Classical, November 2021

hfnalbum.pngBayerisches Staatsorch/Kirill Petrenko
Mahler: Symphony No 7
BSO Recordings BSOREC0001 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

Swift and yet tender, pulse-led yet relaxed, recorded live but with the pinprick detail of a studio production: Kirill Petrenko encompasses all the internal contradictions and ambiguities of Mahler's Seventh while placing it in time between the pictorial naturalism of Liszt and the expanded tonal energy of Hindemith. Like Carlos Kleiber and Kirill Kondrashin before him, Petrenko has the rare gift of making swift tempi feel slower by 'reading' every strand in a complex texture: each note matters. The finale is refreshingly unironised, the two Nachtmusik movts. especially searching without false sentiment. Not since Kondrashin's long-deleted 1979 live recording [Tahra] has there been a Seventh on record of such impulsive genius. PQ


Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Beethoven: 'Hammerklavier' Sonata; Eroica Variations
Pentatone PTC5186724 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

The Graz Stefaniensaal makes an unusually airy venue for a piano recording – it's good for rounding out the upper partials in (i)'s eruptions, though the mics catch some distracting pedal action. Aimard's approach is less coloured by his mastery of modernist scores than you might expect: this is not a 'Hammerklavier' that sets its face against the wind. There is puckish wit (in the Scherzo), red-blooded pathos (the great Adagio), and a sense of where Beethoven was coming from (notably Bach and Haydn) as well as going to. His relative restraint in the Sonata – no small achievement – is counterbalanced by torrents of Romantic temperament in the Variations. PQ


David Johnston, Eiddwen Harrhy, BBC SO/Elgar Howarth
L Berkeley: Nelson
Lyrita SRCD2392 (downloads to 44.1kHz/16-bit resolution)

A military hero undone by passion and hubris, a love triangle, memorable tunes and grand set-pieces – Lennox Berkeley's opera of 1954 could have established him as an English Puccini. Only the sententious libretto and occasionally stalled action lose out to Walton's Troilus and Cressida of the same year. Harrhy makes a ringing and vocally alluring Emma Hamilton; Johnston is convincingly Italianate in the third-act love duet before sailing to Trafalgar for a naval denouement which takes on Britten. Tape hiss is a constant presence, but otherwise this is perfectly acceptable, slightly boxy BBC stereo sound from 1983. PQ


Orchestre de l'Opéra Royal/Andrés Gabetta
Vivaldi/Guido: Le Quattro Stagioni
Chateau de Versailles CVS042 (two discs + DVD)

Brother of cellist Sol, Andrés Gabetta juices up Vivaldi's perennial charmer in his bold and characterful direction of this adaptable Versailles band. Hurdy-gurdy imitations, bird whistles, the wind parts added by Vivaldi for a Dresden performance, all the king's horses and quite a few of his men, it seems, make their presence felt in this ample and very 'live' live recording. Not for purists, but the coupling is as original as the performance: a ballet of the seasons (not Glazunov again!) written by Giovanni Antonio Guido, star violinist to Louis XIV. It's a courtly evocation of country pursuits, pulled off with tremendous flair. PQ