Classics Today Insider

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


A Bittersweet Big Box of 20th Century Boulez

by David Hurwitz

Boulez

Most all of this material has been reissued previously, but with Boulez’s 90th birthday coming up you can count on the performing arts military industrial complex to spend a fortune celebrating his achievements, and his labels to do their part. Had Boulez not been such a fine conductor there s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Rattle Excels in Szymanowski Songs & Harnasie

by Robert Levine

SzymRattle

Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) composed music of great beauty and exoticism unique to himself. The two song cycles recorded here are more than tinged with orientalisms, with the East filtered through French-pastels. The first, Love Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess, consists of just three songs and is o... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Shostakovich’s Entertaining Golden Age, Very Complete

by David Hurwitz

ShostSereb

This recording is billed as the first totally, absolutely complete release of The Golden Age, Shostakovich’s best ballet, in that you get all of the repeats, some of which are omitted in the only competing, more or less complete version on Chandos (with Rozhdestvensky). Having all of the repea... 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


A Handy Box of Bach Concertos from Café Zimmermann

by David Hurwitz

BachZimm

This set actually includes more than concertos: you get the orchestral suites too. The concertos are included in one of their various forms, either the Brandenburg Concertos, the three violin concertos, the Triple Concerto, the works for keyboard(s), or reconstructions for conjectured original force... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rossini’s Stabat Mater

by Robert Levine

RossiniStabat

This work, in its entirety by Rossini (an earlier version, with additions by another composer, had been previously performed), was premiered in Paris in 1842 and then played in Bologna (with Donizetti conducting); it was a gigantic success, and indeed, it is a masterpiece. It is wonderfully operatic... 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


Zemlinsky’s Really Complete Mermaid Premiered

by David Hurwitz

Zemlinsky

Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau has been recorded at least seven times, but this newcomer has some special qualities. It is without question the most gorgeously played and opulently engineered, which is saying a lot. After all, Chailly and the Concertgebouw (Decca) aren’t exactly slouches, a... 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


Under the Radar: Jochum’s Enchanting Meistersinger

by Jed Distler

51hoEomd29L

Last available in Deutsche Grammophon’s bicentenary edition of Wagner’s complete operas, Eugen Jochum’s 1975 Die Meistersinger now resurfaces on its own, courtesy of Arkivmusic.com’s on-demand reprint program, complete with the original multi-lingual booklet notes and libretto. Note that thi... Continue Reading


Casella’s Third Symphony’s Third Recording!

by David Hurwitz

Casella

Francesco La Vecchia’s recordings of modern Italian music for Naxos have been impressive, nowhere more so than in his discs dedicated to the finely crafted works of Alfredo Casella. The Third Symphony, written for Chicago, is a late piece (1940), but still an ambitious essay in the grand tradition... Continue Reading


LAGQ In The Only Guitar Quartet Disc You Will Ever Need

by David Hurwitz

Assad

We need more guitar recordings like we need bedbugs, but original works for guitar quartet are another story. Taken by itself, a guitar quartet is rather silly, a festival of squeaks, plinks, and plucks, but pitted against an orchestra, the results can be timbrally marvelous. Rodrigo’s concerto is... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Koechlin’s Weird and Wonderful Musical Offering

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin Offrande

Koechlin’s music is, well, just plain weird. His “Musical Offering on the Name of BACH” is a sort of Art of Fugue for the 20th century, in eighteen sections, daringly extended both in terms of tonality and timbre. Scored for a huge orchestra, very sparingly employed, it includes a piano, an or... 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


Major Discoveries: Stenhammar’s Two Worthy Piano Concertos

by Jed Distler

Stenhammar

A year following his piano debut in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, the 22-year-old Wilhelm Stenhammar penned his own first concerto, and subsequently performed it under distinctive conductors like Hans Richter and Richard Strauss. Clearly Brahms’ influence informs Stenhammar... 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


Major Discoveries: Luigi Mancinelli’s Venetian Scenes

by David Hurwitz

Mancinelli

Luigi Mancinelli was a noted conductor, composer, and cellist. Over the course of his productive life (1848-1921) he became an important exponent of Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner, while living long enough to dip his toes into some of the earliest examples of film music. The two movements (out of six) f... 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


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


Historical Gems: Martinon’s Mono Philips Legacy

by David Hurwitz

MartinonPhilips

These three discs feature Jean Martinon leading the Lamoureux Orchestra in the early to mid 1950s. A conductor of genius, most all that he did was memorable in one way or another, and there are some amazing performances captured here, albeit in sometimes grotty sound that badly needs remastering. No... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Sickly Shostakovich Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

ShostIvashk

Alexander Ivashkin made a few adequate recordings with Polyansky for Chandos, but this coupling of the two Shostakovich Cello Concertos was licensed from Ode in New Zealand. One has to wonder why. Previously, these performances appeared in Brilliant Classics’ otherwise excellent big Shostakovi... 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


CD From Hell: Sickly Shostakovich Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

ShostIvashk

Alexander Ivashkin made a few adequate recordings with Polyansky for Chandos, but this coupling of the two Shostakovich Cello Concertos was licensed from Ode in New Zealand. One has to wonder why. Previously, these performances appeared in Brilliant Classics’ otherwise excellent big Shostakovi... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Stárek’s Mahler 7-Amateur Night At Czech Radio

by David Hurwitz

Mahler7Starek

Back in my college days when I played in the university orchestra, we once invited a school for the blind to the listen in on the rehearsal. As a special treat, each of the kids got the chance to conduct the orchestra in Smetana’s The Moldau, and we had to follow them as they sped […]... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Ballot’s Toxically Dull Bruckner 8th

by David Hurwitz

Bruck8Ballot

The great Donald Francis Tovey one sagely observed that a vogue for Mahler “will do us more good than Bruckner, because his mastery will discourage the cult of amateurishness, which keeps us contented with ignorance and ready to believe that ineptitude is noble in itself….” Truer w... Continue Reading


CD From Purgatory: Castelnuovo-Tedesco Gluten-Free Piano Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Castel

Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote a great deal of enjoyable music, and Naxos deserves credit for championing the cause. However, this release does not feature the composer’s finer works. The two piano concertos present music of such studied triviality that it borders on the insulting. How to describe ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Lazy Shostakovich Tenth

by David Hurwitz

Shost10Gerg

Valery Gergiev is a cipher; or maybe he’s just not a very good conductor. He appeared at an opportune time—during the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union. A dynamic administrator, he deserves credit for rebuilding the Mariinsky Theater opera and orchestra, and fostering a new generation of fine... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: More Horrible “Authentic” Haydn, Chez Ricercar

by David Hurwitz

HaydnLaurent

Here’s another one of those dreary, period-instrument performances that’s so devoid of basic musical sense that it makes a mockery of the very notion of “authenticity”. First of all, as is well known, Haydn wrote his “Paris” symphonies for a very large orchestra, and the two chosen here,... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bad Singing Kills Early Bizet

by David Hurwitz

BizetClovis

Unfortunately, this disc can’t be called more than a stop-gap, and that may be pushing it. Of course the music is fun, tuneful, and astonishingly well-scored given the composer’s Prix de Rome youth. The Te Deum in particular is delightfully secular. Bits of it wound up in The Pearl Fishers, wher... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Tasteless, Crude Vivaldi and Rebel

by David Hurwitz

vivaldireb

Wow, this is both tasteless and trashy. It never ceases to amaze me how period-instrument groups such as this swear allegiance to a hideous “authenticity” of sound–one that they can never really claim is accurate as opposed to merely alarming–then proceed to take liberties with the m... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: A Fallible Fortepiano Recital

by Jed Distler

71Oce7pOGuL._SL1500

Els Biesemans’ recital of Liszt song transcriptions utilizes an 1835 Aloys Biber model fortepiano whose gorgeous tone colors and disntict registral timbres benefit from unusually robust, warm, and detailed engineering. The sonics also illuminate Biesemans’ undependable artistry. She expends much... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Comatose Debussy

by David Hurwitz

DebGerg

This is quite possibly the worst recording of La Mer and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun yet released. The latter is comatose. The tempo, at nearly 12 minutes, is as slow as it gets (a bit less than 10 minutes is normal); but that’s not the point. Stokowski was just as slow, and […]... Continue Reading


CD Half From Hell: Fey’s Schizophrenic Haydn 99 and 100

by David Hurwitz

Haydn100fey

This disc contains one very good performance and one very bad one. In Symphony No. 99, Haydn’s first with clarinets, Fey offers a fresh and vital interpretation, the lean strings giving the woodwinds plenty of opportunity to shine. As usual, tempos tend to be swift, but they aren’t ridic... Continue Reading


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

by Robert Levine

Galileo

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


CD From Hell: Haydn Horn Flatulence from Fey

by David Hurwitz

HaydnHorn

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


CD From Hell: Boulez Defeated In Moscow

by David Hurwitz

BoulezMoscow

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


CD From Hell: Gergiev Remakes Shostakovich, Mostly Badly

by David Hurwitz

ShostGerg

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


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

by John Greene

MiddelSchulte

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

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Reference Recording: Shostakovich’s Entertaining Golden Age, Very Complete

by David Hurwitz

ShostSereb

This recording is billed as the first totally, absolutely complete release of The Golden Age, Shostakovich’s best ballet, in that you get all of the repeats, some of which are omitted in the only competing, more or less complete version on Chandos (with Rozhdestvensky). Having all of the repea... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rossini’s Stabat Mater

by Robert Levine

RossiniStabat

This work, in its entirety by Rossini (an earlier version, with additions by another composer, had been previously performed), was premiered in Paris in 1842 and then played in Bologna (with Donizetti conducting); it was a gigantic success, and indeed, it is a masterpiece. It is wonderfully operatic... Continue Reading


Zemlinsky’s Really Complete Mermaid Premiered

by David Hurwitz

Zemlinsky

Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau has been recorded at least seven times, but this newcomer has some special qualities. It is without question the most gorgeously played and opulently engineered, which is saying a lot. After all, Chailly and the Concertgebouw (Decca) aren’t exactly slouches, a... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Stenhammar’s Two Worthy Piano Concertos

by Jed Distler

Stenhammar

A year following his piano debut in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, the 22-year-old Wilhelm Stenhammar penned his own first concerto, and subsequently performed it under distinctive conductors like Hans Richter and Richard Strauss. Clearly Brahms’ influence informs Stenhammar... 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


Reference Recording: Ancerl’s Les Noces, Still Tops

by David Hurwitz

NocesAncerl

This simply stunning disc contains the finest available recording of Les Noces, a performance that combines textural clarity with Slavic soul in a way unmatched by any other. Combine this with Ancerl’s habitual rhythmic accuracy, toss in amazingly lifelike sonics (superbly remastered here), an... 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


Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

by David Hurwitz

ShostSchiff

If you’re looking for an exceptional recording of Shostakovich’s two cello concertos, this is the one to own. Both of these concertos are extraordinary both formally and expressively, the Second no less so than the First, even though it ends quietly and lacks the earlier work’s del... Continue Reading


A Manon Lescaut Where Everything Works

by Robert Levine

ManonLes

This is a wonderfully vigorous reading of Puccini’s first success, one in which just about everything works. Listeners should know that the orchestra/voice balance is off, with the voices very forward. Little or no attempt is made to make us believe that this is a stage performance. That havin... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dessay Shines In Lakmé

by Robert Levine

Lakme

Delibes’ perfumed score for Lakmé is somewhat of an acquired taste. Its lyricism occasionally embarrasses: the lovely duet for Lakmé and her companion Mallika that shows up just 10 minutes into the opera has been used for so many ads (British Airways comes to mind first, but there have been othe... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Munch’s Explosive Romantic Masterworks

by David Hurwitz

Munch

This set contains most if not all of the music by the listed composers that Munch recorded for RCA, and generally speaking the performances vie with the best. Some, such as Schubert’s Second Symphony, have been very hard to find. There are some genuine classics, of course—the Heifetz Mendelssohn... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Tveitt Suites on Hardanger Tunes

by David Hurwitz

TveittSuites25

Geirr Tveitt composed five orchestral sets of Hardanger tunes, each containing fifteen pieces. Whether or not there were in fact ever a hundred written we will never know, and the Third Suite was among the works destroyed in the terrible fire in 1970 that claimed so much of this fine artist’s ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Well-Tempered Guitars

by Jed Distler

CastelWell

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco enriched 20th-century guitar music with many significant works, including two large-scale cycles: the 24 Capichos de Goya for solo guitar, and the present set of 24 Preludes and Fugues for two guitars. The Well-Tempered Guitars embraces a wide range of styles and forms, fro... Continue Reading


Florilegium’s Fresh, Beguiling Brandenburgs

by David Vernier

florilegiumbrandenburg

Rich, vibrant sonorities, sensible tempos, exacting ensemble playing, sublime solo performances, and an overall sense of these six works as the uniquely entertaining pieces that Bach intended enters this recent production from Florilegium and Channel Classics into the ranks of reference recordings o... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rasilainen’s Atterberg Symphonies 3 and 6

by David Hurwitz

Atterberg3

Kurt Atterberg’s richly romantic, colorful orchestral vistas require excellent recorded sound and a no-holds-barred performance to make their best effect, and both of these symphonies previously have been well served in this regard, the Third by Sixten Ehrling on Caprice, and the Sixth by Jun&... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Alessandrini’s Jazzy Brandenburg Concertos

by Jed Distler

BachAless

Just when you think there is nothing new to say and nothing more to add to the Brandenburg Concertos’ rich interpretive spectrum on disc, along comes Rinaldo Alessandrini. In one fell swoop, the harpsichordist/conductor has created a reference period-instrument version for this century’s... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Savall’s Brandenburgs

by David Hurwitz

BachBrandSavall

This mid-priced reissue offers music lovers a golden opportunity to hear one of the truly great sets of Brandenburg Concertos. Listeners familiar with the fast, super-bright sound of certain famous British and German authentic instrument groups such as The English Concert or Musica Antiqua Köln, wi... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Herreweghe’s Sensual Monteverdi Vespers

by David Hurwitz

MonteverdiVespers

Return with me, if you will, to the exciting days of 1987. A new generation of artists trained in period-instrument playing techniques was exploring largely unknown repertoire, supported by enterprising independent record labels. This was before those same artists decided that the world of music cou... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Brendel’s Demonic Liszt Concertos

by David Hurwitz

LisztBrendel

Has Alfred Brendel ever made a finer concerto recording than this one? His affinity for Liszt may be surprising given that he’s not known as a flaming virtuoso, nor as a “chord guy,” someone who cares particularly about tone as opposed to line and structure. But his quirky wit and love of the ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Previn’s Glorious Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

Mahler4Previn

For years I’ve been referring to this recording as a “reference” for Mahler’s Fourth, and it’s a pleasure to be able to talk about it in greater detail. This is one of those “sleepers” that comes along occasionally, a disc by artists that aren’t normally associated with the repertoir... Continue Reading

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Under the Radar: Jochum’s Enchanting Meistersinger

by Jed Distler

51hoEomd29L

Last available in Deutsche Grammophon’s bicentenary edition of Wagner’s complete operas, Eugen Jochum’s 1975 Die Meistersinger now resurfaces on its own, courtesy of Arkivmusic.com’s on-demand reprint program, complete with the original multi-lingual booklet notes and libretto. Note that thi... Continue Reading


Kupiec and Skrowaczewski: Chopin for Connoisseurs

by Jed Distler

chopinkupiec

It’s unusual to start a CD review of Chopin’s concertos by talking about the orchestra, yet here’s a recording where the composer’s accompaniments take on a sense of distinction, specificity, and musical meaning with which many conductors don’t even bother. A short book... Continue Reading


Behrens Is A Hotter-Than-Hell Elektra

by David Hurwitz

Elektra

This is a knockout. There is so much heat generated in this performance that you may be tempted to get the fire extinguisher. Ozawa might not have been everyone’s first choice for an Elektra conductor, but he comes through with flying colors, and so does his orchestra. The energy level is very... Continue Reading


Byron Janis’ Liszt Concertos: Playing For The Ages

by David Hurwitz

LisztJanis

It’s odd how Byron Janis’ reputation seems not to have declined as much as it has just evaporated. He’s still spoken of with great respect whenever his name comes up, but you don’t see his recordings listed among the top recommendations in the way that they used to be. Certai... Continue Reading


More Fine Bach Cantatas from St. Gallen

by Jed Distler

51dFGcq1NSL

As with earlier Bach cantata cycle volumes from the J.S. Bach-Stiftung of St. Gallen, Switzerland, the contents consist of contrasted selections, rather than following a common BWV number chronology. Volume 12 begins with BWV 70 “Wachet! Betet! Betet! Wachet!”, originally composed in 1716 but co... Continue Reading


Pärt: Passio–A Fine Alternative to Hilliard

by Robert Levine

Passio

If your contact with Passion music is Bach’s St. John or St. Matthew, you’re in for a shock. This score contains no dynamic markings except in the first and last minutes. The story is told with no dramatic outbursts, no overt drama, no complex rhythms, and the effect is hypnotic and ritualistic ... Continue Reading


Colin Davis’ Berlioz R&J: Third Time’s The Charm?

by David Hurwitz

BerliozDaivis

Colin Davis always has been a fine Berlioz conductor, and this version of R&J bids fair to be considered the best of the three(!) he has left us. It came out just at the point when the three-headed monster known at the time as Universal Classics was finally axing its classical division, which ha... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Muti’s Marvelous Vienna Schumann

by David Hurwitz

schummuti

We are amazingly well supplied with excellent Schumann symphony cycles. Here’s another one. Philips never bothered to distribute these 1994 and 1996 performances (issued on two separate full-price CDs) domestically, so its not surprising that they got licensed off to Newton Classics. The princ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Nine Mozart Quintets

by David Vernier

bismozartquintets

Is there a work more agreeable among Mozart’s entire output than his C major quintet K. 515? Well, perhaps not, but the D major K. 593 would be a strong contender. Nor is there a work that’s stormier, more dramatic, spookier, or ultimately more satisfying in its conclusion than the G min... Continue Reading


McGegan Shines In Haydn 88, 101 and 104

by David Hurwitz

Haydn101Mcg

There are no finer period-instrument Haydn symphony performances available than these. Using a nearly 50-piece orchestra (thank God!), McGegan captures the music’s full grandeur as well as its intimacy. These players sound like a real orchestra, a group with a corporate identity, an attractive... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Munch’s Fiery, Passionate Beethoven Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Beet9Munch

I was surprised to purchase this latest Living Stereo remastering only to find a quotation on the back of the CD case by—me! Perhaps I’m the only critic in the world who likes this performance, but truly I do think it’s wonderful. Charles Munch’s isn’t the most subtle Beethoven ar... Continue Reading


In Talvela, A Boris With A Real Boris

by Robert Levine

MussBoris

This set, first issued in 1977, was the premiere recording of Mussorgsky’s original—that is to say, without Rimsky-Korsakov’s (or anyone else’s) re-orchestration—and it was a revelation. It is spare, to be sure, and certain moments, such as the finale to the Inn Scene, sound an... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Previn’s Glorious Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

Mahler4Previn

For years I’ve been referring to this recording as a “reference” for Mahler’s Fourth, and it’s a pleasure to be able to talk about it in greater detail. This is one of those “sleepers” that comes along occasionally, a disc by artists that aren’t normally associated with the repertoir... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu Chamber Music With Flute

by David Hurwitz

martinuflute

Martinu’s flute music has become very popular, and is well represented on disc. This isn’t surprising: it’s charming, tuneful, vivacious, and fun for both performers and listeners. This disc contains the Sonata for Flute, Violin, and Piano, the Flute Sonata, the Trio for Flute, Cello, and Pian... Continue Reading


Markevitch’s Remarkable Bach Musical Offering

by David Hurwitz

Mark8

Previously issued on Marco Polo and now reappearing as Volume 8 of the complete Markevitch orchestral music on Naxos, this smart and stylish realization of The Musical Offering is in a class of its own–one of the smartest, most creative, and successful Bach arrangements ever attempted. Markev... Continue Reading


Eric Le Sage’s Late Beethoven: Vivid and Alive

by Jed Distler

3760014196072

Beethoven’s last three sonatas come vividly alive in the hands of Eric Le Sage. He takes extra care giving shape and meaning to the Op. 109 first movement’s free flowing arpeggios and broken left-hand octaves. Slight tenutos on certain downbeats and a few select dynamic surges help fuel the Pres... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz

by Robert Levine

MascFritz

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


Under the Radar: Kremer and Davis in Berg

by David Hurwitz

Bergkremer

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


Under the Radar: Harris’ Neglected Piano Works

by David Hurwitz

Harris

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


Under the Radar: Pollini’s Late Schubert Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

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

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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


Historical Gems: Martinon’s Mono Philips Legacy

by David Hurwitz

MartinonPhilips

These three discs feature Jean Martinon leading the Lamoureux Orchestra in the early to mid 1950s. A conductor of genius, most all that he did was memorable in one way or another, and there are some amazing performances captured here, albeit in sometimes grotty sound that badly needs remastering. No... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Studio Beethoven Ninth Live

by David Hurwitz

Beet9Klemplive

Otto Klemperer’s studio Beethoven Ninth is one of the finest recordings of the work, though this has not been an opinion unanimously shared. It suffers from none of his late tendency to slowness (at least in comparison with other, non-period instrument performances), and his unsentimental, dir... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Landmark Porgy and Bess from Audite

by Robert Levine

GerwshwinPorgy

This historical set is a major document: In 1952 the State Department sponsored a European tour of Porgy & Bess that was to last more than three years. This performance comes from a radio broadcast of a live performance in Berlin on September 21, 1952, and judging from the audience reaction (and... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Monteux’s d’Indy Perfectly Pitched

by David Hurwitz

MonteuxDindy

In his review of RCA’s complete Monteux recordings, Jed Distler pointed out that some of the earliest recordings of the music of d’Indy used the original transfers from the previous Monteux box, and therefore were pitched about half a step flat. This was later corrected in the individual... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Another Klemperer Beethoven 9th

by David Hurwitz

Beet9Klemp

We already have three Beethoven Ninths conducted by Klemperer in London, all with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus. This one, recorded in Cologne in 1958, is quite similar to those, dating as it does from the same period. It had been sitting in my pile of discs to review for quite a while, unti... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Willem van Otterloo’s Original Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Otterloo

Otterloo has his fans—everyone does, let’s face it—and I intend no disrespect to him when I say that this set contains little that is special in today’s competitive marketplace. He was a very fine musician, and a wonderful orchestral trainer. These performances mostly involve three orchestra... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Der Kna’s Memorable RIAS Legacy

by David Hurwitz

Kna

The principal value of this five-CD set lies in “Der Kna’s” Bruckner performances. You get two of the Ninth, one live, one studio broadcast, and one of the Eighth. The editions are pre-Nowak, though the Eighth is mostly the final version, while the Ninth has some retouching, perhaps most notic... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Morini’s Tchaikovsky, Really, Really Live

by David Hurwitz

TchaikMorini

Erica Morini tears into the Tchaikovsky concerto like a woman possessed; indeed, in the finale she more or less leaves Fricsay and the orchestra panting to catch up, which they do, barely (sound clip). Even this momentary lapse somehow adds to the charm and spontaneity of the interpretation, especia... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Remembering Van Cliburn–April 11, 1958

by Jed Distler

cliburnmoscow

Van Cliburn’s RCA recordings of the Tchaikovsky First and Rachmaninov Third concertos easily justify the pianist’s youthful acclaim after winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition. However, these live performances from the event’s final round on April 11, 1958 communi... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Richter’s Complete Albums on Sony

by David Hurwitz

Richter

First an apology: our own Jed Distler wrote the excellent notes for this release, and so for this review you are stuck with me–a pianistic second stringer. Now to be clear, I have tons and tons of Richter recordings. He was the artistic incarnation of all of those Iphigenia operas–in Pra... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Furtwängler’s Lucerne Ninth, Again

by David Hurwitz

Beet9Furt

This performance of Beethoven’s Ninth is unquestionably the best that Furtwängler left us. It has all of his customary passion and spontaneity, but with really fine playing and singing. Some fans of the conductor prefer his infamous “Nazi Ninth”. Granted, that performance had Hitl... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Stokowski’s Yummy Dvorák & RVW

by David Hurwitz

StokiVW

For some weird reason, these stereo performances never made it into EMI’s Stokowski box, which is all the more unfortunate because they are outstanding as only Stokowski at the top of his form can be. He was about 163 when he made these recordings, and they number among his last, but you’d never... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Fritz Kreisler’s Classic EMI Recordings

by Jed Distler

Kreisler

This 10-CD set brings together all of Fritz Kreisler’s major HMV recordings, including multiple versions of the Mendelssohn, Brahms, Beethoven, and Mozart Fourth concertos, the 10 Beethoven sonatas, his harmonically rich A minor string quartet, plus two delicious discs of encores. The transfer... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Incomparable Callas, Remastered–The True Sound

by Robert Levine

Callas

Listening to the new Maria Callas Remastered–Complete Studio Recordings is like cleaning your glasses or looking at a wine glass that has just come from the dishwasher. No spots. A fog, a type of indefinable schmutz that you were only vaguely aware of, is suddenly gone: OMG, so that’s what t... Continue Reading


The Singers: Sensational Beverly Sills

by Dan Davis

sills

I’ll start with some boilerplate, just in case you’re new to Decca’s The Singers series. Each disc is housed in an attractive cardboard cover–goodbye and good riddance, jewel case. All have sketchy print booklets; pictures, texts, and translations are relegated to cyberspace,... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Juicy 1960 Rigoletto with Bastianini and Scotto

by Robert Levine

rigo

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


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Incandescent ’56 German Requiem

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsKlempReq

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

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Major Discoveries: Rattle Excels in Szymanowski Songs & Harnasie

by Robert Levine

SzymRattle

Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) composed music of great beauty and exoticism unique to himself. The two song cycles recorded here are more than tinged with orientalisms, with the East filtered through French-pastels. The first, Love Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess, consists of just three songs and is o... Continue Reading


Casella’s Third Symphony’s Third Recording!

by David Hurwitz

Casella

Francesco La Vecchia’s recordings of modern Italian music for Naxos have been impressive, nowhere more so than in his discs dedicated to the finely crafted works of Alfredo Casella. The Third Symphony, written for Chicago, is a late piece (1940), but still an ambitious essay in the grand tradition... Continue Reading


LAGQ In The Only Guitar Quartet Disc You Will Ever Need

by David Hurwitz

Assad

We need more guitar recordings like we need bedbugs, but original works for guitar quartet are another story. Taken by itself, a guitar quartet is rather silly, a festival of squeaks, plinks, and plucks, but pitted against an orchestra, the results can be timbrally marvelous. Rodrigo’s concerto is... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Koechlin’s Weird and Wonderful Musical Offering

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin Offrande

Koechlin’s music is, well, just plain weird. His “Musical Offering on the Name of BACH” is a sort of Art of Fugue for the 20th century, in eighteen sections, daringly extended both in terms of tonality and timbre. Scored for a huge orchestra, very sparingly employed, it includes a piano, an or... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Stenhammar’s Two Worthy Piano Concertos

by Jed Distler

Stenhammar

A year following his piano debut in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, the 22-year-old Wilhelm Stenhammar penned his own first concerto, and subsequently performed it under distinctive conductors like Hans Richter and Richard Strauss. Clearly Brahms’ influence informs Stenhammar... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Luigi Mancinelli’s Venetian Scenes

by David Hurwitz

Mancinelli

Luigi Mancinelli was a noted conductor, composer, and cellist. Over the course of his productive life (1848-1921) he became an important exponent of Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner, while living long enough to dip his toes into some of the earliest examples of film music. The two movements (out of six) f... Continue Reading


Penderecki’s Best and Less Than Best, Equally Well Played

by David Hurwitz

PendereckiViolacello

I vividly remember seeing Penderecki conduct the New York Philharmonic in a particularly wrist-slashing concert consisting of his De Natura Sonoris No. 2 (I loved it when the percussion section appeared to attack a filing cabinet with a hacksaw), this Viola Concerto, and as a cheery finale, Shostako... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Furtwängler’s Epic Symphony No. 2

by Dan Davis

BarenFurt

Wilhelm Furtwängler’s conducting recalled that of an earlier era, but his compositions are even more redolent of the 19th century. He began his Second Symphony in the waning days of World War II but it’s as if Schoenberg and Stravinsky never existed. This sprawling, lengthy, 80-plus-min... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Julián Orbón’s Symphonic Works

by David Hurwitz

Orbon

What a delightful surprise! Two of these works, the elegantly neo-classical Concerto Grosso and the colorful Three Symphonic Versions, were recorded by Dorian (now Sono Luminus) in Venezuela some years ago under Eduardo Mata–and quite well too, but these newcomers offer every bit as much energ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Geirr Tveitt’s Wedding Suite from Hardanger

by ClassicsToday

Tveitt14

The second release in the Naxos Geirr Tveitt survey comprises two orchestral suites drawn from A Hundred Hardanger Tunes Op. 151. There are not–and never were–a full hundred, but what survives are four orchestral sets of 15 pieces each. A further group was lost in the disastrous fire at ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Tveitt Suites on Hardanger Tunes

by David Hurwitz

TveittSuites25

Geirr Tveitt composed five orchestral sets of Hardanger tunes, each containing fifteen pieces. Whether or not there were in fact ever a hundred written we will never know, and the Third Suite was among the works destroyed in the terrible fire in 1970 that claimed so much of this fine artist’s ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Amazing Tveitt–Prillar & Sun God Symphony

by David Hurwitz

TveittPrillar

Geirr Tveitt (1908-81), one of Norway’s most distinguished 20th century composers of the Romantic Nationalist school, suffered the most horrible tragedy than can befall an artist: His manuscripts, most of them unpublished, were burnt in a fire at his home in 1970. A hugely prolific composer, o... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Well-Tempered Guitars

by Jed Distler

CastelWell

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco enriched 20th-century guitar music with many significant works, including two large-scale cycles: the 24 Capichos de Goya for solo guitar, and the present set of 24 Preludes and Fugues for two guitars. The Well-Tempered Guitars embraces a wide range of styles and forms, fro... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rasilainen’s Atterberg Symphonies 3 and 6

by David Hurwitz

Atterberg3

Kurt Atterberg’s richly romantic, colorful orchestral vistas require excellent recorded sound and a no-holds-barred performance to make their best effect, and both of these symphonies previously have been well served in this regard, the Third by Sixten Ehrling on Caprice, and the Sixth by Jun&... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Skalkottas’ Sinewy 36 Greek Dances

by David Hurwitz

Skalkotdance

Nikos Skalkottas was a genius, and like so many geniuses he died young (45) and unacknowledged. Recognition is slowly coming, largely thanks to this series of recordings from BIS (heaven knows it’s not because his music gets played regularly in concert), and for a number of reasons none of the... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: At Home with the Herzogenbergs

by Jed Distler

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CPO has devoted 13 previous releases to Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900), whose wife Elisabeth (1847-1892) was a favorite pianist of Brahms. It should be mentioned that the label’s latest endeavor on the Austrian composer’s behalf does not quite offer his “complete” piano works; it cont... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Very Baroque Royal Wedding Music by Roman

by David Hurwitz

RomanBIS

Johan Helmich Roman’s Drottningholmsmusiken consists of 24 numbers (and one da capo), totaling about 70 minutes in these lively performances. It’s about what you’d expect for a baroque wedding (1744), and perhaps the nearest equivalent would be Handel’s Water Music. Scored fo... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Englund’s Great “Great Wall of China”

by David Hurwitz

EnglundWall

Einar Englund’s incidental music to The Great Wall of China will delight and astonish music lovers looking for a refreshing new experience. Its eight brief numbers include, aside from the usual Chinoiserie (signaled by plenty of gong strokes), a delicious Rumba, a bluesy Jazz-intermezzo, and b... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Ghedini’s Frail But Compelling Sound World

by David Hurwitz

Ghedini

Ghedini’s music is strange: wispy, almost frail, even when propulsive, but at times haunting and poignant as well. His Flute Concerto (Sonata da concerto) might well be accounted a masterpiece. The opening, for flute and drums (sound clip), is unforgettable–almost a modern update of the star... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Carl Stamitz Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Stamitz

These performers offer lovely performances of three very enjoyable pieces. The playing of all three soloists is tasteful, idiomatic, and also expressive, while the accompaniments have the requisite punch and color while still offering plenty of warmth in the lyrical slow movements. The intonation of... Continue Reading

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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


Filling In The Gaps: Haydn–Cantatas for the House of Esterházy

by Robert Levine

HaydnCtatas

Composed around 1763-64, these gala cantatas were written for the sole purpose of glorifying Prince Nicholas Esterházy, and two of them have never been played since. They are joyous works of praise, filled with complicated coloratura and fine, melodic recitatives for the soloists, energetic work fo... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Kabalevsky’s Risk-Free Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Kabalevsky

A puzzling composer, Kabalevsky in his first two symphonies offers works that are brief, pleasant, and emotionally take no risks. They sound a bit like generic film music: picturesque and varied in mood but seldom engaging for its own sake. There are, however, a few of the rhythmic tricks that turn ... Continue Reading


Hope’s Original, But More Importantly Superb, Mendelssohn

by Victor Carr Jr

MendelssohnHOpe

This is billed as the world-premiere recording of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in its original 1844 version–before the changes the composer made prior to publication after consultation with Ferdinand David, the work’s first soloist. The changes primarily concern the solo part, and... Continue Reading


Enescu’s Isis and 5th Symphony, Dead and Loving It

by David Hurwitz

EnescuIsis

My Uncle Sam had one of the coolest jobs of anyone I ever knew. He was a restorer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was his job to touch up the masterworks, repairing defects, filling in gaps, and otherwise keeping them looking pristine. You have no idea how many well-known paintings benefited ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Bach “Short” Masses BWV 233-236

by David Vernier

BachMagSch

It was a real treat to revisit this recording—to be reminded how exuberant the celebratory sections, how crisply articulated both the choral and orchestral performances, how perfectly calibrated and lively the tempos, how buoyant the spirit of the playing and singing. And the solo singing is prett... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: The Major Mozart Violin Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

MozartVlnSon

For the record Mozart’s “great” violin sonatas, as per the title of this set, evidently consist of K. 296, 301-306, 359, 360, 376-380, 454, 481, 526, and 547. I guess that means that the rest qualify as the “lousy” violin sonatas. Mozart wrote a ton of them, and none ranks among his finest... Continue Reading


Liszt’s Charming “Bunte Reihe” Transcriptions

by Jed Distler

Bunereihe

Violinist/composer/pedagogue Ferdinand David is best known today for having midwived and premiered Mendelssohn’s famous E minor violin concerto. Respected for his student editions of virtually all of the standard violin literature of the time, his own compositions are rather modest in scope an... Continue Reading


Not Your Usual Dukas CD

by David Hurwitz

Dukas

This enterprising disc contains the premiere recording of Velléda, a Prix-de-Rome cantata from 1888 (it took second prize). It’s a much better work than the two overtures (King Lear and Goetz de Berlichingen) released on a Sterling CD a little while ago. The plot is Norma in a teapot. Velléd... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: La Serva Padrona

by David Hurwitz

Perglesi

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


Not Just Your Usual Berlioz Harold in Italy

by David Hurwitz

berlioz

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


Poulenc’s “Blisteringly exciting” Organ Concerto Reissued

by David Hurwitz

poulenc

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


Filling In The Gaps: Holst Beyond The Planets

by David Hurwitz

HolstHerr

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


Beck’s Bounteous Op. 4 Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Beck

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Weber

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

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A Bittersweet Big Box of 20th Century Boulez

by David Hurwitz

Boulez

Most all of this material has been reissued previously, but with Boulez’s 90th birthday coming up you can count on the performing arts military industrial complex to spend a fortune celebrating his achievements, and his labels to do their part. Had Boulez not been such a fine conductor there s... Continue Reading


A Handy Box of Bach Concertos from Café Zimmermann

by David Hurwitz

BachZimm

This set actually includes more than concertos: you get the orchestral suites too. The concertos are included in one of their various forms, either the Brandenburg Concertos, the three violin concertos, the Triple Concerto, the works for keyboard(s), or reconstructions for conjectured original force... 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


Big Boxes: Pierre Monteux’s Complete RCA Victor Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) was celebrated and respected throughout a long conducting career for his formidable musicianship and taste, together with his gifts as an orchestra builder and teacher. From an early age Monteux brushed with history. At 14 he attended the premiere of Franck’s D minor sym... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Rheinberger’s Organ Works

by Jed Distler

rheinberger-organ

Although Rudolf Innig concluded his 12-disc cycle of Rheinberger’s complete organ works in 2005, it has taken nearly a decade for MDG to bring it out as a boxed set. For comprehensiveness alone, it has no competition. Every solo organ piece Rheinberger composed is here, from the 20 sonatas (he int... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Munch’s Explosive Romantic Masterworks

by David Hurwitz

Munch

This set contains most if not all of the music by the listed composers that Munch recorded for RCA, and generally speaking the performances vie with the best. Some, such as Schubert’s Second Symphony, have been very hard to find. There are some genuine classics, of course—the Heifetz Mendelssohn... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Willem van Otterloo’s Original Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Otterloo

Otterloo has his fans—everyone does, let’s face it—and I intend no disrespect to him when I say that this set contains little that is special in today’s competitive marketplace. He was a very fine musician, and a wonderful orchestral trainer. These performances mostly involve three orchestra... Continue Reading


An Ill-Chosen Box of Mediocre (Mostly) Harnoncourt

by David Hurwitz

Harnoncourt

It’s a mystery as to who is left at the so-called “major labels” that knows anything about their own catalogs. Harnoncourt recorded a lot of music for Teldec, and planning a sort of “best of” survey at the very least requires an intimate familiarity with what he did, how it sounds, and (op... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Giardino of Musical Delights

by David Vernier

Giardino

This 11-disc set from the Italian chamber ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, Milano is wonderfully comprehensive in scope. Recorded throughout the 1990s (one disc is from 2000), the performances should satisfy anyone looking to sample the cream of Italian instrumental music of the 17th and 18th centurie... Continue Reading


Concerto Köln’s Delightful Box of “Not”

by David Vernier

Concerto Koln

One of the benefits of the current “catalog-dumping” trend from major record labels these days is the gathering together of sets such as this, offering a trove of music that otherwise would be difficult or impossible to assemble from individual recordings, and many of which are no longer availab... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Leinsdorf, Browning, Perlman Play Prokofiev

by David Hurwitz

ProkLeins

Erich Leinsdorf always was a fine accompanist, whether in operas or concertos, and so it’s no surprise that these are the best performances in this set. John Browning’s playing in the concertos is generally excellent: he’s got more than enough technique for the extravagant demands of the Secon... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: 18 Discs of Messiaen from Warner, Hallelujah!

by David Hurwitz

Messiaen edition

You may not be losing any sleep over your lack of 18 discs of Messiaen, but for all his music’s odd mixture of wackiness and pedantry, not to mention his total lack of humor, he was unquestionably one of the great musical voices of the 20th century. His music is personal, compelling, and often str... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Naxos’ Complete Johann Strauss, Jr. Still Sparkles

by David Hurwitz

Strausscomplete

If you love light music, then this set represents the mother lode. I was hoping it would come back in a nice, compact box, and Naxos has very kindly obliged. You may not think that anyone needs 52 CDs of waltzes, polkas, gallops, and marches, but let’s face it: no one needs 107 Haydn symphonies, [... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Richter’s Complete Albums on Sony

by David Hurwitz

Richter

First an apology: our own Jed Distler wrote the excellent notes for this release, and so for this review you are stuck with me–a pianistic second stringer. Now to be clear, I have tons and tons of Richter recordings. He was the artistic incarnation of all of those Iphigenia operas–in Pra... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sony/BMG’s Charles Rosen Collection

by Jed Distler

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The late Charles Rosen’s renown as a writer, scholar, musical thinker, and teacher tends to overshadow his reputation as a pianist. However, at his best Rosen was a probing virtuoso who embraced a wide, eclectic, and seemingly contradictory range of repertoire. All the more reason to celebrate Son... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Leslie Howard’s Epic Complete Liszt

by David Hurwitz

Liszt

This 99-CD set contains (here it comes): six discs of etudes and early works; 13 discs of “major original compositions”; 10 discs of dances, marches, and transcriptions of other Liszt works; seven discs of pieces on national themes; 13 discs of operatic paraphrases, fantasies, and transcriptions... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karajan’s Haydn Paris and London Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

HaydnHvK

Karajan’s accounts of  Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies are splendid, fully on the level with the great sets by Bernstein and Harnoncourt. These works have, in fact, been quite lucky on disc, and their large scale seems to work especially well on modern instruments. These performa... Continue Reading


The 2013 Seattle Ring

by Jed Distler

Layout 1

The Seattle Opera’s well received 2013 Ring Cycle has come and gone, but its generally terrific singing lives on in this CD release. As both Fricka and the Gotterdämmerung Waltraute, Stephanie Blythe commands attention for her rich lower register, dramatic intensity, and subtle word painting. Gre... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Fritz Kreisler’s Classic EMI Recordings

by Jed Distler

Kreisler

This 10-CD set brings together all of Fritz Kreisler’s major HMV recordings, including multiple versions of the Mendelssohn, Brahms, Beethoven, and Mozart Fourth concertos, the 10 Beethoven sonatas, his harmonically rich A minor string quartet, plus two delicious discs of encores. The transfer... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Incomparable Callas, Remastered–The True Sound

by Robert Levine

Callas

Listening to the new Maria Callas Remastered–Complete Studio Recordings is like cleaning your glasses or looking at a wine glass that has just come from the dishwasher. No spots. A fog, a type of indefinable schmutz that you were only vaguely aware of, is suddenly gone: OMG, so that’s what t... Continue Reading

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