Classical, December 2019


Brockes-Passion Soloists, Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Eggar
AAM Recordings AAM007 (three discs)

Predating the Bach Passions, and with four musical settings all premiered at Hamburg in 1719, this recording fulfills a long ambition of Richard Egarr's. It was made live at The Barbican and at Henry Wood Hall sessions this Easter. And it reflects an enormous amount of scholarly input, with one CD of appendices and a 215pp illustrated hardback book exploring every aspect of the work: political and musical contexts, discographies, artist biographies, etc. The sound has a wonderful clarity, as much to do with instrumental and vocal articulation as superb engineering. Of the fine soloists I have to single out especially the sterling Elizabeth Watts. Handel's music just flies along! CB


A German Requiem
Christiane Karg, Matthias Goerne, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir/Daniel Harding
Harmonia Mundi HMM902635 (downloads up to 48kHz/24-bit res)

This is a very fine version of the German Requiem where Daniel Harding (swapping conducting for flying next year!) somehow conveys both grandeur and intimacy. The two tracks with baritone find Goerne set over to the left, which is surprising but not worrying. The German soprano (Brahms-Preis awardee in 2018) has a light, singing voice – she's not really as authoritative as Schwarzkopf [Klemperer/Warner], Grümmer [Kempe/Naxos] or Janowitz [Karajan DG]. The Swedish Radio Chorus remains as good as it ever was when working with Abbado; and of course HM provides full texts. CB


Enigma Variations/Planets Suite
Bergen PO & Ch/Andrew Litton
BIS BIS2068 (SACD; downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

These recordings were made in 2013/17, Andrew Litton now holding an honorary post at Bergen. The Enigma Variations (complete with organ in the finale) receive an agreeable performance but when it's over you won't have discovered anything new. The Holst is perhaps more interesting but the fly in the appointment comes in 'Jupiter' where Litton holds back, then accelerates, the big tune. The composer was very specific about the effect of the fading women's voices in 'Neptune', but here they are set in a remote acoustic from their first entry: disappointing. In fact Boult's old NPO version is much clearer. CB


Piano Concertos Nos 3, 4 and 5 'L'Égyptien'
Alexandre Kantorow, Tapiola Sinf/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
BIS BIS2300 (SACD; downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Father and son made a terrific impression with their 2015 Liszt Concertos SACD and recently Alexandre Kantorow won the 16th Tchaikovsky Competition. The Saint-Saens Concertos are rarely heard live – No 2 was one of Artur Rubinstein's warhorses and only No 2 remains from the benchmark recordings with Jeanne-Marie Darré – and hearing this SACD one hopes Kantorow will do all five. His 'orientalism' in 'L'Égyptien' is a delight, while his fluency is consistently breathtaking, and these are well-balanced, natural sounding productions. If you think Rachmaninov was a romantic composer you should listen to Saint-Saens! CB