May arrives! It is said that things come in threes. From me it’s six! This time I am not allocating a ‘best of’ accolade, but simply drawing attention to a sextet of releases that leapt out during April and continue to do so.
I was captivated by Handel’s Last Prima Donna; for us it’s Ruby Hughes singing Giulia Frasi’s repertoire – lovely music performed with style. Also from Chandos is Arthur Bliss’s Beatitudes, music that may need a few listens to unlock the door to its secrets; once the key has turned though the rewards are many. Similarly, music by Elliott Carter and Brian Ferneyhough needs time to work its engrossing quotient, and when it does: wow. The Bliss, Carter and Ferneyhough releases all enjoy BBC Symphony Orchestra patronage and the services of versatile conductors, Martyn Brabbins, Andrew Davis and Oliver Knussen.
Talking of conductors, there’s Celibidache – I have gone to Heaven several times (and will again) listening to his utterly compelling account of Death and Transfiguration; and equally transporting is the intimacy of Pavel Kolesnikov playing keyboard pieces by Louis Couperin on the piano.
That’s six. Let’s make it seven, for I would not want to be without Rostropovich in Dvořák’s Cello Concerto – numerous examples already exist of him in this work, but this live one with Giulini from 1962 is very special.
The Classical Source
***As a postscript, just to clarify how Classical Source uses stars for its reviews. Since April 2016 a star-rating is mandatory for anything generally available (a recording, a book...) and when there is a run of performances (an opera, a ballet...). Stars are not required for a concert unless a reviewer is of the opinion that something is exceptional (five stars) or quite the opposite (one); either is rare ... ultimately it is the words that matter.***