GRAMOPHONE Review: Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Semyon Bychkov

There is much here to build upon the promise of Bychkov’s Pathetique – the exceptional performance which launched this ongoing ‘Tchaikovsky Project’. There is, of course, the abiding warmth and humanity of the Czech Philharmonic where expressivity always trumps spectacle, where phrasing relates to sound in ear-catching ways and the reasons the notes are there … [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Brahms Symphonies 1-4 Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons

In a personal liner note for this set Andris Nelsons celebrates the recorded legacy of Brahms in Boston referencing complete cycles from Leinsdorf and Haitink and recordings of individual symphonies under Koussevitzky, Munch and Ozawa. Only a conductor supremely confidant in his own identity would venture to do so, of course, and Nelsons is nothing … [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Elgar The Dream of Gerontius – Soloists, Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim

There is probably no such thing as the perfect Gerontius. Every recording is flawed in some way. Even the classic (and glorious) Barbirolli has Kim Borg’s misshapen vowels to contend with. But the inspirational nature of the piece relies so much on temperament to carry it into the ascendency that perfection is probably not such [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Prokofiev Symphonies 1 & 7/Lieutenant Kijé Suite – Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Sokhiev

Tugan Sokhiev has impressed me in the past – his Tchaikovsky Fourth with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in particular – but some of his choices here are puzzling and one, baffling.  

He is certainly mindful of the parody rife in Lieutenant Kije and the militaristic colours heralding the “virtual” hero’s birth are [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Legrand Concertos for Piano & Cello – Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Frank

I have long adored the songs and admired the talent of Michel Legrand, inflected as it is with a jazzer’s free-ranging melodies and oblique harmonies – but the devilish inventiveness of these concert pieces took even me by surprise. The fact is they don’t really sound like anyone else, and even if you were to [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Sibelius Symphonies 1 & 6 – BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Søndergård

The solo clarinet which stands on the threshold of Sibelius’ symphonic journey is quite simply the palest, chilliest, loneliest sound in the world. Thomas Søndergård has a nose for such things and his Sibelius – as we have already heard in the first release of the series coupling the Second and Seventh symphonies – is [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Mahler Das Lied von der Erde – Jonas Kaufmann Vienna Philharmonic/Nott

When you are as big a star as Jonas Kaufmann, when your instrument is fach-defying and your choices in terms of the repertoire seemingly boundless, you get to do pretty much what you want – including, it seems, re-conceiving Mahler’s seminal song-symphony for a single voice. It’s hard to know who thought this was a [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Elgar Symphony No. 1 / Introduction and Allegro – BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Doric Quartet/ Gardner

With each new disc that arrives, it becomes clearer and clearer that Edward Gardner is evolving into something really special. If I was permitted only one “library” choice for the works under scrutiny these would not be they – but they can and should be applauded for their lucidity and clarity and insightful honesty. There [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Bernstein Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 – Baltimore Symphony/Alsop

A disc of two halves, for sure: a somewhat sober “Jeremiah” and a scintillating “Age of Anxiety”. Perhaps there is simply no reply to Bernstein’s feverish intensity in both his recordings of the former; the latter, of course, has the poetic Jean-Yves Thibaudet as protagonist and he is very much a chip off the Bernstein … [Read More]

GRAMOPHONE Review: Natalie Dessay – Pictures of America Paris Mozart Orchestra/Gibault

Anyone who has ever seen Natalie Dessay on the stage will know what an accomplished actress she is. It is that which has put flesh on her singing and enriched her operatic career. And now a new phase begins. There is talk of films, of straight acting roles – and maybe even adventures at the … [Read More]


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