Bach & Telemann, Sacred Cantatas (Erato)
It's the entente cordiale that Back-to-Baroquers have been waiting for: Freiburger Barockorchester partners Philippe Jaroussky in the French countertenor's first recording of German repertoire. Two Bach cantatas are sublime - one beautifully filmed on an accompanying DVD - while Jaroussky's Gallic flair and lyricism give Telemann's graceful music the elegance and brio that eludes many musicians.
The Kugels, Play Klezmer by Ross Harris (Atoll, through Ode Records)
Ross Harris is known for his prize-winning symphonies and chamber works. Now the New Zealand composer picks up an accordion and joins three colleagues to play his takes on the Jewish klezmer music that has inspired him for decades. The band is tight, with Debbie Rawson and Robin Perks by turns plaintive and zesty on reeds and fiddle, while Harris' compositional ingenuity, over 23 short pieces, is staggering.
Jenny McLeod, 24 Tone Clocks (Rattle, through Ode Records)
Pianists Michael Houstoun and Diedre Irons unlock a virtual universe of colours in two dozen pieces that catch the scope and richness of this Kiwi composer's 50-year career. Rattle's lavish packaging assures a good summer read as well as hours of spellbound listening, in which, for just a moment, you might well imagine Thelonious Monk rubbing shoulders with Olivier Messiaen.
Berlioz, Romeo and Juliet (Chandos, through Ode Records)
Earlier this year, Sir Andrew Davis and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra gave us some magnificent Messiaen in the Aotea and Michael Fowler Centres; here, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the English conductor goes back to the 19th century, exploring the brilliant palette of Berlioz as he responds to Shakespeare's tale of two star-crossed lovers.
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Rachmaninov, Etudes-tableaux (Naxos)
Boris Giltburg dazzled a small Auckland audience on a flying visit in May, playing Rachmaninov's fearsome Etudes-tableaux. Those who missed out on the concert can taste some of the Russian pianist's considerable magic on this disc, which also includes Rachmaninov's earlier Moments Musicaux.
Handel/Mendelssohn, Israel in Aegypten (Vivat, through Southbound Records)
Robert King and his King's Consort prove that Handel's Israel in Egypt is more than just a handful of shattering choruses, evoking terrifying Old Testament plagues in the security and comfort of your living room. Handel's gorgeous arias glow with soloists that include Roderick Williams and, best of all, Mendelssohn's 1838 arrangement of the oratorio might make it seem that you're getting two composers for the price of one.
Liaisons, Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano (ECM, through Ode Records)
Pianist Anthony De Mare has coaxed a wide catchment of contemporary composers to riff on Stephen Sondheim showtunes across three generous CDs. The mix is bracingly unpredictable, from minimalist Steve Reich to jazzman Wynton Marsalis, all presented with the same sleek recording ambience that ECM has always given to its pianists, from Keith Jarrett to Andras Schiff.
Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin (Signum, through Ode records)
Bartok's epoch-making The Miraculous Mandarin manages to be creepy, surreal and touching - all at the same time. Esa-Pekka Salonen and his Philharmonia Orchestra make a shattering journey of it before relaxing in the composer's later and earthier Dance Suite. Bartok's violin, clarinet and piano trio, Contrasts, written for Benny Goodman, is a welcome bonus.
Bacewicz, String Quartets (Chandos, through Ode Records)
Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) has been grievously sidelined in a Polish musical culture dominated by men from Chopin to Lutoslawski, making a release such as this a welcome atonement. Her seven string quartets are tough and high-tensile, spanning four decades of a dedicated career, and brilliantly delivered by the Silesian Quartet.
Magdalena Kozena, Monteverdi (Archive)
Magdalena Kozena is an extraordinary singer who can flutter like a soul diva one minute, and dispense the visceral and dramatic, and it all serves her well, taking on all three characters in Monteverdi's Combattimento di Tancredi e Clordina. After listening to this, you'll realise just why this composer is often credited as being the Father of Modern Music.