Classical, January 2022

hfnalbum.pngPhilharmonia Zürich, Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Mozart: Serenade K361/Beethoven: Symphony No 5
Prospero PROSP0020 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Surely the most spacious and searching 'Gran Partita' on record, and possibly the most eruptive Beethoven Fifth. It could only be Nikolaus Harnoncourt, an enfant terrible to the end in this 2016 'Farewell to Zurich'. You'll know if this is for you from the opening of 5(ii): halting, smiling, opening up and running on like a train of thought. Harnoncourt shifts the Serenade's centre of gravity away from the sublime Adagio and interrogates notions of both 'entertainment music' and symphonic unity (both trio and finale of the Fifth fly off the handle). You wouldn't want to hear the music like this every week, but you'll never listen to it the same way again. PQ


Thélème, Jean-Christophe Groffe
Josquin: Chansons
Aparte AP259 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Just when you think you've heard everything… The Josquin anniversary last year generated a clutch of worthy and significant new albums. Nothing so much fun, though, as this reimagining of the 15th-century Flemish polyphonist as the popstar and avant-garde improv artist of his day. I love the funky pulse of the title track, 'Baisiez moy', and the dreamy riffs of the instrumental 'Ricercarda' on a Fender Rhodes. An ondes martenot swoops and drifts over a lute on 'Adieu mes amours' like a lost song from a Kurosawa movie. The five-strong male vocal consort, however, leave the trickery to the producers and sing with an exemplary, plaintive simplicity. PQ


ARC Ensemble
Klebanov: String Quartets Nos 4 & 5, Piano Trio No 2
Chandos (2CDs, downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

The Toronto-based ARC Ensemble continues to unearth distinctive voices from the last century in its impressive 'Music in Exile' Chandos series. The latest of them is Dmitri Klebanov (1907-87), a Jewish Ukrainian exile in his own homeland who refused to join the Communist party and was consequently ostracised for much of his career. The high spirits and taut lyricism of the Fourth Quartet (1946) present a striking contrast to Shostakovich's savage Eighth, yet Klebanov doesn't toy with styles or play games with the listener. The Piano Trio (1958) and Fifth Qt (1965) address more serious matter on a larger scale, still with a flourish and a light hand. PQ


Alena Baeva, Persimfans
Mendelssohn/Schumann: Violin Concertos
Melodiya MELCD1002369 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

What a blast from the past. The retro cover evokes teenage memories of deciphering Cyrillic and dog-biscuit LP pressings, while the Persimfans name revives a conductor-less chamber orchestra from the Socialist utopia '30s. Pin-bright engineering and springy orchestral textures, however, are bang up to date. So is the 2018 edition of the Mendelssohn, noticeably but not radically different in the solo part, and the sunny humour of Schumann's slow-polonaise finale. The relaxed cantabile of Alena Baeva's phrasing and byplay in both concertos is light years away from the high-press intensity of old-school virtuosos without sacrificing depth of feeling. PQ