Latest Music Reviews

Nelsons’ Almost Greatest Manfred Symphony

by David Hurwitz


Is the finale of Manfred the silliest piece written in the entire 19th century? Is this really what a seamy orgy sounds like? I mean what, after all, is debauched group sex without a tambourine and a fugato? Never mind; the piece is so much... Continue Reading

Beethoven’s “Schlep-enth” and a Fine Grosse Fuge

by Jed Distler


Among the existing Beethoven Seventh Symphony piano duet arrangements, Xaver Scharwenka’s arguably takes the cake for extensive interpretive and pedal markings. As a result, according to the English version of MDG’s annotator, “Scharwenka is able to make it possible to lend better contouring to the... Continue Reading

Barbara Harbach’s Soler Cycle

by Jed Distler


For her “complete” Soler cycle, Barbara Harbach presents Padre Samuel Rubio’s edition of 120 sonatas in numerical order on 14 CDs, in contrast to Naxos’ Gilbert Rowland, who opts for varied ordering and the inclusion of sonatas not published in the Rubio collection. While Rowland’s... Continue Reading

Steffani’s Unique Niobe A Rare Treat

by Robert Levine


Priest, diplomat, (most probably) spy, and composer Agostino Steffani travelled all over Europe during his lifetime (1653-1728), and this opera embraces a panoply of styles. Here is a composer who was not stuck, and who learned from his travels. Niobe is an Italian-language opera written... Continue Reading

Mendelssohn Up and Down

by Jed Distler


The Tyrolean State Museum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck, Austria possesses a beautiful and well-preserved 1835 vintage Conrad Graf piano. It has four pedals, including two “moderators” that when activated interpose layers of soft cloth between the hammers and strings, creating a haunting, muted sonority. Because Felix... Continue Reading

A Minimalist Masterpiece Revisited

by Jed Distler


Today’s ensembles handle minimalist repertoire cornerstones with unprecedented rhythmic exactitude and precision, as borne out in the New York-based Ensemble Signal’s recording of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, led by their founding co-artistic director and current music director Bradley Lubman. In fact, this is... Continue Reading

A Fine French Performance of La favorite

by Robert Levine


Stuffed peacocks, mirrored floors strewn with flower petals, mirrored walls that alter perspective, background arches that can serve as either monastic or regal, the inevitable modern chairs (sets by Vincent Lemaire), and a blaze of colors in both costumes (by Christian Lacroix) and lighting (by... Continue Reading

Excellent Charpentier From Ensemble Correspondances

by John Greene


After a couple of years studying in Rome, in 1669 at age 26 Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned to Paris and was immediately recruited by Marie de Lorraine, Duchesse de Guise as her house composer. By all accounts he was very happy at the Hôtel de Guise,... Continue Reading

Another Fine Saint-Saëns Third, This Time From Kansas City

by David Hurwitz


When it rains, it pours. This is the third recording of Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony in nearly as many months, and like the previous ones, it’s remarkably good. The Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern withstands comparison to any of the competition. My only quibble with... Continue Reading

Fischer Back On Form In Mahler 9

by David Hurwitz


Ivan Fischer conducts a lovely, impulsive Mahler Ninth. The performance comes as something of a relief after his tepid reading of the Fifth, but here, happily, he’s back on form. Interpretively, his vision of the work recalls Bruno Walter’s, or more recently, Kurt Masur’s underrated... Continue Reading

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