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Prokofiev: The Gambler Kirov Opera, soloists, Gergiev (Philips)

In the latest in the Kirov's series of Prokofiev operas, Valery Gergiev gives a very direct reading of The Gambler. As a studio recording it lacks some of the "live" energy of the others, but it's still an uplifting experience. His wonderful soloists bring out the cynical, conversational character of the sung lines and the large orchestra produces sprightly, chamber-like timbres as well as big crescendos. A very fine achievement. HHHH

Britten: Serenade/Our Hunting Fathers Bamberger Symphoniker, Britten Sinfonia, Bostridge, Metzmacher, Harding (EMI)

The tenor Ian Bostridge so intimately inhabits the Serenade (with the horn player Marie Luise Neunecker) that one can almost forget the famous partnership of Peter Pears and Dennis Brain. Where Bostridge is almost unbearably poignant in the Serenade, he captures the violence of the earlier cantata with singing of real power. HHHH