Friday 28 December 2012

The best of 2012

I try to only include in my blog those recordings or concerts that are in some way recommendable or memorable or that include unusual repertoire. This makes it more difficult to choose those that stand out particularly. However, running through the year from February, some events and recordings do stand out.

In February there was the Armonico Consort performing works by Striggio, Tallis, Brumel and Ockegham in Malvern in performances that had not only technical purity, but also a great warmth and humanity.

In April came one of Ondine’s finest issues of the year with the music of that great senior figure in Finnish music, Einojuhani Rautavaara, with recordings of his Cello Concerto No.2 and his Percussion Concerto ‘Incantations’ brilliantly performed by Colin Currie, Truls Mørk and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under John Strogärds.
April also brought a new release from Nimbus Alliance  of Chopin’s complete Waltzes and Impromptus with quite remarkable playing from Vladimir Feltsman, an artist that has received far too little attention. These are wonderful performances bringing an extraordinary poetry as well as freedom and spontaneity.

Audite seem to have an uncanny knack of finding superb artists, particularly chamber ensembles, with their 2012 releases bringing The Swiss Piano Trio’s sparkling performances of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trios full of poetry and virtuosity and the Mandelring Quartet in Mendelssohn’s Op 12 and Op. 13 String Quartets coupled with the early unnumbered E flat major quartet in performances that provide all the passion and lyricism that one could ask for and must go straight to the top of anyone’s list for these works.
Nimbus Alliance brought us, in May, what must be the finest performances ever recorded of Brahms’ wonderful late pieces, the two Clarinet Sonatas Op.120. These performances, from Emma Johnson, have everything you could wish for, with playing of supreme mastery, at turns sensitive and poetic, following every nuance and dynamic.

South Korean born Sinae Lee, a pianist who is not afraid to take risks, recorded all of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage for a new release in July on the RCS (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) label distributed by Nimbus Alliance in magnificent performances that should be heard by all Lisztians, such is their immediacy and spontaneity.
Benjamin Grosvenor gave a tremendous performance of Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor at this year’s Proms. Never barnstorming, this was a performance that had subtlety with wonderfully fleet and nimble playing. A tremendous young artist.

In September Deutsche Grammophon  gave us superb playing from Pierre Laurent Aimard in Debussy’s complete Preludes where the pianist brought great authority to these works and from the start showed superb control of dynamics and tempi.

The same month also brought deeply probing and distinguished performances from Leif Ove Andsnes in Beethoven’s Piano Concertos 1 and 3 on Sony Classical and left me waiting with anticipation for the next issue in Andsnes’ Beethoven series.
This year I discovered a uniquely interesting composer on a new release from Audite Records, the German composer Moritz Eggert, whose wonderful Tetragrammaton for string orchestra (2009) could easily take its place in the repertoire of works for string orchestra.

An October release of truly great performances came from Paul Lewis, a natural Schubertian, with the Piano Sonata No.16 in A minor D.845 coupled with the Wandererfantasie D.760, Four Impromptus D.935, Six Moments Musicaux D.780 and the Allegretto D.915. This was the latest release in his magnificent series of Schubert recordings for Harmonia Mundi .

I was in Malvern again in November for a memorable concert from that superb artist Marc-André Hamelin that included Bach, Fauré, Ravel and Liszt’s B minor Piano Sonata in performances to treasure. This was one of those occasions that will live in my memory.

Of the books that came my way in April was The John Ireland Companion, edited by that great champion of British music, Lewis Foreman. This is a magnificent achievement, pulling together a colossal amount of material on Ireland. Published by Boydell Press this was a book that English music lovers will want.

Finally a Very Happy New Year to all my followers, the artists that have provided so much wonderful music this year and the companies that have provided review copies.

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