Avi Avital "Between Worlds" (Deutsche Grammophon)
Though rarely featured as a classical instrument in recent centuries, the mandolin has made a minor comeback, thanks largely to Chris Thile’s shift from bluegrass to classical with his own concerto and last year’s album of Bach Sonatas & Partitas. Here, the emphasis is on cultural diversity, with pieces drawn from Avi Avital’s native Israel, through the Balkans and Iberia, to South America. The six Bartók miniatures of the Romanian Folk Dances are deftly managed, with subtle string washes setting off Avital’s delicate filigree picking, and De Falla’s “Siete Canciones” offers the broadest range of tempo and emotion. But the most satisfying is Piazzolla’s highly rhythmic “Fuga y Misterio” with clarinet, accordion and double bass operating as equal partners, their lines intertwining like vines with Avital’s mandolin.
Download: Fuga y Misterio; Siete Canciones; Aria (Cantilena); Romanian Folk Dances
Teodor Currentzis, Musicaeterna "Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro" (Sony Classical)
The Russia-based Greek conductor Teodor Currentzis may be the next revolutionary sensation of classical music, following in Gustavo Dudamel’s footsteps by demanding a dedication both social and musical of his performers. Currentzis’ Musicaeterna orchestra and chorus are based in Perm, whose Governor was persuaded to underwrite a cultural experiment involving the full-scale production and recording of Mozart’s three “Da Ponte” operas according to the composer’s original intentions. The result, in this first offering, is quite extraordinary, particularly in the absence of vocal vibrato, and the rejection of loud bellowing that features in most productions, in favour of subtle ornamentation.
Download: Sinfonia; Non su più cosa son; Non più andrai; Crudel, perché finora; Riconosci in questo amplesso
Voces8 "Eventide" (Decca)
There’s no doubting the technical facility that the eight singers of Voces8 bring to their work; but Eventide suffers from an eagerness to curry favour that does their material no favours. It’s the same sort of approach that Sequentia impose on the songs of Hildegard von Bingen: a feathery, furry, soothing production that seeks to transform Tallis, Bruckner and Britten into easy-listening music, to take them from the church into the bathroom, along with a scented candle and bubblebath. The soft-soap secularising is only exacerbated by the addition of “ethereal” accompaniment from cello, harp and sax, which at least has the effect of exposing some of the more modern pieces – by composers ranging from Paul Mealor and Eric Whitacre to Emeli Sandé and Kate Rusby – as limp MOR pablum.
Download: Te lucis ante terminum; Corpus Christi Carol