Recordings of the Month: August 2022

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August is often the calm before the storm of top pianists releasing new recordings in the Autumn, and this year has proved no exception. But what better time to make an impact?

All four of this month’s selected recordings is uniquely wonderful, and any of them could easily be regarded as my Recording of the Month, or even of the year, so please read on with that in mind! In fact, these four releases are each so remarkable that you would be forgiven for thinking I am bluffing, so please be sure to check them all out for yourself on the streaming platform of your choice. You won’t be disappointed!..

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Recordings of the Month: July 2022

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The summer is a slower time for new releases, offering a good opportunity to explore beyond the more obvious to discover hidden gems.

First, for this month’s Recording of the Month, I have been blown away by a truly stunning debut recording on Warner Classics …

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Recordings of the Month: June 2022

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Following the successful revamp of this series, Pianodao now includes a monthly selection of interesting new music and top recordings.

Read on to discover four releases which captivated me this month, from the romantic music of Québec composer Augustine Descarries to reflective jazz by Bugge Wesseltoft and intelligent minimalism from Vanessa Wagner. But first…

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Recordings of the Month: May 2022

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Revamping this monthly series, Pianodao now includes a headline Recording of the Month as well as selected other top choices.

Read on to find out about five new recordings of interest, with music by Mozart, Bach, jazz from Tord Gustavsen and Daniel Barenboim’s 80th birthday disc. But first…

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Rebeca Omordia’s “African Pianism”

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Discovering new repertoire, personalities and sound worlds has long been a particular goal when selecting the Pianodao Recording of the Month, and for March 2022, I am excited to be writing about a new album that ticks all three boxes.

African Pianism is a revelatory collection of music by seven African composers, none of whom I was previously familiar with. Released to coincide with Black History Month in the United States, the album marks the solo debut of Nigerian-Romanian pianist Rebeca Omordia on the SOMM label.

There’s certainly nothing predictable or conservative about this release, so let’s take the disc for a spin…

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Marc-André Hamelin plays CPE Bach

photo credit: Sim Cannety-Clarke

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Writing for Grove Online, Christoph Wolff and Ulrich Leisinger say of J.S. Bach’s second son Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788),

“He was the most important composer in Protestant Germany during the second half of the 18th century, and enjoyed unqualified admiration and recognition particularly as a teacher and keyboard composer.”

C.P.E. Bach’s most enthusiastic admirers included that great triumvirate of the Viennese Classical era, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and of those composers whose careers straddled the transition from Baroque to Classical styles in the mid 18th century, C.P.E. has perhaps left the most extraordinary body of music, especially for the keyboard family of instruments.

C.P.E. Bach composed some 400 works for solo keyboard instruments. Sadly, much of this music fell out of use in the nineteenth century and it is only in recent decades that it has once more found itself championed by performers, the most recent of whom is the Canadian virtuoso Marc-André Hamelin.


Hamelin’s new release from the ever-brilliant Hyperion label is a 140-minute two-CD set showcasing a broad and irresistible range of C.P.E. Bach’s art.

It is surely destined to be recognised as one of the great recordings of the present decade, so join me as I take a closer look at this Pianodao Recording of the Month

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Yeol Eum Son plays Kapustin

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South Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son, since bursting onto the classical music scene (when she was aged just 18) as a concerto soloist with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Lorin Maazel in 2004, has steadily developed an impressive discography with Decca and latterly with Onyx.

Highlights have included solo recitals of repertoire from Schumann to Stravinsky, a pristine recording of Mozart’s 21st Concerto with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner, and duo recordings with violinists Clara-Jumi Kang, Svetlin Roussev and oboist Kyeong Ham.

But for the unconverted, Son’s latest disc, an audacious recital of music by Kapustin, wipes away any doubt that she is a significant emerging artist for our century. And it is another easy choice for inclusion in my Recording of the Month series. So let’s find out more…

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Leon McCawley: Haydn Sonatas

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Artist photo: Anna Paik

Haydn’s Piano Sonatas (he composed more than 50, but academics lack certainty about the provenance of some) must be of all the great bodies of “core repertoire” still one of the least programmed. Respected by all but advanced by fewer, the Sonatas perhaps suffer from being perceived as too intimate for larger concert halls, too athletically lacklustre for the endless competition circuit, and thus difficult to market.

Whatever the justification for this neglect, the Sonatas have fared better on disc. In particular, John McCabe’s celebrated complete survey for Decca in the 1970’s has long been, for me at least, not simply a benchmark interpretation but one of my most treasured piano boxed sets.

There have been some fine recordings of Haydn in more recent years, too, notably from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Yevgeny Sudbin and Paul Lewis, but none so far that have compelled me to loosen my grip on my beloved McCabe set. Until now.

SOMM have just released the fourth volume in British pianist Leon McCawley’s ongoing cycle, and in my view it is shaping up to be a new milestone, The One to go for in this increasingly populated field…


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Daniil Trifonov: The Art of Life

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It has been around a decade since Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov burst onto the classical scene, during which time he has continued to astound both on stage and on disc as a Deutsche Grammophon artist.

Trifonov’s recorded catalogue has thus far been dominated by virtuoso (and predominantly Russian) romantic repertoire, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin looming large alongside the expected Chopin and Liszt discs.

For his latest release, however, Trifonov has ventured into fresh territory. Bach: The Art of Life brings together Johann Sebastian’s monumental late work The Art of Fugue and the early-classical works of four of his sons, JC, WF, CPE and JCF, with electrifying results…

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Beatrice Rana plays Chopin

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As Autumn draws in, there is usually a bumper selection of new piano recordings to enjoy, and this year is proving no exception.

In recent weeks, several major artists have released recordings which explore unusual territory, adding to the interest of their programmes. Streaming these latest issues, I have heard superlative pianism and moments of supreme beauty and inspiration. Sadly though, I must also admit that some albums I had high hopes for have ultimately left me disappointed, proving perhaps that novelty as an end in itself is not always the best route.

Enter Beatrice Rana with her latest CD for Warner Classics. Following on from her stunning and highly acclaimed recording of Ravel and Stravinsky a couple of years ago (my Recording of the Month here), Rana’s latest disc is a recital of Chopin, comprising his 12 Études Op.25 and the Four Scherzi.

And that’s it. No obscurities, DJ collaborations or electronic noodling thrown in to entice the punters, nor even an encore bonbon to sweeten what is essentially a rather dark programme.

But Rana’s programme is, in my view, the most audacious of all. It is perhaps easier to impress with music that is lesser known; to tackle two such beloved monuments of the piano repertoire and breathe fresh, invigorating life and artistic illumination into them: well, that’s a significant challenge!

And – big sigh – Rana succeeds.
This new recording is in a word: magnificent.

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