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Andrew McGregor with Simon Heighes

Simon Heighes on Francois Couperin's Lecons de Tenebres in Building a Library and Katy Hamilton reviews a box set by legendary Ukrainian-born American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.

with Andrew McGregor

Building a Library: 350 years to the day since François Couperin's death, Simon Heighes surveys the Leçons de Ténèbres and makes a recommendation.

In 18th century France theatres were closed during the Easter fortnight and fashionable audiences seeking Holy Week's hot ticket flocked to church services, the only available entertainment - and the only place professional opera singers were allowed to perform. Composers took advantage of their resources and Couperin's Leçons de Ténèbres from around 1713 were written as an integral part of the liturgy for the end of Lent, settings of texts from the Old Testament Book of Lamentations.

Although modestly scored for one and two voices and organ, the music makes a deeply expressive and satisfying sequence, by turns meditative, dramatic and contemplative as it deals with the captivity of the Jews and the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 587 BC and demands top-flight singers.

Katy Hamilton reviews a new box set of re-releases featuring legendary Ukrainian-born American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.

Andrew chooses an outstanding new release as his Disc of the Week.

3 hours, 13 minutes

Music Played

  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg concerto no. 1 in F major BWV.1046 (1st mvt)

    Ensemble: Zefiro. Director: Alfredo Bernardini.
    • Johann Sebastian Bach - The Brandenburg Concertos.
    • ARCANA.
    • 1.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Goldberg variations BWV.988 (Variations 6-8)

    Music Arranger: Peter Navarro-Alonso. Ensemble: Alpha.
    • J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations.
    • DaCapo.
    • 7-9.
  • Déodat de Séverac

    Les Hiboux, IDS. 12

    Performer: Eugene Asti. Singer: Sophie Karthäuser.
    • Le Bal des animaux.
    • harmonia mundi.
    • 11.
  • Josquin des Prez

    Missa Gaudeamus (Agnus Dei III)

    Choir: Tallis Scholars. Conductor: Peter Phillips.
    • Josquin: Missa Gaudeamus, Missa L'ami Baudichon.
    • GIMELL.
    • 16.
  • Nicolò Paganini

    24 Caprices Op.1 (no.5)

    Orchestrator: Myroslav Skoryk. Orchestra: Lviv International Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Alexander Zemtsov.
    • Paganini: 24 Caprices, Op. 1, MS 25 (Arr. M. Skoryk for Orchestra).
    • Toccata Classics.
    • 105.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no. 39 in E flat major K.543 (3rd & 4th mvts)

    Orchestra: Ensemble Appassionato. Conductor: Mathieu Herzog.
    • Mozart - The Three Last Symphonies.
    • NAIVE.
    • 3.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Violin Sonata in E Minor, K. 304 (2nd mvt)

    Performer: Isabelle Faust. Performer: Alexander Melnikov.
    • Mozart: Sonatas for Fortepiano and Violin.
    • harmonia mundi.
    • 5.
  • Thea Musgrave

    Phoenix Rising (opening)

    Orchestra: BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Conductor: William Boughton.
    • Thea Musgrave: Phoenix Rising, Loch Ness, Poets in Love.
    • Lyrita.
    • 1.
  • Gustav Holst

    Ode to death Op.38

    Performer: James Orford. Music Arranger: Iain Farrington. Choir: Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Director: William Vann.
    • In Remembrance.
    • SOMM.
    • 9.
  • Camille Saint‐Saëns

    Cello concerto no.1 in A minor

    Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Frederick Stock.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 15.
  • Anton Webern

    3 Little Pieces

    Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Performer: Charles Rosen.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 13.
  • William Walton

    Cello concerto (3rd mvt)

    Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Orchestra: Boston Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Charles Munch.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 3.
  • Lukas Foss

    Capriccio for Cello and Piano

    Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Performer: Lukas Foss.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 10.
  • Franz Schubert

    Trio in B flat major, D.581

    Performer: Jascha Heifetz. Performer: William Primrose. Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 8.
  • Johannes Brahms

    String Sextet no.2 in G major, Op.36

    Performer: Jascha Heifetz. Performer: Israel Baker. Performer: William Primrose. Performer: Virginia Majewski. Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Performer: Gabor Rejto.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 4.
  • Joseph Haydn

    Divertimento in D major

    Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Music Arranger: Gregor Piatigorsky. Orchestra: Chamber Orchestra.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 5.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    Piano Quintet no.2 in A major (3rd mvt)

    Performer: Jascha Heifetz. Performer: Israel Baker. Performer: Joseph De Pasquale. Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky. Performer: Jacob Lateiner.
    • Gregor Piatigorsky. The Art of the Cello.
    • 3.
  • Igor Stravinsky

    Jeu de cartes

    Orchestra: Mariinsky Theater Chamber Orchestra. Conductor: Valery Gergiev.
    • Stravinsky: Petrushka, Jeu de cartes.
    • Mariinsky.
    • 201.

Record Review



J S Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos; Overture in B minor, BWV.1067

Zefiro (ensemble)
Alfredo Bernardini (director)
Arcana A 452 (2CDs)

J S Bach recomposed Peter Navarro-Alonso: Goldberg Variations, BWV.988
Alpha (ensemble)
DaCapo 8.226210

‘Le Bal des Animaux’ – songs by composers including Ravel, Faure, Satie, Poulenc and others
Sophie Karthauser (soprano)
Eugene Asti (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM092260

Josquin des Prez: Missa Gaudeamus and Missa L’ami Baudichon
Tallis Scholars (choir)
Peter Phillips (conductor)

‘Paganini by arrangement’ – 24 Caprices, Op.1 orch. Myroslav Skoryk
Lviv International Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Zemtsov (conductor)


9.30am – Building a Library – Simon Heighes on Couperin’s Trois Lecons de Tenebres


Composer: Francois Couperin
Reviewer: Simon Heighes

Recommended Recording:

Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Véronqiue Gens (soprano)
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset
DECCA 4667762

Other Recommended Recording:

Hasnaa Bennani (soprano)
Isabelle Druet (mezzo-soprano)#
Claire Lefillaitre (mezzo-soprano)
Le Poeme Harmonique
Vincent Dumestre


10.20am – New Releases

Mozart: ‘Les Trois Derniers Symphonies’
Ensemble Appassionata
Mathieu Herzog (conductor)
NAÏVE V 5457 (2CDs)

Mozart: ‘Sonatas for fortepiano & violin’ Vol.1
Isabelle Faust (violin)
Alexander Melnikov (fortepiano)

Thea Musgrave: Phoenix Rising; Loch Ness; Poets in Love
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
William Boughton (conductor)

Couperin: ‘Complete Works for Harpsichord’
Carole Cerasi (harpsichords)
METRONOME METCD 1100 (10CD box set)

‘In Remembrance’ – choral music by Ireland, Holst, Parry, Elgar, Faure, Venables
Katy Hill (soprano)
Leah Jackson (soprano)
Gareth Brynmor John (baritone)
James Orford (organ)
Hugh Rowlands (organ)
Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Chelsea Pensioners’ Choir
William Vann (director)


10.50am New Releases: Katy Hamilton on Gregor Piatigorsky

‘Gregor Piatigorsky – The Art of the Cello’, the complete RCA and Columbia album collection
Gregor Piatigorsky (cello)
Various other artists
RCA RED SEAL/SONY CLASSICAL 19075832132 (36CD box set)


11.45am – Disc of the Week

Stravinsky: Petrushka (original 1911 version); Jeu de Cartes
Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev (conductor)


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