Classics Today Insider

Big Boxes: Boulez’s Complete Columbia Collection

by David Hurwitz

Boulez’s CBS legacy contains some remarkable work, from the perverse (Symphonie fantastique) to the often fabulous (much of his Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Bartók), to the merely dull (Beethoven’s Fifth). One thing, however, is clear: Boulez was not a great conductor, in the sense t... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Talky, Dull Mess of an Opera about Galileo

by Robert Levine

I’d walk a mile for a performance of Satyagraha, Akhnaten, or Orphée; I have superb Philip Glass opera creds. So trust me, this one is a dud. Dating from 2002, it follows the life of Galileo, starting from the end–sort of like the movie Benjamin Button, but with arpeggios, endless ostinato,... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Juicy 1960 Rigoletto with Bastianini and Scotto

by Robert Levine

Just look at the cast of this 1960 studio recording, somehow misplaced in the mists of time but now re-mastered and available again! The original recording was unkind to Renata Scotto’s sharp-edged high notes; now they sound less shrill. Her interpretation, even at such a young age, is very ri... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Haydn Horn Flatulence from Fey

by David Hurwitz

It might be possible to play these two concertos with attractive tone on the natural horn—the two adagios suggest as much—but not at the ridiculously quick tempos that Fey adopts for the outer movements. Bruns copes gamely, but still sounds desperate and has audible problems doing anything more ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Ries’ Delightful Concerto Pastoral (and Rondo)

by David Hurwitz

Ries’ Concerto Pastoral is delightful, from the woodwind warbling with which it opens, to the breezy “hunting” finale (shades of Mozart’s 22nd Piano Concerto–sound clips). Still, it has to be admitted that Ries was not at his best working in what he evidently regarded as strict forms. ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Incandescent ’56 German Requiem

by David Hurwitz

Captured in very good mono broadcast-quality sound, with an impressively present organ, this 1956 performance is stunning. It has appeared previously (on a pirate label), but this official release boasts substantially finer sonics. The choral singing isn’t as great as in Klemperer’s stereo remak... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Koopman’s Compelling Complete Bach Organ Works

by David Vernier

If you missed these recordings, made during the mid-to-late 1990s, or have crossed paths with a volume or two in a used-CD shop, you can now obtain the whole collection in one 16-disc boxed set. Koopman isn’t everyone’s favorite Bach interpreter—at least consistently across such a vast reperto... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz

by Robert Levine

L’Amico Fritz, Mascagni’s second opera, is as unlike his first and most popular, Cavalleria Rusticana, as any two operas could be. Whereas the earlier opera is painted in dark tones, Fritz tends to be bathed in lighter, pastel colors. The opera, with its rural setting and story of the s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Roussel’s Aeneas

by David Hurwitz

Jean Martinon recorded a dazzling Bacchus et Ariane Suite No. 2 with the Chicago Symphony for RCA, a performance never issued on CD (save for about ten seconds in Japan, a friendly reader reminded me), but which is due from RCA in March 2015 in a 10-CD Martinon/Chicago box. The ORTF isn’t the ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Heifetz’s Complete Album Collection

by Jed Distler

Although Heifetz’s art has been abundantly well served in the CD era, nothing quite compares to Sony/BMG’s imposing 103-disc set Jascha Heifetz: The Complete Album Collection. It contains all of the violinist’s issued RCA and HMV recordings, his valedictory 1972 concert issued by Columbia Mas... Continue Reading


Marilyn Horne’s Magnificent Mahler

by David Hurwitz

For some ridiculous reason, whenever Decca issued these recordings on CD they left off one of the Mahler cycles in favor of Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with those songs, but if you have all of the Mahler, and you issued them together on LP, why not on CD, ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Kremer and Davis in Berg

by David Hurwitz

Aside from the rather short playing time, these are very good performances of two of Berg’s best orchestral works. At the time of recording (1984) Kremer’s tone hadn’t degenerated into the hoarseness that marred much of his later work, and he delivers an unflinchingly honest and emotionally in... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Lili Kraus Treasure Trove

by Jed Distler

Announcements about Erato’s boxed set devoted to the great pianist Lili Kraus (1903-1986) generated understandable anticipation among piano mavens, and now that it’s arrived, let us be thankful for this complete, systematic, and newly remastered survey of Kraus’ recordings for the Ducretet-Tho... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Boulez Defeated In Moscow

by David Hurwitz

Yikes! Just as the Russian winter defeated Napoleon, so the students of the Moscow conservatory trounced music’s own Little Corporal, Pierre Boulez, on a blustery March day in 1990. The program is vintage Boulez, but these players are kids, and they play like kids. The performances are littere... Continue Reading


A Big Box of Early Brendel: First Time’s a Charm

by Jed Distler

As Alfred Brendel brought to a close his public performing career in 2008, Brilliant Classics compiled a 35-CD set devoted to the pianist’s complete solo and concerted discs for the Vox, Turnabout, and Vanguard labels, recorded prior to the long affiliation with Philips that helped cement his ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mendelssohn String Quartets

by David Hurwitz

Two of the three discs in this set have been reviewed individually (by Dan Davis), who gave both of them our highest rating. That leaves the three quartets of Op. 44 for consideration, and they are every bit as fine as the rest. The Talich Quartet plays this music about as well as it can […]... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Britten conducts Britten at the SWR

by David Hurwitz

Captured in decent, 1956 mono sonics, these performances represent a significant addition to the Britten discography. Of course, he recorded the Sinfonia da Requiem for Decca in excellent stereo, but the “Symphonic Suite” from Gloriana is a superb work, as important and enjoyable as the “Four ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Karajan’s Luscious Schoenberg

by David Hurwitz

Herbert von Karajan. Remember him? Considering how much he recorded, he gets remarkably little mention nowadays—but at his best, as here, he was amazing. He reportedly paid for these recordings himself because he believed in the importance of preserving the masterworks of the Second Viennese Schoo... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Harris’ Neglected Piano Works

by David Hurwitz

There are some world-premiere recordings here, the most interesting of which is a three-minute piece marked “Untitled” from 1926—but even with these extra items Roy Harris’ complete solo piano music only adds up to some 56 minutes of material. There are four major works, none of them in fact... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Martinon’s Sultry, Smoking Schmitt

by David Hurwitz

There have been several new recordings of Schmitt’s most famous work, the tone poem The Tragedy of Salome, but none has eclipsed Martinon’s for sheer excitement and textural interest. If you haven’t heard the way he whips up the climax in the closing pages (sound clip), then you really don’t... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Raff Chamber Works (No Kidding)

by David Hurwitz

Raff’s Piano Quintet was considered by Hans von Bülow to be one of the very greatest works in its medium, and he wasn’t wrong. Generously proportioned (37 minutes), expertly written, full of good tunes, and not a bit diffuse in its argument, it’s surely one of the great Romantic chamber works... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Schulhoff Quartets

by David Hurwitz

Erwin Schulhoff’s three major works for string quartet fit neatly onto a single, rather short (51 minutes here) CD. They consist of the two numbered works, plus the Five Pieces of 1923, this latter a wonderful dance suite that includes a Viennese waltz, a tarantella, and a “Tango Milonga... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Talky, Dull Mess of an Opera about Galileo

by Robert Levine

I’d walk a mile for a performance of Satyagraha, Akhnaten, or Orphée; I have superb Philip Glass opera creds. So trust me, this one is a dud. Dating from 2002, it follows the life of Galileo, starting from the end–sort of like the movie Benjamin Button, but with arpeggios, endless ostinato,... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Haydn Horn Flatulence from Fey

by David Hurwitz

It might be possible to play these two concertos with attractive tone on the natural horn—the two adagios suggest as much—but not at the ridiculously quick tempos that Fey adopts for the outer movements. Bruns copes gamely, but still sounds desperate and has audible problems doing anything more ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Boulez Defeated In Moscow

by David Hurwitz

Yikes! Just as the Russian winter defeated Napoleon, so the students of the Moscow conservatory trounced music’s own Little Corporal, Pierre Boulez, on a blustery March day in 1990. The program is vintage Boulez, but these players are kids, and they play like kids. The performances are littere... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gergiev Remakes Shostakovich, Mostly Badly

by David Hurwitz

This release could be the poster child for everything that’s wrong with the classical music recording industry. Gergiev already recorded these pieces for Philips, with this same orchestra, with mixed success. But that doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the bubble universe that is the Mariinsky... Continue Reading


Stupid Organ Transcriptions Vol. 98,594: Bach’s Goldberg Variations

by John Greene

According to the booklet notes Wilhelm Middelschulte was a friend, collaborator, and advisor to Ferruccio Busoni–one of the early 20th century’s greatest and most influential masters of transcription. Since Busoni published his own piano transcription of Bach’s magnificent Goldberg... Continue Reading


Stupid Organ Transcriptions Vol. 98,593: Berlioz

by David Hurwitz

Yes, it’s the Symphonie fantastique transcribed for organ. Such things can be fun, or at least marginally less than horrible, on the right instrument–a “symphonic” organ such as the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia, or the Woolsey Hall Organ at Yale. Those instruments, built t... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Strauss Was No Beethoven Conductor

by David Hurwitz

It was a cute idea: for the centenary of the death of Germany’s greatest dead composer, record the nine symphonies and include a few conducted by Germany’s greatest living composer. Never mind that Strauss’s temperament was about as antithetical to Beethoven’s as it’s p... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Sexless Poulenc Concertos from Hickox

by David Hurwitz

These joyless, sexless performances get all of the notes right but miss the musical point almost entirely. The Piano Concerto suffers from Richard Hickox’s stolid accompaniments. He’s fractionally too slow in the first movement, with no warmth or sensuousness from the strings (they shoul... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Pfitzner’s Oleaginous Beethoven 1 & 6

by Jed Distler

Hans Pfitzner’s Beethoven Symphony recordings, to put it charitably, are not among the 78 era’s great milestones. When the curmudgeonly composer/conductor set down Beethoven’s Sixth with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1930, at least four competing Pastorals already graced the ... Continue Reading


Pfitzner’s Beethoven: Not “Historical,” Merely Old

by Jed Distler

With the advent of electrical recording, the German firm Polydor resolved to bring out the complete Beethoven symphonies in time for the composer’s centenary in 1927. The project took until 1933 to complete, with podium chores divided among four conductors: Erich Kleiber (No. 2) Oskar Fried (N... Continue Reading


CD from Historical Hell: Koussevitzky Commissions and Ruins Pictures

by David Hurwitz

Given the fact that Koussevitzky commissioned Ravel’s famous orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, it’s surprising that Boston hasn’t recorded the work more often, and that this 1930 performance stands among the least attractive available. The opening “Promenade” ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Mild About Wild

by Jed Distler

It’s encouraging to see young pianists champion Earl Wild’s original piano works and transcriptions. After all, Wild’s keyboard writing was just as skillful, dazzling, and imaginative as his piano playing. However, Giovanni Doria Miglietta is the wrong man for the job. His renditions of Wild... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Enough Reger To Last A Lifetime (Or End It)

by David Hurwitz

What a puzzle Max Reger was! A master of counterpoint and variation, a purveyor of chromatic sludge, or (most likely) a bit of both? This eleven disc box won’t provide any answers. It consists of the 7-CD Berlin Classics set of orchestral works, plus four more discs containing the String Trio ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Rozhdestvensky Mummifies Stravinsky

by David Hurwitz

These two discs capture some of the most terrible Stravinsky performances ever recorded, in equally bad sound. The London Symphony Orchestra can (and has) played all of this music superbly for other conductors, so blame for this fiasco rests squarely with Rozhdestvensky. The iconic moment here must ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Anastasia Voltchok’s (mostly) Grim Goldbergs

by Jed Distler

The puff piece in the form of an introductory booklet note accompanying Anastasia Voltchok’s Bach Goldberg Variations lauds the pianist for boldly choosing to record the work by playing it twice through in a single day, and allowing herself to be guided by the spirit of the moment. We’re told th... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Schoonderwoerd’s Mindless Beethoven Massacre

by David Hurwitz

The great Donald Francis Tovey summarized everything that is wrong with this absurd set of performances when he said, “Scholarship itself is not obliged to insist on the restoration of conditions that ought never to have existed.” Pianist Arthur Schoonderwoerd pretends to be an expert on... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dohnányi’s Miserable Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

Christoph von Dohnányi once ruefully observed of his tenure in Cleveland, “We give a great concert and George Szell gets the credit.” It’s easy to sympathize, for the orchestra gave many great concerts under Dohnányi, and equalled and surpassed Szell in much of the standard reper... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Ticciati Commits Suicide By Schumann

by David Hurwitz

There’s so much bad Schumann around, but I have to say that I’m shocked to have to include Robin Ticciati, normally such a fine musician, among the ever-growing crowd of Schumann misfits. Everything, and I mean everything, about these performances is bad. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra p... Continue Reading


CD from Hell: Thielemann Kills The “Rhenish”

by David Hurwitz

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many listeners new to classical music wonder what we critics are up to when we start complaining about a new recording. After all, the standard of performance today is very high. Most interpretations of repertory staples are at least competent, and few if any ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Thielemann’s Horripilating Schumann 1 & 4

by David Hurwitz

Before signing a recording contract, performers should be forced to take a modified form of the Hippocratic oath, specifically the part that states, “First do no harm.” With this latest atrocity, and despite a promising start with the Second Symphony, Christian Thielemann (the self-style... Continue Reading

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Marilyn Horne’s Magnificent Mahler

by David Hurwitz

For some ridiculous reason, whenever Decca issued these recordings on CD they left off one of the Mahler cycles in favor of Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with those songs, but if you have all of the Mahler, and you issued them together on LP, why not on CD, ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mendelssohn String Quartets

by David Hurwitz

Two of the three discs in this set have been reviewed individually (by Dan Davis), who gave both of them our highest rating. That leaves the three quartets of Op. 44 for consideration, and they are every bit as fine as the rest. The Talich Quartet plays this music about as well as it can […]... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Karajan’s Luscious Schoenberg

by David Hurwitz

Herbert von Karajan. Remember him? Considering how much he recorded, he gets remarkably little mention nowadays—but at his best, as here, he was amazing. He reportedly paid for these recordings himself because he believed in the importance of preserving the masterworks of the Second Viennese Schoo... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Harris’ Neglected Piano Works

by David Hurwitz

There are some world-premiere recordings here, the most interesting of which is a three-minute piece marked “Untitled” from 1926—but even with these extra items Roy Harris’ complete solo piano music only adds up to some 56 minutes of material. There are four major works, none of them in fact... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Martinon’s Sultry, Smoking Schmitt

by David Hurwitz

There have been several new recordings of Schmitt’s most famous work, the tone poem The Tragedy of Salome, but none has eclipsed Martinon’s for sheer excitement and textural interest. If you haven’t heard the way he whips up the climax in the closing pages (sound clip), then you really don’t... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Talich Quartet’s Beethoven

by Dan Davis

There are numerous fine renderings of the complete Beethoven Quartets in the catalogue, ranging from the treasured old Budapest Quartet recordings on Sony, the sleek Alban Berg on EMI, the dramatic Emersons on Deutsche Grammophon, the warm probings of the Italiano on Philips, and the ripely humane V... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Milstein Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn

by David Hurwitz

“All’s not false that’s taught in the public schools,” Tovey was fond of quoting, and this is one of those occasions where the “standard” recommendation still holds true. It’s tempting in the world of classical music to cheer for the underdog, to look for th... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Pollini’s Late Schubert Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

Maurizio Pollini’s recordings of Schubert’s last three sonatas and Klavierstücke D. 946 earned generally good reviews upon their release in the late 1980s, then fell under the radar in face of subsequent world-class contenders. The passage of time only increases their stature. While Pollini’s... Continue Reading


Le Quattro Stagioni Definitive

by John Greene

When this recording was first issued in 1994 it was fascinating to see how Teldec varied the cover art from country to country. Italy arguably got the most fitting design, with a reproduction of a Canaletto painting of the Piazza San Marco in Venice where Vivaldi resided at the time. Germany got a d... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rameau’s Epic Dardanus

by Robert Levine

Rameau composed Dardanus in 1739 at the height of the war between the Lullistes and the Ramistes. The opera was almost universally trashed but still managed to run up 26 performances, due mostly to a thousand avid Ramistes who attended all of them. The opera was revived in 1744 and it was turned int... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kenneth Gilbert’s Well-Tempered Clavier

by Jed Distler

Recorded in 1983, Kenneth Gilbert’s Well-Tempered Clavier proudly stands the test of time as a reference harpsichord version. For starters, the combination of the Musée de Chartres’ resonant acoustic and the dulcet yet full-bodied instrument based on a 17th-century Flemish model results in an a... Continue Reading


A Magnificent Magnificent Seven

by David Hurwitz

Yes, we’re supposed to be covering the next St. Matthew Passion or Bruckner symphony, and we do that gladly, or at least religiously, as applicable, but there are times when you just feel like some great tunes, brilliantly arranged, and Elmer Bernstein’s score to the Magnificent Seven ha... Continue Reading


Schmidt’s Still Estimable Nielsen Cycle

by David Hurwitz

It seems like ages ago, but it was actually 1974-ish when this set became the first stereo Nielsen cycle to be released under the baton of a single conductor–amazing now that the symphonies have become firmly established in the international repertoire. The engineering was and remains a bit du... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mozart by the Talich Quartet

by David Hurwitz

Only the most ideologically rigid period-instrument purist will dislike this gorgeous set of the complete Mozart quartets. One amusing typo: the early Quartet K. 80 is listed on the disc sleeve as K. 805, so if you see that please don’t make yourself crazy looking for the missing 200 or so Kochel ... Continue Reading


Ruzicková’s Amazing Poulenc Concert champêtre

by David Hurwitz

Zuzana Ruzicková was a force of nature. Interned in multiple concentration camps during the Second World War and forced to perform slave labor, she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, married composer Victor Kalabis, and continued studies in post-War Czechoslovakia. As we all know, the commun... Continue Reading


Poulenc’s “Blisteringly exciting” Organ Concerto Reissued

by David Hurwitz

It’s interesting to see even smallish labels like LINN offering a series of reissues, an indication of just how easy it has been to amass a substantial catalog of recordings. Even more intriguing is the fact that this is the normal stereo disc of these performances, and not the hybrid multi-ch... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Argerich’s Incendiary Live Rach 3

by Jed Distler

Martha Argerich’s live 1982 Rachmaninov Third Concerto was one of the tape underground’s hottest properties before Philips officially issued it in 1995. The sound on this newly remastered edition is brighter and more defined, with clearer timpani and low strings, but the essential timbre... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mackerras’ Staggering ’59 Fireworks Music

by David Hurwitz

One of the most famous recordings ever made, and one of the most important, this truly legendary performance of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks belongs in every serious record collection. The brainchild of the young Charles Mackerras–a conductor whose curiosity is exceeded only by... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Stenhammar Serenade, Järvi’s First

by David Hurwitz

Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Serenade is unquestionably an orchestral masterpiece, one of two that he wrote (the other being the Second Symphony), and this remains its finest recording. Järvi remade the work for DG, and very well too, with this same orchestra, but as is so often the case the second e... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: A Great Box Of Suk

by David Hurwitz

These are excellent performances across the board, and the only disappointment for me is that Supraphon did not see fit to include the Symphony in E, a lovely work but fortunately one more readily available than it used to be. The highlight is Libor Pesek’s gorgeous recording of A Summer Tale,... Continue Reading

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Under the Radar: Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz

by Robert Levine

L’Amico Fritz, Mascagni’s second opera, is as unlike his first and most popular, Cavalleria Rusticana, as any two operas could be. Whereas the earlier opera is painted in dark tones, Fritz tends to be bathed in lighter, pastel colors. The opera, with its rural setting and story of the s... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Kremer and Davis in Berg

by David Hurwitz

Aside from the rather short playing time, these are very good performances of two of Berg’s best orchestral works. At the time of recording (1984) Kremer’s tone hadn’t degenerated into the hoarseness that marred much of his later work, and he delivers an unflinchingly honest and emotionally in... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Harris’ Neglected Piano Works

by David Hurwitz

There are some world-premiere recordings here, the most interesting of which is a three-minute piece marked “Untitled” from 1926—but even with these extra items Roy Harris’ complete solo piano music only adds up to some 56 minutes of material. There are four major works, none of them in fact... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Pollini’s Late Schubert Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

Maurizio Pollini’s recordings of Schubert’s last three sonatas and Klavierstücke D. 946 earned generally good reviews upon their release in the late 1980s, then fell under the radar in face of subsequent world-class contenders. The passage of time only increases their stature. While Pollini’s... Continue Reading


Dohnányi’s Hot Beethoven and Brahms Arrangements

by David Hurwitz

This is one hot disc, and like so many recordings by Dohnányi it seems never to have gotten the attention that it deserved back in the day. Mahler’s arrangement of Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet (No. 11, if you’re counting) is respectful, but also smart. Of all B... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Hummel’s Mozart Arrangements

by David Hurwitz

This is one of those series that has been flying under the radar for a good while, and so it’s very satisfying to see BIS boxing it up and offering these four discs at a special price. Our own Jed Distler reviewed one of these releases previously and pointed out that soloist Fumiko Shiraga may... Continue Reading


Ruzicková’s Amazing Poulenc Concert champêtre

by David Hurwitz

Zuzana Ruzicková was a force of nature. Interned in multiple concentration camps during the Second World War and forced to perform slave labor, she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, married composer Victor Kalabis, and continued studies in post-War Czechoslovakia. As we all know, the commun... Continue Reading


Sanderling’s Powerful Late Mahler

by David Hurwitz

Kurt Sanderling’s three late Mahler recordings represent an outstanding testament to a first-class artist. They are decidedly “Germanic:” sober, serious, never theatrical or gratuitously showy, but this does not mean that they are not powerfully expressive or exciting. They are uni... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Howard Karp–A Musician’s Musician in Concert

by Jed Distler

Many great American pianists have been attracted to academia, where they can sustain their artistry away from the proverbial big time and nurture young talents along the way. They wind up known and respected but rarely famous, and tend to be musicians’ musicians. A good example is Howard Karp,... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dohnányi’s Unbeaten Firebird

by David Hurwitz

On balance, this is the finest complete Firebird on disc. It’s also a tribute to a conductor who’s often taken for granted. Christoph von Dohnányi demonstrates his mastery of this score on every page, not least in his ability to get the Vienna Philharmonic to preserve all of its storied... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Dohnányi Smokes in Petrushka, Mandarin

by David Hurwitz

Christoph von Dohnányi’s Vienna Philharmonic recordings of Stravinsky and Bartók were outstanding not just as interpretations in and of themselves, but in the way in which the conductor got the Vienna players to achieve such idiomatic results in music not normally associated with them. To be... Continue Reading


Handel: Sanguine, Melancholy, Supernal

by David Vernier

You probably haven’t ever heard this extraordinary bit of Handelian theatre, a sort of cross between ode and oratorio. Apparently—and inexplicably—it’s only had one new recording in more than a decade, until this captivating newcomer, whose presence all but eliminates the need for th... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Dohnányi’s Vibrant Schumann

by David Hurwitz

There are simply dozens of Schumann cycles around; I only keep my top ten or fifteen on hand. The rest sit in the “overflow” stock my parent’s barn, where I can access them on weekends. Try as we might to keep track of them all, it’s just impossible, and I have to confess tha... Continue Reading


Janina Fialkowska’s Distinctive Chopin Mazurkas

by Jed Distler

Janina Fialkowska’s 2008 and 2011 all-Chopin recital discs for Atma Classique included a total of seven Mazurkas in highly distinctive and original interpretations that boded well for a comprehensive Mazurka survey. Sure enough, my prayers were answered when Fialkowska recorded the cycle in 2012 a... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Karajan’s Fantastic 1975 Fantastique

by David Hurwitz

There’s more to this recording than the best funeral bells and the most focused tuba playing on disc in the finale of the Fantastique (sound clip). Karajan did not record much Berlioz, but like many German conductors he had a special feeling for this particular work. He recorded it three times... Continue Reading


Boccherini’s Winsome Octet, Symphony No. 28 & Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

This music is wonderful, and you really won’t want to miss hearing it. Boccherini was an amazing melodist and a superb orchestrator. The symphony, actually an overture in three linked movements–fast, slow, fast–has excitement and lyricism aplenty, while the Octet’s opening An... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ferrara’s Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Franco Ferrara (1911-85) probably was the most renowned conducting teacher before Finland’s Jorma Panula. His brilliant early career ended due to a nervous condition that made it impossible for him to conduct in public (he developed a disconcerting tendency to pass out in mid-beat), but it did... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Excellent Vienna Sibelius

by David Hurwitz

With the passing of Lorin Maazel, the world of classical music lost one of its strangest yet most talented figures. The man was a cypher. He held just about every major post that it’s possible to get, his discography was huge and duplicative, and given the quantity of records that he made surp... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shirley Verrett’s Great Carmen

by Robert Levine

Precisely why this recording—made live at Covent Garden in 1973—is not better known is a mystery; it’s the best Carmen on the market. In the title role on CD there’s no dearth of great singers available, but Angeles is too pure; Callas is too vocally iffy; Norman sounds like a drag queen loo... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Solti’s Strauss Tone Poems

by David Hurwitz

It’s interesting that Georg Solti’s recordings of Strauss tone poems seem never to have gotten the attention that they deserve. True, he did not program them with the same frequency and comprehensiveness that he did Strauss’ contemporary Mahler, but Solti’s credentials as an ... Continue Reading

More "Under the Radar" Reviews »

Historical Gems: Juicy 1960 Rigoletto with Bastianini and Scotto

by Robert Levine

Just look at the cast of this 1960 studio recording, somehow misplaced in the mists of time but now re-mastered and available again! The original recording was unkind to Renata Scotto’s sharp-edged high notes; now they sound less shrill. Her interpretation, even at such a young age, is very ri... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Incandescent ’56 German Requiem

by David Hurwitz

Captured in very good mono broadcast-quality sound, with an impressively present organ, this 1956 performance is stunning. It has appeared previously (on a pirate label), but this official release boasts substantially finer sonics. The choral singing isn’t as great as in Klemperer’s stereo remak... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Lili Kraus Treasure Trove

by Jed Distler

Announcements about Erato’s boxed set devoted to the great pianist Lili Kraus (1903-1986) generated understandable anticipation among piano mavens, and now that it’s arrived, let us be thankful for this complete, systematic, and newly remastered survey of Kraus’ recordings for the Ducretet-Tho... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Britten conducts Britten at the SWR

by David Hurwitz

Captured in decent, 1956 mono sonics, these performances represent a significant addition to the Britten discography. Of course, he recorded the Sinfonia da Requiem for Decca in excellent stereo, but the “Symphonic Suite” from Gloriana is a superb work, as important and enjoyable as the “Four ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Samson François’ Complete Ravel Recordings

by Jed Distler

Samson François (1922-1970) was a brilliant yet mercurial pianist who left a fascinating and uneven discography, reflected in the Warner Classics/Erato reissue of his complete EMI Ravel recordings. The two concertos with André Cluytens leading the Paris Conservatory Concert Society Orchestra remai... Continue Reading


Schmidt’s Still Estimable Nielsen Cycle

by David Hurwitz

It seems like ages ago, but it was actually 1974-ish when this set became the first stereo Nielsen cycle to be released under the baton of a single conductor–amazing now that the symphonies have become firmly established in the international repertoire. The engineering was and remains a bit du... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Marcelle Meyer’s Genius Rameau

by Jed Distler

The legendary French pianist Marcelle Meyer’s 1953 cycle of Rameau’s complete keyboard music is a milestone of the piano discography. Her instinctive sense of style, gorgeous phrasing, impeccable diction, ear tickling ornaments, and multi-colored palette of sonorities enliven and communicate thi... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Moriz Rosenthal–Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

The artistry of Moriz Rosenthal (1862-1946) arguably stands head and shoulders above all recorded Liszt pupils. Whatever thunder and power Rosenthal had lost by the time he made his first recordings in 1928 during his 66th year, his effortless facility, prodigious tonal palette, aristocratic rubato,... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Moeran and Ireland Premieres from Heward

by David Hurwitz

British conductor Leslie Heward died of tuberculosis just a few months after these 1942 recordings were issued in January of 1943. It was a serious loss: Heward was a major talent, as these Walter Legge productions clearly demonstrate. Made in the midst of war, with Manchester’s Free Trade Hal... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Kubelik Complete on EMI/Warner

by David Hurwitz

Rafael Kubelik’s recorded legacy for EMI represents a hodge-podge of miscellaneous recordings dating from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. It is not remotely comparable to his later efforts for DG, and to some extent he finds himself at the mercy of the iffy ensemble quality that blighted mo... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: APR’s Arthur de Greef Collection

by Jed Distler

The Belgian pianist Arthur de Greef (1862-1940) made his mark as a Liszt pupil, although he also studied with Saint-Saëns and was a close associate of Grieg. As avid collectors of historic piano discs know, de Greef left authoritative recordings of works by these three composers, and much more. APR... Continue Reading


Ormandy Owns the “Classical” Symphony

by David Hurwitz

There are some recordings that should never go out of print. This is one of them. Naturally, it’s out of print, but not too hard to find used at super cheap prices as of the time of writing (8/14). Everyone records the “Classical” Symphony, but not everyone does it with such perfec... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Fascinating Take On “Bluebeard”

by Robert Levine

This previously unreleased performance, recorded live at the 1962 Lucerne Festival and sung in German (rather than Hungarian), is an eerie, riveting experience that, strangely, does not bring any other to mind. The Kertesz on Decca remains ideal in every way, including its use of Hungarian and the b... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Ancerl’s Anguished Prokofiev R&J

by David Hurwitz

One of the things most critics learn early (if indeed they ever learn anything at all!) is never to call any recording “definitive”. So I won’t. The fact remains, though, that this is the best recording of music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet yet to appear. In The Death of... Continue Reading


Schulhoff Plays Schulhoff: The Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

The death of Erwin Schulhoff in a concentration camp in 1942 silenced one of the most interesting and creative composers of his generation, a committed communist whose unfettered fusion of jazz, folk, and classical elements has been increasingly embraced by contemporary performers. He also was a ski... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Live Dvorák 7th: Dark and Massive

by David Hurwitz

Kubelik’s studio Dvorák Seventh may have been good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this live version from 1979. It’s a big, dark, passionate, tragically intense vision of the work, at least in the outer movements. The first is strongly contrasted and powerfully driven, rising to ... Continue Reading


Classic Kubelik: Dvorák “New World” and String Serenade

by Victor Carr Jr

This live Dvorák Ninth from 1980 features many similar attributes to Rafael Kubelik’s generally well-regarded 1973 studio recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. There’s the same emphasis on rhythm, which keeps the musical pulse flowing excitedly, even in the slow movement, and Kubelik ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kubelik’s Brilliant Dvorák 6th and Janácek Sinfonietta

by David Hurwitz

Kubelik’s commercial recording of Dvorák’s Sixth for DG with the Berlin Philharmonic still stands with the best, but this newcomer takes his interpretation to another level entirely. The hard-edged brilliance and rhythmic exactitude that characterized the earlier recording has been repl... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Exciting Brahms & Dvorák from Kubelik & Szeryng

by David Hurwitz

Clear, somewhat dry mono sound gives these 1967 performances a touch of shrillness and puts a raw edge on Henryk Szeryng’s violin tone that he surely didn’t have in person. Oddly, this brightness complements the performances, which have remarkable vitality and generosity of spirit. Tempo... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Bruckner 9 Stunner

by David Hurwitz

This wonderful disc demonstrates two important facts: first, that there’s no such thing as a “definitive” performance because great artists always manage to say something new about great music; and second, that the most surprising “insights” often result from a literal ... Continue Reading

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Major Discoveries: Ries’ Delightful Concerto Pastoral (and Rondo)

by David Hurwitz

Ries’ Concerto Pastoral is delightful, from the woodwind warbling with which it opens, to the breezy “hunting” finale (shades of Mozart’s 22nd Piano Concerto–sound clips). Still, it has to be admitted that Ries was not at his best working in what he evidently regarded as strict forms. ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz

by Robert Levine

L’Amico Fritz, Mascagni’s second opera, is as unlike his first and most popular, Cavalleria Rusticana, as any two operas could be. Whereas the earlier opera is painted in dark tones, Fritz tends to be bathed in lighter, pastel colors. The opera, with its rural setting and story of the s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Roussel’s Aeneas

by David Hurwitz

Jean Martinon recorded a dazzling Bacchus et Ariane Suite No. 2 with the Chicago Symphony for RCA, a performance never issued on CD (save for about ten seconds in Japan, a friendly reader reminded me), but which is due from RCA in March 2015 in a 10-CD Martinon/Chicago box. The ORTF isn’t the ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Martinon’s Sultry, Smoking Schmitt

by David Hurwitz

There have been several new recordings of Schmitt’s most famous work, the tone poem The Tragedy of Salome, but none has eclipsed Martinon’s for sheer excitement and textural interest. If you haven’t heard the way he whips up the climax in the closing pages (sound clip), then you really don’t... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Raff Chamber Works (No Kidding)

by David Hurwitz

Raff’s Piano Quintet was considered by Hans von Bülow to be one of the very greatest works in its medium, and he wasn’t wrong. Generously proportioned (37 minutes), expertly written, full of good tunes, and not a bit diffuse in its argument, it’s surely one of the great Romantic chamber works... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Schulhoff Quartets

by David Hurwitz

Erwin Schulhoff’s three major works for string quartet fit neatly onto a single, rather short (51 minutes here) CD. They consist of the two numbered works, plus the Five Pieces of 1923, this latter a wonderful dance suite that includes a Viennese waltz, a tarantella, and a “Tango Milonga... Continue Reading


Naxos’ Fibich Series Continues Impressively

by David Hurwitz

Fibich’s Second Symphony reveals a deeper concern with classical tradition than we find in the First. The orchestration, though still colorful, is more austere (no harp, no extra percussion), although in vintage romantic fashion the weight of the symphonic argument falls on the finale. This is... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rameau’s Epic Dardanus

by Robert Levine

Rameau composed Dardanus in 1739 at the height of the war between the Lullistes and the Ramistes. The opera was almost universally trashed but still managed to run up 26 performances, due mostly to a thousand avid Ramistes who attended all of them. The opera was revived in 1744 and it was turned int... Continue Reading


Rameau’s Une Symphonie Imaginaire–Magnifique!

by David Hurwitz

If you love Rameau’s instrumental music, you will want this disc. It’s really marvelous: a choice selection of movements from Zaïs, Castor et Pollux, Dardanus, Le Temple de la Gloire, Les Boréades, Platée, Les Indes galantes, and several other works. Marc Minkowski has assembled 17 se... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: The Other Taras Bulba, Complete At Last

by David Hurwitz

Franz Waxman’s score to the perfectly dreadful film Taras Bulba, staring Yul Brynner, Tony Curtis, and lots of lots of horses, is a musical masterpiece, full of color, catchy tunes, brilliant orchestration–in short, it is everything a great Hollywood film score ought to be. One track, Th... Continue Reading


Jón Leifs’ Moving Elegies

by David Hurwitz

Jón Leifs’ music is a world unto itself, and the four works on this disc offer good sense of its expressive range. Scherzo concreto is a brief piece scored for the nutty combination of piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon, trombone, tuba, viola and cello. It begins like one o... Continue Reading


Not Just Your Usual Berlioz Harold in Italy

by David Hurwitz

This is one of those programs that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. David Aaron Carpenter plays a sensational viola, and he’s very capably accompanied by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Helsinki Philharmonic. This would be a very recommendable version of Harold in Italy on its own, even i... Continue Reading


Per Norgard’s First and Eighth from Dacapo

by David Hurwitz

Between its Nielsen cycle with the New York Philharmonic and now this recording featuring the Vienna Philharmonic, Dacapo has come a label of international consequence, even if its focus remains gratifyingly on Danish artists. Norgard is a major figure in contemporary Danish music, and these two sym... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Berwald’s The Battle of Leipzig

by David Hurwitz

Franz Berwald’s remarkable “musical painting” The Battle of Leipzig (1828) stands in a long if not particularly distinguished tradition of musical battle pieces, the most famous being Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory, which of course is also the trashiest. In contrast, ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Witt’s Wonderful Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Friedrich Witt (1770-1836) achieved his 15 minutes of fame as the composer of the so-called “Jena” Symphony, which was momentarily believed to be by the young Beethoven. How anyone could make that mistake is a mystery, for there’s not a shred of Beethoven, early or late, in this mu... Continue Reading


Oswald and Napoleão Really Romantic Piano Concertos

by David Hurwitz

These two works have all of the advantages and disadvantages of Romantic virtuoso piano concertos, only in different proportions. On the plus side, you have brilliant and grateful solo writing and some delicious material. On the minus side, there is the tendency to sprawl, the utterly inept handling... Continue Reading


Very Promising New Fibich Cycle From Naxos

by David Hurwitz

Zdenek Fibich only lived to be 50, but he was amazingly prolific: three symphonies plus numerous orchestral works, seven operas, the Wagnerian trilogy of melodramas Hippodamia, and countless piano pieces, including a 376-item cycle notorious for describing, among other things, his girlfriend’s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Bouquet Of Waxman

by David Hurwitz

Franz Waxman was a genius, an immensely gifted composer and conductor, most of whose work is only gradually becoming available as classic film scores are slowly restored, published, and recorded. This delightful collection presents some original chamber works and a slew of transcriptions as they mig... Continue Reading


Beck’s Bounteous Op. 4 Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

As the excellently written notes to this release point out, Beck probably would be far more highly regarded today had he not give up symphonic composition in the mid 1760s, turning his attention instead to that black hole of musical ambition: opera. The three works that constitute his Op. 4 (and the... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Wetz’s Third Channels Bruckner’s Fifth

by David Hurwitz

Richard Wetz’s ultra-conservative Third Symphony, like his second, resembles sort of a cross between Bruckner and Max Bruch. Not that this explains anything useful. One thing’s for sure, though: Wetz writes beautiful music. His themes sing, stay with you when listening, and offer clearly... Continue Reading

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Filling In The Gaps: La Serva Padrona

by David Hurwitz

For a work of this importance, there have been remarkably few recordings of Pergolesi’s delicious little intermezzo La Serva Padrona (The Housekeeper-Boss). Composed in 1733 to be performed between the acts of the composer’s opera seria Il Prigionier superbo, the piece ignited the splend... Continue Reading


Not Just Your Usual Berlioz Harold in Italy

by David Hurwitz

This is one of those programs that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. David Aaron Carpenter plays a sensational viola, and he’s very capably accompanied by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Helsinki Philharmonic. This would be a very recommendable version of Harold in Italy on its own, even i... Continue Reading


Poulenc’s “Blisteringly exciting” Organ Concerto Reissued

by David Hurwitz

It’s interesting to see even smallish labels like LINN offering a series of reissues, an indication of just how easy it has been to amass a substantial catalog of recordings. Even more intriguing is the fact that this is the normal stereo disc of these performances, and not the hybrid multi-ch... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Holst Beyond The Planets

by David Hurwitz

Yes, you get The Planets too, but a version like you’ve never heard it before. More on that shortly. First, this inexpensive release offers an excellent way to pick up a wide assortment of other pieces: The Perfect Fool ballet and Egdon Heath with Boult, A Moorside Suite for winds with the Gri... Continue Reading


Beck’s Bounteous Op. 4 Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

As the excellently written notes to this release point out, Beck probably would be far more highly regarded today had he not give up symphonic composition in the mid 1760s, turning his attention instead to that black hole of musical ambition: opera. The three works that constitute his Op. 4 (and the... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Weber 4-Hand Piano Works, Finally

by David Hurwitz

Remarkable as it may seem, this is the only available at present CD of Weber’s complete music for piano 4-hands. Now I’m sure, having said this, that a dozen others will show up in short order. There were two rather poor discs kicking around for a bit at the dawn of the CD era, but [&hel... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Smart Bartók From Falletta

by David Hurwitz

Here’s a fine way to plug a hole in your Bartók collection. Kossuth is a big, fat Straussian symphonic poem (eight horns and all that) lasting about twenty minutes. It has all of the German composer’s fabled opulence of sonority, but lacks memorable tunes. Still, it gets the job done, a... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Poulenc Ballets On Piano

by David Hurwitz

Although there are some issues both with the interpretations and the music itself, this is an interesting disc in several respects. It features performances of the three major Poulenc ballets taken from the piano scores that are necessarily prepared to assist in rehearsals prior to getting the ensem... Continue Reading


Seductive Chaminade from Steinway

by David Hurwitz

Everyone needs at least one disc of Chaminade’s piano music, and this disc would make an excellent choice. Yes, she composed a great deal of “salon” music, but what matters is that she did it very well. These pieces are consistently attractive, and they never try to be more than wh... Continue Reading


Moszkowski’s Four Hand Music: Complete At Last

by Jed Distler

Few composers wrote better salon music for piano than Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925), whose solo etudes and character pieces are always fun to hear, at least in the hands of pianists who ooze technique and charm. And like all good salon composers, Moszkowski contributed his fair share to the late 19t... Continue Reading


Prokofiev’s Original Film Score for Alexander Nevsky

by David Hurwitz

This is an excellent performance of Prokofiev’s original score to Alexander Nevsky, though it’s deceptive of RCA not to tell us right up front that what’s on the disc is not the more familiar cantata. The truth of the matter is that the cantata gives you all of the important music ... Continue Reading


Beethoven’s Plus-Size Late Quartets

by David Vernier

There’s a long tradition of transcribing/arranging string quartets for string orchestra–not only numerous Beethoven settings (including Mahler’s of the Op. 95 F minor and the Bernstein/Mitropoulos Op. 131 and 135) but also the famous Barshai version of Shostakovich’s Quartet ... Continue Reading


Schulhoff Plays Schulhoff: The Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

The death of Erwin Schulhoff in a concentration camp in 1942 silenced one of the most interesting and creative composers of his generation, a committed communist whose unfettered fusion of jazz, folk, and classical elements has been increasingly embraced by contemporary performers. He also was a ski... Continue Reading


Patricia Goodson Explores Foerster’s Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

Pianist Patricia Goodson has made a systematic study of Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s piano music, and presents it complete for the first time on this inexpensive and very well-recorded four-CD set. Throughout his long life (1859-1951) Foerster wrote a great deal of music. The latest numbered work... Continue Reading


Jerome Lowenthal’s Beethoven Cadenza Feast

by Jed Distler

In 2005 I had the privilege to share a recital program with Jerome Lowenthal and Frederic Rzewski that focused on Beethoven. I played the 32 C minor Variations with an improvised cadenza before the coda; Rzewski played his own Andante Con Moto (a variation set based on the Appassionata sonata’s ce... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Orff’s Die Kluge on EMI (Warner)

by David Hurwitz

In my review of the Kegel recording on Berlin Classics pairing these two stage works based on Grimm fairy tales, I gave a brief synopsis of each and noted that if you want the best recording of Der Mond, Kegel’s your man; but for Die Kluge this twofer is your best bet, with a performance [&hel... Continue Reading


Four-Hands Requiem Is Hands-Down Success

by David Vernier

It’s only natural, I suppose, to assume that an “arrangement” or “transcription” for piano of a great orchestral work will be inferior to the original. But that depends on the particular arrangement and on your mindset. Depending on the skill and creativity of the arran... Continue Reading


A Box of Orff. Nazaza?

by David Hurwitz

This five-CD set contains a relatively pale early 1970s recording of Carmina Burana whose standout quality is the participation of Lucia Popp and Hermann Prey as soprano and baritone soloists. The Bavarian Radio Chorus is only so-so (the women especially), and Eichhorn’s leadership is reliable... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The LaSalle’s Classic 2nd Viennese School Quartets

by Jed Distler

Although both DG and Brilliant Classics have reissued the LaSalle Quartet’s 1968/70 Second Viennese School survey on CD, this latest incarnation via DG’s Collector’s Edition also includes the ensemble’s pioneering early digital recordings of the four Alexander Zemlinsky quartets and the Firs... Continue Reading


Sterling Hindemith from Frank Peter Zimmermann

by David Hurwitz

Hindemith’s music seems to be out of fashion these days. There was a time in the 1960s and 70s when few major violinists did not program his Violin Concerto–sort of a modern German composer’s answer to Brahms. Check out, for example, the extended passage for wind ensemble that open... Continue Reading

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Big Boxes: Boulez’s Complete Columbia Collection

by David Hurwitz

Boulez’s CBS legacy contains some remarkable work, from the perverse (Symphonie fantastique) to the often fabulous (much of his Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Bartók), to the merely dull (Beethoven’s Fifth). One thing, however, is clear: Boulez was not a great conductor, in the sense t... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Koopman’s Compelling Complete Bach Organ Works

by David Vernier

If you missed these recordings, made during the mid-to-late 1990s, or have crossed paths with a volume or two in a used-CD shop, you can now obtain the whole collection in one 16-disc boxed set. Koopman isn’t everyone’s favorite Bach interpreter—at least consistently across such a vast reperto... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Heifetz’s Complete Album Collection

by Jed Distler

Although Heifetz’s art has been abundantly well served in the CD era, nothing quite compares to Sony/BMG’s imposing 103-disc set Jascha Heifetz: The Complete Album Collection. It contains all of the violinist’s issued RCA and HMV recordings, his valedictory 1972 concert issued by Columbia Mas... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Lili Kraus Treasure Trove

by Jed Distler

Announcements about Erato’s boxed set devoted to the great pianist Lili Kraus (1903-1986) generated understandable anticipation among piano mavens, and now that it’s arrived, let us be thankful for this complete, systematic, and newly remastered survey of Kraus’ recordings for the Ducretet-Tho... Continue Reading


A Big Box of Early Brendel: First Time’s a Charm

by Jed Distler

As Alfred Brendel brought to a close his public performing career in 2008, Brilliant Classics compiled a 35-CD set devoted to the pianist’s complete solo and concerted discs for the Vox, Turnabout, and Vanguard labels, recorded prior to the long affiliation with Philips that helped cement his ... Continue Reading


A Big Bad Box of Gergiev

by David Hurwitz

This twelve-disc set contains an unfortunate number of performances of striking mediocrity. Gergiev’s position in the record works recalls that of Charles Dutoit. You may recall that on the basis of a couple of good recordings he (with the Montreal Symphony) became Decca’s “house&#... Continue Reading


Really Big Boxes: Sony’s Bernstein Editions

by David Hurwitz

Who knew when Sony’s Bernstein: The Symphony Edition came out several years ago that we would have to wait so long for its successor? I held on to the former because it raised some questions that could only be answered by succeeding volumes, so here is the story as regards the first two sets c... Continue Reading


Pietro de Maria’s Quirky Complete Chopin

by Jed Distler

American piano enthusiasts may know Pietro de Maria’s work from several VAI releases stemming from the Miami International Piano Festival, and from a stunning Naxos recording of Clementi’s three Op. 40 sonatas. Between 2006 and 2009 the pianist recorded Chopin’s complete solo-piano works for D... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Carlo Bergonzi–Verdi Tenor Nonpareil In Style

by Robert Levine

Carlo Bergonzi, the tenor who died in July at the age of 90, undoubtedly was one of the great tenors of the last half of the 20th century. He began his career as a baritone, debuting in 1948 as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, but within two years he realized that his voice was […]... Continue Reading


Please God, Let This Be The Last Ozawa Box

by David Hurwitz

First, there was the 11-disc Seiji Ozawa Anniversary Box, then there was The Art of Seiji Ozawa (16 CDs), then there was Seiji Ozawa: A Life for Music (23 CDs), and now we have the 50-disc Seiji Ozawa: The Philips Years Original Jacket Collection. I just hope that Maestro Ozawa has a lot of good [&h... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Enough Reger To Last A Lifetime (Or End It)

by David Hurwitz

What a puzzle Max Reger was! A master of counterpoint and variation, a purveyor of chromatic sludge, or (most likely) a bit of both? This eleven disc box won’t provide any answers. It consists of the 7-CD Berlin Classics set of orchestral works, plus four more discs containing the String Trio ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Ansermet’s Rousing Russian Collection

by David Hurwitz

For all the grotty playing and occasionally screechy sonics, there’s something very endearing about this set. Ansermet really was a terrific conductor. He could be quirky, both on the quick side (Autumn from Glazunov’s The Seasons) and the slow (Stravinsky’s two Suites for Small Or... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Kubelik Complete on EMI/Warner

by David Hurwitz

Rafael Kubelik’s recorded legacy for EMI represents a hodge-podge of miscellaneous recordings dating from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. It is not remotely comparable to his later efforts for DG, and to some extent he finds himself at the mercy of the iffy ensemble quality that blighted mo... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Complete Decca Cleveland Recordings

by David Hurwitz

It would of course have been too much to ask Decca to simply release the complete Maazel recordings. They already blew that opportunity by issuing a randomly assembled Vienna box. At least we have this complete edition of Maazel’s Cleveland performances. Since he recorded everything for everyo... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Abbado’s Complete RCA and Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

Packaged in original jacket facsimiles, Sony/BMG’s complete collection of Claudio Abbado’s RCA and Sony recordings comes as no surprise in the wake of the conductor’s death in January 2014. It also offers no real artistic revelations, for Abbado was nothing if not consistent throug... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Giulini’s Complete Sony Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Giulini’s recorded repertoire was limited,  and he set down many of the same works for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, and Sony. As this box proves, the last recordings were not necessarily the slowest, or dullest, and comparison reveals some interesting facts. So here is what we get: Discs 1-3: Mo... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Prokofiev Ballets and Film Music

by David Hurwitz

This appealing set contains all of Prokofiev’s most important ballets and film scores, either complete (the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella), or as arranged for concert performance (Alexander Nevsky, Lieutenant Kijé, Ivan the Terrible). Oh, and you also get the Classical Symphony, wel... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Nielsen Symphonies Plus Maskarade

by David Hurwitz

Herbert Blomstedt’s San Francisco recordings of the complete Nielsen symphonies remain a reference edition. There are no weak links; the performances are consistently superb. I suppose we could ask for a crazier snare drum cadenza in the first movement of the Fifth, but this is still awfully g... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Podium Brilliance from DG’s Complete Fricsay Edition Vol. 1

by Jed Distler

Ferenc Fricsay’s tragically early death at 48 from stomach cancer in 1963 robbed the world of a great artist and formidable conductor at the peak of his powers. Fortunately his relationship with Deutsche Grammophon from 1949 until his death yielded a larger and wider-ranging discography than one m... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sinopoli The Accompanist

by David Hurwitz

Given his tendency to wallow decadently in late romantic music, Giuseppe Sinopoli turns out to be a very sensitive accompanist on these eight CDs, bringing his own ideas to the proceedings where he can but letting his soloists strut their stuff. Indeed, a set like this can only marginally be about t... Continue Reading

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