Classics Today Insider

Reference Recording: Kempff’s Individual and Inimitable Beethoven Sonata Cycle

by Jed Distler

51cJ-pGB-XL

Since his death at 95 in 1991, Wilhelm Kempff’s standing among the great pianists of his time seems stronger than ever. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of his sizeable discography has been reissued on CD, augmented by numerous live broadcasts and concert material. As with many pianis... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Classic Honegger & Roussel from Munch

by David Hurwitz

This is the Japanese RCA Munch Edition reissue of these superb performances, available “on-demand” from Arkivmusic.com. Although the sound is mono, it’s very good mono, and a touch more vivid than the domestic RCA productions–the Honegger symphonies in this case originally ca... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Munch Was Made For Medea

by David Hurwitz

BarberMunch

Happily, the rest of this disc is great too. The Tchaikovsky String Serenade radiates passion and warmth from the first bar through the lilting waltz, the truly touching Elegy, and on to the bubbly finale. Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro has all of the passion that Barbirolli brought to it in... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Barenboim’s Latest (and least) Brahms Concertos

by Jed Distler

81Ed6vb57GL._SY355

Daniel Barenboim first recorded Brahms’ two piano concertos while in his 20s for EMI, and has frequently returned to them on disc and on video during the past half century. The present recordings stem from live performances held in September 2014 with his Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Gustavo... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Mordkovitch/Järvi Shostakovich Concertos

by Jed Distler

mordkovitch

In the wake of violinist Lydia Mordkovitch’s untimely death in 2014, Chandos has reissued and remastered several of her best recordings for the label, including this 1989 coupling of both Shostakovich violin concertos. The performances remain outstanding on every level. It’s easy to slight No. 2... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Ancerl Smokes in the “Leningrad”

by David Hurwitz

Shost7Anc

Despite the aging mono sonics (a touch constricted but otherwise perfectly clear and well balanced) Karel Ancerl conducts as finely shaped and intensely musical an interpretation of this symphonic megalith as we have any right to expect. Leave it to him, virtually alone among conductors, to realize ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl in Shostakovich and Bartók Concertos

by Victor Carr Jr

ShostCellAnc

Karel Ancerl leads a probing Liszt Les Préludes, focusing more on the work’s purely musical values than on its implied rhetoric. There’s no Flash Gordon galavanting here, just flowing, vibrant tempos, song-like phrasing, and stellar playing by the Czech Philharmonic. Lubor Bárta’... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shostakovich 1 & 5 by Ancerl

by David Hurwitz

Shost5Anc

Karel Ancerl was an exceptional Shostakovich conductor. His recording of the Tenth remains unsurpassed, and this coupling of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5, while not quite on such an exalted level, is very fine as well. As usual with this conductor, the slow movements are exceptionally “raw” a... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Moravec Makes Poetry in Chopin’s Ballades

by David Hurwitz

This marvelous disc belongs in the collection of everyone who loves Chopin. The outstanding features of these performances are well known from various previous incarnations, most recently on VAI. The four Ballades each receive highly individual characterizations: contrast the rhythmically free openi... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Complete Fricsay Edition, Vol. 2

by Jed Distler

81naxXUAd-L._SX355

It is fortunate that the tragically short-lived conductor Ferenc Fricsay’s relationship with Deutsche Grammophon yielded a large and wide-ranging discography. Fricsay’s 2014 centenary saw the first of two big boxes encompassing his complete DG output. Volume 1 contained orchestral and concerted ... Continue Reading


Now on Naxos: Two Classic Arnold Film Scores

by David Hurwitz

ArnoldCopp

Malcolm Arnold belongs among the elite few modern composers who wrote easily and well for both film and the concert hall. The Roots of Heaven, which describes the early struggle for elephant conservation in Africa, features a magnificent overture, a terrific theme representing the elephants, and som... Continue Reading


Ancerl’s Pictures: Out-Russianing the Russians

by David Hurwitz

AncerlMussorgsky

One of the hallmarks of a great conductor is his ability to make his mark on a warhorse: take Pictures at an Exhibition for example. This was, in fact, one of Karel Ancerl’s special showpieces (a favorite on tour), and his interpretation reveals numerous personal touches, all played to the hil... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl’s Shattering Mahler Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Mahler9Anc

Karel Ancerl’s Mahler Ninth remains one of the great ones, a performance of extraordinary passion and anguish. The climaxes in the first movement seldom have sounded so wrenching (sound clip), nor has the Rondo:Burleske achieved a more snarling, malevolent communicativeness from any orchestra&... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Ancerl Glows in Martinu Symphonies 5 & 6

by David Hurwitz

martinu5Anc

These brilliant performances never have been equaled, and their qualities are well known. Perhaps the most outstanding of these is the fact that Ancerl proves that it’s not necessary to be fast to be exciting. He achieves extraordinary physical impact through rhythmic precision, clarity of bal... Continue Reading


Engaging Sax and String Quartet Music From An Unusual Source

by Jed Distler

51LE0tUd-XL

The title of alto saxophonist/composer Roger Hanschel’s Niederschlagsmengen, for saxophone and string quartet, roughly translates into English as “Rainfall” or “Amounts of Precipitation”. Either way, the work’s seven extended movements add up to 66 minutes’ worth of engaging, styli... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Beaux Arts Trio’s Complete Philips Recordings

by Jed Distler

71ViRJ-feoL._SL1500

The Beaux Arts Trio disbanded in 2008 after 53 years of existence, leaving behind a considerable discography for the Philips label, spanning from 1956 up until the late 1990s. To mark the 60th anniversary of the ensemble’s founding, Decca has brought out a big box with (coincidentally) 60 CDs cont... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Cluytens’ Rare Roussel

by David Hurwitz

The LPs of these superb Roussel recordings lasted about 10 minutes in the mid-’60s international catalogues, and then vanished without a trace. André Cluytens doesn’t put a foot wrong in any of these performances, which have the propulsion, shapeliness, balance, and clarity (despite rev... Continue Reading


Belohlávek Finally Gets His Martinu Symphonies Right

by David Hurwitz

MartBeloh

Before this release, there were two great Martinu symphony cycles: Thomson on Chandos, and Fagen’s on Naxos (a real “sleeper” that one, that seldom gets the mention that it deserves). Jirí Belohlávek started two cycles, one on Chandos, another on Supraphon, both with the Czech Ph... Continue Reading


A Real Salome From Hell

by Robert Levine

Salomegoltz

The main interest in this set would be the Salome of Christel Goltz, an important dramatic soprano in the middle of the 20th century who made somewhat of a specialty of the role. She first recorded it on the Oceanic label in 1950, and that performance is ideal–she plays the girl/woman for all ... Continue Reading


Pittsburgh in Strauss: Check Out Those Horns!

by Victor Carr Jr

Marek Janowski’s stirring performance of Richard Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony gives the impression of a challenging and dangerous undertaking, in stark contrast to the recent LSO Live recording featuring Bernard Haitink’s mostly dull rendition. The sound Janowski conjures from the P... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Strauss’ Dodgy Friedenstag

by Robert Levine

Friedenstag

If it doesn’t seem too awful, I’d like to quote background material on this opera from my own review of another recording, published here at ClassicsToday.com: “Friedenstag is probably Richard Strauss’ least successful mature opera. Premiered in 1938 in Dresden, it was perfor... Continue Reading


Super Strauss for Chamber Orchestra

by Joseph Stevenson

Richard Strauss likely will remain best known for his lush and thundering tone poems, written when he was considered a leading avant-gardist. However, as he approached his 50th year his muse turned to more genteel topics, and Strauss became the composer-laureate of the refined bourgeois life. Fittin... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Barenboim’s Latest (and least) Brahms Concertos

by Jed Distler

81Ed6vb57GL._SY355

Daniel Barenboim first recorded Brahms’ two piano concertos while in his 20s for EMI, and has frequently returned to them on disc and on video during the past half century. The present recordings stem from live performances held in September 2014 with his Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Gustavo... Continue Reading


A Real Salome From Hell

by Robert Levine

Salomegoltz

The main interest in this set would be the Salome of Christel Goltz, an important dramatic soprano in the middle of the 20th century who made somewhat of a specialty of the role. She first recorded it on the Oceanic label in 1950, and that performance is ideal–she plays the girl/woman for all ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Abbado’s Very Posthumous Schubert Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Schubert9Abbado

Death has never been an impediment to a new release. OK, to be honest, this live performance was captured back in 2011, when Abbado was technically still with us, but you’d never know it. Abbado conducts like a dead guy. This performance times out at a lethal sixty-two minutes with all the rep... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

reger

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: Schayegh Throttles C.P.E. Bach

by David Hurwitz

CPEBachSchayegh

C.P.E. Bach’s violin sonatas are actually trios if you count both hands of the keyboard player alongside the violin, and they are gorgeous. Just not here. Keyboard player Jörg Halubek does just fine alternating between harpsichord and tangent piano, but violinist Leila Schayegh represents ano... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: The Worst Ever Mozart Violin Concertos

by David Hurwitz

MozartContzen

How long are we going to have to put up with a crew of tasteless jokers pretending to be experts in “authentic” performance practice selling us junk like this? Just about everything about these recordings is anti-musical, from the unwelcome harpsichord continuo to the patently insane tem... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Barto’s Goldberg Variations–Calculated Polish and High Camp

by Jed Distler

817VuscOfbL._SL1429

Before discussing Tzimon Barto’s Goldberg Variations “after the adaption of Ferruccio Busoni”, some background on the Busoni edition might be helpful. In 1914 Busoni published what he called a “free arrangement” for concert purposes. He filled out Bach’s textures, changed some notes, shi... Continue Reading


CD from Hell: Elizabeth Roe’s Barber and Britten Is No Joy

by David Hurwitz

RoeBarber

Elizabeth Joy Roe, one half of the talented piano duo Anderson and Roe, does herself no service with this bland, boring coupling of Britten and Barber piano concertos. It’s a pity, because she’s a very talented performer who has done excellent work with her partner (witness their Mozart ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Ozawa Snoozes Through Ives’ Fourth

by David Hurwitz

IvesOzawa

How on earth Seiji Ozawa manages to make Ives’ wild and crazy Fourth Symphony sound so boring has to be one of the great mysteries, but there it is. You may recall how exciting it was when a new recording of this extraordinary work was announced. Most of us had to take Stokowski’s versio... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Karajan and His Soloists Let Rip–and Tear, and Shred

by David Hurwitz

KarajanSolistsII

There is one really noteworthy performance here: Karajan and Rostropovich in Strauss’ Don Quixote, a Karajan specialty. Not even the booklet note writer has many kind words to say about the Beethoven concertos with Alexis Weissenberg. Truth be told, it’s not terrible. It’s just tha... Continue Reading


Heavy-handed Chopin Préludes (and one great Soler sonata)

by Jed Distler

71ITHD5OwFL._SL1425

For the most part Alain Lefèvre wields a heavy, prosaic hand over Chopin’s Op. 28 Preludes. He drags Nos. 2 and 4 into the ground, and sucks the life force out of No. 3’s darting left-hand 16th-note runs. No. 5 is thick and texturally monotonous, while No. 8 conveys the composer’s agitato moo... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Depressingly Faceless Beethoven Overtures from Järvi

by David Hurwitz

BeetOvsJarv

If you loved some of Paavo Järvi’s Beethoven symphony performances, as I did, this release will come as a big disappointment. At fifty-one minutes of playing time it offers poor value at full import price, but that hardly matters when the actual performances are so faceless. Taken in isolatio... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Erratic Nielsen from Davis and the LSO

by David Hurwitz

nielsen

There were some interesting moments in these performances that originally led me to treat them more kindly than they probably deserve, but rehearing them now only highlights their evident faults. Colin Davis could be tremendously compelling, or he could be a total mess. Here, he’s a bit of bot... Continue Reading


A Big Bad Box Of Scriabin From Decca

by David Hurwitz

Scriabin

I’m not even going to completely unpick the ridiculous hodge-podge that constitutes this “complete works” box. The piano pieces proceed in order by opus number, followed by the pieces without same. They are played, with varying degrees of success, by Vladimir Ashkenazy (mostly exce... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Schwarz’s Low Rent Mahler 2

by David Hurwitz

Mahler2chwarz

Everything about this release screams cheap. The packaging artwork is primitive, and the engineering so low-level that it robs the music of much of its impact. Attempting to capture this work live is always risky because of the expanded dynamic range, and in this case the risk certainly did not pay ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Lenny’s Dud Carmen Returns

by Robert Levine

bernsteincarmen

This recording was poorly received upon its initial release. Re-listening, quite carefully, after 43 years, has done it no favors. Leonard Bernstein, who led it at the Met with the same cast, had his own ideas about the score and most of them were bad. He uses the Oeser edition, which not only uses ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Chailly’s Faceless Brahms Serenades

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsChaillyser

Chailly has gone “authentic.” First he made a magnificent recording of the two Brahms piano concerto with Nelson Freire, then he decided to rethink–and I used the term advisedly–his approach to the composer, and out came the dullest recording of the symphonies in years. The n... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Zinman’s Dull Symposium on Stravinsky’s Rite

by David Hurwitz

StravRiteZin

We live in strange times. If you glance at the “arts” section of most newspapers as constituted at the beginning of the 20th century, you may well find the same information under “amusements” or “entertainment,” a subtle but significant difference. We no longer tu... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Sinopoli’s Tired, Decadent Elgar Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

ElgarSin

Giuseppe Sinopoli could be too smart for his own good. He had a dozen or two doctorates in a bunch of subjects, and knew so much about everything that you get the feeling that sometimes he couldn’t get out of his own head, interpretively speaking. Elgar was unquestionably a self-indulgent late... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Christophers Leads a Jolly Mozart Requiem

by David Vernier

MozReqChris

Harry Christophers is a wonderful choral conductor; Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society choir and orchestra usually can be counted among the world’s finest ensembles, especially in the Baroque and Classical period repertoire. But this Requiem, recorded live in April/May 2011, is a big disappoint... Continue Reading

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Reference Recording: Kempff’s Individual and Inimitable Beethoven Sonata Cycle

by Jed Distler

51cJ-pGB-XL

Since his death at 95 in 1991, Wilhelm Kempff’s standing among the great pianists of his time seems stronger than ever. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of his sizeable discography has been reissued on CD, augmented by numerous live broadcasts and concert material. As with many pianis... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Classic Honegger & Roussel from Munch

by David Hurwitz

This is the Japanese RCA Munch Edition reissue of these superb performances, available “on-demand” from Arkivmusic.com. Although the sound is mono, it’s very good mono, and a touch more vivid than the domestic RCA productions–the Honegger symphonies in this case originally ca... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Munch Was Made For Medea

by David Hurwitz

BarberMunch

Happily, the rest of this disc is great too. The Tchaikovsky String Serenade radiates passion and warmth from the first bar through the lilting waltz, the truly touching Elegy, and on to the bubbly finale. Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro has all of the passion that Barbirolli brought to it in... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Mordkovitch/Järvi Shostakovich Concertos

by Jed Distler

mordkovitch

In the wake of violinist Lydia Mordkovitch’s untimely death in 2014, Chandos has reissued and remastered several of her best recordings for the label, including this 1989 coupling of both Shostakovich violin concertos. The performances remain outstanding on every level. It’s easy to slight No. 2... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Moravec Makes Poetry in Chopin’s Ballades

by David Hurwitz

This marvelous disc belongs in the collection of everyone who loves Chopin. The outstanding features of these performances are well known from various previous incarnations, most recently on VAI. The four Ballades each receive highly individual characterizations: contrast the rhythmically free openi... Continue Reading


Ancerl’s Pictures: Out-Russianing the Russians

by David Hurwitz

AncerlMussorgsky

One of the hallmarks of a great conductor is his ability to make his mark on a warhorse: take Pictures at an Exhibition for example. This was, in fact, one of Karel Ancerl’s special showpieces (a favorite on tour), and his interpretation reveals numerous personal touches, all played to the hil... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl’s Shattering Mahler Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Mahler9Anc

Karel Ancerl’s Mahler Ninth remains one of the great ones, a performance of extraordinary passion and anguish. The climaxes in the first movement seldom have sounded so wrenching (sound clip), nor has the Rondo:Burleske achieved a more snarling, malevolent communicativeness from any orchestra&... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Ancerl Glows in Martinu Symphonies 5 & 6

by David Hurwitz

martinu5Anc

These brilliant performances never have been equaled, and their qualities are well known. Perhaps the most outstanding of these is the fact that Ancerl proves that it’s not necessary to be fast to be exciting. He achieves extraordinary physical impact through rhythmic precision, clarity of bal... Continue Reading


Belohlávek Finally Gets His Martinu Symphonies Right

by David Hurwitz

MartBeloh

Before this release, there were two great Martinu symphony cycles: Thomson on Chandos, and Fagen’s on Naxos (a real “sleeper” that one, that seldom gets the mention that it deserves). Jirí Belohlávek started two cycles, one on Chandos, another on Supraphon, both with the Czech Ph... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Strauss’ Dodgy Friedenstag

by Robert Levine

Friedenstag

If it doesn’t seem too awful, I’d like to quote background material on this opera from my own review of another recording, published here at ClassicsToday.com: “Friedenstag is probably Richard Strauss’ least successful mature opera. Premiered in 1938 in Dresden, it was perfor... Continue Reading


Super Strauss for Chamber Orchestra

by Joseph Stevenson

Richard Strauss likely will remain best known for his lush and thundering tone poems, written when he was considered a leading avant-gardist. However, as he approached his 50th year his muse turned to more genteel topics, and Strauss became the composer-laureate of the refined bourgeois life. Fittin... Continue Reading


Tubin’s Powerful Complete Symphonies from BIS

by David Hurwitz

Tubin

BIS has conveniently packaged Neeme Järvi’s epoch-making set of Eduard Tubin’s complete symphonies, hopefully giving them a new lease on retail life. In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past decade or so, these works constitute as fine a legacy of Scandinavian music... Continue Reading


Moravec, Plus Français que les Français

by David Hurwitz

Formerly available from VAI, the items that Ivan Moravec has selected for reissue on Supraphon establish him as a worthy successor to Walter Gieseking in French repertoire, though Moravec’s “velvet touch” comes with a surer technique than Gieseking ever commanded. The virtues of th... Continue Reading


Schumann, Franck, and Moravec: What a Combination!

by David Hurwitz

SchumFranckMor

Make no mistake about it, the late Ivan Moravec ranked among the handful of today’s (and any day’s) keyboard geniuses. His recordings tended to come few and far between, so it’s especially exciting to be able to welcome these transcendent interpretations back into the catalog. This... Continue Reading


A Major Bargain: Moravec Play Debussy and Chopin on Vox

by Jed Distler

4500_coverpic

Recorded in 1982/83, Ivan Moravec’s Debussy and Chopin recitals for Vox count among the most attractively engineered piano recordings from the early days of digital. Max Wilcox’s engineering does full justice to Moravec’s luminescent tone and ultra-discreet mastery of the sustain p... Continue Reading


Incredible Beethoven Sonatas from Moravec

by David Hurwitz

BeetSonMora

This disc contains some of the most impressive Beethoven sonata performances in the catalog. Anyone who believes that Moravec’s art consists of all touch and no backbone should hear his intensely dramatic opening movement of the Pathétique, or his eruptive accents in the finales of both the M... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sargent’s Singularly Intelligible Gilbert and Sullivan Returns

by David Hurwitz

SargentSullivan

To be sung to the tune of Major General Stanley’s “I am the very model of a modern Major General” from The Pirates of Penzance. This G and S reissue is identical to EMI’s, The works are all the same, the box as well is still the prior size; Sir Malcolm’s leadership yet represents a [&helli... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Walter’s Youthful Valedictory Mahler 2

by David Hurwitz

Mahler2Walter

Individual Sony titles imported from Japan are showing up on these shores at surprisingly reasonable prices. This is one of the real gems. Walter’s late, stereo recordings vary in quality, unsurprisingly. Like so many conductors he tended to slow down and “go soft” with age; and go... Continue Reading


Great Early Haitink in both Early and Late Bruckner

by Victor Carr Jr

Bruck19Hait

This is the second of two Bruckner Te Deum’s that Bernard Haitink recorded for Philips. In contrast to his rather uninspiring 1960s version, his later 1988 reading has that right mix of piety, passion, and grandiloquence that make Bruckner’s work so moving and memorable. Soloists Mattila... Continue Reading


Finally, A Wholly Great Disc of C.P.E. Bach Concertos on Harpsichord

by David Hurwitz

CPEBachBelder

C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard concertos enjoy several fine performances on piano, but finding really top-notch interpretations on harpsichord until recently has proven elusive. For years he was best represented by Gustav Leonhardt’s version of the D minor concerto Wq 23, but this newcomer adds ... Continue Reading

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Under the Radar: Ancerl in Shostakovich and Bartók Concertos

by Victor Carr Jr

ShostCellAnc

Karel Ancerl leads a probing Liszt Les Préludes, focusing more on the work’s purely musical values than on its implied rhetoric. There’s no Flash Gordon galavanting here, just flowing, vibrant tempos, song-like phrasing, and stellar playing by the Czech Philharmonic. Lubor Bárta’... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shostakovich 1 & 5 by Ancerl

by David Hurwitz

Shost5Anc

Karel Ancerl was an exceptional Shostakovich conductor. His recording of the Tenth remains unsurpassed, and this coupling of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5, while not quite on such an exalted level, is very fine as well. As usual with this conductor, the slow movements are exceptionally “raw” a... Continue Reading


Ancerl’s Pictures: Out-Russianing the Russians

by David Hurwitz

AncerlMussorgsky

One of the hallmarks of a great conductor is his ability to make his mark on a warhorse: take Pictures at an Exhibition for example. This was, in fact, one of Karel Ancerl’s special showpieces (a favorite on tour), and his interpretation reveals numerous personal touches, all played to the hil... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl’s Shattering Mahler Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Mahler9Anc

Karel Ancerl’s Mahler Ninth remains one of the great ones, a performance of extraordinary passion and anguish. The climaxes in the first movement seldom have sounded so wrenching (sound clip), nor has the Rondo:Burleske achieved a more snarling, malevolent communicativeness from any orchestra&... Continue Reading


Belohlávek Finally Gets His Martinu Symphonies Right

by David Hurwitz

MartBeloh

Before this release, there were two great Martinu symphony cycles: Thomson on Chandos, and Fagen’s on Naxos (a real “sleeper” that one, that seldom gets the mention that it deserves). Jirí Belohlávek started two cycles, one on Chandos, another on Supraphon, both with the Czech Ph... Continue Reading


Pittsburgh in Strauss: Check Out Those Horns!

by Victor Carr Jr

Marek Janowski’s stirring performance of Richard Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony gives the impression of a challenging and dangerous undertaking, in stark contrast to the recent LSO Live recording featuring Bernard Haitink’s mostly dull rendition. The sound Janowski conjures from the P... Continue Reading


Moravec’s Chopinesque Brahms Piano Concertos

by Victor Carr Jr

9795_coverpic

Ivan Moravec’s beautifully sculpted, Chopin-esque playing makes for a uniquely poetic Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1. That’s not to say it’s all light and frilly; on the contrary, Moravec summons great passion in the score’s more rhetorical passages while eschewing the heavy ... Continue Reading


Moravec’s Late, Lovely Concerto Disc

by Jed Distler

RavelCtoMoravec

Ivan Moravec’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto has changed little between his 1963 recording and his remake 40 years later. His tonally refined and highly articulated fingerwork remains utterly intact, and he still favors basically swift tempos (notably in the slow mo... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Stunning Conclusion to Keylin’s Vieuxtemps Cycle

by Dan Davis

Vieuxtemps5

The Vieuxtemps violin concertos offer a feast for violinists (and listeners) who are attuned to their special charms and have an affinity for Romantic concertos. Misha Keylin scores on both counts. He’s a Russian-born, Juilliard-trained American whose traversal of these works for Naxos is capp... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Leif Ove Andsnes’ Schumann

by Jed Distler

51UCkrInC1L

Originally released in 1997, Leif Ove Andsnes’ Schumann First Sonata and C major Fantasy stand the test of time for their supple stylishness and high intelligence. By observing the outer movements’ carefully indicated dynamic surges and articulation markings Andsnes imparts a welcome and much ne... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Arnaldo Cohen’s Naxos Liszt Recital

by David Hurwitz

LisztCohen

Naxos’ Liszt complete piano music began, way back in 1996, with this stunning recital by one of our finest Liszt interpreters, the woefully under-recorded Brazilian pianist Arnaldo Cohen. The program focuses on transcriptions and original works rooted in the theme of death, but hey, this is Li... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Mata Rocks in Saint-Saëns and Jongen

by David Hurwitz

Jongen

Eduardo Mata really had a flair for French music, and this recording is one of the very best that he ever made. There is no finer version of Jongen’s attractive and still sadly neglected Symphonie concertante. Telarc recorded it when the very loud new organ at Davies Hall in San Francisco was ... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Charles Groves Haydn and Mozart

by David Hurwitz

HaydnGroves

Charles Groves had very few opportunities to make recordings outside of the British repertoire, so it’s good see these eminently musical and attractive performances back in the catalog (they originally appeared on IMP). Actually, even in Haydn Groves adopts an English angle, with the Oxford an... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Groves’ Planets Goes Nova

by David Hurwitz

Planets

If you’re tired of under-characterized, conventionally “pretty” performances of The Planets, then you really need to hear this. Groves indulges in a couple of daringly slow tempos in Venus and Neptune, but so impressively does he sustain the music’s color and atmosphere that ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar–Baroque Choral Music From Poland

by David Vernier

gorczyckiwroclaw

Packaging alert: When I first looked at the cover of this CD, my casual glance at its distinctive script convinced me that I was looking at a program of music by Gorecki, as in Henryk Górecki, the 20th-century composer of Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) fame. What a surprise to discove... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Muti’s Live, Blood and Guts Trovatore

by Robert Levine

TrovatoreMuti

Since there are dozens of recordings of Il trovatore available, of which a half dozen are more than good, no one would have guessed that the world needed another. But here, taken from a series of live performances at La Scala in December of 2000, Riccardo Muti gives us a thrilling reading, filled wi... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Ebullient Mozart Concertos from Hadland on Simax

by David Hurwitz

MozartHadland

It’s easy to overlook yet another recording of these popular works, but this release has a lot going for it. On evidence here, pianist Christian Ihle Hadland has a blast playing Mozart, nowhere more so than in the cadenzas that he has composed for both concertos. Granted they may not be quite ... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Super Handel Op. 6 from I Musici

by David Hurwitz

Handelop6

These sunny, winsome performances are lovely. There’s nothing particularly British about this music by a German composer, written in homage to Corelli, for all that British ensembles understandably have claimed them for their own (Who wouldn’t?). It’s more than a little bit sad that ensembles ... Continue Reading


Non-British Groves: Sibelius

by David Hurwitz

SibGroves

Charles Groves recorded almost exclusively British music. Even when he played Haydn, he had to do the “Oxford” and “London” Symphonies. Mozart’s “Paris” Symphony was, for him, an exotic excursion. This set of Sibelius suites, tone poems, and short pieces was... Continue Reading


Boccherini’s Wonderful Guitar Quintets, The Old Fashioned Way

by David Hurwitz

BoccheriniFandango

If you missed these three discs on their original release (as I did), you may want to pause and give them some consideration. Boccherini’s Guitar Quintets are really beautiful works, full of charm, variety, good tunes, and interesting forms. They include the famous “Fandango” and the variation... Continue Reading

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Reference Recording: Classic Honegger & Roussel from Munch

by David Hurwitz

This is the Japanese RCA Munch Edition reissue of these superb performances, available “on-demand” from Arkivmusic.com. Although the sound is mono, it’s very good mono, and a touch more vivid than the domestic RCA productions–the Honegger symphonies in this case originally ca... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Munch Was Made For Medea

by David Hurwitz

BarberMunch

Happily, the rest of this disc is great too. The Tchaikovsky String Serenade radiates passion and warmth from the first bar through the lilting waltz, the truly touching Elegy, and on to the bubbly finale. Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro has all of the passion that Barbirolli brought to it in... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Ancerl Smokes in the “Leningrad”

by David Hurwitz

Shost7Anc

Despite the aging mono sonics (a touch constricted but otherwise perfectly clear and well balanced) Karel Ancerl conducts as finely shaped and intensely musical an interpretation of this symphonic megalith as we have any right to expect. Leave it to him, virtually alone among conductors, to realize ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shostakovich 1 & 5 by Ancerl

by David Hurwitz

Shost5Anc

Karel Ancerl was an exceptional Shostakovich conductor. His recording of the Tenth remains unsurpassed, and this coupling of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5, while not quite on such an exalted level, is very fine as well. As usual with this conductor, the slow movements are exceptionally “raw” a... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl’s Shattering Mahler Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Mahler9Anc

Karel Ancerl’s Mahler Ninth remains one of the great ones, a performance of extraordinary passion and anguish. The climaxes in the first movement seldom have sounded so wrenching (sound clip), nor has the Rondo:Burleske achieved a more snarling, malevolent communicativeness from any orchestra&... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Ancerl Glows in Martinu Symphonies 5 & 6

by David Hurwitz

martinu5Anc

These brilliant performances never have been equaled, and their qualities are well known. Perhaps the most outstanding of these is the fact that Ancerl proves that it’s not necessary to be fast to be exciting. He achieves extraordinary physical impact through rhythmic precision, clarity of bal... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Cluytens’ Rare Roussel

by David Hurwitz

The LPs of these superb Roussel recordings lasted about 10 minutes in the mid-’60s international catalogues, and then vanished without a trace. André Cluytens doesn’t put a foot wrong in any of these performances, which have the propulsion, shapeliness, balance, and clarity (despite rev... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Walter’s Youthful Valedictory Mahler 2

by David Hurwitz

Mahler2Walter

Individual Sony titles imported from Japan are showing up on these shores at surprisingly reasonable prices. This is one of the real gems. Walter’s late, stereo recordings vary in quality, unsurprisingly. Like so many conductors he tended to slow down and “go soft” with age; and go... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Stoki’s Still Estimable Ives Fourth

by David Hurwitz

IvesStok

Japanese reissues of Sony Classical titles seem to be popping up these days, and at rational prices. This release is one of the best. It’s not often that the world premiere recording of something remains viable in the face of later competition, particularly a work as complex as Ives’ Fou... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Keilberth’s Reference Götterdämmerung

by Robert Levine

Gotterdammerung

This, the final installment in the recently-discovered, first-ever stereo Ring Cycle, is the proverbial icing on a superb cake. Joseph Keilberth, a conductor who never had the profile of other great Ring conductors (Karajan, Solti, Böhm, Krauss, Knapperstsbusch, Furtwängler) has turned out to be a... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Hot Night with Siegfried

by Jed Distler

KeilSieg

Siegfried launched Testament’s first-ever release of the 1955 Bayreuth Ring Cycle that Decca recorded in stereo. Both Mike Ashman and the original producer Peter Andry offer booklet notes that fully account for the circumstances of these recordings and why it took more than half a century for ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: The Best Die Walküre on Disc?

by Robert Levine

KeilWalk

This was the second release in the much-awaited, almost legendary “missing” Ring from 1955 that was professionally recorded live at Bayreuth and then dumped because producer John Culshaw and Decca thought the future of opera was in the studio. As with the Siegfried, the performance is ma... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Keilberth’s Bayreuth Rheingold

by Jed Distler

KeilRhein

Das Rheingold marked the third installment of the so-called “missing” Ring from 1955, recorded by Decca live at Bayreuth, and only issued for the first time more than 50 years after the fact. The performance matches this series’ predecessors (Siegfried and Die Walküre) in several ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Unusual Wagner from Toscanini

by David Hurwitz

WagTosc

This disc contains some novelties that Toscanini collectors will surely want to add to their collections. First, there’s the original, long version of the Act III Prelude to Tannhäuser. At thirteen minutes, Wagner was surely right to cut it down to more manageable size, but it makes a fine co... Continue Reading


Classic Ives From Ormandy and Stokowski

by Victor Carr Jr

Ives1Ormandy

Eugene Ormandy’s peerless Ives First Symphony, a singular classic in which the conductor employs all the resources of his fabulous orchestra, comes packaged here in Sony’s last re-launch of its highly successful budget-priced Essential Classics series. The famous Philadelphia strings mak... Continue Reading


Radio Days: The Young Nelson Freire on Peak Form

by Jed Distler

1559308

To mark Nelson Freire’s 70th birthday season and his fruitful relationship with Decca, the pianist has selected a handful of previously unpublished (officially, that is) concerto broadcast performances dating from 1968 to 1979. Freire made few commercial recordings during the years when his intern... Continue Reading


Early Karajan/Nilsson Live-From-Scala Walküre

by Robert Levine

myto-walkure

I’m not quite sure how this performance, recorded live at La Scala on April 29, 1958, has escaped me for so long, but despite its problems it’s a white-hot reading by Karajan, entirely different from his later, chamber-like approach. Emotions–all of them–run very high and tempos are ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Hindemith Conducts Bruckner, Really

by David Hurwitz

BruckHind

Hindemith had a relatively poor reputation as a conductor, even of his own music. His approach tended to be matter-of-fact, unsentimental, and plainspoken to a fault. The result in Bruckner is curious, but not as off-putting or unidiomatic as you might expect. Tempos in the first two movements are u... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Goberman’s Classic Haydn Returns

by David Hurwitz

HaydnGob

So often the reissue of a “legendary” classic performance turns out to be an “illusory” classic, but here is a set that lives up to its storied reputation. As is well known, Max Goberman planned to record all of the Haydn symphonies for his own label, but his sudden death fro... Continue Reading


New to CD: Emanuel Ax’s 1975 Solo Debut

by Jed Distler

61r9iXz7hxL

Appearing (I believe) for the first time on CD, this is Emanuel Ax’s solo debut album, recorded in 1975, one year after he garnered international attention as first prize winner in the 1974 International Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition. The recording sounds more full-bodied, three-dimensional,... Continue Reading

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Now on Naxos: Two Classic Arnold Film Scores

by David Hurwitz

ArnoldCopp

Malcolm Arnold belongs among the elite few modern composers who wrote easily and well for both film and the concert hall. The Roots of Heaven, which describes the early struggle for elephant conservation in Africa, features a magnificent overture, a terrific theme representing the elephants, and som... Continue Reading


Janice Weber’s Sublime Seascapes

by Jed Distler

81J43dono-L._SL1425

The previous Sono Luminus release by the brilliant and (to my mind) underrated pianist Janice Weber mixed and matched familiar, rare, and unlikely piano pieces inspired by roses. She follows up with Seascapes, a collection of works by 14 composers that draw inspiration from–you guessed it̵... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Avshalomoff Holds Up Well

by David Hurwitz

Avshalomov

Obscure repertoire such as this comes and goes, and it’s rewarding to revisit it now and then just to see how well the music has held up over time. Is it really “classical,” or has the novelty worn off over the years? When originally released, I thought this music was good stuff, a... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Star-Spangled Vieuxtemps for Violin and Orchestra

by Dan Davis

vieux

Following in Paganini’s footsteps, Henri Vieuxtemps was a touring violinist who composed showpieces that dazzled audiences and earned the respect of the likes of Schumann and Berlioz. Misha Keylin has recorded all of the Vieuxtemps violin concertos for Naxos, and he now turns to four pieces th... Continue Reading


Rémy’s Almost Great C.P.E. Bach Harpsichord Concertos

by David Hurwitz

CPERemywq3

The four works on this disc reaffirm, if such were necessary, our already high opinion of Bach’s genius. The D major and G major concertos, Wq 44 and 45, are his last two works in the form but one. Both are short, lighter in tone than some of his other concertos, but not less inventive. [&hell... Continue Reading


Finally, A Wholly Great Disc of C.P.E. Bach Concertos on Harpsichord

by David Hurwitz

CPEBachBelder

C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard concertos enjoy several fine performances on piano, but finding really top-notch interpretations on harpsichord until recently has proven elusive. For years he was best represented by Gustav Leonhardt’s version of the D minor concerto Wq 23, but this newcomer adds ... Continue Reading


A C.P.E. Bach Classic on Harmonia Mundi Returns

by Victor Carr Jr

CPEBruns

The reissue of Harmonia Mundi’s well-packed, well-recorded C.P.E. Bach CD of symphonies and concertos certainly whets the appetite for more of this amazing composer. The second son of J. S., Carl Philipp Emanuel blazed new paths with his unorthodox approaches to form, counterpoint, and especia... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Porter’s Unjustly Neglected Symphonies

by Dan Davis

PorterSyms

With labels such as Naxos and Albany leading the way, we’re getting a long overdue second look at a generation of American composers whose neo-classic, conservative music was out of favor through much of the post-war period. Copland, Harris, and a few others retained a tenuous position in conc... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Quincy Porter’s Excellent Quartets, Vol. 2

by David Hurwitz

Porter

New Havenite Quincy Porter’s music has always struck me as quintessentially that of a New Englander, in a good way: serious, well-crafted, emotionally reserved but not cold or passionless, rugged and with a bit of an edge. It’s similar in its neo-classical cast to that of Walter Piston, ... Continue Reading


Waghalter’s “New World”–the Suite, That Is

by David Hurwitz

WaghalterCityDance

Ignatz Waghalter (1881-1949) was a modestly successful Polish-Jewish conductor and composer who made a splash in Berlin with his comic opera Mandragola (1914), before moving to the States with the advent of Nazism. He was socially progressive, founding the American Negro Orchestra in 1939, a short-l... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Still Rare C.P.E. Bach Concertos

by David Hurwitz

CPEremy

We’re still getting to know C.P.E. Bach’s splendid series of 52 keyboard concertos. Most had never been recorded until these versions, and later the BIS complete edition, turned up starting in the 90s. As the Packard Humanities Institute Complete Edition gradually works its way through t... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Scintillating Terry Riley From Zofo

by Victor Carr Jr

Zofo

If the name Terry Riley, the so-called “Godfather of Minimalism”, brings to mind meditative drones and tape loops, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by this splendid new recording from the piano duo Zofo. Riley’s compositional method quite naturally evolved in the 51 years since his groundbre... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Don Gillis’ Stellar “Light” Music

by David Hurwitz

Gillis

Don Gillis will be known to most people, to the extent he’s known at all, as the composer of the formerly celebrated Symphony No. 5 1/2–so titled because, obviously, he wrote it between Nos. 5 and 6. The work enjoyed its 15 minutes (literally) of fame when no less a figure than Toscanini... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: C.P.E.’s Württemberg Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

CPEWurttemberg

Given their importance and their status as masterpieces, C.P.E. Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas enjoy remarkably few recordings that have remained available for any length of time. The First Sonata, in A minor, remains the best known, possibly on account of its flashy finale, but the remainder are... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Staier Thrills in CPE Bach’s Keyboard Works

by David Hurwitz

cpebachstaier

This remarkable recital is available in Deutsche Harmonia Mundi’s CPE Bach box, but if you’re looking for a single disc featuring some of the master’s most compelling keyboard music, then get this without delay. It covers Bach’s entire career, from the early “Württembe... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Two Superb Rautavaara Concertos, One for Birds

by David Hurwitz

RautavaaraCantus

This marvelous disc contains what unquestionably is the finest available performance of Cantus Arcticus, Rautavaara’s most popular piece and one of the very best marriages of an orchestra and taped sounds. For this recording, the birdsong tape seems to have been cleaned up, giving the timbres ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Bavouzet’s Pristine, Poetic Haydn Vol. 5

by David Hurwitz

Haydnsonbav5

Having spent the past couple of days lining up reviews of, and listening (again) to, Wagner’s Ring operas, I can’t even begin to describe just how refreshing it has been to turn to this disc of Haydn sonatas, the fifth release in Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s superb ongoing cycle. Imagine... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Chaplin’s Stupendous Score to Modern Times

by David Hurwitz

ModTimes

Charlie Chaplin wrote most of his own film scores. Although he couldn’t notate the music, he did play piano and violin, and was able to work with his arrangers (including in this case David Raksin of “Laura” fame). With his typical concern for detail, he achieved exactly the sound ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Jadassohn’s Knowing Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Jadassohn

Yes, this music is ridiculously conservative, as we might expect from a founder of the post-Mendelssohnian Leipzig school, but with a difference. Unlike so many of his colleagues Jadassohn, who composed these four symphonies between 1860 and 1888, keeps all of their elements in scale. They are brief... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Two Sensational Ibert Ballets

by David Hurwitz

IbertMercier

This is without a doubt a “must have” if you care about great 20th century ballet music–in other words, the kind that you can listen to just for itself. Le Chevalier errant was composed in 1935 for the inimitable Ida Rubinstein (of Boléro fame). It’s based on the Don Quixote... Continue Reading

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Now on Naxos: Two Classic Arnold Film Scores

by David Hurwitz

ArnoldCopp

Malcolm Arnold belongs among the elite few modern composers who wrote easily and well for both film and the concert hall. The Roots of Heaven, which describes the early struggle for elephant conservation in Africa, features a magnificent overture, a terrific theme representing the elephants, and som... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Strauss’ Dodgy Friedenstag

by Robert Levine

Friedenstag

If it doesn’t seem too awful, I’d like to quote background material on this opera from my own review of another recording, published here at ClassicsToday.com: “Friedenstag is probably Richard Strauss’ least successful mature opera. Premiered in 1938 in Dresden, it was perfor... Continue Reading


Super Strauss for Chamber Orchestra

by Joseph Stevenson

Richard Strauss likely will remain best known for his lush and thundering tone poems, written when he was considered a leading avant-gardist. However, as he approached his 50th year his muse turned to more genteel topics, and Strauss became the composer-laureate of the refined bourgeois life. Fittin... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Star-Spangled Vieuxtemps for Violin and Orchestra

by Dan Davis

vieux

Following in Paganini’s footsteps, Henri Vieuxtemps was a touring violinist who composed showpieces that dazzled audiences and earned the respect of the likes of Schumann and Berlioz. Misha Keylin has recorded all of the Vieuxtemps violin concertos for Naxos, and he now turns to four pieces th... Continue Reading


Géza Anda’s Telefunken Recordings

by Jed Distler

51MYVJlUoLL

Pianist Géza Anda’s brief association with Telefunken between 1950 and 1951 yielded five titles that apparently gain their first official CD reissue here. They include his only recordings of Bach’s C minor Partita, Haydn’s F major Sonata, and Mozart’s D major Sonata K. 576, plus the earlier... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Prokofiev’s Entertaining Buffoon

by Victor Carr Jr

ProkChout

Prokofiev’s freewheeling Chout, with its driving rhythms, highly virtuosic instrumental writing, and vivid and brilliantly varied orchestration, in many ways resembles his Scythian suite. Chout, or “buffoon”, portrays the comic mishaps that occur when a husband concocts a scheme to... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Two Rare Prokofiev Ballets

by David Hurwitz

ProkProdSteel

Neither of these ballets receives regular performance on stage or in concert. Indeed, L’enfant prodigue enjoys the remarkable distinction of being ignored both in ballet form and as arranged (twice!) as the composer’s Fourth Symphony. And yet the composer’s unwillingness to let go ... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Fibich Symphonic Poems

by David Hurwitz

Fibich3

Fibich’s colorful symphonic poems have not been neglected on disc, but most of the recordings made to date come from Supraphon and seem to pop in and out of print at random, making them difficult to find. So it’s good to have this ongoing series, especially as it’s very well played... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Where the Blomstedt SF Eulenspiegel Went

by David Hurwitz

StraussBlom

We may understand the rationale, but it’s a pity nonetheless. When Decca put together it’s generally excellent Strauss box, it included all of Blomstedt’s recordings except Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. The reason was because Blomstedt never made Don Quixote for Decca, so... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Handy Rare Sibelius from Segerstam

by David Hurwitz

SibSeg

It has become trendy to play Sibelius’ incidental scores more or less complete, rather than as he revised isolated numbers or grouped them into suites. I am not personally convinced that this is wise; Sibelius knew what he was doing, but it very much depends on the score. King Christian II wor... Continue Reading


J.C. Bach Symphonies: One Major Discovery in the Minor

by David Hurwitz

JC Bach

These are perky, pleasant performances of vanishingly slender works. Each symphony has three movements, almost none of which lasts longer than two or three minutes, and most of which play for less. We are clearly present at the dawn of the form. Zinman and his players could perform these pieces in t... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: A Great Disc of Great Comedy Overtures

by David Hurwitz

ComedyOvertures

They don’t write ’em like this anymore. This splendid program of comedy overtures spans more than a century, from Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto of 1792 or Wolf-Ferrari’s Susana’s Secret of 1909. Funny how these two bookends both involve secrets, isn’t it? Along... Continue Reading


Pears & Bream Do Britten & Walton

by David Vernier

breampears

The artistic collaboration between Peter Pears and Julian Bream inspired original works by Britten and Walton, and this recording captures these pieces in first-rate—you could say definitive—performances. Although the Chinese songs are far more interesting for their poetry and thematic symbolism... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Borodin’s Major Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

BorodinDavis

On this reissue, Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic do In the Steppes of Central Asia, but the remainder of the program (the inevitable Notturno aside) is the familiar Davis/Toronto set, long a mainstay of the Sony catalog. You get the two and a half symphonies, as well as the Overture and Polo... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Plenty of Shostakovich Film Music

by David Hurwitz

ShostSereb

Shostakovich’s film music has received a lot of attention recently, largely because all of it is now published and is readily available, and also because the music includes a lot of populist, easy-to-listen-to material. But not entirely: Hamlet and King Lear offer moments of Shostakovich the gritt... Continue Reading


New to CD: Emanuel Ax’s 1975 Solo Debut

by Jed Distler

61r9iXz7hxL

Appearing (I believe) for the first time on CD, this is Emanuel Ax’s solo debut album, recorded in 1975, one year after he garnered international attention as first prize winner in the 1974 International Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition. The recording sounds more full-bodied, three-dimensional,... Continue Reading


The Zimmermann Trio’s Magnificent Beethoven

by Jed Distler

BeetZimm

Beethoven’s early Op. 3 String Trio may not match Mozart’s K. 563 Divertimento’s inventive sublimity and grand scale, yet its six movements add up to a delightful 40 minutes’ worth of highly contrasted, effectively crafted, and uplifting chamber music. The Zimmermann Trio offers what mus... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Stravinsky’s Music for Violin and Piano

by David Hurwitz

StravVln

There’s more Stravinsky for violin and piano than you might think, and this two-disc set stands alone as the best possible recording of it. Aside from the usual bits derived from Pulcinella, there is a transcription of bits of the Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss (and other sections of the com... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps With Faust, Faust and Faust

by David Hurwitz

Berlioz8scenes

The concept and repertoire make this a disc of unusual interest. Berlioz’s Eight Scenes from Faust eventually became, greatly enlarged, The Damnation of Faust. Interestingly, Mephistopheles is a tenor; later he would become a baritone and Faust would get the tenor part. The music contains several ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Mendelssohn’s Grand Concertos for Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

Mendel2pnocots

Donald Francis Tovey famously described Mendelssohn as a “spoiled genius”. If so, then these two works composed between the ages of 14 and 15 reveal his genius before it got spoiled. They are wholly delightful. Mendelssohn’s classical impulses guarantee that he won’t fall into that deadly ... Continue Reading

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Reference Recording: Kempff’s Individual and Inimitable Beethoven Sonata Cycle

by Jed Distler

51cJ-pGB-XL

Since his death at 95 in 1991, Wilhelm Kempff’s standing among the great pianists of his time seems stronger than ever. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of his sizeable discography has been reissued on CD, augmented by numerous live broadcasts and concert material. As with many pianis... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Complete Fricsay Edition, Vol. 2

by Jed Distler

81naxXUAd-L._SX355

It is fortunate that the tragically short-lived conductor Ferenc Fricsay’s relationship with Deutsche Grammophon yielded a large and wide-ranging discography. Fricsay’s 2014 centenary saw the first of two big boxes encompassing his complete DG output. Volume 1 contained orchestral and concerted ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Beaux Arts Trio’s Complete Philips Recordings

by Jed Distler

71ViRJ-feoL._SL1500

The Beaux Arts Trio disbanded in 2008 after 53 years of existence, leaving behind a considerable discography for the Philips label, spanning from 1956 up until the late 1990s. To mark the 60th anniversary of the ensemble’s founding, Decca has brought out a big box with (coincidentally) 60 CDs cont... Continue Reading


Cyprien Katsaris: The Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

81YR-6J5AoL._SL1500

Cyprien Katsaris began his recording career as an EMI artist, followed by a long stint at Teldec, and then a brief time with Sony Classical, where he recorded six releases between 1991 and 1994. The latter are gathered together in this no-frills budget-price boxed set. Start with the pianist’s wil... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Complete Pogorelich Edition

by Jed Distler

51-de0zMLmL

When Ivo Pogorelich was eliminated during the 1980 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Martha Argerich resigned from the jury in protest, calling the young pianist “a genius”. Word got around, and Pogorelich became an overnight sensation. He inspired controversy both on and off stage, wi... Continue Reading


Tubin’s Powerful Complete Symphonies from BIS

by David Hurwitz

Tubin

BIS has conveniently packaged Neeme Järvi’s epoch-making set of Eduard Tubin’s complete symphonies, hopefully giving them a new lease on retail life. In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past decade or so, these works constitute as fine a legacy of Scandinavian music... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sargent’s Singularly Intelligible Gilbert and Sullivan Returns

by David Hurwitz

SargentSullivan

To be sung to the tune of Major General Stanley’s “I am the very model of a modern Major General” from The Pirates of Penzance. This G and S reissue is identical to EMI’s, The works are all the same, the box as well is still the prior size; Sir Malcolm’s leadership yet represents a [&helli... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Haitink’s Early, Hit and Miss Bruckner

by David Hurwitz

BruckHait

Philips (now Decca) had a chance to assemble a really excellent Bruckner cycle from Bernard Haitink’s various performances. This would have consisted of his Vienna performances of symphonies Nos. 3, 4, and 8, plus the remade Te Deum, and his second Concertgebouw versions of Nos. 7 and 9. Here,... Continue Reading


Segerstam’s Reger Makes It To A Box

by David Hurwitz

Reger

These three discs contain a goodly quantity of Reger’s orchestral music–probably as much as anyone will need. The performances are generally better than those in the 11-disc Brilliant Classics box, although Segerstam is no speed demon. For example, his Böcklin Tone Poems last a good fiv... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

reger

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: Bernstein’s Sibelius Remastered

by David Hurwitz

Sibelius Bernstein

To answer the obvious question, yes, these performances have been remastered well and they do sound better. This is particularly true, and was particularly necessary, in the Fifth Symphony and Pohjola’s Daughter, both of which have greater realism and depth, and less hardness. It’s also ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: C.P.E. Bach Symphonies and Concertos

by David Hurwitz

cpebachsymsctos

This grab-bag of C.P.E. Bach performances, as you might expect, has some good things and some that are less good. Its six discs contain: Disc 1: Six Symphonies for Strings Wq 182. Trevor Pinnock leads The English Concert in performances that, while good, lack body in the sonority as well as that las... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Last (First) Maazel Box

by David Hurwitz

MaazelEarly

Here we go again. Lorin Maazel recorded everything for everyone, multiple times, but this set, which contains his earliest DG recordings, does go a long way to explaining what made him so compelling in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Simply put, he was exciting as hell, and he got a remarkably disci... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Decca’s Fascinating, Bountiful, and Unpredictable Mono Years

by Jed Distler

1507-1

Decca’s big box “Mono Years” retrospective focuses on orchestral and instrumental recordings made between 1944 and 1956, many of which appear for the first time on CD. Its 53 discs are packaged in original jacket facsimiles (many including generous “bonus” fillers), ordered alphabetically ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Karajan and His Soloists Let Rip–and Tear, and Shred

by David Hurwitz

KarajanSolistsII

There is one really noteworthy performance here: Karajan and Rostropovich in Strauss’ Don Quixote, a Karajan specialty. Not even the booklet note writer has many kind words to say about the Beethoven concertos with Alexis Weissenberg. Truth be told, it’s not terrible. It’s just tha... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Bach by Hogwood, Historically Interesting

by David Hurwitz

BachHog

Rehearing these recordings, I am struck by the fact that Hogwood was a musicologist who deserves great respect. He lived at a time when the recording industry afforded academics who were also performers a unique opportunity to hear the fruits of their research. Hogwood rightly took advantage, but th... Continue Reading


Hogwood’s Big Vivaldi Box Is No Bargain!

by David Hurwitz

VivaldiHog

Talk about Caveat emptor! With the single exception of the Nisi Dominus, not terribly appealingly crooned by James Bowman, you get all of this music in exactly these versions in another Decca box called “Vivaldi Masterworks”, additionally featuring all of the collections with opus number... Continue Reading


A Big And Wonderful British Box Of Groves

by David Hurwitz

Groves

Charles Groves was a terrific conductor and it’s proof of his sterling qualities that these performances have held up so well over the years. British music could not have asked for a finer ambassador, and for my money he outclassed Boult, Handley, or any other British music specialist you migh... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Fine Stravinsky Set That’s Not Quite What It Seems

by David Hurwitz

StravBalSym

Don’t you just hate it when an otherwise worthwhile collection is undermined by just plain label stupidity? I don’t know if there’s anyone left at Universal who even knows what they have in their own catalog. On purely musical grounds this really is an excellent set, but it contains works that... Continue Reading


Another Unnecessary Bruckner Box

by David Hurwitz

BruckJanow

Janowski’s Bruckner features one indisputably great performance: the Eighth Symphony. The early works (Symphonies Nos. 1-3, plus the Mass in F minor included as a bonus) are all very good, although these aren’t the Bruckner symphonies that determine the viability of a complete set. No. 4... Continue Reading

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