Welcome to Limelight Magazine’s November 2019 playlist. Each month our critics review 26 new recordings and here’s a chance to listen to many of them thanks to a special offer from classical music streaming specialist Primephonic. All you need to do to get listening is sign up for a free three-month trial using our special Limelight code BONYNGE19.
Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, we’ve created a November Primephonic playlist with our favourite tracks from five of this month’s most interesting releases.
First up, our Recording of the Month is Wagner’s romantic masterpiece of love and death, Tristan und Isolde. Recorded live in Perth, Asher Fisch conducts his own finely-tuned West Australian Symphony Orchestra and a superb cast headed by Australian Heldentenor Stuart Skelton as Tristan and Gun-Brit Barkmin as Isolde. Fisch’s organic way with the music is immediately evident here in his gripping account of the Prelude, while Barkmin offers an eloquent account of the famous Liebestod.
While there are no shortages of recordings of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, Prokofiev’s Second has fared less well over the years. In a new, sonically superb account for BIS Records, Haochen Zhang’s coupling makes an excellent case for both works, but especially Prokofiev’s underrated concerto.
The marvelous Danish String Quartet release the next volume of their five-part Prism Project. Each disc couples a late Beethoven Quartet with a contemporary work where each sheds new light on the other. In this case, it’s Beethoven’s Op. 130. Listen here to the first five movements (minus the concluding Grosse Fuge) and then check out the full release with it’s brilliantly conceived coupling of Schnittke’s polystylistic String Quartet No 3, a work that serves up Beethoven for the late 20th century.
Here’s a charmer. London’s Savile Club was established in 1868, and became a mecca for (male) artists and composers. London-based Russian pianist Alexander Karpeyev plays short pieces by 12 of them. Listen to Roger Quilter’s gentle, Fauré-like In a Gondola, Arthur Benjamin’s witty Scherziono, William Alwyn’s pensive Night Thoughts, Walton’s Popular Song from Façade (in the technically challenging transcription by Roy Douglas), and Balfour Gardiner’s Shepherd Fennel’s Dance. None of these pieces could be described as bland or ‘twee’ and Karpeyev is a major artist in what is clearly a labour of love.
And finally, with the artful advocacy of groups like New York Polyphony, the music of composers like Francisco de Peñalosa (c.1470 – 1528) is no longer confined to the world of musicologists. The program was recorded in the wonderful acoustic of Princeton Abbey, New Jersey and the results are always clear and well blended. Listen here as the crack New York vocal ensemble invests Peñalosa’s slow-moving Lamentations with glorious tone and plenty of aching regret.