This time last year I posted a piece highlighting some favourites movies of mine which had been released on disc during 2017; I hoped it might prove helpful for anyone wondering what to buy for Christmas presents. It seemed to go down quite well, so this year I’ve decided to repeat the exercise, with some music thrown in for good measure. This isn’t my ‘best-of-the- year’ list, which is still to come, though obviously some of the titles mentioned below will feature on that; rather, it’s a selection of films and musical gems released in 2018 which I’ve deliberately made quite varied, in the hope that you might find at least one thing you might like to give to a loved one (or, perhaps, to yourself). As last year, in the case of the movies, it’s the films themselves that have swayed my decision, rather than any additionality. (In the interest of transparency, however, I confess to having contributed to the extras on a couple of titles listed – that, however, is definitely not why I chose them, and sadly I get no royalties from any sales!).
Anyway, I hope you find one or two of the recommendations useful in making your seasonal shopping a little bit easier.
Movies on DVD/Blu Ray:
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Eureka)
Billy Wilder’s greatest film (despite having been cut), a witty, imaginative and unexpectedly affecting addition to the Holmes oeuvre.
Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (StudioCanal)
Jean Renoir’s delightfully inventive mix of crime, comedy and romance, and a stirring celebration of collective ideals.
Gosford Park (Arrow)
Robert Altman’s star-studded contribution to the country-house murder-mystery genre, and an insightful portrait of a society on the brink of change.
The Touch (BFI)
The restored, bi-lingual version of Ingmar Bergman’s woefully neglected drama about a happily married woman tempted by infidelity.
Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott at Columbia (Powerhouse)
A clutch of classic postwar westerns from a master of the genre, including the masterpiece The Tall T – I don’t actually have this yet, but it’s only a matter of time…
Jazz, folk, blues or whatever:
Trygve Seim: Helsinki Songs (ECM)
Sumptuously lyrical jazz from the great Norwegian saxophonist, here leading a quartet for the first time in some years.
Liran Donin’s 1000 Boats: Eight Songs (PRS)
Upbeat, inventive and driving jazz from a quintet led by (Led Bib) bassist and composer Donin.
Kit Downes: Obsidian (ECM)
Ten uncategorisable but compelling meditations performed on three different pipe organs by keyboardist Downes.
Frode Haltli: Avant Folk (Hubro)
Mainly folk, but also jazz, rock and much else in a lovely set led by accordionist extraordinaire Haltli.
Susanna: Go Dig My Grave (SusannaSonata)
That’s Susanne Wallumrød of the marvellously limpid voice, here excelling on a range of folk, blues, pop and even classical covers, sensitively accompanied by fiddle, accordion and baroque harp.
Classical – recitals:
Igor Levit: Life (Sony)
Superb pianism applied to Bach, Liszt, Schumann, Wagner, Rzewski… and Bill Evans.
Kim Kashkashian: Six Suites for Solo Viola (ECM)
More often heard on the cello, Bach’s gems feel lighter and more dance-like on the viola.
Kian Soltani, Aaron Pilsan; Home (Deutsche Grammophon)
Pieces for cello and piano by Schubert, Schumann and Iranian expat Reza Vali.
Jörg Widmann, Tabea Zimmermann, Dénes Várjon: Es War Einmal…/ Once Upon a Time (Myrios)
Various works by Schumann for clarinet, viola and piano – and one by Widmann himself.
Classical – new music:
John Adams: Dr Atomic (Nonesuch)
The composer conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Singers in a terrific performance of his opera; of the excellent cast, Gerald Finley shines as Robert Oppenheimer.
Huw Watkins: Flute Concerto, Violin Concerto, Symphony (NMC)
A trio of extremely engaging orchestral works performed by the Hallé and BBC Symphony Orchestra under Ryan Wigglesworth and Edward Gardner, with Adam Walker and Alina Ibragimova as dazzling soloists.
Hans Abrahamsen: String Quartets Nos 1-4 (Winter & Winter)
The Danish composer’s delicious quartets played to perfection by the Ardittis.
Charlotte Bray: Chamber and Solo Works (Nimbus)
Five fine pieces for strings and piano performed by the Mariani Klavierquartett, the Amaryllis Quartett and (see above!) Huw Watkins.