Classical and contmeporary releases this week

BRODSKY QUARTET/VON OTTER | Peter Sculthorpe - Island Dreaming MUSICA ANTIQUA KOLN | Telemann - String Quartets BJORNSTAD & DARLING | Epigraphs
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BRODSKY QUARTET/VON OTTER | Peter Sculthorpe - Island Dreaming (Vanguard)

BRODSKY QUARTET/VON OTTER | Peter Sculthorpe - Island Dreaming (Vanguard)

One of two discs done by the pioneering Brodskies in collaboration with mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter - though you'd be hard pressed to recognise her voluptuous tones in this collection of quartets. In the title track and in "Maranoa Lullaby", von Otter strips away all of her concert hall gloss to rasp and groan throatily through Aborigine-inspired melodies, only opening out that magnificent voice for a few rich high-notes. The rest of the disc is superlative, with all the flora and fauna of Sculthorpe's native Australia conveyed through wild string effects and "civilised" by melodies of radiant beauty. Anna Picard

MUSICA ANTIQUA KOLN | Telemann - String Quartets (Deutsche Grammophon Archiv)

Things have never been quite the same for Reinhard Goebel's group of Baroque strings since harpsichordist Andreas Staier left to pursue his solo career and Goebel was forced to re-learn the violin left-handed after recurrent problems with his right hand. But Musica Antiqua Köln's magnificently broad sweep of phrasing still holds strong and their colours remain among the most vivid of authentic ensembles. Wisely enough, Goebel leaves the arch elegance of Telemann's viola concerto to his co-director and protégé Florian Deuter, who touches each phrase with a muscular sweetness. AP


Some albums take time to make their mark, and so it has proved with Epigraphs, which contains the kind of music you reserve for Sunday mornings, when you want a soundtrack that is half there and half not. Bjornstad's piano and Darling's cello inhabit a suitably spare sound-world, whose near-silence is golden indeed. On over 16 tracks, which mix original tunes with compositions by Byrd, Gibbons, Guillaume Dufay and Gregor Aichinger, the duo instil a spellbinding, melancholy effect that recalls Satie's furniture music or the ambient soundscapes of Morton Feldman, but with a chilly, Nordic spin. PJ