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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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MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Dame Sarah Connolly mez Robert Dean Smith bar Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski

"At its finest – as it is here – Das Lied von der Erde is a work of profound poignancy; two superb soloists, and a conductor who beautifully shapes this performance, make it an unmissable release." (Gramophone) 

Vladimir Jurowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin continue their exploration of Mahler with a new recording of Das Lied von der Erde, on which Dame Sarah Connolly and Robert Dean Smith provide the vocal contributions. Residing somewhere between symphony and song cycle, Das Lied is one of Mahler’s most profound and loved works, marking an important step in the composer’s career, as well as in his private life. Jurowski approaches the piece as Mahler’s deliberate move from a “heroic” Beethovenian model towards a more “lyrical”, Schubertian attitude. Throughout Das Lied, and particularly in the contemplative last movement, “Der Abschied (The Goodbye)”, Mahler seems to come to terms with the mortality of man while celebrating the immortal nature of Life. The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin has a vast PENTATONE discography. Together with their chief conductor and artistic director Vladimir Jurowski, they have recorded symphonic works from Mahler and Strauss (2017), violin concertos by Britten and Hindemith together with Arabella Steinbacher (2017), and Schnittke’s Third Symphony (2015). Robert Dean Smith featured on PENTATONE recordings of Tannhäuser (title role, 2013), Die Walküre (Siegmund, 2013), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Stolzing, 2011), and Der Fliegende Holländer (Erik, 2011). Dame Sarah Connolly makes her PENTATONE debut.

kr 189
Image #2 SEPTEMBER 2020
MAHLER Symphony No 7
Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä

"More Mahler this month: a brilliant and detailed traversal of the composer’s Seventh Symphony from Osmo Vänskä which more than warrants a place on this page – a very fine recording." (Gramophone) 

In an effort to arrange the first performance of his Seventh Symphony, Gustav Mahler declared it to be his best work, ‘preponderantly cheerful in character’. His younger colleague Schoenberg expressed his admiration for the work, and Webern considered it his favorite Mahler symphony. Nevertheless, it remains the least performed and least written-about symphony of the entire cycle, and has come to be regarded as enigmatic and less successful than its siblings. One reason for this has been the huge – even for Mahler – contrasts that it encompasses: from a first movement which seems to continue the atmosphere of the previous symphony, the ‘Tragic’ Sixth, to a finale that has been accused of excessive triumphalism, and which Mahler himself once described as ‘broad daylight’. Between these two poles, he supplies no less than two movements entitled Nachtmusik (‘night music’) framing a scherzo to which the composer added the character marking schattenhaft (‘shadowy’). Mahler famously said that ‘a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.’ The Seventh is as true to this dictum as any other of the symphonies, offering a wealth of emotions, moods and colours. The composer makes full and imaginative use of the orchestra’s extended wind and percussion sections – including cowbells, whips and glockenspiel – as well as a mandolin and a guitar, adding a troubadour-like aspect to the nightly serenade of the fourth movement. All of this is brought to life by the players of the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, as they continue a cycle praised for the performances as well as the recorded sound.

kr 169
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PICKARD The Gardener of Aleppo
Nash Ensemble / Martyn Brabbins

"Covering 30 years of composer John Pickard’s career, these well-chosen works convey his concerns with emotion and events; the Nash Ensemble understand his sound world intimately." (Gramophone) 

Four previous releases on BIS have all featured John Pickard’s music for large orchestra – or, in the case of the Gaia Symphony (BIS-2061), large brass band. This new album, on the other hand, presents scorings ranging from a solo oboe to a chamber ensemble of eight players. The seven works cover just over 30 years; the earliest one, Serenata Concertata, was Pickard’s first paid commission written at the age of twenty. In his liner notes, Pickard notes that he has an aversion to repeating himself: ‘so each new work tends to be a reaction against the character, structure and technique of the previous one… The result has been a body of work with a wide expressive range and this disc gives some indication of that. The pieces on it are grouped in a broad progression from the serious to the more lighthearted.’ The two opening works are indeed inspired by serious matters – the background to The Gardener of Aleppo is the war in Syria, while Daughters of Zion, the only vocal work on the album, sets a text that reflects on anti-Jewish aspects of certain early Christian celebrations. In the latter work, Susan Bickley joins the players of the celebrated Nash Ensemble, who go on to lighter fare in Three Chicken Studies (Pickard himself has kept chickens as pets) and Ghost Train, a perpetuum mobile built on a cantus firmus derived from the Dies iræ theme. For this and the other chamber ensemble pieces the conductor Martyn Brabbins, a longtime collaborator of Pickard’s, wields his baton.

kr 169
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BEETHOVEN Bagatelles
Paul Lewis pf

"Paul Lewis is a pianist whose relationship with Beethoven’s music has brought us many albums of richly absorbing playing, and in the composer’s anniversary year, his Bagatelles enhance that fine catalogue." (Gramophone) 

In our collective idea of the piano, Beethoven’s name is associated with the monument of the thirty-two sonatas, which have often been elevated to the status of the ‘New Testament’ beside the ‘Old Testament’ of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Yet, over a period of decades, the composer of Für Elise constantly returned to the genre of the bagatelle, which he called ‘trifles’ but which actually meant a great deal to him. In this small form par excellence, as in the sonata, Beethoven laid the foundations for a flourishing new genre, the piano miniature. Whether they last a few minutes or a few seconds, these Bagatelles are masterpieces!

kr 159
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JOHAN SMITH Guitar Works
Johan Smith gtr

"With competition prizes to his credit, Johan Smith is clearly a guitarist to follow, one with, as this mixed recital reveals, a compelling sense of touch and musicality." (Gramophone) 

Johan Smith, 2019 winner of the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition, presents his dream programme in this recital. Bach’s Toccata for harpsichord ‘borders on the unplayable’ for the guitar, especially in its final double fugue, while Manuel Ponce’s Variations on La folía de España and Fugue is one of the most challenging peaks of the repertoire. Mertz’s celebrated virtuoso Concertino is followed by Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland, renowned for its blend of Elizabethan melancholy and contemporary strangeness. The recital concludes with a world premiere, the evocative Sables Stellaires by Josquin Schwizgebel, dedicated to Johan Smith. We are continually in awe of the remarkable musicianship of each new generation of classical players, and as a result our Guitar Laureate series goes from strength to strength with every season. Named the ‘Classical Guitar Revelation of 2017’ by French Guitar Classical Magazine, Johan Smith has been invited to perform in renowned festivals as soloist and in concertos with orchestras such as the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra.

kr 89
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FINNISSY Pious Anthems & Voluntaries
The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge / Andrew Nethsingha

"All praise to St John’s and their conductor Andrew Nethsingha for commissioning these works, and then recording them for posterity with such skill and devotion." (Gramophone) 

Michael Finnissy was born in Tulse Hill in 1946. He studied at the Royal College of Music with Bernard Stevens and Humphrey Seale, and in Italy with Roman Vlad. Much of his early work was first performed in France and the Netherlands, while he was working as a freelance repetiteur and pianist for dance-classes. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music, at the universities of Sussex and Southampton, and at the Katholiek Universiteit in Leuven. He has also given summer courses at Dartington, and been resident artist at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne (Australia). He has been featured composer at the Huddersfield Festival several times, at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and many other places across the world, most recently at SICPP in Boston USA. In this new recording the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge perform Finnissy’s deep, rich and fulfilling music – created as part of a residency, which combines evocative works directly inspired by Tudor Music from the choir's library with more free-form inspirations of this material by the composer. It has taken Conductor and Director Andrew Nethsingha four years to gradually learn the pieces on this recording. He says it “has been a deeply enriching experience which I want others to share”.

kr 259
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POTT At First Light
Commotio / Matthew Berry

"Francis Pott offers a moving addition to modern music – ‘a semi-secular Requiem’ as he puts it, one of thought-provoking depth, performed with compassion by Commotio and Matthew Berry." (Gramophone) 

Francis Pott’s acclaimed musical voice is one of uncommon eloquence and seriousness of purpose, and his works have been performed and broadcast in over 40 countries. This recording presents world premiere recordings of two major pieces. At First Light is a memorial work which takes the form of a series of slow meditations surrounding an exuberant motet, with wordless commentary from a lamenting cello. Word, with its significant role for the organ and the inclusion of texts by the Welsh priest and poet R.S. Thomas, reveals Gospel contemplation in a postmodern world.

kr 89
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The Hermes Experiment

"This fabulous young chamber ensemble – comprising harp, clarinet, soprano and double bass – have really caught the imagination with their commitment to commissioning and their infectious and brilliant performances." (Gramophone) 

With over sixty commissions to its credit after just six years of existence, The Hermes Experiment has already proved itself a force to be reckoned with in the creation and advocacy of new music. Now, ten of those commissions are brought together on the ensemble’s debut album release, showcasing its deliberately idiosyncratic line-up of harp, clarinet, soprano and double bass in a compelling survey of styles and individual voices. Buzzing with energy, irresistibly plural, HERE WE ARE is a portrait of our times and an unignorable statement of identity and purpose.

kr 159
Dallapiccola Il prigioniero
Sols; Danish National Symphony Choir & Orchestra / Gianandrea Noseda

"Gianandrea Noseda returns to the music of Dallapiccola with a powerful performance of his protest opera. Brilliantly performed, it’s a significant addition to the composer’s discography." (Gramophone) 

Gianandrea Noseda continues his series of recordings of the works of Luigi Dallapiccola, this time with his Danish forces. Seen by many as Dallapiccola’s masterpiece, Il prigioniero (The Prisoner) is a one-act opera composed in the late 1940s, and premiered (in a radio broadcast) in 1949. The Italian composer had first encountered serialism as a student in Florence in the 1920s, when Schoenberg visited to conduct Pierrot lunaire. The influence was profound, although it would take two decades before it demonstrated itself fully in his composition. Based primarily on a short story, ‘La Torture par l’espérance’ (Torture by Hope), by the French writer Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, the opera concerns a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition who finds the door of his cell unlocked and creeps out under the cover of darkness to the garden beyond. Hope rises to the level of ecstasy, before he finds himself embraced in the Garden by the Inquisitor, who returns him to his cell. Dallapiccola employs three twelve-note tone rows in the work, which he named ‘Prayer’, ‘Hope’, and ‘Freedom’, from which all the vocal lines are created. The album is completed by three choral works: Estate, written in 1932 for male chorus, and two settings from 1933 of poems by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger for mixed voice chorus.

kr 169
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Beethoven Violin Sonatas, Vol 1
Tamsin Waley-Cohen vn Huw Watkins pf

"Two of these sonatas featured on these pages last month, but Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins, and their wonderful rapport, demonstrate the music offers joys in infinite approaches." (Gramophone) 

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins return with the start of a Beethoven Violin Sonata Cycle – here recording the 1st, 5th and 8th sonatas. Gramophone Magazine said “The heart gives a little leap at the prospect of...a duo as engaging and intelligent as Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins.” This cycle is sure to be one of the highlights of Signum’s year, as well as of Beethoven 250. Beethoven’s twelve violin sonatas add up to a comprehensive exploration of the possibilities and potential of writing for the two instruments on equal terms – possibilities that he was ideally placed to understand. The three sonatas on this recording are waypoints on a journey, crafted by a composer who was both violinist and pianist, and who never ceased exploring the practical possibilities of the instruments for which he wrote.

kr 159
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Alkan Grande Sonate
Mark Viner pf

"Mark Viner continues his exploration of Alkan’s piano music with another triumphant album, demonstrating an impressive affinity with this composer’s music that reaps rewards once again." (Gramophone) 

Mark Viner’s Piano Classics albums of rarities and masterpieces from the high noon of the virtuoso age have attracted bouquets of praise from international magazines. Most recently he released Alkan’s 25 Préludes dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs, Op.3 (PCL10189) to great acclaim: ‘This is a superb album, beautifully recorded… and another feather in the cap of this remarkable British pianist.’ (Gramophone). ‘Viner shows he is an impressively unflappable interpreter of this sometimes extraordinary music… His playing is never showy; he emphasizes that these are profound explorations of early romantic sensibility first and extreme technical challenges second, and that is a totally convincing way of dealing with some of the most remarkable piano music of its time.’ (The Guardian) For Viner, Alkan himself is the most enigmatic figure in the history of music – but also one of the most intriguing and alluring names among the pantheon of pianist-composers. He feels that the Op.33 Sonata is, quite simply, the greatest French piano sonata of all, and plays it with commensurate passion and conviction. Composed in the late 1840s and published in 1848, the sonata outlines four decades in the life of man, from the twenties to the fifties, within a conventional, albeit highly expanded and imaginatively embellished four-movement structure. However, Alkan stressed that his intention was not to compose imitative or literal tone-painting: ‘the first piece is a Scherzo; the second an Allegro; the third and fourth an Andante and a Largo; but each one of them corresponds, in my mind, to a given moment of existence, to a particular disposition of thought.’ The earlier Souvenirs – Trois Morceaux dans le genre pathétique, Op.15 (1837) is Alkan’s first foray into large-scale structures with the third piece’s recapitulation of ideas from the previous two, constituting a single unity through their half an hour’s duration..

kr 189
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Cleve Missa Rex Babylonis

"This wonderful album devoted to the music of 16th-century composer Johannes de Cleve earns our critic Fabrice Fitch’s praise as one of this excellent group’s finest releases yet." (Gramophone) 

However cultivated the European centres of Habsburg imperial power may have been, few could regularly have boasted musicians of the calibre of Cinquecento. Their ongoing exploration of Franco-Flemish repertoire from the sixteenth century uncovers major works by Johannes de Cleve and Jacobus Vaet.

kr 169
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‘Cantos Sagrados’
National Youth Choir of Scotland / Christopher Bell

"These impressive young singers embrace these pieces’ contrasting demands with passion and style, offering a truly striking album of modern choral music." (Gramophone) 

The National Youth Choir of Scotland is an outstanding choir for young people aged 16 to 25, directed by world-renowned conductor Christopher Bell. Membership is granted by yearly auditions to singers born, resident or studying in Scotland. In 2012 the choir was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Ensemble Award. Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company became the Scottish National Orchestra in 1950, and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1977. The Orchestra’s artistic team is led by Danish conductor Thomas Sondergård, who was appointed RSNO Music Director in October 2018, having previously held the position of Principal Guest Conductor. NYCOS and RSNO join forces to create an eclectic mix of recordings, performing some timeless classics, as well as exploring some contemporary repertoire. The excellent standards of both ensembles make for an exciting listen in what is NYCOS’ first recording with Signum.

kr 159
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R Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten
Sols; Vienna State Opera Chorus & Orchestra / Christian Thielemann

"A second Straussian offering this month, this time from Christian Thielemann and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra on, as  Hugo Shirley puts it, breathtaking form." (Gramophone) 

Not many masterpieces have premiered at the Vienna State Opera. Die Frau ohne Schatten – the fourth collaboration between Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal – make one of the few exceptions. On the evening of 25 May 2019 – the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Vienna State Opera – a star-studded festival première of Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten took place at Vienna State Opera. Together with his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss, at the time director of the opera house, developed a fairytale, complex and psychologically discriminating work that received its world première a hundred years ago, on 10 October 1919 at the opera house on the Ring. Since then, Die Frau ohne Schatten has enjoyed a rich performance history and is regarded as a special highlight of Viennese and international music theatre.

kr 299
‘LA Phil 100’
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

"A major birthday – filmed a century to the day since the LA Phil’s debut – marked by music and musicians with particular resonance for this fine orchestra." (Gramophone) 

A century to the day after the orchestra’s first concert on 24th October 1919, the centennial season culminates in a “splashy gala night” (San Francisco Classical Voice) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the current and former chief conductors Dudamel, Mehta and Salonen sharing the podium. The repertoire is a true reflection of the DNA that makes the LA Phil the LA Phil and “the defining factor of this orchestra is its ability to blend genres and styles to create totally new takes on classical works.” (The Guardian) The New York Times recently called the LA Phil “America’s most important orchestra. Period”. Look no further than this concert´s program: Ravel's La Valse - Zubin Mehta; Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 4 - Esa-Pekka Salonen; Strawinsky's Firebird Suite - Gustavo Dudamel and the World Premiere of Daniel Bjarnason's New Work for Three Conductors! This release also includes the bonus film LA Phil – The Tradition of the New. The documentary portrays the LA Phil and its continual creative reinvention on the occasion of this jubilee. Including a historical part to trace the steps that played a part in where the orchestra stands today and interviews with the current and former chief conductors Dudamel, Mehta, Salonen, Frank Gehry, John Adams and music critics, and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic staff.

kr 299
Image BLU RAY: AUGUST 2020
kr 359
‘A New Century’
The Cleveland Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst

"Elegantly sweeping Strauss, an excellent Prokofiev Third, a stylish up-scaling of Beethoven’s Op 132 String Quartet – and more – this set reflects an orchestral partnership of the first rank." (Gramophone) 

Widely regarded as one of the world’s finest orchestras, in 2018 The Cleveland Orchestra celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding by pianist and impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes. Today, as the Orchestra looks forward into a new century, the ensemble launches its own record label with a deluxe box set conducted and curated by Franz Welser-Möst, their Music Director of almost two decades. Recorded in concert within the legendary acoustic of Severance Hall, A New Century features recordings of landmark works by Beethoven, Varèse, Richard Strauss, and Prokofiev alongside new works by Austrian composers Johannes Maria Staud and Bernd Richard Deutsch. The set is presented in a luxurious box set featuring artwork inspired by the Orchestra’s architecturally stunning home in Cleveland. The album is accompanied by a 150-page book filled with photographs and notes exploring the music within and the history of this great American orchestra.

kr 799
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Shostakovich Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Alina Ibragimova vn State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’ / Vladimir Jurowski

"An extraordinary performance from Alina Ibragimova, visceral and strongly personal." (Gramophone) 

The prospect of hearing Alina Ibragimova in two
of the most important concertos written for the
violin is in itself irresistibly enticing, but
Shostakovich aficionados will also welcome an
opportunity to hear the rarely performed original
opening to the Burlesque of No 1, subsequently
made less fearsome for the soloist at the request
of the work’s dedicatee, David Oistrakh.

kr 169
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Beach. Elgar Piano Quintets
Garrick Ohlsson pf Takács Quartet

"Deeply reflective playing of these beautiful and emotionally crafted quintets from the ever-impressive Takács Quartet, joined by a perfect partner in pianist Garrick Ohlsson." (Gramophone) 

Amy Beach’s piano quintet proved a deservedly
popular success in its early years. It makes a
compelling—and surprising—match for Elgar’s
own piano quintet: a late work contemporary with
the cello concerto, and which inhabits the same
emotional landscape.

kr 169
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Beethoven Violin Sonatas Nos 4, 5 & 8
James Ehnes vn Andrew Armstrong pf

"With the quality of musicianship and the captivating rapport between players every bit as a compelling as on the previous two instalments, this series gains another Editor’s Choice." (Gramophone) 

kr 159
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JS Bach Six Solo Cello Suites
Alisa Weilerstein vc

"Alisa Weilerstein embraces the full emotional and technical range of Bach’s Solo Cello suites with open-hearted devotion – richly coloured playing held aloft in a lovely acoustic." (Gramophone) 

After her acclaimed PENTATONE debut with Transfigured Night, Alisa Weilerstein returns with a complete recording of Bach’s Cello Suites. These pieces present the highest mountain to climb for any cellist, and one of the most transcendent and rewarding experiences for listeners alike. With his suites, Bach crafted — essentially without direct precedent — a body of solo cello music that forever defined the genre and brought the Baroque cello on par with its more popular cousin, the viola da gamba. Since Pablo Casals put them in the limelight again after 150 years of relative oblivion, Bach’s suites have become the alpha and omega for generations of cellists. To Weilerstein, the joy of this music — vibrant, contemporary, unquestionably alive — is the joy of discovery. Having heard and studied these pieces for years, she now entrusts her interpretation to the listener. Since signing an exclusive contract PENTATONE, Alisa Weilerstein has released Transfigured Night (2018), and featured on Inon Barnatan’s Beethoven Piano Concertos Part 1 as well as Old Souls, an album with music for flute and strings (both released in 2019).

kr 239
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‘The Beethoven Connection’
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf

"From an acclaimed Beethoven pianist, a delightfully imaginative, and gloriously performed, contribution to the composer’s anniversary year – an exploration not of him, but of his contemporaries." (Gramophone) 

In the 250th Beethoven anniversary year, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has chosen this programme of works by contemporary composers to illuminate and contextualize Beethoven’s extraordinary output for piano. In his explanatory note for the album, the pianist writes: ‘Just as a mountain peak is always surrounded by other perhaps less lofty but no less fascinating summits, the major works of Beethoven are not isolated rock formations rising from the desert, but, as it were, “Himalayas”, forming part of a range in which other mountains might be the best pieces by contemporaries such as Clementi, Hummel, Dussek, and Wölfl. These composers all knew Beethoven well and were in contact with one another. It is essential to know and to make known their music in order better to understand and more thoroughly appreciate the lingua franca of the music of the time, which in turn is part and parcel of the “spirit of the age”, and to be aware of that which unites them, as well as to recognize that which differentiates them and renders each unique. In this year of plentiful Beethovenian commemorations, it appears to me natural, indeed essential, to pay admiring and enthusiastic homage to these composers, each of whom, in his own way, followed his route to the summit.’

kr 169
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Elgar The Music Makers. Sea Pictures
Kathryn Rudge mez Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko

"The catalogue gains stunning new interpretations of two of Elgar’s finest vocal works, Sea Pictures and Music Makers." (Gramophone) 

kr 159
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Kreek The Suspended Harp of Babel
Vox Clamantis / Jaan-Eik Tulve

"A beautiful, mesmeric recording of music by Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek, weaving a poignant path through music of faith and folk origins, and exquisitely performed." (Gramophone) 

The Suspended Harp of Babel features revelatory performances of the choral music of Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962). Kreek’s pieces, incorporating graceful settings of psalms and folk hymns, are juxtaposed here with instrumental fantasias and interludes created for this recording by Marco Ambrosini. Under the direction of Jan-Eik Tulve, the Vox Clamantis choir - whose previous ECM recordings have addressed works of Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and Helena Tulve as well as Gregorian chant- prove to be ideal interpreters of a music poised between old and new. The Suspended Harp of Babel was recorded in Tallinn’s Transfiguration Church in August 2018.

kr 169
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Natalya Romaniw sop Lada Valešová pf

"Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw possesses a truly beautiful soprano, rich and deeply communicative, as she explores her Slavic roots with a passionately performed selection of songs." (Gramophone) 

Soprano Natalya Romaniw and pianist Lada Valešova take us on a journey through Slavic song on this sumptuous album. Welsh-born soprano Natalya Romaniw is of Ukrainian descent, roots she explores in this recital, which is dedicated to her Ukrainian grandfather. The generous programme encompasses a wealth of music by Russian and Czech composers. Dvorak’s Love Songs, Op.83, are at the heart of the album, and his idiomatic Czech style influenced Janacek, from whom we hear a selection of Moravian folk songs. Novak in turn was fascinated by Moravian folk music and was influenced by Janacek; Novak’s gift for melody shines in Romaniw’s interpretations of his songs. From Russia, meanwhile, we hear magical, almost operatic music from Rimsky-Korsakov, powerful passion from Tchaikovsky, and some of Rachmaninov’s most exquisite songs. Natalya Romaniw is often noted for the Slavic character of her voice, a quality heard to full effect on this recording.

kr 159
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Respighi La bella dormente nel bosco
Teatro Lirico di Cagliari / Donato Renzetti

"Respighi’s take on the Sleeping Beauty story is a ravishing, magical delight for both ears and eyes in this excellent production from Teatro Lirico di Cagliari." (Gramophone) 

Ottorino Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco (‘The Sleeping Beauty’) was originally commissioned by the renowned puppeteer Vittoria Podrecca. The revised version we hear today preserves much of the kaleidoscopic approach and magnified characters and emotions of that original; now enhanced by the composer’s matchless orchestration. This famous story in which the Princess pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps for centuries until kissed by her Prince is given a magical atmosphere through director Leo Muscato’s colorful staging, and the superb cast of this Teatro Lirico di Cagliari production truly inhabits an enchanted realm.

kr 239
Image DVD: JULY 2020
kr 239
Beethoven. Mozart Piano Concertos
Friedrich Gulda pf

"There’s much to admire in these performances by Friedrich Gulda, made for radio between 1959 and 1962, united on this SWR Classic set." (Gramophone) 

This is the second installment of the SWR CLASSIC series dedicated to Friedrich Gulda. It contains the piano concertos he recorded for the SWR between 1959 and 1962. Although most famous for his L.v. Beethoven interpretations, Friedrich Gulda also performed the music of J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Debussy and Ravel. From the 1950's on he cultivated an interest in jazz, writing several songs and instrumental pieces himself and combining jazz and classical music in his concerts at times. In 1982, Gulda teamed up with jazz pianist Chick Corea, who found himself in between the breakup of Return to Forever and the formation of his Elektric Band. Issued on The Meeting (Philips, 1984), Gulda and Corea communicate in lengthy improvisations mixing jazz (Someday My Prince Will Come and the lesser known Miles Davis song Put Your Foot Out) and classical music (Brahms' Wiegenlied). It was this unorthodox practice that, among other things, earned him the nickname "terrorist pianist"; Friedrich Gulda had a strong dislike of authorities like the Vienna Academy, the L.v. Beethoven Ring of which he was offered in recognition of his performances but which he refused, and even faked his own death in the late 1990's, cementing his status as the enfant terrible among pianists. Nevertheless, Gulda is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding piano players of the 20th century.

kr 259
Piotr Beczala ten Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana / Marco Boemi

"Tenor Piotr Beczala sings this delightful selection of arias with an engagingly openhearted spirit of humanity and drama, and most importantly a beautifully weighted, richly coloured voice." (Gramophone) 

Global star tenor Piotr Beczala presents Vincerò!, the first fruit of his exclusive collaboration with PENTATONE. Vincerò! is a collection of heart-wrenching opera arias by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano and Cilea. For Beczala, this recording documents his vocal transition from the lyrical tenor repertoire to the more dramatic roles of Verismo, and thus simultaneously marks a significant new chapter in his stage career. Beczala is accompanied by the Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana and the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, led by maestro Marco Boemi; an extraordinary singer’s conductor who has worked with the greatest vocalists of our age. “Piotr Beczala has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on. Its luminosity makes many of his fellow lyric tenors, past and present, sound by comparison like flickering candlewicks. Beczala’s clarity and cleanliness of tone are the essence of his appeal.” (Opera News Awards, 2015)

kr 189
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JS Bach Guitar Works
Sean Shibe gtr

"The superb young guitarist – and this month’s cover artist – Sean Shibe’s devotion to drawing a rich tapestry of colours from every impeccably played phrase makes this a Bach recital worthy of adding to everyone’s collection." (Gramophone) 

Three years as a Delphian artist have seen Sean Shibe record music from seventeenth-century Scottish lute manuscripts to twenty-first-century works for electric guitar, picking up multiple editor’s choices and award nominations for each release, as well as the Royal Philharmonic Society’s prestigious Young Artist of the Year accolade. Now he turns to the music of J. S. Bach, with three works whose obscure early performance history belies their status as repertoire staples for modern guitarists. The musicological questions that have arisen over what instrument Bach intended for these works – questions encapsulated for Shibe by the phrase ‘pour la luth ò cembal’, which appears in the composer’s hand at the head of the manuscript of the Prelude to BWV 998 – are here answered by the unshakeable assurance of Shibe’s performances.

kr 159
Image #8 JUNE 2020
Beethoven An die ferne Geliebte Schubert Schwanengesang
Roderick Williams bar Iain Burnside pf

"The excellent Roderick Williams’s ability to convey meaning with a personal touch makes for a memorable Schwanengesang." (Gramophone) 

Roderick Williams writes: “Although only twelve years separate the composition of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte and Schubert’s Schwanengesang, the ethos and sound world of the two works are markedly different. Pairing them on the concert platform seemed an obvious choice on one hand, but I was reminded not to try to perform Beethoven in the way I perform Schubert. For one thing, the former still has the ring of the late classical, while the latter explores the darkness of the early romantic. For this reason, we decided to record the two works in slightly different soundscapes. In An die ferne Geliebte, the inventiveness of Beethoven is best expressed in the piano writing, while the vocal part is deliberately simple, strophic (the music is repeated for each stanza), and folk-like. ...the sixth song states that these songs are offered ‘ohne Kunstgepräng’. And so we have set the voice slightly more distantly in the balance, giving the piano due prominence; the effect is almost as if I were singing over Iain’s shoulder. Schwanengesang is recorded more traditionally: in these most extraordinary and progressive songs the vocal line is supported by the piano, in equal partnership. Roderick Williams.”

kr 169
Image #9 JUNE 2020
Stradella San Giovanni Battista
Le Banquet Céleste / Damien Guillon

"The intense drama of this 17th-century Biblical oratorio is vividly conveyed by an impressive line-up of singers and players under the astute direction of Damien Guillon." (Gramophone) 

A composer who led a dissolute life and ended up stabbed to death in Genoa, Stradella nevertheless left a distinctive stamp on the history of music. He is situated at the intersection of several stylistic paths and periods, at the crossroads between opera and sacred drama, since his output, and especially San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist), marks the encounter of the great Roman oratorio inherited from Carissimi with the Venetian opera of Cavalli. Stradella is also close to the next generation, that of Scarlatti and Handel. His music is characterized by liveliness, expressiveness and profound humanity. Although San Giovanni Battista enjoyed genuine success when it was premiered in 1675, it was only in 1949 that the work was exhumed from the libraries where its score lay slumbering. That event took place in Perugia, and the role of Salome was sung by Maria Callas.

kr 169
Image #10 JUNE 2020
Purcell The Fairy Queen
Gabrieli Consort and Players / Paul McCreesh

"Paul Mcreesh often offers thrillingly performed projects, and doesn’t disappoint here: elegantly played, characterfully sung, Purcell’s Shakespeare-inspired music is a joy." (Gramophone) 

Purcell’s The Fairy Queen is based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play not frequently performed in the late 17th century, nor very well regarded (“the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life” - Samuel Pepys’ diary, 1662). Despite this, the play would go on to work well within an opera, as the characters of Pyramus and Thisbe could conjure up singing and dancing accomplices. Purcell’s masterful composition, Gabrieli’s first-class performance, and McCreesh’s superb interpretation demonstrate why their recordings are seen as some of the best in classical music today. Gabrieli are world-renowned interpreters of great vocal and instrumental repertoire, from the Renaissance to the present day. Founded by Paul McCreesh in 1982, Gabrieli have both outgrown and remained true to their original identity: whilst the ensemble’s repertoire has expanded beyond any expectation, McCreesh’s ever-questioning spirit, expressive musicianship and a healthy degree of iconoclasm remain constant and are reflected in the ensemble’s dynamic performances. Gabrieli’s repertoire includes major works of the oratorio tradition, virtuosic a cappella programmes and mold-breaking reconstructions of music for historical events. Above all, Gabrieli aims to create thought-provoking performances which stand out from the crowd.

kr 259
Górecki String Quartet No 3. Sonata for Two Violins
Tippett Quartet 

"Across the very substantial span of Górecki’s Third String Quartet, the superb Tippett Quartet prove themselves deeply eloquent communicators of this composer’s poignant voice." (Gramophone) 

The Sonata for Two Violins is one of Henryk Gorecki’s earliest acknowledged works- its contrasts, instrumental rivalries and sophisticated technique a worthy rounding-off of his formative period. The Third String Quartet with its evocative subtitle ‘… songs are sung’ represents a culmination of Gorecki’s preoccupations with elaborate and emotive melodic shapes and closely intertwined harmonies, its final minutes recalling the beauty and poignancy of the composer’s Third Symphony. The First and Second String Quartets can be heard on Naxos as well: “a recording deserving of the very highest recommendation.” (Gramophone).

kr 89
Image #3 MAY 2020
Korngold Violin Concerto. Sextet
Andrew Haveron vn RTÉ Concert Orchestra / John Wilson 

"This beautifully personal performance of the Korngold Concerto is tender, touching, sweet-toned and full of humanity. Bravo to both Andrew Haveron and John Wilson." (Gramophone) 

Andrew Haveron and John Wilson deliver a fresh and intensely idiomatic reading of Korngold’s Violin Concerto, coupled with the formidable String Sextet. One of the most sought-after violinists of his generation and a laureate of some of the most prestigious international violin competitions, Andrew Haveron studied in London at the Purcell School and the Royal College of Music. As a soloist, he has collaborated with conductors such as Jirí Belohlávek, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Roger Norrington, David Robertson, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and John Wilson, performing a broad range of well-known and less familiar concertos with many of the finest orchestras in the UK. In 1999 he was appointed first violinist of the internationally acclaimed Brodsky Quartet. In 2007 he was appointed leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He joined the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2012, has been the leader of The John Wilson Orchestra since its inception, and in 2013 took up his current post of concert master of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

kr 169
Image #4 MAY 2020
Maw Spring Music. Solo Violin Sonata
Harriet Mackenzie vn BBC National Orchestra of Wales / William Boughton

"Three works from British composer Nicholas Maw, from bursts of orchestral spring to exquisitely played solo violin." (Gramophone) 

Nicholas Maw’s most fervent desire was to communicate directly with his audiences and produce material which performers would enjoy playing and Spring Music, written with the express purpose of diverting and entertaining an audience, finds the composer at his most uninhibited and freely expressive. Fresh, colorful and vibrant, this score has the exotic, open-hearted spirit of a curtain-raiser by William Walton or Alan Rawsthorne. In its final, slimmed-down version, it rapidly became one of Maw’s favorite pieces among his own output and he once described the long-breathed cello-led melody as ‘one of the best tunes I think I’ve actually ever written’. In 1995 Maw was commissioned by the BBC to write a work commemorating the 300th anniversary that year of the death of Purcell. Maw soon came to the conclusion that he wanted to round off his tribute piece with an example of a chaconne, a form in which Purcell was pre-eminent. The theme which Maw chose to embellish is derived from the first of his Life Studies for 15 solo strings. Taking his lead from Tchaikovsky, Maw decided that the main title should reflect precisely the reference vocabulary of the piece and so the piece became known for a while as Romantic Variations. Later still the title was altered to its definitive form of Voices of Memory: Variations for Orchestra. Described by Andrew Burn as ‘a major contribution to the genre’, the Sonata for Solo Violin was requested by Jorja Fleezanis, to whom the work is dedicated. In Maw’s Sonata for Solo Violin, the constraints of writing for a single stringed instrument in a four-movement, large-scale work are deftly surmounted by the composer’s gift for melodic lines and rhythmic invention. Each movement has a vivid sense of color, formal logic and onward momentum so that the writing, however demanding it may be, never suggests an arid study or a shallow technical exercise.

kr 169
Image #6 MAY 2020
‘Sturm und Drang, Vol 1’
Chiara Skerath sop The Mozartists / Ian Page 

"Ian Page and The Mozartists always combine fascinating programming with thrilling music-making, and this first excursion into the dramatic heart of Sturm und Drang is no exception." (Gramophone) 

This is the first project in a seven-volume series exploring the ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement, which swept through all art forms in the between the early 1760s and 1780s. The purpose of this movement was to frighten and perturb through the use of wild and subjective emotional means of expression. This series of ‘Sturm und Drang’ recordings incorporates iconic compositions by Mozart, Gluck and, above all, Joseph Haydn, but it also includes largely forgotten or neglected works by less familiar names. The music featured on this disc was all composed in the 1760s. It includes ballet and opera as well as symphonies, but is drawn together by the hallmarks of the remarkably visceral and dynamic style of music that we now call ‘Sturm und Drang’.

kr 159
Image #7 MAY 2020
Liszt ‘Hommage à Liszt’
Amir Katz pf

"A generously programmed and engagingly performed Liszt recital from Israeli pianist Amir Katz, hugely impressive pianism – particularly in the Transcendental Studies – compelling in its drama, virtuosity and poetry." (Gramophone) 

Liszt’s Études represent a peak in the history of piano writing. Beyond the tremendous technical difficulties, Liszt’s Études are poetic works, études tableaux, suggesting programme music influenced by literature, painting, and folklore as can be identified by titles such as Mazeppa, Wilde Jagd, Gnomenreigen or Feux follets. Similar to Schumann, Liszt added those lyrical appellations as an afterthought to stimulate the fantasy of both the listener and the performer, thus paving the path to modern piano playing as we know it today. “I have chosen to bring here authentic testimonies regarding the Études from the late masterclasses he gave in Weimar, Pest, and Rome in the early eighties of the 19th century, just a few years before his death in 1886. The testimonies are given by his students Carl Lachmund, August Göllerich, Vianna da Motta and Arthur Friedheim. These precious testimonies provide us with an original and inspired illustration that faithfully represents Liszt’s masterclasses and his vocations.” (Amir Katz)

kr 159
Image #8 MAY 2020
‘Homage to Godowsky’
Andrey Gugnin pf 

"All these many and varied works were dedicated to Godowsky, and in Andrey Gugnin’s hands each one emerges ‘fresh and full of vitality and charm’, as our critic Patrick Rucker puts it." (Gramophone) 

An anniversary accolade with a twist: one hundred and fifty years after his birth, this is a wonderful recital of some of the many works dedicated to Leopold Godowsky. It’s difficult to imagine more persuasive performances than these by Andrey Gugnin, who makes a second appearance on Hyperion after his universally— and vociferously—acclaimed Shostakovich.

kr 169
Image #9 MAY 2020
Ešenvalds ‘Translations’
Portland State Chamber Choir / Ethan Sperry 

"More Ešenvalds from America’s West coast, although with no shared works from last month’s recommendation; another deeply moving offering of his music, superbly sung." (Gramophone) 

The multi-award-winning Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds’ 21st-century choral sound is both exquisite and angular, and in this album he explores ideas of ‘translation,’ legend and the divine. With his expanded tonality and employment of shimmering singing hand bells in ‘Translation,’ and the angelic use of the viola and cello in ‘In paradisum’ he creates music of ravishing refinement. In ‘Legend of the Walled-In Woman’ Esenvalds transcribes and employs an authentic Albanian folk song.

kr 89
Image DVD: MAY 2020
JS Bach Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 1
Sir András Schiff pf 

"Taken together with Book 2 on a separate DVD, a ‘reference video version’ of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier from one of today’s leading interpreters of the work." (Gramophone) 

Johann Sebastian Bach was undoubtedly the greatest musical thinker of his age. Dubbed ‘the Old Testament of music’ by the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, the Well-Tempered Clavier is acknowledged to be one of the most significant works ever written for the keyboard. Each of these 24 preludes and fugues encapsulates its own mood, and Bach’s delight in mixing technical strictness with freedom of expression has made this work an indispensable element of Western culture for centuries. Sir András Schiff is heralded as one of the finest Bach interpreters today, and this first complete performance at the prestigious BBC Proms was summed up as ‘stupendous’ by The Independent.

kr 239
Image BLU RAY: MAY 2020
kr 239
JS Bach St Matthew Passion
Sols; Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki 

"A supremely moving and eloquent performance of this most profound of works, drawing on the insight and instinct of conductor Masaaki Suzuki’s lifetime of immersion in Bach’s music." (Gramophone) 

Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan made their first recording of the St Matthew Passion in March 1999. Twenty years later, in April 2019, it was time once again, as the singers and players gathered in the Concert Hall of the Saitama Arts Theater in Japan. ‘A profound joy’ is how Masaaki Suzuki describes his emotion at the opportunity to record Bach’s great fresco of Christ’s Passion for a second time. And this time, he and his ensemble have brought with them into the concert hall a profound and collective familiarity with Bach’s choral music, after having recorded more or less all of it in the meantime, including the complete sacred cantatas. For his Evangelist, Suzuki has selected the young German tenor Benjamin Bruns, making his first appearance on BIS. Among the other soloists are familiar names including Carolyn Sampson, Damien Guillon, Makoto Sakurada and Christian Immler.

kr 299
Image #2 APRIL 2020
Shostakovich Symphony No 13
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Riccardo Muti 

"Riccardo Muti’s understanding of this score brings out its depths, a steady control strengthening the impact throughout; a live recording of an evidently powerful occasion." (Gramophone) 

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and bass soloist Alexey Tikhomirov in this poignant performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 (Babi Yar). Recorded live in September 2018, the ensemble shines throughout—from passages requiring the sheer sonic force of the first movement to the indelible moments provided by single instruments, reminding the listener that despite the enormity of its theme, this is, after all, a symphony of individuals. Muti and musicians expertly navigate the intricacies of the five movements, each set to the poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko and expressing themes that were dear to Shostakovich—revolution and war, the individual’s role in society, idealism in the face of easy compromise, prejudice and intolerance. Yevtushenko said, “Over people like Shostakovich death has no power. His music will sound as long as humankind exists. . . . When I wrote ‘Babi Yar,’ there was no monument there. Now there is a monument.”

kr 159
Image #3 APRIL 2020
Vasks Piano Trios
Trio Palladio

"From the exquisite opening arrangement of Lonely Angel – fragility and strength poignantly forged – to the drama and drive of Episodi e Canto perpetuo, this is a compelling insight into Vasks’s musical world." (Gramophone) 

Latvian composer Peteris Vasks(b. 1946) has earned much international acclaim through his deeply spiritual works of choral music, symphonies and concertos. Vasks’ list of works also includes several pieces of chamber music. This album by Trio Palladio from Latvia includes Vasks’ works for the piano trio. Trio Palladio is a chamber music ensemble of three established Latvian soloists, avid chamber musicians and acclaimed recording artists Eva Bindere, Kristina Blaumane and Reinis Zarinš. Each of them is the laureate of the Grand Music Award of Latvia, and in 2019 they were nominated for this prestigious award as a trio. Recently the trio had its debut recital at the London Wigmore Hall and the trio’s interpretations have been broadcast live on the BBC Radio 3,as well as the Polish and Latvian radio. Trio Palladio creates conceptual programmes with rich variety of classical, romantic and contemporary chamber music, with particular focus on works by Latvian and Baltic composers.

kr 159
Image #4 APRIL 2020
Jean-Guihen Queyras vc Alexandre Tharaud pf 

"A brilliant example of how an album of encores can – when performed with such style as by these perfectly matched soloists, and programmed so thoughtfully – become a captivatingly crafted through-listen." (Gramophone) 

Friends and frequent recital partners
Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexandre Tharaud are reunited here for an album conceived as a collection of short stories, presenting both
celebrated and little-known masterpieces of the repertory. If the art of transcription is the hallmark of great performers, it must be said that
our two partners are past masters at it! Throughout this lyrical yet virtuosic
program music lovers will meet
one surprise after another.

kr 169
Image #6 APRIL 2020
Feinberg Piano Sonatas Nos 1-6
Marc-André Hamelin pf 

"Samuil Feinberg was a great Russian pianist perhaps best known for his Bach, but his compositions are less familiar. Marc-André Hamelin’s overwhelming advocacy of these sonatas comes highly recommended." (Gramophone) 

One phenomenal composer-pianist’s homage to another. Samuil Feinberg’s music is here championed by Marc-André Hamelin, whose
performances are sensitive to all its shadows and anxieties while being—of course—fully equal to the prodigious technical demands.

kr 169
Image #7 APRIL 2020
Ešenvalds There Will Come Soft Rains
Pacific Lutheran Choir of the West / Richard Nance

"The tender grace – and sometimes drama – of Latvian composer Ešenvalds’s music here meets a choir in very fine form indeed, caught in a rewardingly resonant acoustic." (Gramophone) 

The Choir of the West is the premier choral ensemble of the Department of Music at Pacific Lutheran University, located in Tacoma, Washington. The choir was founded in 1926, and was the third Lutheran college choir to tour extensively throughout the United States. Choir of the West has toured to Europe, Scandinavia, Japan and China, and has been selected to appear at several regional and national conferences of the National Association for Music Education and the American Choral Directors Association. In November of 2015 the choir was a featured ensemble at the National Collegiate Choral Organization Conference, held in Portland, Oregon, performing with renowned conductor Simon Carrington. During the summer of 2011, Choir of the West competed among choirs from 47 nations at the prestigious Harmonie Festival in Lindenholzhausen, Germany, winning two gold certificates and one silver. In 2015 the choir competed in the Anton Bruckner Choir Competition, held in Linz, Austria. This record celebrates the music of Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds. One of the most sought-after composers of today, Ešenvalds studied both in Latvia and the UK. He has had works premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which have won him many awards.

kr 159
Image #8 APRIL 2020
Parry Judith
Sols; London Mozart Players / William Vann

"That a recording – or even a revival – of Parry’s oratorio (from where the beloved Repton hymn tune originates) has taken until now seems additionally remarkable when one hears this delightful performance." (Gramophone)  

An instant success, Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s oratorio Judith premiered in Birmingham in August 1888. The work consolidated his reputation as a composer of large-scale orchestral and choral writing. With its vigorous choruses and dramatic solo roles, the work is of persistent quality. Yet somehow, the work has been largely neglected for the last century. On this release, the work is presented by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and the London Mozart Players led by William Vann. Soloists Sarah Fox, Kathryn Rudge, Toby Spence and Henry Waddington round out the recording with enthusiastic performances.

kr 318
Image #9 APRIL 2020
The Gesualdo Six / Owain Park

"The third album from this young and extraordinarily gifted group, led by composer Owain Park, is not only fascinatingly programmed but performed with exhilarating excellence." (Gramophone) 

From the twelfth century (Saint Hildegard) to the twenty-first, the voices of The Gesualdo Six weave a meditative reflection around the ancient Office of Compline in a moving sequence of music from fourteen composers.

kr 169
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