Arts and Entertainment

Last autumn Helene Grimaud released a fine recording of Brahms’ piano concertos under the baton of Andris Nelsons: to hear them perform the second concerto live with the Philharmonia Orchestra was to realise anew what a superb symbiosis they can achieve.

Anna Picard: The best Classical albums of 2008

‘The Belcea Quartet’s complete Bartok was a compelling document of despair’

Album: Brahms, Piano Quartets 1 & 3 – Nash Ensemble, (Onyx)

At some point during the recording sessions for this disc, the Nash Ensemble must have decided to play as though live, and not to the microphone.

Album: Brahms, Viola - Maxim Rysanov (Onyx)

But for the first Violin Sonata, all the arrangements on this superlative double-disc are Brahms's own.

Preview: Prom 48: Gürzenich Orchestra/Stenz, Royal Albert Hall, London

When history repeats past musical glory

LSO/Previn/Mutter: Barbican, London

Some concerts are just concerts, but some come heavily freighted with history, which needs to be known if their nature is properly to be savoured. And it was clearly the history of two performers that drew the crowd to the Barbican.

Belcea Quartet, Wigmore Hall, London

Two enigmatic string quartets: Schubert's A minor "Rosamunde" (1824), with its ambiguous, ever-shifting mood changes between minor and major, plaintive and insouciant; and Beethoven's vast, late C sharp minor (1825-6), with its continuous unfolding of no less than seven oddly assorted movements, adding up to – what exactly?

Album: Brahms, Piano Concerto No 1 / Hungarian Dances – Angelich / Jarvi (Virgin)

It's debatable whether the world needs another recording of Brahms's "First Piano Concerto". But this beautifully paced collaboration between Nicholas Angelich and Paavo Jarvi perfectly catches the balance of intimacy and grandeur.

RPO / Sanderling, Royal Festival Hall, London

Daniele Gatti was sorely missed. The inspirational Italian conductor was indisposed and his short-notice replacement, Thomas Sanderling, achieved the dubious distinction of never once looking at his soloist – the stately John Lill – during the great B-flat Piano Concerto No 2 by Brahms. Indeed, at the end of the slow movement, Lill was waiting for the conductor, hands poised over the keyboard in readiness for a quick transition into the finale. The conductor's eyes were elsewhere; so, too, his musical etiquette.

Album: Brahms, Clarinet Sonatas Opus 120 – Manasse/Nakamatsu (Harmonia Mundi)

As the 1880s drew to a close, Brahms destroyed a number of manuscripts and announced his decision to retire. Then he heard Richard Muehlfield play.

Album: Brahms/Joachim

Violin Concertos – Tetzlaff/Dausgaard/Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Virgin Classics

Wu Qian, Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, London

This has been a good week for the 23-year-old pianist Wu Qian, who was born and brought up in Shanghai, then trained at the Menuhin School and the Royal Academy of Music. At the Southbank Centre, she made her debut as part of a new piano trio with violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich; at the Wigmore, she opened the Young Artists' Platform season with a mini-recital of Brahms and Liszt.

James Bowman, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

Where would "early music" have been without James Bowman? Probably not in the flourishing state it is now. And would the counter-tenor voice be the fashionable thing it is today, if he hadn't kick-started its emergence from the shadowy, over-refined realms inhabited by Alfred Deller? When Bowman breathed life into Britten's Oberon, and went on to incarnate Handel's heroes with burnished authority, the voice that had been banished to the liturgy was brought back centre-stage. The mountain of Baroque recordings he's created over the past 40 years all bear witness to his uniquely powerful and expressive sound.

Enchantress of Nations, By Michael Steen

The mezzo-soprano who had 19th century society at her feet

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