Classical, August 2022

hfnalbum.pngMitsuko Uchida
Beethoven: Diabelli Variations
Decca 4852731 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

There is a sublime humour about the Diabellis, like God laughing at his own jokes. Humour in music is notoriously even more elusive than in words. A joke thrown away is no better than one laboured over, and the Diabellis set traps for both brittle and lofty overstatement which Uchida negotiates at every turn in the airy acoustic of Snape Maltings. The physical effort and exhilaration is palpable. So is an exquisite sensibility that makes no more of a parody out of the opening march than the closing minuet. The fughetta is as tender and Bachian as the fugue is austere – and Bachian. Even in the flourishes of the Figaro parody, every single note tells in a remarkable feat of articulation. I wonder if Uchida has made a finer record. PQ


Goiás PO/Neil Thomson
Santoro: Symphonies Nos 5 & 7
Naxos 8574402 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Brazil's pre-eminent symphonist of the last century fuses traditional form and Socialist-Realist earnestness of purpose with indigenous motifs and 'exotic' percussion in these two major works, from 1955 and 1959 respectively. After a dour opening, the Fifth improves from third-hand Prokofiev in the ominous-turned-optimistic variation movement, before an explosive finale: think Malcolm Arnold with samba rhythms. Written to mark the founding of Brasilia, No 7 strikes a predictably heroic note, with the high-point again coming in a deeply felt, recitative-like Adagio. It's all handled with native style by the Goiás musicians under their British music director. PQ


Choir of King's College LOND/Fort
Nesbit: Sacred Choral Music
Delphian DCD34256 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

As he explains in a usefully lucid note, Edward Nesbit (b1986) grew up within the Anglican choral tradition as a chorister. Written with an insider's grasp of choral textures, his a cappella Mass shows a finely honed sense of timing and a mastery of invoking sacred mysteries without falling back on tropes of holiness. Soprano Ruby Hughes plays a cantorial role with some extended melismas, and to rapturous effect in the long Benedictus. Five psalm settings fill a more familiar tonal architecture with comforting amplitude. Strong, characterful singing from one of the UK's best mixed-voice student choirs, and immaculate handling of the acoustic by Delphian. PQ


Jakub Józef Orlinski/Michal Biel
Polish art-songs by Baird, Czyz, Karłowicz, etc
Erato/Warner 0190296269714 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

From Chopin onwards, expressions of bittersweet regret and fragile hope run through the DNA of Polish composers, including the six featured here. Spanning a century from the 1876 Home Songbook of Moniuszko to the Pushkin settings by Henryk Czyż which lend the album its 'Farewells' title, the selection gleams with little-known treasures. Four Shakespeare sonnets inspire quirkily memorable melodies from Tadeusz Baird and ardent lyricism from the celebrity countertenor of the moment. Orliński brings angular beauty to Szymanowski's Kurpian Songs and voluptuous, Tchaikovskian length of line to Karłowicz. Texts and translations only. PQ