Classical, April 2022

hfnalbum.pngDmitri Sinkovsky, La Voce Strumentale
Akhunov: Songs and Poems
Glossa GCD924402 (downloads to 44.1kHz/16-bit resolution)

Born in Kiev in 1967, long resident in Moscow, Sergei Akhunov composes music perpetually on the edge of saying goodbye in a post-Soviet idiom made famous by the Fifth Symphony of Silvestrov. Ghosts of Handel and Schubert also flit through these two song-cycles, yet Akhunov sounds like none of them. Fans of the soundtrack scores by Yared and Glass will find kinship in the gently evolving harmonic patterns; Schnittke enthusiasts will enjoy the spare textures and unpredictable eruptions of violence. While Sinkovsky takes star billing with his eerily disembodied countertenor, he is often joined by sopranos Olesya Petrova and Julia Lezhneva for uncanny dialogues of love and memory. An offbeat treasure. PQ


Benjamin Alard
JS Bach: Complete Works for Keyboard Vol.5
Harmonia Mundi HMM902463.65 (three discs; also 96kHz/24-bit res)

This ambitious survey – organ and harpsichord works side by side – reaches Bach's Weimar years (1708-17) of apprenticeship and early mastery. Alard gives the perennial D minor Toccata and Fugue a virtuoso makeover without crossing boundaries of taste or the work's probable origins as a solo-violin piece. The 'Dorian' Toccata transfers to harpsichord without injury to its splendour or momentum, while the Sei gegrüsset Partita takes on new life as a relaxed meditation for clavichord. Whatever the instrument, Alard never sells the range of this music short: a confidence and improvisatory flair chimes with our ideas of Bach himself as a performer. PQ


Works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven & Brahms
ICA Classics ICAC5161 (four discs; downloads to 44.1kHz/16-bit res)

Six to one if you put this on blind you'd guess the man in front, if not what's coming next. Parts of Haydn's 'Military' leave you waiting for the next upbeat. Mozart's 'Posthorn' Serenade acquires a weight and gravity resembling the conductor's late Gran Partita from Zurich. These are live recordings (1989-2007), in realistic concert-hall broadcast sound. Beethoven's Fifth is lighter on its feet than the earlier Teldec or the oddball Concentus Musicus remake, while the 7th is illuminating without eccentricity. The Harnoncourt and the COE symbiosis comes to the fore in a thrilling Brahms 4 pitched as a cousin to a Handelian Concerto grosso. PQ


Anna Netrebko, La Scala/Chailly
Arias by Cilea, Puccini, Purcell, R Strauss, Verdi, Wagner, etc
DG 4860531 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Netrebko may never sing Purcell's Dido or Wagner's Isolde on stage but it's fascinating to hear her try on the roles for size. The beat in her voice has widened since her days as the darling of the Mariinsky, but she now brings an uninhibited vulnerability to arias such as Butterfly's 'Un bel dì' and the poisoned-flowers number from Adriana Lecouvreur. Her Lisa (Queen of Spades) is now as much an independent creature as Strauss's Ariadne ('Es gibt ein Reich') which tests and explores a chest register we rarely hear from her stage roles. Chailly offers stylishly shrewd support, and DG's glowing sound retains much of La Scala acoustic. PQ