude trio sonatas from Arcangelo. Dietrich Buxtehude Trio Sonatas, Opus 1; Arcangelo; Alpha Classics. Delightful music, engagingly played; Buxtehude's innovative trio sonatas
  • Knitted into a seductive whole: Lully's Armide from Christoph Rousset & Les Talens Lyriques. Lully Armide; Marie-Adeline Henry, Antonio Figueroa, Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset; Aparte. Lully's final opera in an engagingly stylish and passionate performance
  • Parfums - Christiane Karg in settings of symbolist & impressionist poets. Ravel, Debussy/Adams, Britten, Koechlin, Duparc; Christiane Karg, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, David Afkham; Berlin Classics; Settings of French poetry in luxuriant yet classical accounts from Christiane Karg
  • Requiem; The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter; Sony Classical / De Montfort Music. Chant from a traditional Requiem mass sung by a choir from a priestly body which specialises in this style of music
  • An enchanting beginning: Louise Alder in songs by Richard Strauss. Through Life and Love, songs by Richard Strauss; Louise Alder, Joseph Middleton; Orchard Classics. Having showed her metal as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, the young English soprano returns to Strauss for her debut disc
  • Nights not spent alone: Kitty Whately in Jonathan Dove. Jonathan Dove complete works for mezzo-soprano; Kitty Whately, Simon Lepper; Champs Hill Records. Musicality and storytelling combine in this engaging programme of Jonathan Dove's songs
  • Colour and movement: music by Tomasz Opałka; Tomasz Opałka Collisions of the matter, Symphony No. 2 - Emerge, D.N.A. Bass Clarinet Concerto, Quadra; Jadwiga Czarkowska, Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra / Krzysztof Slowinski, Warsaw Philharmonic Artists 'Chamber Orchestra of the Chain X Festival' / Wojciech Michniewski, Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Lukasz Borowiczl Warner Classics. High energy and brilliant orchestral colour in these four symphonic works by the young Polish composer
  • Fresh and distinctive: Walton's Facade from Zeb Soanes, Carol Boyd & John Wilson. Walton Facade; Carole Boyd, Zeb Soanes, John Wilson; Orchid Classics. Refreshing new look at Walton and Sitwell's classic, along with a fascinating archive interview with the poet
  • A wonderful 90th birthday present: John Joubert's Jane Eyre finally reaches CD. John Joubert Jane Eyre; April Fredrick, David Stout, Clare McCaldin, Mark Milhofer, Gwion Thomas, English Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Woods; SOMM. A labour of love, a terrific performance of Joubert's romantic opera
  • Rare & revelatory: Vaughan Williams for one and two pianos. Ralph Vaughan Williams piano music; Mark Bebbington, Rebeca Omordia, Anthony Goldstone, Caroline Clemmow; SOMM & ALBION records. New discoveries and a revelatory new view of familiar works make a pair of discs of RVW's music for one and two pianos essential listening
  • A sustained and deeply felt essay: James MacMillan Stabat Mater; The Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia, Harry Christophers; Coro. Sustained intensity and concentrated power in this powerful new setting
  • Refracting the past: Leonard Elschenbroich in Schnittke's music for cello; Schnittke First Cello Sonata, Music in the Old Style, Madrigal: In memoriam Oleg Kagan, Musica Nostalgica, Elschenbroich Shards of Alfred Schnittke; Leonard Elschenbroich, Petr Limonov; ONYX CLASSIC. Powerful performances of Schnittke's music for cello
  • Mieczyslav Weinberg - Chamber Symphonies, Piano Quintet; Kremerata Baltica, Gidon Kremer; ECM. Terrific performances of Weinberg's powerful and personal chamber symphonies
  • Completely entrancing: CPE Bach cello concertos from Nicolas Altstaedt & Arcangelo; CPE Bach Cello Concertos; Nicolas Altstaedt, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen; Hyperion. CPE Bach's undeservedly neglected concertos in vivid performances
  • Moving beauty: Iestyn Davies & Arcangelo in Bach cantatas. Bach Widerstehe doch der Sünde, Ich habe genug, Vergnüte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust ; Iestyn Davies, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen; Hyperion; Poised elegance from Iestyn Davies in three of Bach's solo alto cantatas
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