Monday 2 January 2017

Review of the year - 2016 in CD reviews

In memorian - Delphian
In 2016 we saw CDs ranging from Guillaume de Machaut to James MacMillan, music for reconstructed Celtic horns to celebrations of Colin Matthews 70th birthday. St John's College Cambridge launched its own imprint with a disc of music by Jonathan Harvey, and Ethel Smyth's opera The Boatswain's Mate finally made it to CD. Here is my selection of some of the most memorable of the CDs from 2016.

My disc of the year must be Allan Clayton, Ian Page and Classical Opera's tribute to the great Handelian tenor John Beard, but Handel also showed up in trio sonatas from the Brooke Street Band, and in Mendelssohn's re-working of Israel in Egypt.

But top of the list must come Gareth Wilson and the choir of King's College, London's tribute to the late David Trendall
  • A remarkable tribute - In memoriam:William Byrd, Gareth Wilson, Silvina Milstein, Francis Pott, Jean L'Heritier, Robert Busiakiewicz, Rob Keeley, Antony Pitts, Matthew Martin, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Jacobus Clemens non Papa, Francis Grier; The Choir of King's College Choir London, Gareth Wilson; Delphian. A remarkable tribute to a remarkable man
Where'er you walk - Allan Clayton, Classical Opera, Ian Page  - Signum

Disc of the year

CD reviews

  • A voice from Heaven: The Kings Consort in 20th century British choral music: Howells, Harris, MacMillan, Tavener, Stanford, Leighton, Parry, Berkeley, Murrill, Jones; Choir of the King's Consort, Robert King; Vivat. An attractive and intriguing programme, very finely sung
  • Mozartian fragment: Zaide from Classical Opera: Mozart Zaide; Sophie Bevan, Allan Clayton, Jacques Imbrailo, Darren Jeffery, Stuart Jackson, Classical Opera, Ian Page; Signum. A fine performance shows what sophisticated music there is in Mozart's first, unfinished singspiel 
  • Ethel Smyth The Boatswain's Mate receives a welcome first recording: Ethel Smyth The Boatswain's Mate; Nadine Benjamin, Edward Lee, Jeremy Huw Williams, Lontano Ensemble, Odaline de la Martinez; Retrospect Opera. First recording for Ethel Smyth's charming fourth opera
  • Since it was the day of preparation:  James MacMillan Since it was the day of preparation; Brindley Sherratt, Synergy Vocals, Hebrides Ensemble (director William Conway); Delphian. MacMillan's examination of the events after Christ's crucifixion, in a dramatic, innovative and profoundly moving new work
  • Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame rethought by Graindelavoix: Guillaume de Machaut Messe de Nostre Dame and mass propers; Graindelavoix, Bjorn Schmelzer; Glossa. A refreshing and invigorating view of Machaut's masterpiece, in the tradition of Marcel Peres and Ensemble Organum 
  • Deo - music by Jonathan Harvey from St John's College, Cambridge: Jonathan Harvey I Love the Lord, Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis, Come Holy Ghost, Praise ye the Lord, Missa Brevis, The Royal Banners Forward Go, The Annunciation, Toccata for Organ and Tape and Laus Deo; Choir of St John's College, Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha, Edward Picton-Turberbill; Signum Classics. A new imprint from St John's College, Cambridge, launched in fine style by a terrific disc devoted to the sacred music of Jonathan Harvey
  • A journey down the Rhine with 24 women's voices, four horns and harp:   Rheinmädchen Wagner, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert; Ensemble Pygmalion, Raphael Pichon; Harmonia Mundi. Magical sounds conjured from this journey down the Rhine with 24 women's voices, four horns and harp
  • Passionate intensity - Schnittke's Penitential Psalms: Alfred Schnittke Penitential Psalms; RIAS Kammerchor, Hans-Christoph Rademann; Harmonia Mundi. Passionate intensity and technical prowess in these dark psalms.
  • Elena Langer - Landscape with Three People: Elena Langer Landscape with three people, Snow, The Storm Cloud, Two Cat Songs, Ariadne, Stay O Sweet; Anna Dennis, William Towers, Nicholas Daniel; Harmonia Mundi. Vocal music by the Russian-born British composer, full of fascinating textures and evocative writing
  • Israel in Ägypten - Mendelssohn's take on Handel: Handel edited Mendelssohn Israel in Ägypten (Israel in Egypt); Lydia Teuscher, Julia Doyle, Hilary Summers, Benjamin Hulett, Roderick Williams, The King's Consort, Robert King; Vivat. Fascinating and illuminating reconstruction of the version of Handel's oratorio edited for performance by Mendelssohn
  • Winning performances - Brook Street Band in Handel trio sonatas: Handel trio sonatas; The Brook Street Band; AVIE. Joyful accounts of trio sonatas not published in Handel's lifetime
  • Scattered Ashes - Josquin's Miserere and the Savonarolan Legacy: Josquin, Palestrina, Lassus, Claude Le Jeune, Jean L'Heritier, Nicolas Gombert, Clemens non Papa, Byrd; Magnificat, Philip Cave; LINN. Engrossing disc examining the legacy both of Girolamo Savonarola and Josquin's setting of Savonarola's text.
  • Michael Csányi-Wills - songs with orchestra: Michael Csányi-Wills Songs with Orchestra; Ilona Domnich, Nicky Spence, Jacques Imbrailo, Londamis Ensemble, Mark Eager; Toccata Classics. Mining his own family history, Songs of remarkable lyric power and intensity
  • Vibrant Mendelssohn from Pablo Heras-Casado & the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra: Mendelssohn Scottish and Italian Symphonies; Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Pablo Heras-Casado; Harmonia Mundi. Removing the varnish from Mendelssohn's music to reveal the brilliant young man underneath
  • A powerful torso - Donizetti's Le Duc d'Albe:  Donizetti Le duc d'Albe; Michael Spyres, Angela Meade, Laurent Naouri, Gianluca Buratto, Halle, Mark Elder; Opera Rara. Donizetti's unfinished French opera revealed as a powerful torso.
  • Complete Tippett quartets recorded live by the Heath Quartet: Tippett String Quartets; The Heath Quartet; Wigmore Hall Live. Dazzling rhythms, complex textures and surprising lyricism in these live performances of Tippett's complete quartets
  • Russian impressionism: Mussorgsky - Songs and Romances: Mussorgsky Songs and Romances; Katherine Broderick, Sergey Rybin; Stone Records. Two major cycles and a group of songs in a programme which links Mussorgsky's style to the later French impressionist composers

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