Classical, July 2023

hfnalbum.pngAnna Prohaska, Pat. Kopatchinskaja
Maria Mater Meretrix
Alpha ALPHA739 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Both soloists have cultivated off-the-wall recreative personalities, and they join forces to bravura effect in a portrait of Mary at the Cross. The running thread is Frank Martin's Maria-Triptychon, matching PK's sinuous violin to Prohaska's equally Expressionist singing; Lili Boulanger's Pie Jesu also springs a Bergian surprise. Offbeat pairings of Victoria and Kurtág, Hildegard with PK herself, even Dufay and George Crumb, reward patience and accumulate feeling as the musical analogy to a show of Crucifixion canvases by El Greco, Bacon and Chagall. A solo-string transcription of Lotti's Crucifixus and a pulled-about Adagio from Haydn's Seven Last Words both work in this context, provided you buy the ticket. PQ


Ellinor d'Melon, RTE Orch/Martín
Tchaikovsky: Violin Conc./Lalo: Symphonie Espagnole
Rubicon RCD1106 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

I sucked my teeth at the over-20m duration for Tchaikovsky (i), but Ellinor d'Melon has something telling to impart in every phrase. Her tone is sweet but not blandly so, broadening to match the Tatyana/Onegin-like pathos of the Canzonetta, though never coarsening in the finale's folk-like episodes. Where she really scores is in her conversational partnership with Martín and his characterful Dublin band, who must record the symphonies on the strength of this. You will run out of felicitous details you had never previously registered. The Lalo is a lesser piece but again D'Melon (Cuban-Jamaican by heritage, still only 20) turns on the charm in every phrase. PQ


Clare College CH/Graham Ross
Rolling River – Bernstein, Higdon, Muhly, Whitacre
Harmonia mundi HMM905362 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

I'd like a punchier choral sound for the Chichester Psalms, but otherwise style and repertoire are beautifully matched and imaginatively programmed. Higdon's O Magnum Mysterium evokes Christmas wonder more sensuously than the ubiquitous Lauridsen setting. A lockdown psalm by David Lang, and an updated version of 'How lovely are thy dwelling places' by Caroline Shaw likewise extend branches of comfort on modern-tonal harmonies. More eventful landscapes are glimpsed through the fast-moving windows of A Good Understanding by Nico Muhly and Leonardo Dreams… by Eric Whitacre, both with Chichester-like percussion. PQ


Montreal SO/Rafael Payare
Mahler: Symphony No 5
Pentatone PTC5187067 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Pentatone's recent Mahler 5 with Bychkov grabbed the headlines; Payare's approach to the funeral march of (i) is much less grim and heavy, not least thanks to the Francophone palette of his orchestra. His chamber-music detailing and flowing pulse open up a Brahmsian heritage for the piece which finds a natural home in the rustic but not ironised rhythms of the Scherzo and tenderly improvised surges of the Adagietto. Payare's Mahler always has the horizon in view, which arrives in a Baroque riot of lightly textured counterpoint. Go elsewhere for a Fifth of neurotic extremes; stay for a rare sense of the piece as a proper (if unorthodox) symphony. PQ