Classics Today Insider

CD From Hell: Imogen Cooper’s Dull Chopin

by Jed Distler

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Throughout her long career, Imogen Cooper has rightfully been acclaimed for her poetic and often inspired Schumann, Schubert, and Mozart. However, for the most part her first studio Chopin outing is deadly dull. Granted, her tone is beautiful, well modulated, and refined, and she doesn’t miss a no... Continue Reading


Virtual Haydn Works For Keyboard: Virtually Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

haydnbeghin

Tom Beghin is one of the true keyboard geniuses among performers on period instruments. Here he has chosen seven gorgeous-sounding instruments–harpsichords, clavichords, and fortepianos–to present all of Haydn’s keyboard music in superlative performances, recorded to simulate the a... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Haydn Symphonies Complete On Period Instruments

by David Hurwitz

haydncompletesym

Antal Dorati’s complete set of Haydn symphonies has been the reference edition for the complete set since, well, forever, but this newcomer, also from Decca, gives it a good run for the money. The reason is simple: it contains Frans Brüggen’s complete Haydn symphony recordings, 43 of th... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Handel’s Solomon from Daniel Reuss

by David Vernier

solomon

Well, it’s happened again–another reference-recording shake-up. This new Solomon from Daniel Reuss, the RIAS Kammerchor, and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is now the one to own, and unless you’re a collector of these things, the only one you’ll need. And that’s not to... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gounod’s Music For Pedal Piano–Great Stuff!

by David Hurwitz

gounod

This is Volume 62 in Hyperion’s epic and seemingly endless series of romantic piano concertos, and I have to say it strikes me as one of the most fascinating of the bunch. In order to create a modern pedal piano, the intrepid soloist Roberto Prosseda used an Italian-made pedal gadget to stack ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu’s Ballet “The Shadow”

by David Hurwitz

martinuhobson

This early ballet (1916), which plays for a bit over an hour, is inconsistent but interesting. The plot is one of those fin-de-siècle symbolist jobs about a girl who drops a ball into a pond, sees her reflection, and a shadows rises up out of the water. They dance around a lot until she collapses, ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Finally, Stravinsky’s Complete Columbia & RCA Recordings, The Right Way

by Jed Distler

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This release brings together all of the Columbia Masterworks and RCA Victor recordings involving Igor Stravinsky as performer, along with sessions conducted by his close associate Robert Craft. The collection also draws upon several other performers to fill repertoire gaps, such as Charles Rosen in ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sviatoslav Richter’s Eurodisc Recordings

by Jed Distler

562

Sviatoslav Richter’s 1970-’83 Eurodisc recordings have appeared on countless reissues on countless labels in countless couplings, at prices ranging from rock bottom to sky high, and confusing collectors in the process. All the more reason to welcome this “official” original jacket collec... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Kempff’s Songful Schubert is Back

by Jed Distler

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In 2000 Deutsche Grammophon released a seven-CD budget box Collectors Edition with Wilhelm Kempff’s cycle of Schubert sonatas for that label. Sixteen years later, the company has repacked the cycle, adding two discs encompassing the rest of Kempff’s solo Schubert DG recordings. Since Universal C... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Altstaedt Shreds CPE Bach Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

CPEAlstaedt

These misguided, tonally hideous performances prove that there is more to a “historically informed” approach than a collection of textbook-approved mannerisms. I can only speculate as to why cellist Nicolas Altstaedt permits himself to make such sounds. It seems that, like so many modern... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Bacewicz Music for Strings

by David Hurwitz

Bacewicz

Grazyna Bacewicz was unquestionably a talented composer, one whose work is well worth getting to know. Stylistically these pieces from the 1940s and early ’50s might remind you a bit of Bartók and Stravinsky. Motoric allegros (sound clip) alternate with moody, passionate slow movements. The l... Continue Reading


Alwyn: Orchestral Works and Fun Bits

by David Hurwitz

For a composer no one much cares about and whose music seldom appears on concert programs, William Alwyn has been extremely well treated by record labels (specifically Lyrita, Chandos, and Naxos). Perhaps it’s because he was a very good composer who wrote lots of attractive, beautifully finish... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Handel’s 1737 Il Trionfo del Tempo e della Verità

by Robert Levine

This almost unknown, large scale (almost 3 hour) oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth, was composed by Handel in Rome in 1707 and revised by him for performances in London’s Covent Garden in 1737 (the version recorded here) and then translated into English, revised again and presented, with... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Fikret Amirov Orchestral Works–Derivative And Fun

by David Hurwitz

Let’s face it, Shur sounds suspiciously like the third movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and if the opening of the Azerbaijan Capriccio isn’t Lohengrin orientalized (Act 3 prelude), then I don’t know what is (sound clip). But who cares? The music is delightful, colo... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Alwyn’s Appealing Violin Concerto

by David Hurwitz

William Alwyn was a very intelligent composer. His serious concert music, rewarding though much of it is, tends to work “motivically” rather than melodically, but the violin is first and foremost a melody instrument, and so Alwyn packs his concerto with an abundance of attractive tunes. ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Jansons’ Rotten Rhapsodies

by David Hurwitz

RhapsodyJans

Charisma. Some conductors have it, and some don’t. Jansons doesn’t. Granted, he has other qualities: precision, control, a clear beat; but this music requires dash, brilliance, color, spontaneity–in a word, charisma, and you won’t find it here. Take Chabrier’s España. ... Continue Reading


Richter’s Rare Live “48” Available Again

by Jed Distler

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In July and August of 1973 Sviatoslav Richter played Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier over the course of four concerts in Innsbruck. The performances were issued in Japan as a 4-CD set following the pianist’s death in 1997, and were withdrawn from the catalog after a few weeks due to a contractual c... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Jeroen van Veen’s Complete Satie

by Jed Distler

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The protean and prolific Jeroen van Veen turns his attention to Erik Satie’s complete piano works for a 9-CD boxed set that ties in with the composer’s 150th birthday year. In a way, the collection is completer than complete. It includes all of Satie’s published and unpublished works for solo ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bruckner Sacred Music by Jochum

by David Hurwitz

BrucknerJoch

In these days, when everyone is recording endless versions of everything, it’s kind of nice to note that there’s not so much duplication in Bruckner’s major sacred works. This set has very little competition–really only the Corydon Singers on Hyperion. Good as that is, this b... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: The Late, Great Marni Nixon Sings Copland

by David Hurwitz

CopNix

We have lost two great, largely unheralded American sopranos recently: Phyllis Curtin, and now Marni Nixon, the Hollywood voice of, well, just about everyone. A superb recitalist with a clear, bell-like tone and perfect pitch, Nixon sings this premiere recording of the orchestral version of Copland&... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Almost Complete Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Okay, the Ballade for Harp and String Orchestra technically isn’t a concerto, but who’s counting? Rautavaara’s concertos are arguably more consistent and representative than his symphonies. The First Piano Concerto, the earliest work here, exudes the sort of spiky Finno-Russian neo... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Complete Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

I have only two small reservations before enthusiastically recommending this set. First, this performance of the Brucknerian Third Symphony, while quite good, has been surpassed by the recently released Segerstam recording on the same label (but that is an SACD, so I understand the point in sticking... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Imogen Cooper’s Dull Chopin

by Jed Distler

71LIT9AyU3L._SL1200

Throughout her long career, Imogen Cooper has rightfully been acclaimed for her poetic and often inspired Schumann, Schubert, and Mozart. However, for the most part her first studio Chopin outing is deadly dull. Granted, her tone is beautiful, well modulated, and refined, and she doesn’t miss a no... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Altstaedt Shreds CPE Bach Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

CPEAlstaedt

These misguided, tonally hideous performances prove that there is more to a “historically informed” approach than a collection of textbook-approved mannerisms. I can only speculate as to why cellist Nicolas Altstaedt permits himself to make such sounds. It seems that, like so many modern... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Jansons’ Rotten Rhapsodies

by David Hurwitz

RhapsodyJans

Charisma. Some conductors have it, and some don’t. Jansons doesn’t. Granted, he has other qualities: precision, control, a clear beat; but this music requires dash, brilliance, color, spontaneity–in a word, charisma, and you won’t find it here. Take Chabrier’s España. ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Netopil Blows Janácek

by David Hurwitz

JanNetoSinf

Tomás Netopil bills himself as a Janácek specialist, and maybe he is. He should be ashamed of himself. His conducting is generally swift, and he doesn’t smooth out Janácek’s textures unduly, but beyond that he has nothing to say in this music. The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is no... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Janson’s Redundant Rachmaninov

by David Hurwitz

Rach2Jans

Familiarity breeds contempt, evidently. This is Jansons’ third recording of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, and easily his worst. It captures live performances patched together from three evenings in 2010, before a not ideally quiet audience. He and the orchestral coast along, lazily drif... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Robotic Haydn From Ticciati

by David Hurwitz

HaydnTicc

In a celebrated and occasionally scatalogical interview published in Fanfare magazine back in 1991, violinist Pinchas Zukerman noted that with a modern instrument he could make any sound that “historically informed” players do on early instruments, although he wondered why anyone would w... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Svetlanov Disses Ravel, Big Time

by David Hurwitz

RavSvet

This live Ravel program from the glory days of the Soviet Union (1975) was just the sort of thing designed for a captive audience. No one in their right mind would buy it if they had any sort of choice. The audience coughs restlessly, while the sonics lack presence in soft passages and congeal into ... Continue Reading


CD From Tuonela: Vänskä Wimps Out in His (First) Lemminkäinen Legends

by David Hurwitz

SibLemVanska

Vänskä remade the Lemminkäinen Legends very successfully in SACD sound. Both he and BIS knew that this first effort was a dud, and yet it is still available, both singly and in BIS’ complete Sibelius Edition. It is high time that it was withdrawn. True, this recording contains the origina... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Järvi Blows It In Atterberg’s Third

by David Hurwitz

Atterberg3

Everyone has a bad day now and then, and everyone certainly had one here. Atterberg’s Third Symphony, subtitled “West Coast Pictures,” consists of three tone poems somewhat randomly smashed together–two slowish pieces surrounding a thrilling central “Storm.” It ha... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Awful Rachmaninov 3rd From Gergiev

by David Hurwitz

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You can tell that a bad performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony is coming within the first sixty seconds. There is an introduction, marked “Lento,” leading to the “Allegro moderato” main body of the movement. Either the conductor differentiates these two tempos, and... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Argerich and Barenboim Live in Buenos Aires

by Jed Distler

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Veteran piano superstars Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim have been teaming up in concert, generating the kind of critical and social media buzz usually doled out for the Second Coming or Elvis sightings. But don’t expect anything special from their second DG release, a souvenir of the duo’s... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin Botches Handel

by David Hurwitz

HandelWaterHM

This is a distressing release, a performance of genuine ugliness, bereft of style and taste. It raises serious questions about “Historically Informed Performance,” and about the ability of modern artists to perform early music with sympathy and understanding. Releasing this farrago of no... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Currentzis and Kopatchinskaja Play From Their Bowels

by David Hurwitz

TchaikStrav

Dear Patricia and Teo, I was so deeply moved by the charming letters that you wrote to each other, and which comprise the booklet notes of your new performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, that I felt compelled to respond in kind. I was particularly struck, Patricia, by the rhetorical gus... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dreadful Cantatas, Dreadfully Performed

by Robert Levine

Marcello

Rosanna Scalfi Marcello (circa 1704–1742) was the wife of the nobleman and composer Benedetto Marcello. A “charming anecdote” (according to the notes accompanying these CDs) tells us that she was overheard singing in a gondola by Benedetto, who sent for her, took her on as a “student” (sne... Continue Reading


CD from Hell: A Flavorless Four-Hand Resurrection

by Jed Distler

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For the record, this is not a “world premiere recording” of Mahler’s Second Symphony in Bruno Walter’s piano duet arrangement. That honor (and a dubious honor it was) went to the Piano Duo Trenkner/Speidel on MDG. To be sure, Maasa Nakazawa and Suhrud Athavale are the first to record their r... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Martinon’s Hapless Prokofiev 5 & 7

by David Hurwitz

ProkMart

Sadly, this disc is a non-starter. Jean Martinon, great as he often was, had bad luck with Prokofiev. His complete symphony cycle on Vox suffered from murky sonics and an orchestra that, while not disgraceful, wasn’t winning any awards for virtuosity or tone quality. Still, that production was... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Svetlanov Offers The Worst Ever Mahler Cycle

by David Hurwitz

MahlerSvet

Weird when it isn’t just plain unmusical, horribly played, sung, and recorded, this is without question the most terrible Mahler cycle in the catalogue, bar none. Svetlanov is a cypher. Symphonies that had us looking forward to a healthy dose of raw Russian passion, such as the Sixth, lack jus... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Boulez’s Worst Debussy and Ravel

by David Hurwitz

RavelOtterBoulez

The concept looks great, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Anne Sofie von Otter sounds as if she’s spent far too much time with her diction coach. She enunciates her way through Shéhérazade until it becomes a lesson in phonics, totally bereft of wonder and innocence in the first s... Continue Reading


CD Partially From Hell: Backhaus’ Second-Best Beethoven

by Jed Distler

Wilhelm Backhaus recorded Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas in mono for Decca in the early 1950s, and with the advent of stereo he began the process anew in 1958. Although he managed to finish 31 out of the 32, the pianist died before he got around to remaking the Hammerklavier (Op. 106). Con... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Latest Prokofiev Just Plain Sucks

by David Hurwitz

ProkGerg

What on earth has happened to Valery Gergiev? His last Prokofiev symphony cycle, with the LSO, was pretty good, and it featured a particularly impressive account of the Sixth Symphony. We certainly did not need a new cycle with the second-rate Mariinsky Orchestra, good or not, but in the event the r... Continue Reading

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Virtual Haydn Works For Keyboard: Virtually Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

haydnbeghin

Tom Beghin is one of the true keyboard geniuses among performers on period instruments. Here he has chosen seven gorgeous-sounding instruments–harpsichords, clavichords, and fortepianos–to present all of Haydn’s keyboard music in superlative performances, recorded to simulate the a... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Handel’s Solomon from Daniel Reuss

by David Vernier

solomon

Well, it’s happened again–another reference-recording shake-up. This new Solomon from Daniel Reuss, the RIAS Kammerchor, and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is now the one to own, and unless you’re a collector of these things, the only one you’ll need. And that’s not to... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bruckner Sacred Music by Jochum

by David Hurwitz

BrucknerJoch

In these days, when everyone is recording endless versions of everything, it’s kind of nice to note that there’s not so much duplication in Bruckner’s major sacred works. This set has very little competition–really only the Corydon Singers on Hyperion. Good as that is, this b... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: The Late, Great Marni Nixon Sings Copland

by David Hurwitz

CopNix

We have lost two great, largely unheralded American sopranos recently: Phyllis Curtin, and now Marni Nixon, the Hollywood voice of, well, just about everyone. A superb recitalist with a clear, bell-like tone and perfect pitch, Nixon sings this premiere recording of the orchestral version of Copland&... Continue Reading


Walter’s Authentic Brahms

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsWalter

This is unquestionably one of the great Brahms symphony cycles. Of course, it would have been good if Sony had also included Walter’s mono New York Philharmonic performances, with his incomparably exciting version of Symphony No. 2, but these remakes are better just about everywhere else. Walt... Continue Reading


Brahms by Trio Wanderer, Reissued

by Jed Distler

BrahmsTriosHM

Excellence abounds when it comes to the Brahms Piano Trios on disc, now reissued in Harmonia Mundi’s “Gold” series, especially considering recent versions from Nicholas Angelich and the Capuçons (Virgin), the Florestan Trio (Hyperion), and the Abegg Trio (Tacet). To these referenc... Continue Reading


Staier’s Great Haydn Keyboard Concertos Reissued

by David Hurwitz

HaydnStaier

This is one terrific disc, back in classy “Harmonia Mundi Gold” packaging. Haydn’s piano concertos are all early-to-middle-period works, and they have gotten something of a bum rap on account of the fact that they are not by Mozart. This isn’t entirely fair. All of them were ... Continue Reading


Classic Szell, Scintillating Stokowski, Odd Program

by David Hurwitz

SmetanaSzell

All of this material has been available in multiple programs and packages, but this somewhat random coupling offers the perfect opportunity to write about these particular performances and savor them individually, for very special they are. Szell’s version of The Moldau is quite simply the fin... Continue Reading


Ives: Three Holidays and a Football Game

by David Hurwitz

James Sinclair is always an excellent guide to this music, even through Ives’ most complex textural thickets. The Fourth of July has real celebratory fervor and a sense of fun, while the climax of Thanksgiving, so often a muddle, here achieves real transcendence, with the choir perfectly integ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Sinclair’s Ives First, Critical Edition

by David Hurwitz

The Emerson Concerto, a reconstruction by David G. Porter from Ives’ “developed draft”, gets top billing here, but it’s the First Symphony that comes as the real revelation. In conversation with the present writer, conductor and Ives scholar James Sinclair offered the opinion... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Ives’ Third and a March (or Two)

by David Hurwitz

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James Sinclair is the world’s foremost authority on the music of Charles Ives, but that doesn’t guarantee success as an interpreter of the music. Fortunately, his musicianship evidently partakes of the same sympathy and thorough preparation as does his scholarship. These performances go ... Continue Reading


Ben Johnston’s Microtonal Magnificence

by Jed Distler

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For decades, Ben Johnston’s 1984 String Quartet No. 7 had the reputation of being the most difficult quartet ever composed. The long third-movement variations are based on hundreds of pitches derived from minuscule divisions of the octave that make even Johnston’s other microtonal works seem min... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Brahms Violin Sonatas, Suk/Katchen Of Course!

by Dan Davis

Josef Suk, the Czech violinist whose noble, aristocratic style was admirably suited to Brahms’ music, and Julius Katchen, a superb American pianist whose premature death in 1969 robbed us of one of his generation’s most outstanding talents, recorded these sonatas in 1967. Since then they... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Book Of Madrigals

by David Vernier

I never thought I really wanted to hear Thomas Morley’s Now is the month of Maying again–but I changed my mind when I heard the opening track on this outstanding CD from the male sextet Amarcord (sound clip). There’s a freshness, brightness, and infectious rhythmic energy here that... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Phyllis Curtin Sings Copland & Rorem Songs

by Jed Distler

CurtinCop

VAI brings us a significant release of live, unissued performances of songs by Aaron Copland and Ned Rorem, sung by their friend and champion Phyllis Curtin with the composers at the piano (in their own songs, of course). I wish Rorem were writing this review in my place, because his annotations pin... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Berlioz’s Te Deum Gets Its Due

by David Hurwitz

It’s a mystery to me why the Te Deum isn’t more popular than the Requiem. It’s shorter, more exciting, better proportioned, and almost as big. This, of course, may account for its relative rarity–and the fact that it requires a large children’s choir and organ, which th... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Craft’s Gesualdo Madrigals, With A Special Guest

by David Hurwitz

Gesualdo

When I want to hear Gesualdo madrigals this is the disc I turn to most often, despite the existence of magnificent modern recordings from a host of period performance specialists. It’s not just that the ensemble of singers includes the young Marilyn Horne (the performances date from 1959/62), ... Continue Reading


Martinon Plays Poulenc On “Erato Originals”

by David Hurwitz

PoulencMart

Evidently Erato now has its own “originals” series, this being a typical example. The performance of the Organ Concerto is fabulous, one of my two reference versions, the other being Charles Munch’s Boston recording for RCA. The difference between the two is kind of like comparing ... Continue Reading


Previn’s Vaughan Williams Re-Reissued

by Victor Carr Jr

RVWP

The contents of this set are identical to RCA’s previous Previn RVW reissue, and the discs do not appear to have been remastered. André Previn’s Vaughan Williams symphony cycle arguably is the best such offering on the market today, particularly given the difficulty of finding the simi... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Szell’s Till Don Death

by David Hurwitz

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One of the disadvantages to having begun publishing online in 1999 is that there are so many classic recordings that we didn’t get to review in decades past; one of the advantages, though, is that we get to listen to them all over again and tell you about them now. This disc is without doubt [... Continue Reading

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Under the Radar: The Late, Great Marni Nixon Sings Copland

by David Hurwitz

CopNix

We have lost two great, largely unheralded American sopranos recently: Phyllis Curtin, and now Marni Nixon, the Hollywood voice of, well, just about everyone. A superb recitalist with a clear, bell-like tone and perfect pitch, Nixon sings this premiere recording of the orchestral version of Copland&... Continue Reading


Oddities & Trifles, Valentini & Acronym

by David Vernier

AcronymValentini

Certainly the disc’s title is intriguing. But based on past experience, listening to many recordings with similar hooks where some obscure yet supposedly worthy music just didn’t live up to its billing, the most I expected was an hour of pleasantly undemanding background entertainment. M... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: A Long-Forgotten Grieg Recital From John McCabe

by Jed Distler

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The late composer/pianist John McCabe made a long-forgotten solo Grieg recording for British RCA Gold Seal in 1978 that I stumbled upon in a second hand shop around 1980. I loved McCabe’s fresh, imaginatively inflected, idiomatic playing, and wondered why the label’s American affiliate never pic... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ingratiating Gebel Quartets

by David Vernier

gebelquartets

Chances are you’ve never heard of Franz Xaver Gebel (1787-1843), but if you’re a fan of Beethoven, you’ll find yourself in familiar and friendly territory with these two string quartets. There’s an immediately ingratiating charm, an effervescent quality in the opening of the ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Masur’s “Babi Yar”–A Poignant Momento

by David Hurwitz

ShostMasur

At time of writing this performance is still available, so it must be a good seller. It deserves to be. Masur may not have been a thrilling conductor most of the time, but he was a fine interpreter of Shostakovich, and the Thirteenth Symphony plays to his strengths. The music is darkly atmospheric, ... Continue Reading


Beethoven and Viotti: Classic Grumiaux

by David Hurwitz

What has happened to the reputation and legacies of Arthur Grumiaux? He was an outstanding artist who left one of the great discographies of violin music, and yet today he’s hardly ever mentioned. This disc is entirely worthy of his elegant, sensitive, but never dull or rhythmically soft style... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Fine Martinu from Weller

by David Hurwitz

MartinuWeller

This is a very enjoyable disc from a conductor who has long been an effective proponent of Martinu’s music (notably the Fourth Symphony). Walter Weller’s vision of the First Symphony is notably vibrant and exciting. Indeed, the scherzo threatens to come unhinged in a couple of places, an... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Monteverdi Vespers from King

by David Hurwitz

It’s curious, but this this splendid set never seems to come up in discussions of the best versions of Monteverdi’s Vespers. It contains the complete sacred music collection of 1610 on two well-filled CDs. You get both versions of the concluding Magnificat, plus the wonderful a cappella ... Continue Reading


A Great Live Poppea From Bavaria

by Robert Levine

This masterpiece–arguably one of the greatest operas ever penned–has done quite well on recordings. Since the autograph score doesn’t exist (what does exist are the sources of performances given in Naples eight years after the premiere) the instrumentation is left up to the conduct... Continue Reading


Rozhdesvensky’s Pulverizing Czech Radio Shostakovich Fourth

by David Hurwitz

There are very, very few bad recordings of Shostakovich’s massive Fourth Symphony (Inbal’s was one), but none play the work better than Rozhdestvensky. What we have here, essentially, is the same interpretation found on his BMG/Melodiya studio recording, but in much better sound, courtes... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Scorching Shostakovich 11 From Lazarev

by David Hurwitz

It’s a curious coincidence that so-called “second tier” U.K. orchestras, which so often play better than their London counterparts, have a lock on this particular symphony. For years my reference recording has been the sensational Berglund/Bournemouth set on EMI, outstandingly well... Continue Reading


Mortensen’s Major J.S. Bach Harpsichord Concerto Cycle

by John Greene

Twenty years ago Trevor Pinnock recruited his relatively unknown, youthful (25-year-old) student Lars Ulrik Mortensen to perform the third harpsichord parts in BWV 1063, 1064, and 1065 with The English Concert for its much-lauded recording of Bach’s complete keyboard concertos. Since then Mort... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Oue’s Sonically Fabulous Copland

by Victor Carr Jr

CopOue

My first experience with the music of Aaron Copland was a Mercury Living Presence LP featuring Antal Dorati conducting the Minneapolis Symphony in El Salon Mexico, Rodeo, and Danzon Cubano. The exciting, original music, the powerful performances, and the hi-fi sound made this record a favorite of mi... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Really Fine Copland From Falletta/Buffalo

by David Hurwitz

Although it’s played and recorded frequently, there is a genuine difference between a decent performance of Rodeo and a really excellent one such as we have here. This difference can be summed up in two words: rhythm and tempo. When it comes to rhythm, it’s not merely a question of hitti... Continue Reading


Wispelwey & Lazic in Exceptional Beethoven Cello Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

These works have been well served on disc, from the classic Rostropovich/Richter to the recent Schiff/Fellner (both on Philips). This set certainly belongs among the great ones, and it offers sonics of breathtaking naturalness and realism. Pieter Wispelwey and Dejan Lazic work exceptionally well tog... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Dausgaard & Berezovsky’s Estimable Beethoven

by David Hurwitz

BeetDaus

This series goes from strength to strength. Boris Berezovsky has turned out to be a surprisingly fine Beethoven pianist. The Fourth Concerto may be the most difficult of the five for the soloist. It requires a beautiful, singing tone, Mozartian sensitivity to instrumental dialog, and keen structural... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Powerful Honnegger from New Zealand

by David Hurwitz

HoneggerYu

This is a very impressive collection of Honegger goodies, well played and very well recorded. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra tears into the Third Symphony with gusto, and only a basic lightness in the strings and a marginal lack of bite in the lower brass prevents this performance from achieving... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: An Amazing Collection of Norwegian Music

by David Hurwitz

GriegSlatt

This is an absolutely stunning collection, both interpretively and sonically (whether in stereo or 5.1 surround-sound). Don’t let the mish-mash of repertoire fool you: the program has been planned with exceptional care to do exactly what the set promises–to highlight “the romantic ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Boult’s Elgar Symphonies on Lyrita

by Victor Carr Jr

Though made less than a decade before his last studio versions for EMI (regarded by many collectors as classics), these 1968 Elgar Symphony recordings for Lyrita reveal a younger and more energized Adrian Boult–especially so in Symphony No. 2, where the earlier recording’s swagger and bi... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Ned Rorem’s Columbia Masterworks Song Collection

by Jed Distler

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In 1964 Columbia Masterworks issued an album containing 32 songs by a relatively unknown composer, Ned Rorem. According to Rorem, the recording came about by wild chance. Discouraged by rejections from smaller labels, the 39-year-old composer decided to go the opposite route, and made an appointment... Continue Reading

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Richter’s Rare Live “48” Available Again

by Jed Distler

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In July and August of 1973 Sviatoslav Richter played Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier over the course of four concerts in Innsbruck. The performances were issued in Japan as a 4-CD set following the pianist’s death in 1997, and were withdrawn from the catalog after a few weeks due to a contractual c... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 3

by Dan Davis

The final volume of Testament’s three-disc series of Boccherini quintets played by the Quintetto Boccherini is as fine as the first two. Those who love this music and enjoy the Quintetto Boccherini’s excellent versions without being unduly troubled by the mid-1950s mono sound, corrupt ed... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 2

by Dan Davis

Volume 2 of Testament’s three-disc series of reissues of the Quintetto Boccherini’s monophonic EMI recordings picks up where Volume 1 left off, which is to say it’s more of the same. That should be sufficient for most people, since it means well-played, delightful works in listenab... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 1

by Dan Davis

In his booklet notes to Testament’s luscious reissues of the fabled Quintetto Boccherini’s mid-1950s EMI recordings of their namesake’s two-cello quintets, Tully Potter calls Boccherini the “most likable of composers.” That he was. It’s hard to think of another co... Continue Reading


Phyllis Curtin’s Sensational Latin American Song Recital

by Rad Bennett

This program was recorded in 1964, just a year after Time magazine wrote a profile article on the American soprano, focusing on her triumph as Salome at the Vienna State Opera. On her way to that engagement, she stopped off at the University of North Carolina to star in a college production of La Tr... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Magda Tagliaferro–A True Legend

by Dan Davis

Pearl has come up with a pearl of a reissue of rarities for piano fanciers. Magda Tagliaferro was an exemplar of French pianism who taught and concertized to a ripe old age. She died in 1986 at 92 in her native Rio de Janeiro. Born there of French parents, she moved to France in 1906, […]... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Phyllis Curtin Sings Copland & Rorem Songs

by Jed Distler

CurtinCop

VAI brings us a significant release of live, unissued performances of songs by Aaron Copland and Ned Rorem, sung by their friend and champion Phyllis Curtin with the composers at the piano (in their own songs, of course). I wish Rorem were writing this review in my place, because his annotations pin... Continue Reading


An Unreleased Youri Egorov Recital

by Jed Distler

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Pianist Youri Egorov first garnered international attention as the clear favorite among the 1977 Van Cliburn Competition’s semi-finalists. When Egorov failed to make the finals, outraged audience members raised funds to match the $10,000 first prize and present the pianist in his New York recital ... Continue Reading


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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Out of all the CD releases tied in with Martha Aregrich’s 75th birthday, this cache of German Radio broadcasts probably will hold the most interest among collectors. All of the performances date from 1960, when Argerich was 18 and 19, save for the 1967 Prokofiev Seventh sonata, and are issued for ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Craft’s Gesualdo Madrigals, With A Special Guest

by David Hurwitz

Gesualdo

When I want to hear Gesualdo madrigals this is the disc I turn to most often, despite the existence of magnificent modern recordings from a host of period performance specialists. It’s not just that the ensemble of singers includes the young Marilyn Horne (the performances date from 1959/62), ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Nadia Reisenberg’s Russian Classics Return

by Jed Distler

RR7309-10

In 2004 Ivory Classics saluted pianist Nadia Reisenberg’s centenary with a now-deleted two-CD reissue containing her 1954/55 solo Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Kabalevsky recordings for the Westminster label. I welcomed this release with the highest possible rating for artistic quality, and regret... Continue Reading


Landowska’s RCA Bach In A Box

by Jed Distler

The suits at Sony BMG deserve our gratitude for restoring to the catalog all of Wanda Landowska’s RCA studio-recorded Bach, from the 1945 Goldberg Variations to the Three-Part Inventions left incomplete at the time of her death in 1959. Such communicative, passionate, and authoritative music-m... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Fennell’s Legendary Holst Band Suites

by David Hurwitz

Let’s get the one potential item on the debit side out of the way immediately: the sound on this disc is good, clear, mono. Once the ear adjusts (and it happens quickly) what’s left is one of the finest band music discs ever made, a true milestone in the history of recordings. This was t... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Sejna’s Fibich Symphonies–Worth Caring About

by David Hurwitz

fibich

Karel Sejna made few recordings, but as serious collectors will readily agree, all of them are worth having. These performances are all well known and deservedly acclaimed. They don’t require extensive discussion here, but I do want to draw your attention to their reissue in decently remastere... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Dvorak’s 5th and Slavonic Rhapsodies

by Victor Carr Jr

Listening to this recording it’s hard to understand why Dvorák’s Fifth Symphony isn’t more popular. It’s certainly as original and appealing as the “New World” Symphony (with which it shares many characteristics of orchestration, rhythm, and melodic style). A sun... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Mozart K 271 & 459 From Haskil and Schuricht

by Jed Distler

Compared with her studio recording of Mozart’s K. 271 concerto, Clara Haskil’s live 1952 account finds the pianist on similarly stylish and seasoned form. Here, however, she invests the solo part with a wider degree of color, nuance, and flexibility. This is especially true of the Andant... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Beecham’s Incomparable Late Haydn

by David Hurwitz

HaydnBeech

These famous performances need little recommendation from me. They are special, they are wonderful, they are hopelessly anachronistic regarding the text but ideally idiomatic in capturing the wit, grace, and high spirits of the music. It’s true that Beecham minimizes the trumpet and drum contr... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Bizet On Authentic Instruments

by David Hurwitz

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Japanese Warner is now issuing classic performance as SACDs at premium prices, in “original jacket” (read: short playing times) format. So this is, relatively speaking, a luxury item; but Oh, what fun it is! The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra preserved the true authentic tradition of Fren... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Astounding Fidelio, Live

by Robert Levine

Wow! Apparently private recordings of this performance (or one given a few nights later) have been circulating for years; somehow I’ve missed them. But now the BBC has made this one available: February 24, 1961, the opening night of a new production. Otto Klemperer’s 1962 studio recordin... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Serkin’s Classic Diabelli Variations

by Jed Distler

Rudolf Serkin’s classic 1957 recording of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations sounds more vibrant and powerfully projected than ever in this remastered edition. Not only do the fine mono sonics improve upon the CBS Portrait reissue, but now each variation has its own track, whereas the earli... Continue Reading

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Major Discoveries: Gounod’s Music For Pedal Piano–Great Stuff!

by David Hurwitz

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This is Volume 62 in Hyperion’s epic and seemingly endless series of romantic piano concertos, and I have to say it strikes me as one of the most fascinating of the bunch. In order to create a modern pedal piano, the intrepid soloist Roberto Prosseda used an Italian-made pedal gadget to stack ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu’s Ballet “The Shadow”

by David Hurwitz

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This early ballet (1916), which plays for a bit over an hour, is inconsistent but interesting. The plot is one of those fin-de-siècle symbolist jobs about a girl who drops a ball into a pond, sees her reflection, and a shadows rises up out of the water. They dance around a lot until she collapses, ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Bacewicz Music for Strings

by David Hurwitz

Bacewicz

Grazyna Bacewicz was unquestionably a talented composer, one whose work is well worth getting to know. Stylistically these pieces from the 1940s and early ’50s might remind you a bit of Bartók and Stravinsky. Motoric allegros (sound clip) alternate with moody, passionate slow movements. The l... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Fikret Amirov Orchestral Works–Derivative And Fun

by David Hurwitz

Let’s face it, Shur sounds suspiciously like the third movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and if the opening of the Azerbaijan Capriccio isn’t Lohengrin orientalized (Act 3 prelude), then I don’t know what is (sound clip). But who cares? The music is delightful, colo... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Almost Complete Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Okay, the Ballade for Harp and String Orchestra technically isn’t a concerto, but who’s counting? Rautavaara’s concertos are arguably more consistent and representative than his symphonies. The First Piano Concerto, the earliest work here, exudes the sort of spiky Finno-Russian neo... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Complete Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

I have only two small reservations before enthusiastically recommending this set. First, this performance of the Brucknerian Third Symphony, while quite good, has been surpassed by the recently released Segerstam recording on the same label (but that is an SACD, so I understand the point in sticking... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Rautavaara Orchestral and Choral Works

by David Vernier

It’s taken far too long for classical musicians–and through them, the world’s classical audiences–to recognize the substantial creative credentials of the late Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. His past and ongoing contributions to 20th century music, especially in the ... Continue Reading


Rautavaara’s Beautiful Opera Aleksis Kivi

by Robert Levine

On its surface this concise, 97-minute opera may not seem like much of a gripping tale: it concerns the poet Aleksis Kivi (né Aleksis Stenvall, 1834-72), who was the founder of literature in the Finnish language. At the time he was writing, Swedish still was the “proper” language among ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Rautavaara’s True & False Unicorn

by David Vernier

As former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson used to say: “Wild stuff!” And fortunately for listeners, it’s not only wild but uniformly interesting, often very exciting, and totally worth hearing. Einojuhani Rautavaara’s fabulously inventive setting of avant-garde ... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Angel of Light Shines on Naxos

by David Hurwitz

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Hannu Koivula and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra turn in very good performances of these two works. Symphony No. 7, a beautifully luminous piece that has helped to establish Rautavaara’s high reputation outside of his native Finland, sounds as lovely as ever in this expertly paced and c... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Another Fine Eighth, Already

by David Hurwitz

Sadly, with his recent death at age 87, we now know that the Eighth will be Rautavaara’s last symphony. I attended the New York premiere of the Eighth Symphony with Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and at the time I was less than impressed, particularly with the slow movement (which ... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Requiem in Our Time

by Anastasia Tsioulcas

RautReq

The Finnish Brass Symphony, directed by Hannu Lintu, has recorded a masterful survey of music by countryman Einojuhani Rautavaara. Spanning more than 45 years of the composer’s work, the album functions as something of a compendium of themes that Rautavaara has returned to time and again in hi... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Erkki Melartin’s Colorful Orchestral Music

by David Hurwitz

Melartin

Ondine has done well by Erkki Melartin (1875-1937), a gifted composer who, while not as original as Sibelius or “national” in sound, still represented his country with distinction. He was very prolific: the ballet music from The Blue Pearl is his Op. 160–the last major work that he... Continue Reading


Unreleased Pinchas Zukerman Gems

by Jed Distler

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It’s not clear why these 1992-95 recordings by Pinchas Zukerman for Sony Classical never gained release until Biddulph recently licensed them. As the cliché goes, better late than never. Disc 1 contains collaborations with Zubin Mehta and the London Philharmonic. It begins with what must be (at l... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Alwyn’s Excellent Piano Works

by Dan Davis

Chandos has championed the work of William Alwyn, and this disc of his piano music, superbly played by Julian Milford, is an important addition to the catalogue. The big work is the extraordinary Fantasy-Waltzes, whose absence from mainstream piano recitals qualifies as one of the mysteries of our m... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas

by Robert Levine

The plot: A small group of people are on a steamboat, sailing down the Amazon in the early 1900s to hear legendary opera singer Florencia Grimaldi (who has not apeared in her native South America for 20 years) at the re-opening of the opera house in Manaus. In fact, Florencia is one of the passenger... Continue Reading


Phyllis Curtin’s Sensational Latin American Song Recital

by Rad Bennett

This program was recorded in 1964, just a year after Time magazine wrote a profile article on the American soprano, focusing on her triumph as Salome at the Vienna State Opera. On her way to that engagement, she stopped off at the University of North Carolina to star in a college production of La Tr... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Boccherini’s Delicious Op. 25 Quintets

by Dan Davis

Prolific composers tend to be devalued, Haydn and Mozart excepted of course. The thinking seems to be that if Vivaldi, Milhaud, Hovhaness, and (fill in the blanks with your own candidates) wrote that much, then they either repeated themselves ad infinitum or just spun notes to fill otherwise empty d... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Eggert’s Truly Classical Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

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There are few things in music more exhilarating than a cleverly worked-out, quick orchestral fugue. Successful ones are rare. When the catchy and humorous second subject of the finale of Eggert’s First Symphony (1804-5) takes off on a contrapuntal chase, you might be forgiven for thinking, ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Haydn’s Symphonic Successor–Joachim Eggert

by David Hurwitz

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Joachim Nikolas Eggert (1779-1813) had a tragically short life. Most of his music, including the four extant symphonies, seems to have been written in Sweden, where he worked as a violinist and conductor (he was German by birth). Make no mistake, he was tremendously gifted. If you have ever wondered... Continue Reading

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Alwyn: Orchestral Works and Fun Bits

by David Hurwitz

For a composer no one much cares about and whose music seldom appears on concert programs, William Alwyn has been extremely well treated by record labels (specifically Lyrita, Chandos, and Naxos). Perhaps it’s because he was a very good composer who wrote lots of attractive, beautifully finish... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Handel’s 1737 Il Trionfo del Tempo e della Verità

by Robert Levine

This almost unknown, large scale (almost 3 hour) oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth, was composed by Handel in Rome in 1707 and revised by him for performances in London’s Covent Garden in 1737 (the version recorded here) and then translated into English, revised again and presented, with... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Alwyn’s Appealing Violin Concerto

by David Hurwitz

William Alwyn was a very intelligent composer. His serious concert music, rewarding though much of it is, tends to work “motivically” rather than melodically, but the violin is first and foremost a melody instrument, and so Alwyn packs his concerto with an abundance of attractive tunes. ... Continue Reading


Unreleased Pinchas Zukerman Gems

by Jed Distler

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It’s not clear why these 1992-95 recordings by Pinchas Zukerman for Sony Classical never gained release until Biddulph recently licensed them. As the cliché goes, better late than never. Disc 1 contains collaborations with Zubin Mehta and the London Philharmonic. It begins with what must be (at l... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Diepenbrock Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Diepenbrock

All of this music has been recorded before, most notably on Chandos with Hans Vonk conducting–licensed to Brilliant Classics as well. There’s little to choose between those recordings and this one, save for the obvious superiority of CPO’s vivid engineering. Diepenbrock (1862-1923)... Continue Reading


Ives: Three Orchestral Sets, No. 3 a World Premiere

by David Hurwitz

Of all the composers on whom modern musicology is inflicting its current “completion mania”, the cause of Ives makes more sense than most. His manuscripts were a mess, his decision-making random, and much of his music consists of “works in progress”. He was working on a Third... Continue Reading


Ives: Three Holidays and a Football Game

by David Hurwitz

James Sinclair is always an excellent guide to this music, even through Ives’ most complex textural thickets. The Fourth of July has real celebratory fervor and a sense of fun, while the climax of Thanksgiving, so often a muddle, here achieves real transcendence, with the choir perfectly integ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Granados Orchestral Music II, A Mixed Bag

by David Hurwitz

Granados2

You want to love this worthy project, but Granados doesn’t always make the job easier. There are five pieces on this second volume of the complete orchestral music: the Intermezzo from Goyescas, the dull symphonic poem Dante, and three interesting world premiers. Danza de los ojos verdes and D... Continue Reading


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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Out of all the CD releases tied in with Martha Aregrich’s 75th birthday, this cache of German Radio broadcasts probably will hold the most interest among collectors. All of the performances date from 1960, when Argerich was 18 and 19, save for the 1967 Prokofiev Seventh sonata, and are issued for ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Berlioz’s Neglected Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

BerliozTedeum

The Te Deum is the stepchild among Berlioz’s large-scale works, doubtless because its reasonable length seems not to justify the tremendous outlay required to perform it. Certainly the quality of the music isn’t an issue, with organ, orchestra, and multiple choirs combining to make a tru... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: A Ginastera Premiere

by David Hurwitz

Ginastera

Ginastera’s expressionist operas Bomarzo and Don Rodrigo are thrilling works, and we badly need modern recordings of both. The idiom is difficult, but the textures are consistently fascinating, and what makes Ginastera’s atonal music so captivating is, first, the tangible passion that in... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Sibelius’ Choral Works

by David Hurwitz

It’s understandable that not everyone will want the Sibelius complete edition, and it’s therefore good that many interesting single releases remain available for the curious. There are some real gems here, The Captive Queen in particular. This cantata for chorus and orchestra shares some... Continue Reading


Randall Thompson’s Requiem Recalled To Life

by David Vernier

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For at least the middle decades of the 20th century (’30s-’60s), Randall Thompson was the American choral composer. Not that he was so prolific or widely imitated, but that he was there; that he was a distinguished presence in academia, a beloved and caring teacher (Bernstein was a stude... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Poulenc for Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

Poulenc

Poulenc had unflattering things to say about his piano works, but that does not mean he was right. His works for two pianos, particularly, contain some some first rate music, and all of it is gathered here on this convenient disc. It was a relatively early BIS release, from 1992/93, and I don’... Continue Reading


Finally, Martinu’s Concerto for Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

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Martinu’s Concerto for Two Pianos has proven itself to be elusive on disc, for all that it has been recorded two or three times previously. It’s a major work, dating from the same period as the symphonies (i.e. the 1940s), and if you know and enjoy works such as Symphony No. 1, then you&... Continue Reading


Monterverdi’s Marvelous Sacred Music

by David Vernier

Considering his influence and output it’s incredible that, with the exception of the 1610 Vespers (of which there are nearly two dozen recordings in the current catalog!), Monteverdi’s sacred music is so rarely given substantial attention, particularly in the form of dedicated programs. ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Hard Core Fibich For Completists

by David Hurwitz

Fibich

Some of the pieces on this disc are reasonably well known, including the overture A Night at Karlstejn Castle and the Comenius–Festival Overture, and they offer on balance the best music. The “tragedy overture” The Jew of Prague (I have no idea what that one’s about and reall... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Shostakovich–Two Entertaining Film Scores

by David Hurwitz

This recording, previously issued on Marco Polo in its film music series, now reappears at budget price on Naxos, and it’s quite welcome. The Fall of Berlin, a typical World War II saga depicting Russian heroism and the last days of Hitler, inspired Shostakovich to some good battle music and m... Continue Reading


Dausgaard’s Provocative Beethoven Eighth, And Then Some

by David Hurwitz

Beet8

Thomas Dausgaard’s ongoing project for Simax to record all of Beethoven’s orchestral music has been, by and large, very successful. This particular disc, Volume 9 in the series, adds up to much more than the sum of its parts, and for that reason it deserves consideration in some detail. ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Handel’s Magnificent “Parnasso”

by David Hurwitz

HandelParnasso

Parnasso in Festa might best be translated as “The Gods Throw A Party.” Composed in 1734 for the wedding of Princess Anne to Prince William of Orange, the piece is a “serenata,” set in Italian. It has been roundly ignored for nearly three hundred years now, and this is its on... Continue Reading

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Virtual Haydn Works For Keyboard: Virtually Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

haydnbeghin

Tom Beghin is one of the true keyboard geniuses among performers on period instruments. Here he has chosen seven gorgeous-sounding instruments–harpsichords, clavichords, and fortepianos–to present all of Haydn’s keyboard music in superlative performances, recorded to simulate the a... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Haydn Symphonies Complete On Period Instruments

by David Hurwitz

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Antal Dorati’s complete set of Haydn symphonies has been the reference edition for the complete set since, well, forever, but this newcomer, also from Decca, gives it a good run for the money. The reason is simple: it contains Frans Brüggen’s complete Haydn symphony recordings, 43 of th... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Finally, Stravinsky’s Complete Columbia & RCA Recordings, The Right Way

by Jed Distler

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This release brings together all of the Columbia Masterworks and RCA Victor recordings involving Igor Stravinsky as performer, along with sessions conducted by his close associate Robert Craft. The collection also draws upon several other performers to fill repertoire gaps, such as Charles Rosen in ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sviatoslav Richter’s Eurodisc Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Sviatoslav Richter’s 1970-’83 Eurodisc recordings have appeared on countless reissues on countless labels in countless couplings, at prices ranging from rock bottom to sky high, and confusing collectors in the process. All the more reason to welcome this “official” original jacket collec... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Kempff’s Songful Schubert is Back

by Jed Distler

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In 2000 Deutsche Grammophon released a seven-CD budget box Collectors Edition with Wilhelm Kempff’s cycle of Schubert sonatas for that label. Sixteen years later, the company has repacked the cycle, adding two discs encompassing the rest of Kempff’s solo Schubert DG recordings. Since Universal C... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Jeroen van Veen’s Complete Satie

by Jed Distler

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The protean and prolific Jeroen van Veen turns his attention to Erik Satie’s complete piano works for a 9-CD boxed set that ties in with the composer’s 150th birthday year. In a way, the collection is completer than complete. It includes all of Satie’s published and unpublished works for solo ... Continue Reading


Walter’s Authentic Brahms

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsWalter

This is unquestionably one of the great Brahms symphony cycles. Of course, it would have been good if Sony had also included Walter’s mono New York Philharmonic performances, with his incomparably exciting version of Symphony No. 2, but these remakes are better just about everywhere else. Walt... Continue Reading


Puzzling Monteux Box From Italian Universal

by David Hurwitz

Monteux

This 20-disc set purports to contain “Decca Recordings,” which it both does and does not. You get the Philips recordings (an extra “Eroica” and Schubert’s “Unfinished”, the French items and Tchaikovsky suites), the Westminster recordings (the awful Beethoven... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Well-Chosen Dutoit Decca Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Dutoit

Charles Dutoit and his Montréal Symphony Orchestra were Decca’s late 20th century answer to Ernest Ansermet and L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Like Ansermet, Dutoit specialized in French music, with a healthy boost from Stravinsky and his Russian predecessors. If Ansermet was the mor... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: L’Oiseau-Lyre’s Lopsided Classical/Early Romantic Collection

by Jed Distler

loiseaulyreclassical

Unlike L’Oiseau-Lyre’s well-rounded Baroque Era big box, the label’s Classical and Early Romantic 50-CD collection presents a relatively lopsided repertoire perspective, although to be fair, collectors will welcome certain items that have not been available for years. Given Christopher Hog... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Archiv Produktion Analogue Stereo Recordings

by Jed Distler

archivanalog

In 2013 a 55-CD collection from Archiv Produktion surveyed the influential label’s history from its first recordings in 1947 to date. The label follows up with a second “original jacket” big box, focused this time on analogue stereo recordings from 1959 through 1981. Perhaps the best place to ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Great Stott!

by Jed Distler

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It’s all too easy to take Kathryn Stott for granted. She’s never been one for gimmicky programming, outrageous outfits, and fits of temperament or media madness. Instead, she has quietly built up a large, eclectic, and distinctive recorded legacy as soloist, concerto partner, and collaborative p... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Lazar Berman’s Complete Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

bermancompletesony

When Soviet authorities finally permitted Lazar Berman (1930-2005) to tour America for the first time in 1976, his appearances generated lots of buzz in the piano community. His American career, however, proved to be short lived. In 1980 the Soviet authorities discovered American books in Berman’s... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Most of Malcolm Arnold

by David Hurwitz

Arnold

The last time we saw Conifer’s Malcolm Arnold Edition, it was in three slim boxes arranged by symphonies, concertos, and “other stuff.” Now it’s back, in a single box, on Sony–eleven CDs worth. Handley’s recordings of the symphonies are very good, but still not qu... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Atterberg’s Complete Symphonies

by Victor Carr Jr

Listening to Kurt Atterberg’s symphonies together in sequence (the collection was previously released on five separate discs) you’re certain to be impressed by the composer’s consistently imaginative melodic invention and powerfully effective orchestration. These works are not just... Continue Reading


Previn’s Vaughan Williams Re-Reissued

by Victor Carr Jr

RVWP

The contents of this set are identical to RCA’s previous Previn RVW reissue, and the discs do not appear to have been remastered. André Previn’s Vaughan Williams symphony cycle arguably is the best such offering on the market today, particularly given the difficulty of finding the simi... Continue Reading


Landowska’s RCA Bach In A Box

by Jed Distler

The suits at Sony BMG deserve our gratitude for restoring to the catalog all of Wanda Landowska’s RCA studio-recorded Bach, from the 1945 Goldberg Variations to the Three-Part Inventions left incomplete at the time of her death in 1959. Such communicative, passionate, and authoritative music-m... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Mono Era

by Jed Distler

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In the aftermath of Decca’s 2015 Mono Years boxed set, the next logical step was for Deutsche Grammophon to explore its early back catalog yielding a 51-disc collection called The Mono Era 1948-1957. The recordings stem from a time period when DG was essentially a German-centric record company tha... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Svetlanov’s Incendiary Live Tokyo Tchaikovsky, Again

by David Hurwitz

TchaikSvet

These performances deserve all of the food adjectives: scorching, smoking, sizzling, boiling–you get the picture. Most recently they appeared in a Svetlanov edition issued by Warner France, and you can read my review, and listen to additional sound clips, here. This set comes from Exton, which... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Morton Gould’s Chicago Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Gould

Despite the short playing times, these six discs offer a full measure of listening pleasure. Morton Gould was an immensely gifted composer, conductor, and all-around musician. He remains grossly underrated today. The reasons for this are various. In the fifties his concert music was vigorously promo... Continue Reading

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