Martin Cullingford's pick of the finest recordings from this month's reviews.
Here are the titles available from Naxos Direct.
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Brahms ‘The Final Piano Pieces’ 
Stephen Hough pf 

"A beautiful recital from Stephen Hough, one of today’s leading musicians, of late piano works by Brahms, rich in colours both vivid and delicate, and thoughtful and reflective throughout." (Gramophone) 

A collection of exquisite Brahmsian miniatures: brief meditations on last things before—in Stephen Hough’s own words—‘the light fades and the final cigar is extinguished’.

kr 169
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CPE Bach Oboe Concertos 
Xenia Löffler ob Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin / Georg Kallweit 

"CPE Bach’s orchestral imagination and flair are given full voice here in the symphonies, while Xenia Löffler is exquisite in the oboe concertos." (Gramophone) 

kr 169
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Brahms Piano Concerto No 1 
Lars Vogt pf Royal Northern Sinfonia 

"Leading his Royal Northern Sinfonia from the piano, Lars Vogt offers a bold and brilliant D minor Concerto, paired with finely detailed solo Brahms." (Gramophone) 

Lars Vogt continues his series of concerto recordings with the Royal Northern Sinfonia with this new recording of Johannes Brahms’ (1833–1897) First Piano Concerto together with Four Ballades (Op. 10) for solo piano. As in previous albums, Lars Vogt conducts from the keyboard. The evolution of Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto took several steps. Originally conceived to become a Sonata for Two Pianos through orchestration it wasdeveloped into a four-movement Symphony until reaching into its final form of a Piano Concerto in three movements. During the process, which lasted from 1854 to 1856, somemovements were also discarded and replaced by new material. This music is packed with much drama. No wonder since these years were particularly tumultuous in Brahms’ personal life: it was during this period when his great mentor Robert Schumann was sent into an asylum and ultimately died. It was also time when Brahms formed a close, lifelong friendship to Clara Schumann. Some of these feelings might well be echoed in the peaceful 2nd movement, Adagio. Brahms’ Four Ballades, Op. 10 are works written in 1854 by a young composer barely in his 20s, yet these pieces are technically mature and profound in such a manner that they could even be compared to his final piano opuses. Lars Vogt was appointed the first ever “Pianist in Residence” by the Berlin Philharmonic in 2003/04 and enjoys a high profile as a soloist and chamber musician. His debut solo recording on Ondine with Bach’s Goldberg Variations (ODE 1273-2) was released in August 2015 and has been a major critical success. Lars Vogt started his tenure as Music Director of the Royal Northern Sinfonia in September 2015. Lars Vogt was nominated for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year award in 2017. His recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4 (ODE 1311-2) together with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and an album of Dvorak’s Piano Trios (ODE 1316-2) received Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice in May 2018 and in December 2018. His most recent album on Ondine featuring four Mozart’s Piano Sonatas (ODE 1318-2) was also chosen Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice in July 2019.

kr 159
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Vaughan Williams Symphonies Nos 3 & 4 
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins 

"Martyn Brabbins’s instinctive sense of the sweep, grace and drama of Vaughan Williams’s orchestral sound-world results here in a very fine release." (Gramophone) 

Compelling performances of two very different symphonies, the complex visionary pantheism of the ‘Pastoral’ an ideal foil for the unbridled ferocity of No 4. An added incentive, Martyn Brabbins’s idiomatic realization of Vaughan Williams’s choral Saraband 'Helen' (a first recording) is a real discovery.

kr 169
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‘In nomine II’ 

"Album after album from viol consort Fretwork affirm their status as an ensemble of supreme musicianship, whether immersed in the past or playing music of modernity by the likes of Nico Muhly and Gavin Bryars." (Gramophone) 

Over thirty years ago, Fretwork made its first recording – well, technically speaking it was the second album to be recorded, but the first to be released – and it was called ‘In nomine’, which consisted mainly of 16th-century examples of this remarkable instrumental form. While this isn’t an anniversary of that release, we want to look both back to that first release and forward, to bring the genre up to date. There were several examples of the In nomine and related forms that we didn’t or couldn’t record in 1987, and this album seeks to complete the project. The form was created unwittingly by John Taverner (1490-1545). His 6-part mass, Gloria tibi Trinitas, is based on the plainchant of that name. In the Sanctus, at the words Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord), the six-part texture is pared down to two and three parts; and then, with the words in nomine Domini, Taverner makes, for the only time in the mass, a complete statement of the cantus firmus, accompanied by three voices. This four-parts section – very beautiful as it is – must have struck contemporaries as some kind of perfection, to be used as a template, to be emulated and copied. And then those copies were copied and changed again.

kr 159
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JS Bach ‘Opus Bach – Organ Works, Vol 1’
Peter Kofler org 

"A major project by Peter Kofler to record all JS Bach’s organ works begins in style, complete with recorded sound which our critic Marc Rochester describes as ‘genuinely awe-inspiring’." (Gramophone) 

In March 2017 organist and harpsichordist Peter Kofler launched his ongoing Bach project: a complete recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ works. Unlike performers of earlier complete recordings, Kofler opted for a “modern” instrument for this enterprise. For not only was J. S. Bach the perfecter of a great polyphonic era, he was an innovator and stimulator as well, particularly in the field of organ music. Be it the introduction of the tempered tuning system, the virtuoso use of the organ pedal or the development of the fortepiano: Bach significantly contributed to each of them and was one of the first to employ the possibilities of these modern developments. The four-manual Rieger organ at the Jesuit church of St. Michael’s in Munich with its 75 stops offers many of the characteristics verifiably valued by Bach. It features an imposing fortissimo and a multitude of characteristic stop timbres that the cantor of Leipzig’s Thomaskirche partly could only dream of in his days.

kr 299
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Lully Isis 
Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset 

"Christophe Rousset once again strikes gold with a major Lully project of elegance and drama, his understanding of the atmosphere and rhythms of the French Baroque as instinctive as ever." (Gramophone) 

kr 189
Gomes Lo schiavo 
Sols; Teatro Lirico, Cagliari / John Neschling 

"Where DVD can excel: offering advocacy to a work rarely performed on stage, and making a good case for its revival in opera houses more widely." (Gramophone) 
Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Gomes was among the many musicians who travelled to Italy to master the language and the rules of operatic works. He studied in Milan and succeeded in having a few operas staged at Italian venues, before returning to Brazil where he was hailed as the most famous living national composer. Gomes felt compelled to commit his work to the country’s anti-slave cause, which was still legal practice then. Lo schiavo was therefore conceived as a politically engaged work. However, the issue was rather volatile and the composer had to change the contemporary time setting to a more distant one. In Brazil the opera was a triumph, but elsewhere it failed to gain popularity and soon fell into oblivion. This recording of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari’s production documents the opera’s first performance in modern times and reveals Gomes’ flamboyant richness of melodic creativity, his sound grasp of construction, and a technical mastery of the theatrical mechanisms that are always of the highest level. ‘The most popular title of the entire Brazilian repertoire. The most represented and, perhaps, the most loved one.’ – John Neschling, conductor Performance Reviews: ‘Davide Garattini Raimondi has provided simple but effective stage direction… Alessandro Verazzi’s lighting provides the right touch for dawns and sunsets in the Brazilian forest… Massimiliano Pisapia has a strong center register and a vivid volume with impressive high Cs… Svetla Vassileva handles her difficult arias quite well.’ – - New production of Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, in coproduction with Festival Amazonas de Ópera of Manaus - Filmed in 4 K - WORLD PREMIERE VIDEO RECORDING - Outstanding cast led by Massimiliano Pisapia, Svetla Vassileva and Elisa Balbo. - Extra content for DVD and Blu-ray: Lo Schiavo presentation at the Brazilian Embassy in Rome.

kr 239
kr 239
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