Friday, 30 June 2017

Guerrero - Missa Super flumina Babylonis - Noone

Rating: 5/5

Review :
A terrific disc

I love Michael Noone's recordings of Guerrero and this is another very fine achievement.

Although he doesn't get as much recognition as his near-contemporary Victoria, Guerrero's music is excellent.  It is inventive, rich and very beautiful – qualities which this recording brings out very well.  The singing by Ensemble Plus Ultra is excellent throughout with a lovely blend and balance and real engagement with the text.  The instrumental work, too, is top-class, with a fabulous rich sound which complements but never dominates the voices.  It's an exemplary performance, in my view.

The recorded sound and presentation are both of Glossa's usual very high standard and this is a terrific disc all round.  Very warmly recommended.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Bach - English Suites Nos 1,3 & 5 - Anderszewski

Rating: 5/5

A first-class recording

Just to add my voice to the chorus of praise for this excellent recording.  Anderszewski brings a slightly more modern feel to these Suites than some, but manages to do that without ever losing Bach's sense of dance, nor does he swamp Bach with a lot of over-fancy Romantic phrasing and other tricks.  These are full, rich and respectful interpretations by a master pianist, which are beautifully recorded and extremely rewarding all round.

I have dearly loved piano recordings of the English Suites by Murray Perahia and Angela Hewitt; Anderszewski's interpretation sits alongside them in my affections.  This is a first class recording which I can recommend very warmly indeed.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Bach - Goldberg Variations etc. - Halls

Rating: 5/5

An excellent set

I think this is an excellent set.  Its centrepiece is the Goldberg variations; there are a lot of truly great recordings of the Goldbergs now, but for me this is among them. 
Since he made this in 2009, Matthew Halls has rightly achieved international recognition as an instrumentalist and as director of the Retrospect Ensemble.  You can see why here. He brings real thought and sensibility to the Goldberg Variations, as well as immaculate technique.  The Aria is beautifully judged, the dances really dance, Variation 15 has that wonderful sense of searching and mystery, Variation 29 is stately and powerful without the crashing clunkiness of some recordings, and so on.  The whole thing is an absolute pleasure, as are the Aria Variata and the Sarabanda con Partita.
The overall sound is just fabulous.  Halls plays a beautiful sounding instrument, from which he brings the full, rich resonance and Linn, as always, capture it superbly in the  recording.  With intelligent, thoughtful and readable notes and very attractive presentation, this is a really fine set all round and very warmly recommended.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Beethoven - Complete String Quartets - Takacs Quartet

Rating: 5/5

A wonderful set

This complete Beethoven cycle by the Takacs Quartet is regarded by many as one of the major musical achievements of the last few years. I agree - this is a simply wonderful set.  I bought the original discs as they came out and they have given me immense pleasure for years.

The Takacs Quartet are technically outstanding. Tuning is faultless and the precision of their playing together is quite remarkable. In the finale of Op.59 No.3, for example, Beethoven's final sprint for the finishing line is played with thrilling vigour and at a tremendous pace, but intonation and ensemble playing are rock solid, which cannot be said of some other recordings by leading quartets.  Here we have four marvellous musicians playing brilliantly and who are absolutely at home with the music and with each other.

This bedrock of technique allows their wonderful interpretation of the music to shine out. In Beethoven's sublime slow movements, for example, there is exactly the right balance of sweetness and intensity - never cloying but never impenetrable. This excellence of interpretation runs right through the whole set and if you're looking for a complete recording of Beethoven's quartets you couldn't do better, I reckon. Even if you have recordings you love, I'd suggest buying this set - you will find real insight and pleasure throughout. I can recommend it very warmly.