Arts and Entertainment

Barbican, London

Album: Thomas Larcher, Madhares (ECM)

There's an overwhelming sense of restrictive unease in these three works by the young Austrian composer Thomas Larcher, particularly in Böse Zellen (Malign Cells), a piano and orchestra piece dramatically rendered by Tim Fellner with the Münchener Kammerorchester under Dennis Russell Davies. The preparation of the piano strings with rubber wedges and adhesive tape allows just a series of dulled but spiky taps, a muted gamelan accompanied by swells and subsidences of brass and woodwind. It's as if the piano is struggling to break free of its restrictions, until the tape is finally pulled off effecting a huge, unfocused polyphonic cluster which overwhelms the entire piece. The Madhares are less architecturally intriguing, but no less gripping.

Album: Rachmaninov, Piano Concertos 2 & 3 (Avie)

Simon Trpceski and Vasily Petrenko deliver fresh and disciplined readings of Rachmaninov's Second and Third Piano Concertos with the revitalised Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

Album: Albrecht Mayer, Voices of Bach (Decca)

On Voices Of Bach, the Berlin Philharmonic's principal oboist Albrecht Mayer adapts the vocal melodies of Bach's cantatas to fit his instrument.

Album: Beethoven, Symphony No 9 (Naive)

Recorded in Grenoble, Vichy and Paris, Emanuel Krivine's Beethoven dazzles with closely mic-ed details. La Chambre Philharmonique's bassoons are the unlikely stars, jostled out of the way by heaven-sent strings in the Adagio, and an almost comically hyperactive contrabassoon in the finale. Les Eléments deliver a lithe, moving account of Goethe's Ode, with a suave introduction from bass soloist Konstantin Wolff.Too much technical trickery to be properly "live", perhaps. But what a refreshing, bold reading.

Album: Judith Leclair, Works For Bassoon (Avie)

Judith Leclair, principal bassoonist of the New York Philharmonic, valiantly manages in this anthology of chamber pieces to avoid the comical nasal quality that makes the bassoon a little showcased instrument.

Album: Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique etc (Zig Zag Territoires)

Best known for a startling reimagining of Ravel's Bolero, Jos van Immerseel's provocative period-instruments orchestra turns to Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.

Album: Belshazzar's Feast, Frost Bites (Wild Goose)

A member of Bellowhead (oboe, cor anglais, violin, vox) and another bloke (accordion) tackle a mummer's dozen (eight) songs that pertain in some way or other to the frigid season. Jigs, reels, ballads, carols: that sort of thing.

Rumpelstiltskin / BCMG, Bates Mill, Huddersfield

A magical spin on a Grimm tale

Album: Haydn, Die Schöpfung, (Harmonia Mundi)

There's a Fantasia quality to René Jacobs's recording of Die Schöpfung. The contrasts are searing, the speeds variously breakneck or indulgent, the colours almost absurdly intense.

The Word On... Sufjan stevens, The BQE

"Sufjan's first foray into the classical realm... 'The BQE' is a great addition to the his catalogue, not simply for its novelty, but for its quality as well. It isn't likely to satiate fans' hunger for a true 'Illinoise' follow-up, however." - creative deconstruction.com

Album: Brahms, Symphonies 1-4/Simon Rattle (EMI Classics)

Honeymoon period and local backlash behind him, Rattle can still produce startling results with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Album: Fabio di Casola, Weber: Clarinet Concertos (Sony Classical)

The clarinet's multi-faceted character is virtually unrivalled among orchestral instruments, its wheedling tones able to convey the most dramatic shifts of expression, from pious sobriety to almost comic insouciance.,/p>

Carl Maria von Weber took advantage of this unlimited scope in the quintet and two concertos written for his friend, the clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Baermann, and deftly recorded here by the young Swiss player Fabio di Càsola. He's particularly adept at the slower, subtler passages: the 1st Concerto's limpid Adagio are realised with dreamlike sensitivity, the clarinet floating weightlessly over the horn chorus, contrasting with the more jaunty, birdlike nimbleness of the ensuing Rondo. Likewise, the brooding Romanze is the standout section of the 2nd Concerto.

Album: Verdi, Messa di Requiem, (EMI)

Antonio Pappano's Roman orchestra and chorus are unfailingly responsive, with deliciously soft strings, smart brass, tight woodwind details, a strong blend and impeccable diction.

Proms 65/66, Goerne / Mahler Jugendorchester / Nott <br/>Nash Ensemble / Masson, Royal Albert Hall

Something seems to have happened to Matthias Goerne. This German baritone was the wild child who once shed new light on Schubert’s songs, with his raw and visceral performances.

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