Sunday 1 January 2023

2022 in Record Reviews: Robert le Diable, The Midsummer Marriage, William Busch, British piano concertos, Gavin Higgins

A Mandolin's Guide to Hamburg: Ishibashi, Abel, Summer, Calace, Acquavella, Hori Kioulaphides, Rumpf, Weidt; Florian Klaus Rumpf; ARS Produktion

As ever, our record reviews of 2022 have barely touched the surface of the amazing variety of recorded music that becomes available. My selection moves from the early Baroque right through to contemporary and newly trained composers. There were two major operatic releases that formed beacons for me, but plenty of other delights.

British contemporary composers included Alastair White, whose dazzling opera Rune received its first recording, taking us into a parallel universe. Alex Paxton's illoli-pop again revealed him to be such an amazing and maverick talent, the music full of manic energy and vision. Russell Pascoe's Secular Requiem inhabits a very different, more traditional world in a recording that is a terrific achievement of the choir of Truro Cathedral. And the Composers' Academy disc from the Philharmonia on NMC features music by three young composers, Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta and Jocelyn Campbell.

Heading abroad, Icelandic experimental composer, Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson's Landvættirnar fjórar is unnervingly different and I have in the past compared Steinn Gunnarsson's sound world to The Clangers! Idiosyncratic in a very different way, Latvian composer Juris Ābols's opera Xeniae is full of manic yet seductive craziness. Finally, Sam Cave's lovely disc for classical guitar, Refracted Resonance, features works by Tristan Murail, George Holloway, Christopher Fox, Horaţiu Rădulescu, and Cave himself.

The Early Music selection included a pair of discoveries. Vincente Lusitano, the Portuguese composer of Black heritage, has barely registered on the historical record by the Marian Consort's disc of his music is richly rewarding. Gareth Wilson and the Choir of Girton College, Cambridge, have returned to the music of Monteverdi's teacher, Marc'Antonio Ingegneri, for the second disc of his richly textured music. Still orbiting around Monteverdi, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Zachary Wilder and Ensemble I Gemelli's A room of mirrors features tenor duets and solos by Monteverdi's contemporaries.

Michael Tippett: The Midsummer Marriage; Robert Murray, Rachel Nicholls, Toby Spence, Jennifer France, Ashley Riches, Susan Bickley, Joshua Bloom, London Philharmonic Choir, ENO Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner; LPO
Moving to 17th century England, more specifically Hereford where composer Matthew Locke lived, Fretwork's The Flat Consort evokes Locke's evenings spent playing viol consorts with friends. Sébastien Daucé and Ensemble Correspondances take us to 17th century France, to Versailles where Michel-Richard De Lalande's Grands Motets were played for the King's services. Sweet Stillness from Mary Bevan, Davina Clarke, Tom Foster, Alexander Rolton, and Sergio Bucheli on Voces8 Records features wonderfully engaging performances of Handel's nine German arias. Ensemble Augelletti has been investigating the Library of a Prussian Princess, an important 18th-century figure who collected manuscripts of music by Bach and his contemporaries.

2022 was RVW's 150th birthday and for his debut recital, The Roadside Firebass-baritone Ossian Huskinson paired RVW's Songs of Travel with journey songs by RVW's friends and contemporaries. An English composer still undeservedly neglected is William Busch and his quietly distinctive voice is revealed on a disc of his songs from Lyrita. Swiss baritone, Äneas Humm draws you into his imaginative look at the edges of the 19th and 20th-century lieder tradition with songs by Fanny Hensel, Franz Liszt, Viktor Ullmann, and Edvard Grieg, whilst Malcolm Martineau and friends explore the interior life of Henri Duparc with his complete songs.

Two contrasting chamber music discs stood out. Viola player Hélène Clément explores Britten and Bridge's shared love of the viola, whilst on Ekstasis, Piatti Quartet, Fidelio Trio, Thomas Gould, David Cohen, and Sara Roberts give us Gavin Higgins' recent chamber music, sophisticated instrumental writing and magical textures. 

We had a selection of unusual 20th-century piano concertos. UK-based Syrian pianist Iyad Sughayer recorded Aram Khachaturian's Piano Concerto and his not-so-well-known, Concerto-Rhapsody whilst Simon Callaghan has brought together six undeservedly neglected mid-Century British Piano Concertos. Dario Salvi has been exploring the theatre music of 19th-century French composer Daniel Auber, and the fifth disc of his overtures has music full of surprising style, elegance and imagination.

There were two significant recordings for me. Marc Minkowsky, Palazetto Bru Zane and Bordeaux Opera finally gave Meyerbeer's first French opera, Robert le Diable, the recording it deserves; not quite complete, but superbly and stylishly performed. Whilst Edward Gardner and the London Philharmonic Orchestra's live recording of Tippett's A Midsummer Marriage set a new benchmark, bringing out the opera's intoxicating brilliance. Returning to France, in Boulevard des Italiens, tenor Benjamin Bernheim explores Paris' long love affair with Italian composers from Cherubini to Puccini, including Madama Butterfly in French. Paris of an earlier age was reflected in Rivales from Veronique Gens and Sandrine Piau.

Handel's pasticcio, Caio Fabbricio might not be the most sophisticated of dramas but London Early Opera's recording invites us to simply sit back and enjoy the singers' virtuosity. Whilst, The Dragon of Wantley by Handel's bassoonist, Lampe, is full of the most delightful Handelian parody, well caught on a new recording from John Andrews and the Brook Street Band.

We managed to fit in a couple of more unusual Christmas items at the end of the year. The Crossing's Carols after a Plague is a daring and refreshing project featuring 12 composers, 12 different approaches. Equally contemporary, Somerville College Choir's The Dawn of Grace features 20 Christmas pieces by 19 women composers from the 20th and 21st centuries.

A Mandolin's Guide to Hamburg: Ishibashi, Abel, Summer, Calace, Acquavella, Hori Kioulaphides, Rumpf, Weidt; Florian Klaus Rumpf; ARS Produktion
We end with a delightful novelty, Florian Klaus Rumpf taking us on A Mandolin's Guide to Hamburg with music from Carl Friedrich Abel to contemporary.

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Elsewhere on this blog

  • 2022 in Concert reviews - concert review
  • 2022 in Opera and Music Theatre reviews  - opera review
  • Music for a video game must serve the players' actions: Olivier Deriviere talks about writing music for A Plague Tale: Requiem - interview
  • O splendor gloriaeThe Tallis Scholars at St John's Smith Square Christmas Festival - concert review
  • A daring and refreshing project: 12 composers, 12 different approaches - Carols after a Plague from The Crossing - record review
  • In fine fettle: conductor Maxim Emelyanychev brings an interesting element of period style to the latest Magic Flute revival at Covent Garden - opera review
  • Natalya Romaniw, Freddie De Tommaso, & Erwin Schrott in Puccini's Tosca at Covent Garden - opera review
  • A lovely way to begin the Christmas season: Handel's Messiah from Laurence Cummings & Academy of Ancient Music at Barbican Centre - concert review
  • Making ancient music sound modern: Franck-Emmanuel Comte on Le Concert de l'Hostel de Dieu's mixing old & new music, collaborating with beatboxers, hip-hop and more - interview
  • 20 Christmas pieces by 19 women composers from the 20th and 21st centuries: Somerville College Choir's The Dawn of Grace - record review
  • To enter White's world is to enter a parallel universe: Alastair White's opera Rune recorded live on Metier - record review
  • Manic energy and musical vision: Alex Paxton's ilolli-pop on nonclassical - record review
  • Home

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