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Music Freelance Vladimir Ashkenazy announces his retirement

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The pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy has announced that he is retiring with immediate effect.

The 82-year-old is one of the most celebrated and versatile musicians of his generation, renowned for recording and performing an enormous and varied repertoire as both a pianist and a conductor over his 70-year career.

Ashkenazy shot to fame in 1956 when he won the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, followed by the 1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition, an accolade he shared with pianist John Ogdon.

 

 

Although Ashkenazy continued to perform and record as a pianist, he also began conducting after a chance encounter with Gennady Rozhdestvensky led to an impromptu lesson in the Soviet conductor’s apartment. He went on to hold prestigious positions across the globe with orchestras including the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (1988–96); Czech Philharmonic (1998–2003); the European Union Youth Orchestra (2000-2015); the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo (2004–7); the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2009-2013); and the Philharmonia Orchestra. 

In 1963, Ashkenazy defected from the Soviet Union during a visit to England. His piano and orchestral performances of Rachmaninov, Sibelius and Scriabin demonstrate his love of Russian music. As Decca’s longest contracted artist, his discography – which ranges from Bach to Rautavaara – is a testament to the depth and breadth of his musical interest and ability. In total, his collected recordings exceed 100 hours of music, spanning 39 composers over 55 years.

Speaking to BBC Music Magazine in 2017 about his enormous success and his famously intuitive approach to conducting, Ashkenazy remarked: ‘There are some things you cannot teach or understand. Just as we’ll never know why Beethoven was Beethoven or Mozart was Mozart. They were people just like you or I, and yet in their music they created something that is such a gift for us all. Incredible. It’s a mystery. We must be grateful for that.’

 

 

 

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Freya Parr Who is Nicola Benedetti?

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Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti rose to fame in 2004, when she won BBC Young Musician at the age of 16, a competition she has remained an ambassador of ever since. 

She has released a number of acclaimed recordings, from concertos by Glazunov and Szymanowski to an album of Scottish music, which made her the first ever Scottish classical musician to enter the Top 20 of the Offiial UK Album Chart in 2014.

 

Image result for nicola benedetti bbc music magazine

 

 

In the 2019 New Year Honours, Benedetti was awarded a CBA for services to music.

She was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2020 for her premiere recording of Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto and his Fiddle Dance Suite, both dedicated to her by the composer.

At the beginning of 2020, she launched the Benedetti Foundation, dedicated to putting music at the heart of UK society and bringing music to all children.

 

 

 

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Freya Parr Free Download: Jonathan Biss plays Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 7

‘His performance is smooth and exquisitely expressive’

This week’s free download is the first movement, Presto, from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 7, performed by Jonathan Biss and recorded on Orchid Classics. It was awarded five stars for both performance and recording in the January issue of BBC Music Magazine.

DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS:

If you'd like to enjoy our free weekly download simply log in or sign up to our website.

Once you've done that, return to this page and you'll be able to see a 'Download Now' button on the picture above – simply click on it to download your free track.

If you experience any technical problems please email support@classical-music.com. Please reference 'Classical Music Free Download', and include details of the system you are using and your location. If you are unsure of what details to include please take a screenshot of this page.

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Michael_Beek Who is Stewart Copeland?

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BBC Four’s new three-part documentary series Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music is a deep dive into humankind’s relationship with music.

In the first episode, Copeland reveals he became obsessed with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana aged seven; that obsession evolved into a passion for music itself, one which he shares effusively on screen.

That first episode, called ‘Come Together’, sees him meeting a US football team marching band, discovering early human instruments in Germany and taking part in a workshop with Bobby McFerrin which reveals people’s natural instincts for picking up music.

Copeland’s lifelong enthusiasm for music has seen him move in many different musical circles, firstly as a drummer and songwriter, then as an in-demand composer.

His father was a trumpeter in the legendary Glenn Miller Band, though took up a career in intelligence, ultimately for the CIA, and it’s that work which took the Copeland’s from their home in Virginia to Beirut and then London.

With a natural talent for the drums, it was surely a given that Stewart Copeland would end up in a rock and roll band and he did just that. 

After a spell as a music journalist and roadie, Copeland found himself on stage and recording with the band Curved Air. 

 

 

He then founded what would be his most famous grouping, The Police, with Henry Pandovani and a bass player known simply as ‘Sting’. They, of course, went on to become one of the most successful British bands of the 1980s.

It was in the ’80s that Copeland began a new career as a composer. An original and distinctive musical style, born of his passion for new sounds and rhythm, set him apart and film directors came calling. 

Indeed two of his early film scores, Rumblefish (1983) and Wall Street (1988), were for Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone.

That emerging style transferred to the stage, too, as Copeland was commissioned to write music for ballet and opera. This included Holy Blood and Crescent Moon commissioned by Cleveland Opera.

While all this was going on, Copeland found himself back on stage behind the drums, performing with the groups Animal Logic and Oysterhead, while his ensemble Orchestralli performed and recorded his own instrumental works.

With 60 million record sales worldwide, five Grammy awards and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Stewart Copeland has truly taken his passion and made a life with it.

 


 

Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music continues on BBC Four on Friday (24 January) at 21:30 GMT and you can catch up on what you’ve missed right now on BBC iPlayer (in the UK).

 

 

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Freya Parr A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2

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Premiere:
Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 5 April 1803

On 6 October 1802 in the village of Heiligenstadt on the outskirts of Vienna, Beethoven wrote an impassioned letter to his brothers Carl and Johann. Including instructions that it should be read after his death, the ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’ describes in bleak terms the composer’s despair at the onset of deafness.

‘How could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection?’ he wrote. ‘…What a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing.’

 

Tonality:

It was also while staying at Heiligenstadt over the summer months of that year that Beethoven composed the bulk of his Second Symphony. Does the composer reflect in this work the frustrations expressed in his letter? In fact, cast in a sunny D major, the overall mood of the Second is largely upbeat.

Here and there, though, there are moments that point towards the growling and fist-thumping composer of Beethoven’s later years. The score is scattered with brutal sforzandos and sudden, and dramatic, changes of dynamic markings. And listen out, too, for the moment at the end of the exposition in the long first movement when the key unexpectedly shifts from A major to an unusual and ever-so-slightly disconcerting D minor.

 

 


Beethoven's Second Symphony, performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
under Daniel Barenboim at the 2012 BBC Proms

 

Rule-breaking:

Taken as a whole, Beethoven’s Second is by no means a game-changer in the course of classical music – that would come with the Eroica two years later. There are, though, already plenty of signs here that he was itching to go his own way. Take for instance, the third movement, where he ventures a step further along the path he’d already began to tread in the First Symphony – where tradition would normally place a courtly and graceful minuet and trio, here Beethoven presents us with a decidedly rustic scherzo.

And then there is the finale’s coda. Why follow convention by finishing with a charming little endpiece, when there’s the opportunity to go out in a blaze of timpani- and trumpet-adorned triumph? Here was a precedent that he would continue in the symphonies to follow.

 

 

Reception:

And the Second Symphony’s reception? Not great, with the descriptions of some critics almost matching the colour and inventiveness of the work itself. Complaining about its ‘barbaric chords’, Paris’s Tablettes de Polymnie reckoned that it sounded ‘as if doves and crocodiles were locked up together’. Vienna’s Zeitung für die elegante Welt, meanwhile, described it as ‘a hideously wounded, writhing dragon that refuses to die’. Posterity has treated it more kindly.

 

Recommended recording:

Skrowaczewski and his Saarbrucken players bring a rare fire and fury to the first movement. And few can match their bonhomie in the following two movements – as the music bounces from orchestral section to section, masterfully paced by the conductor, one gets the impression of players thoroughly enjoying each others’, and Beethoven’s, company.

Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Stanisław Skrowaczewski
OEHMS OC522

 

 

Words by Jeremy Pound. This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine. 

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Freya Parr A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2

Rating: 
0

Premiere:
Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 5 April 1803

On 6 October 1802 in the village of Heiligenstadt on the outskirts of Vienna, Beethoven wrote an impassioned letter to his brothers Carl and Johann. Including instructions that it should be read after his death, the ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’ describes in bleak terms the composer’s despair at the onset of deafness.

‘How could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection?’ he wrote. ‘…What a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing.’

 

Tonality:

It was also while staying at Heiligenstadt over the summer months of that year that Beethoven composed the bulk of his Second Symphony. Does the composer reflect in this work the frustrations expressed in his letter? In fact, cast in a sunny D major, the overall mood of the Second is largely upbeat.

Here and there, though, there are moments that point towards the growling and fist-thumping composer of Beethoven’s later years. The score is scattered with brutal sforzandos and sudden, and dramatic, changes of dynamic markings. And listen out, too, for the moment at the end of the exposition in the long first movement when the key unexpectedly shifts from A major to an unusual and ever-so-slightly disconcerting D minor.

 

 


Beethoven's Second Symphony, performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
under Daniel Barenboim at the 2012 BBC Proms

 

Rule-breaking:

Taken as a whole, Beethoven’s Second is by no means a game-changer in the course of classical music – that would come with the Eroica two years later. There are, though, already plenty of signs here that he was itching to go his own way. Take for instance, the third movement, where he ventures a step further along the path he’d already began to tread in the First Symphony – where tradition would normally place a courtly and graceful minuet and trio, here Beethoven presents us with a decidedly rustic scherzo.

And then there is the finale’s coda. Why follow convention by finishing with a charming little endpiece, when there’s the opportunity to go out in a blaze of timpani- and trumpet-adorned triumph? Here was a precedent that he would continue in the symphonies to follow.

 

 

Reception:

And the Second Symphony’s reception? Not great, with the descriptions of some critics almost matching the colour and inventiveness of the work itself. Complaining about its ‘barbaric chords’, Paris’s Tablettes de Polymnie reckoned that it sounded ‘as if doves and crocodiles were locked up together’. Vienna’s Zeitung für die elegante Welt, meanwhile, described it as ‘a hideously wounded, writhing dragon that refuses to die’. Posterity has treated it more kindly.

 

Recommended recording:

Skrowaczewski and his Saarbrucken players bring a rare fire and fury to the first movement. And few can match their bonhomie in the following two movements – as the music bounces from orchestral section to section, masterfully paced by the conductor, one gets the impression of players thoroughly enjoying each others’, and Beethoven’s, company.

Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Stanisław Skrowaczewski
OEHMS OC522

 

 

Words by Jeremy Pound. This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine. 

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Freya Parr The best recordings of Nicola Benedetti

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Wynton Marsalis 
Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite
Decca 485 0013 (2019)

The jazz trumpeter and composer’s expansive and eclectic concerto was written for Benedetti. She premieres it on disc here with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Cristian Mačelaru.

 

 

 

Arlene Sierra 
Butterflies, Remember a Mountain
Bridge BRIDGE9506 (2018)

Benedetti joins cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk for the American composer’s second piano trio, described by The Times as ‘a small wonder’.

 

 

 

 

Shostakovich & Glazunov 
Violin Concertos
Decca 478 8758 (2016)

This powerful disc journeys from late Romantic Russia to the 1940s Soviet Union, with Kirill Karabits conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

 

 

Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy
Decca 478 6690 (2014)

Benedetti paints a picture of Scotland’s musical landscape. She’s joined by folk singer Julie Fowlis for traditional song, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy.

 

 

 

 

The Silver Violin
Decca 478 3529 (2012)

Korngold’s lush Violin Concerto is at the heart of a programme of film classics, from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly to the theme for Schindler’s List.

 

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Freya Parr A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1

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Premiere:
KK Hoftheater nächst der Burg, Vienna, 2 April 1800

After permanently settling in Vienna in 1792 at the age of 22, Beethoven set about mastering an impressive range of musical genres. In the following years, he completed a substantial body of chamber music (piano trios and string trios and works for wind instruments), duo and solo piano sonatas and a piano concerto (No. 1 in C major). Missing from this work list, however, were either symphonies or string quartets. The highly self-critical composer was evidently reluctant to tackle either medium until he felt fully equipped to write something that could match the achievement of his great forebears, Mozart and Haydn.

In fact, Beethoven had made an abortive attempt to write a symphony between 1796 and ’97, but the work was only completed two years later. It was unveiled for the first time before the Viennese public at a concert on 2 April, 1800 and published the following year. The First Symphony bears a dedication to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, one of the most vociferous supporters of Beethoven at the time and the librettist of Haydn’s oratorios The Creation and The Seasons.

 

 

Structure and tonality:

As befitting a work composed at the turn of the 19th century, Beethoven’s First pays homage to the great Viennese classical tradition, but also offers tantalising anticipations of his innovative symphonic writing in the next decade. The retrospective elements are most obviously manifested in the close thematic relationship that exists between this Symphony in the ‘festive’ key of C major and previous works bearing the same tonality, most notably Haydn’s Symphony No. 97 and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony (No. 41).

The First also follows a similar structural outline to the late Haydn symphonies, even though Beethoven places more emotional weight on the finale. Perhaps most notably, Beethoven designates the third movement as a minuet, but his recommended tempo marking of Allegro molto e vivace suggests that it is in essence the first of his dynamic symphonic scherzos.

 


Beethoven's First Symphony, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle

 

Instrumentation:

The orchestra Beethoven uses in the First Symphony (double woodwind, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings) is no different in size to that employed by Haydn. Yet his orchestration is radically different, as immediately evidenced in the brief slow introduction to the work. Many commentators highlight the provocative nature of Beethoven’s musical argument here, particularly its opening of a dominant seventh chord resolving to the ‘wrong’ key of F major. But no less striking is the unprecedented textural effect of combining pizzicato strings with sustained woodwind chords.

Indeed, throughout the First, Beethoven creates a different orchestral balance than his predecessors, giving the wind instruments far greater parity with the strings. A reviewer present at the first performance of the work took great exception to this tendency, claiming that Beethoven was writing something that was more appropriate for a wind-band than for a symphony orchestra. It was a complaint that Beethoven totally ignored in his subsequent symphonies.

 

 

Recommended recording:

Following in the footsteps of Toscanini, Riccardo Chailly delivers a characteristically high-voltage account of the First Symphony, perfectly capturing its moments of brusque humour with superbly incisive sforzando accents from his Leipzig players, yet allowing sufficient space for the graceful aspects of the second movement to come to the fore.

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
Decca 478 3493

 

 

Words by Erik Levi. This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

 

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Freya Parr Nominees revealed for BBC Music Magazine Awards 2020

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BBC Music Magazine has announced the shortlist for its 2020 Awards. With 21 nominees across seven categories, the expert panel drew their choices from the 175 recordings that were awarded five-star reviews in 2019.

The 15th annual BBC Music Magazine Awards are the only classical music awards voted for by the public. To listen to the nominated recordings and cast your votes, visit classical-music.com/awards.

The nominees are divided into seven categories: Orchestral, Concerto, Opera, Choral, Vocal, Chamber and Instrumental. 

With a clutch of premiere recordings in this year’s shortlist, there’s no doubt 2019 was a year for superb new music. The chamber category features Orange – an album of string quartets by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, while Gabriel Jackson’s retelling of the Passion story is up for the Choral Award. Elsewhere, Elizabeth Kenny’s Ars Longa – an album of old and new music for the theorbo, nominated in the Instrumental Category – features two premiere recordings of works by Nico Muhly and Benjamin Oliver, both written specifically for Kenny. 

This year’s BBC Music Magazine Awards also celebrates new recordings of works by underrated masterpieces and lesser-known composers. This is particularly the case in the Orchestral Category, which features stunning performances of Weinberg’s Symphony No. 21 by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Korngold’s Symphony in F sharp by John Wilson and the newly revived Sinfonia of London, and symphonies by Lutosławski performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu. Also in the shortlist, Kirill Gerstein performs Busoni’s extraordinary piano concerto, Markus Maskuniitty brings us a selection of horn concertos, and Opera Rara champions Puccini’s first opera, Le Willis

The full list of nominees can be seen below. For details on how to vote, visit our Awards page here.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Kings Place on Wednesday 22 April. As well as the public awards, there are also four jury awards: Premiere Recording, Newcomer of the Year, DVD of the Year and Recording of the Year. The BBC Music Magazine team will also choose its Music Personality of the Year, an award first given to violinist Tasmin Little in 2019.

 

Orchestral

Weinberg
Symphonies Nos 2 & 21
Gidon Kremer (violin); Kremerata Baltica; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
Deutsche Grammophon 483 6566   88.59 mins (2 discs) 

 

Korngold
Symphony in F sharp; Theme and Variations; Straussiana
Sinfonia of London/John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5220   59.17 mins  

 

Lutosławski
Symphonies Nos 1 & 4; Jeux vénitiens
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
Ondine ODE 1320-5   57:21 mins

 

Concerto

Busoni
Piano Concerto in C major
Kirill Gerstein (piano); Men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus; Boston Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
Myrios MYR024   71:29 mins

 

Glière • Saint-Saëns • R Schumann
R Schumann: Konzertstück for Four Horns*; Adagio and Allegro; Saint-Saëns: Morceau de concert; Glière: Horn Concerto
Markus Maskuniitty (horn); Martin Schöpfer, Kristofer Oberg, Monica Berenguer Caro (horns)*; Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
Ondine ODE 1339-2   59:08 mins

 

Dvořák * Martinů
Dvořák: Piano Concerto in G minor; Martinů: Piano Concerto No. 4, ‘Incantation’
Ivo Kahánek (piano); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša
Supraphon SU 4236-2   59.24 mins 

 

Opera

Puccini
Le Willis
Ermonela Jaho, Arsen Soghomonyan, Brian Mulligan (voices); Opera Rara Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Elder
Opera Rara ORC59   62.39 mins 

 

Purcell
King Arthur
Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Rowan Pierce, Carolyn Sampson, Jeremy Budd, James Way, Roderick Williams, Ashley Riches; Gabrieli Consort and Players/Paul McCreesh
Signum Classics SIGCD589   97.38 mins (2 discs)

 

Gounod
Faust
Benjamin Bernheim, Véronique Gens, Andrew Foster-Williams, Jean-Sébastien Bou, Juliette Mars, Anas Séguin, Ingrid Perruche; Les Talens Lyriques; Flemish Radio Choir/Christophe Rousset
Bru Zane BZ 1037   173.48 mins (3 discs)

 

Vocal

Handel
Italian Cantatas

Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Lea Desandre (mezzo-soprano); Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm
Erato 9029563362   96:10 mins (2 discs)

 

Si J’ai Aimé
Songs by Saint-Saëns, Bordes, Berlioz, Dubois, Massenet et al
Sandrine Piau (soprano); Le Concert de la Loge/Julien Chauvin
Alpha Classics ALPHA 445   59.25 mins 

 

Janáček
The Diary of One Who Disappeared; Ríkadla; Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs
Nicky Spence (tenor), Julius Drake (piano); Václava Housková (mezzo-soprano), VOICE, Victoria Samek (clarinet)
Hyperion CDA 68282   62.21 mins 

 

Choral

Bach Cantatas
H Bach: Ich danke dir Gott; JM Bach: Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ; Herr, der König freuet sich; JC Bach: Die Furcht des Herren; Herr, wende dich und sei mir gnädig; Es erhub sich ein streit; JS Bach Christ Lag in Todesbanden, BWV4
Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier
Ricercar RIC 401   66.30 mins 

 

Handel
Brockes-Passion HWV 48
Elizabeth Watts, Ruby Hughes (sopranos), Rachael Lloyd (mezzo-soprano), Tim Mead (countertenor), Robert Murray, Gwilym Bowen, Nicky Spence (tenors), Cody Quattlebaum, Morgan Pearse (bass-baritone); Choir and Orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr
Academy of Ancient Music AAM007   172 mins (3 discs)

 

Gabriel Jackson
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Emma Tring (soprano), Guy Cutting (tenor); Choir of Merton College, Oxford; Oxford Contemporary Sinfonia/Benjamin Nicholas
Delphian DCD34222   69:01 mins

 

Chamber

Ysaÿe • Franck • Vierne • L Boulanger
Ysaÿe: Poème Elégiaque; Franck: Violin Sonata in A; Vierne: Violin Sonata in G minor; Lili Boulanger: Nocturne
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Hyperion CDA 68204   78:29 mins

 

Caroline Shaw
Entr’acte; Valencia; Plan and Elevation; Punctum; Ritornello 2.sq.2.j.a; Limestone & Felt
Attacca Quartet
Nonesuch 7559-79260-9   60.97 mins 

 

Bartók * Veress
Veress: String Trio; Bartók: Piano Quintet in C
Barnabás Kelemen, Vilde Frang (violin), Katalin Kokas, Lawrence Power (viola), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello), Alexander Lonquich (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA 458   61.50 mins 

 

Instrumental

Bach to the Future
JS Bach: Musical Offering, BWV 1079: Ricercar a 6; Fugue in G minor, BWV 578; Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565; Chorale Prelude, BWV 721; Fantasia & Fugue in G minor, BWV 542; Chorale Preludes, BWV 617 and BWV 727; Fantasia in G, BWV 572; Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
Olivier Latry (organ)
La Dolce Volta LDV69   77:37 mins

 

Ars Longa: Old and new music for theorbo
Works by Piccinini, James MacMillan, Kapsperger, Benjamin Oliver, De Visée and Nico Muhly
Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo)
Linn CKD 603   75.34 mins 

 

Shostakovich
Piano Sonatas Nos 1 and 2; 24 Preludes, Op. 34; Nocturne from The Limped Stream
Andrey Gugnin (piano)
Hyperion CDA68267   79.27 mins 

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