Classics Today Insider

Big Boxes: Archiv Produktion Analogue Stereo Recordings

by Jed Distler

archivanalog

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


Ben Johnston’s Microtonal Magnificence

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 3

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 2

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 1

by Dan Davis

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


Big Boxes: Great Stott!

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Lazar Berman’s Complete Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

bermancompletesony

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


Phyllis Curtin’s Sensational Latin American Song Recital

by Rad Bennett

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


Historical Gems: Magda Tagliaferro–A True Legend

by Dan Davis

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


Major Discoveries: Boccherini’s Delicious Op. 25 Quintets

by Dan Davis

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


Oddities & Trifles, Valentini & Acronym

by David Vernier

AcronymValentini

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


References Revisited: Ansermet and Ricci’s Prokofiev Doesn’t Wear Well

by Dan Davis

Decca packs a lot of Prokofiev onto these two discs, but while the performances are generally good there’s nothing “legendary” about them. Ruggiero Ricci’s pairing of the Violin Concertos was popular in the early stereo era but it’s long been superceded by those of Oist... Continue Reading


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

by Dan Davis

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


References Revisited: The Price/Karajan Tosca on Decca Legends

by Dan Davis

A lot of Toscas have gone over the parapet since Maria Callas’ electrifying 1953 EMI recording. None can challenge that classic statement of Puccini’s masterpiece, but this 1962 Vienna production ranks among the better attempts. Despite the starry cast, it’s very much a conductor&#... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Book Of Madrigals

by David Vernier

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


Historical Gems: Phyllis Curtin Sings Copland & Rorem Songs

by Jed Distler

CurtinCop

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Granados2

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


An Unreleased Youri Egorov Recital

by Jed Distler

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


Kholodenko’s Fast and Facile Prokofiev Concertos

by David Hurwitz

ProkKholod

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this release; it’s just not very interesting. These two concertos make great disc mates. They share several distinctive aspects of Prokofiev’s style: the toccata movements, for example, or those gawky moments of machine-like grotesquerie. Als... Continue Reading


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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


CD From Hell: Robotic Haydn From Ticciati

by David Hurwitz

HaydnTicc

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


Végh’s Incomparable Mozart, Live

by David Hurwitz

MozVegh

Sándor Végh’s credentials as a Mozart conductor need no introduction. His musicianship, sense of style, and interpretive standards were second to none. Just listen to the way he handles the first subject of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’s opening movement, his execution of both forte and pian... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Robotic Haydn From Ticciati

by David Hurwitz

HaydnTicc

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


CD From Hell: Svetlanov Disses Ravel, Big Time

by David Hurwitz

RavSvet

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


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

by David Hurwitz

SibLemVanska

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Atterberg3

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


CD From Hell: Awful Rachmaninov 3rd From Gergiev

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Argerich and Barenboim Live in Buenos Aires

by Jed Distler

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


CD From Hell: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin Botches Handel

by David Hurwitz

HandelWaterHM

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


CD From Hell: Currentzis and Kopatchinskaja Play From Their Bowels

by David Hurwitz

TchaikStrav

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


CD From Hell: Dreadful Cantatas, Dreadfully Performed

by Robert Levine

Marcello

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


CD from Hell: A Flavorless Four-Hand Resurrection

by Jed Distler

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


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

by David Hurwitz

ProkMart

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


CD From Hell: Svetlanov Offers The Worst Ever Mahler Cycle

by David Hurwitz

MahlerSvet

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


CD From Hell: Boulez’s Worst Debussy and Ravel

by David Hurwitz

RavelOtterBoulez

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


CD Partially From Hell: Backhaus’ Second-Best Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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


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

by David Hurwitz

ProkGerg

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


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: Weil’s Horrible Haydn

by David Hurwitz

HaydnWeil

Thank God it’s over. Bruno Weil and the Cappella Coloniensis have been emasculating their way through Haydn’s twelve London symphonies, and this is the last of them. You might call it a musical experience akin to a “Cappella Colonioscopy.” Haydn wrote these particular scores ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Eschenbach Trudges Through Hindemith

by David Hurwitz

HindEsch

What is the deal with Christoph Eschenbach? His recent work reveals an artist trapped in a sort of narcissistic parody of romantic mannerism, and that is the last thing that Hindemith, of all composers, needs. The Symphony in E flat is a neglected masterpiece. It has received one unambiguously great... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Arnold Slogs Through His Own Symphony No. 4

by David Hurwitz

Arnold4th

As a conductor of his own music, the elderly Malcolm Arnold developed a serious case of the “slows”, nowhere more so than in this premiere recording of the Fourth Symphony. He stretches the first and third movements to a fairly ridiculous length, and the entire work takes more than 54 mi... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Manhandling Handel’s Op. 6

by David Hurwitz

These performances are very authentic, which essentially means misconceived from the start, and often downright unmusical. Using teeny tiny forces (only seven violins), and inaptly named Arte dei Suonatori, they lack just that: the art of making a pleasing sound. The loudest thing here is the contin... Continue Reading

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Ben Johnston’s Microtonal Magnificence

by Jed Distler

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


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

by Dan Davis

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


Reference Recording: The Book Of Madrigals

by David Vernier

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


Historical Gems: Phyllis Curtin Sings Copland & Rorem Songs

by Jed Distler

CurtinCop

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


Reference Recording: Berlioz’s Te Deum Gets Its Due

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Gesualdo

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


Martinon Plays Poulenc On “Erato Originals”

by David Hurwitz

PoulencMart

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


Previn’s Vaughan Williams Re-Reissued

by Victor Carr Jr

RVWP

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


Reference Recording: Szell’s Till Don Death

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Bartók Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion

by David Hurwitz

argfreire

For an artist with such a stellar reputation, not to say personal mystique, Martha Argerich seems to have little sense of self-criticism. She has recorded Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion four times (not counting the concerto version). The first (and third), with Stephen Kovacevi... Continue Reading


FENNELL CONDUCTS SOUSA

by Victor Carr Jr

There’s absolutely nothing to dislike about this album, assuming of course that you like marches. Frederick Fennell conducts Sousa’s miniature masterpieces with all the brio and zest you could wish for, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble’s playing matches the power, polish, and pizazz o... Continue Reading


Reference Recording (on Piano): Perahia’s Bach Partitas, Vol. 2

by Jed Distler

Murray Perahia imbues Bach’s First, Fifth, and Sixth Partitas with the same mastery, care, and insight that distinguished his recordings of Nos. 2, 3, and 4. The B-flat Partita’s tempos never exceed what one can comfortably dance to or sing, highlighted by the lyrically animated Saraband... Continue Reading


Reference Recording (on Piano): Perahia’s Bach Partitas, Vol. 1

by Jed Distler

If there’s a single moment throughout the three Partitas on this gorgeously engineered disc where Murray Perahia produces less than a vibrant, singing sonority, sculpts a polyphonically unaware phrase, or fails to nail a perfect tempo, then I’ve missed something. Certainly you shouldn... Continue Reading


Perahia’s Standard-Setting Bach Keyboard Concertos

by John Greene

After Murray Perahia’s much lauded solo performances of Bach’s English Suites and Goldberg Variations, Sony offers his first recording of keyboard concertos with orchestral accompaniment. As with his cycle of Mozart concertos, Perahia conducts from the keyboard, allowing him complete art... Continue Reading


Bach: Perahia’s Golden-Age Keyboard Concertos

by Jed Distler

Like its predecessor, Murray Perahia’s second volume of Bach Keyboard Concertos sets new standards for performances of these works on the modern concert grand. Indeed, even harpsichordists can learn loads from the pianist’s subtle variations of articulation in the D major concerto’... Continue Reading


Let’s Not Forget Perahia’s Goldbergs

by David Hurwitz

I have no hesitation at all in acclaiming Murray Perahia’s recording of the Goldberg Variations as the finest on piano since Glenn Gould’s pioneering version of the 1950s. I felt this way in 2000, when this disc was first released, and some sixteen years (and a bazillion more Goldbergs) ... Continue Reading


A Rare Treat: Suk’s A Summer Tale

by David Hurwitz

A Summer Tale is the most lyrical and immediately attractive of the four works, beginning with the tragic Asrael Symphony, that constitute Suk’s mature orchestral legacy. The only reason I can determine for its neglect is its extreme demands on the ensemble. Scored for huge forces, including l... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

fibich

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


Major Discoveries: Sunset Boulevard

by David Hurwitz

Waxman

Sunset Boulevard not only is one of director Billy Wilder’s masterpieces; it also produced one of Franz Waxman’s finest scores, from the opening chase music to the final mad scene. The latter, openly based on the final minutes of Strauss’ Salome–but even more demented in its ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Thibaudet Plays Satie, Complete

by David Hurwitz

It had been a long time since anyone recorded the complete Satie solo piano music when this set was released, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s collection is more “complete” than anyone’s, offering several unpublished works (some of which appeared on his earlier, single-disc release)... Continue Reading

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Oddities & Trifles, Valentini & Acronym

by David Vernier

AcronymValentini

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


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

by Jed Distler

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


Under the Radar: Ingratiating Gebel Quartets

by David Vernier

gebelquartets

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


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

by David Hurwitz

ShostMasur

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


Beethoven and Viotti: Classic Grumiaux

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Fine Martinu from Weller

by David Hurwitz

MartinuWeller

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


Under the Radar: Monteverdi Vespers from King

by David Hurwitz

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


A Great Live Poppea From Bavaria

by Robert Levine

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


Rozhdesvensky’s Pulverizing Czech Radio Shostakovich Fourth

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Scorching Shostakovich 11 From Lazarev

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by John Greene

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


Under The Radar: Oue’s Sonically Fabulous Copland

by Victor Carr Jr

CopOue

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


Under The Radar: Really Fine Copland From Falletta/Buffalo

by David Hurwitz

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


Wispelwey & Lazic in Exceptional Beethoven Cello Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Dausgaard & Berezovsky’s Estimable Beethoven

by David Hurwitz

BeetDaus

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


Under The Radar: Powerful Honnegger from New Zealand

by David Hurwitz

HoneggerYu

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


Under the Radar: An Amazing Collection of Norwegian Music

by David Hurwitz

GriegSlatt

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


Under the Radar: Boult’s Elgar Symphonies on Lyrita

by Victor Carr Jr

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


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

by Jed Distler

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


Under the Radar: Herreweghe’s First St. Matthew Passion

by David Hurwitz

On its initial release in 1985, this recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion made a huge impression, for a number of reasons. One was the exceptional quality of the recording itself, a typically classy Harmonia Mundi production that we have since come to expect, but that at the time was giving... Continue Reading

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Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 3

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 2

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 1

by Dan Davis

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


Phyllis Curtin’s Sensational Latin American Song Recital

by Rad Bennett

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


Historical Gems: Magda Tagliaferro–A True Legend

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Phyllis Curtin Sings Copland & Rorem Songs

by Jed Distler

CurtinCop

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


An Unreleased Youri Egorov Recital

by Jed Distler

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


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Gesualdo

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


Historical Gems: Nadia Reisenberg’s Russian Classics Return

by Jed Distler

RR7309-10

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


Landowska’s RCA Bach In A Box

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Fennell’s Legendary Holst Band Suites

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

fibich

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


Historical Gems: Dvorak’s 5th and Slavonic Rhapsodies

by Victor Carr Jr

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


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

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Beecham’s Incomparable Late Haydn

by David Hurwitz

HaydnBeech

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


Historical Gems: Bizet On Authentic Instruments

by David Hurwitz

BizetCluyt

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


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Astounding Fidelio, Live

by Robert Levine

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


Historical Gems: Serkin’s Classic Diabelli Variations

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Walter’s Best Beethoven?

by David Hurwitz

This live 1955 Beethoven Ninth easily is Walter’s finest, a remarkable achievement for a 79-year-old, and a very distinctive performance by any measure. The first movement is exciting, lovingly shaped but never mannered, and extremely precise in rhythm (not a Viennese specialty). Walter really... Continue Reading

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Phyllis Curtin’s Sensational Latin American Song Recital

by Rad Bennett

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


Major Discoveries: Boccherini’s Delicious Op. 25 Quintets

by Dan Davis

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


Major Discoveries: Eggert’s Truly Classical Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Eggert1

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


Major Discoveries: Haydn’s Symphonic Successor–Joachim Eggert

by David Hurwitz

Eggert2

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


Randall Thompson’s Requiem Recalled To Life

by David Vernier

thompsonrequiem

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


Major Discoveries: Freitas Branco’s Astonishing Vathek

by David Hurwitz

Luís de Freitas Branco’s symphonies, with their somewhat Franckian cyclical forms (and sometimes melodies), are more conservative than his impressionist, cutting-edge orchestral works from the turn of the 20th century. Vathek (1913) is one such, an amazing, luscious, exotic tone poem in the f... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Atterberg’s Complete Symphonies

by Victor Carr Jr

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


Major Discoveries: Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee’s “Military” Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Wartensee

You’ve probably never heard of Swiss composer Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee (1786-1868), but he was a musician of some originality at a time when that quality was neither encouraged nor rewarded in German symphonic composition. The “Military” Symphony of 1848, his Third, is on... Continue Reading


McGegan and Group Shine in Scarlatti Rarity

by Robert Levine

gloria

Scarlatti’s vocal music seems to be coming into its own: a few months ago Harmonia Mundi released a marvelous CD of arias from cantatas and operas sung by Elizabeth Watts and now Nicholas McGegan and his wonderful Philharmonia Baroque present a recording of his 1716 serenata, La Gloria di Primaver... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Vladimir Jurowski’s Fifth Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Jurowski5

If you like the music of Rachstakofievsky, then you’re going to love Vladimir Jurowski’s Fifth Symphony. There are a whole bunch of Jurawski’s running around the musical world today, most of them conductors, and all the children or grandchildren of this one, a Ukrainian-born Soviet... Continue Reading


A Rare Treat: Suk’s A Summer Tale

by David Hurwitz

A Summer Tale is the most lyrical and immediately attractive of the four works, beginning with the tragic Asrael Symphony, that constitute Suk’s mature orchestral legacy. The only reason I can determine for its neglect is its extreme demands on the ensemble. Scored for huge forces, including l... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Sunset Boulevard

by David Hurwitz

Waxman

Sunset Boulevard not only is one of director Billy Wilder’s masterpieces; it also produced one of Franz Waxman’s finest scores, from the opening chase music to the final mad scene. The latter, openly based on the final minutes of Strauss’ Salome–but even more demented in its ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Poulenc for Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

Poulenc

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


Major Discoveries: Promising Granados from Naxos

by David Hurwitz

Granados

No one really knows the orchestral music of Enrique Granados, a situation that Naxos intends to remedy. The booklet note for this release aptly compares the first movement (Morning Song) of the Suite on Galician Songs (1899) to Grieg. There’s a similar, gentle sweetness to the music, which is ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu’s Delightfully Innovative Chamber Works

by David Hurwitz

Martinu

The works on this disc offer a comprehensive overview of Martinu’s works for large chamber ensembles. They date from 1927 (La revue de cuisine) to 1959 (Chamber Music No. 1), the year of his death. The former requires clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, piano, violin, and cello, the latter clarinet, h... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Pierné’s Ballet Masterpiece, Repackaged

by David Hurwitz

Pierne

Masterpiece Alert!!! If you love French music, great ballet music, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloë, music that’s modal, neo-classical, neo-baroque, warmly melodic, gorgeously scored, infinitely graceful and poetic, simple but never naïve, and just plain mesmerizing, then this is your lucky da... Continue Reading


CPO’s Larsson Orchestral Works Vol. 2

by David Hurwitz

Larsson

Lars-Erik Larsson composed three symphonies, all of which he eventually withdrew. It’s easy to understand why. Basically a miniaturist, the Second sounds incredibly anachronistic for 1937, sort of a mixture of Sibelius, early Nielsen, and (in it’s second subject) maybe even Smetana (soun... Continue Reading


Monteverdi: Feisty Madrigals Of Love and War

by David Vernier

Now here is music that easily can benefit (as can its listeners) from multiple recordings and varied interpretive styles. Monteverdi’s expansive, many-faceted collection of madrigals and short theatrical interludes (balli) is by turns lusty and violent, fanciful and stately, lyrical and brash,... Continue Reading


Glass: Orphée–His Operatic Masterpiece?

by Robert Levine

This wonderful work will surprise and please those who have found Philip Glass’ operas slightly too Philip Glassy and will equally please committed fans of the composer. While the arpeggiated repetitions for which he is known are here in abundance, there is great variation. The opera is based ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Erland von Koch Symphonies 3 & 4

by David Hurwitz

Koch

For a composer who lived nearly a hundred years (1910-2009) there have been remarkably few recordings of Swedish master Erland von Koch’s music. Two of the works on this disc, Impulsi and the folk-influenced Nordic Capriccio, have been recorded before, and both are wholly winning. The two symp... Continue Reading

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

by David Hurwitz

Granados2

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


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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


Filling In The Gaps: Berlioz’s Neglected Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

BerliozTedeum

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


Filling In The Gaps: A Ginastera Premiere

by David Hurwitz

Ginastera

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


Filling In The Gaps: Sibelius’ Choral Works

by David Hurwitz

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


Randall Thompson’s Requiem Recalled To Life

by David Vernier

thompsonrequiem

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


Filling In The Gaps: Poulenc for Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

Poulenc

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


Finally, Martinu’s Concerto for Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

Mart2pno

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


Monterverdi’s Marvelous Sacred Music

by David Vernier

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


Filling In The Gaps: Hard Core Fibich For Completists

by David Hurwitz

Fibich

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


Filling In The Gaps: Shostakovich–Two Entertaining Film Scores

by David Hurwitz

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


Dausgaard’s Provocative Beethoven Eighth, And Then Some

by David Hurwitz

Beet8

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


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

by David Hurwitz

HandelParnasso

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


Under The Radar: Dausgaard & Berezovsky’s Estimable Beethoven

by David Hurwitz

BeetDaus

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


Horowitz Charms Chicago In Unreleased 1986 Concert

by Jed Distler

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On balance, this previously unreleased live October 26, 1986 Chicago recital may well be the best of Vladimir Horowitz’s late-period concerts to be officially released. The slightly distant yet decent enough archival broadcast recording shows how well Horowitz stage-managed dynamics, pedal effects... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Sibelius’ Strange Scaramouche

by David Hurwitz

SibScaramouche

Saramouche is, after Kullervo, Sibelius’ largest work in any form, and a strange one it is. Originally the composer thought he had been commissioned to provide a relatively brief suite of dances, only to discover (oops!) that the plan was for him to write a full-length score of continuous musi... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Handel’s Siroe, Reissued

by Robert Levine

Siroe

Handel’s 1728 Siroe was the first opera he set to a libretto by Metastasio (soon to become the leading librettist of the 18th century). It poetically if confusingly concerns the succession to the throne of Persia. King Cosroe (bass-baritone) foolishly opts for his son Medarse (countertenor) be... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: All The Bizet Orchestral Music You Will Ever Need

by David Hurwitz

BizetRoma

Aside from the famous Carmen and L’Arlésienne suites, and other bits from the operas, this disc contains all of the Bizet orchestral music that you will need to fill out your collection. The Marche funèbre began life as an operatic prelude, evidently, but makes a very satisfying and attracti... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Handel at the Opera

by David Vernier

Would that today’s opera houses had a “composer in residence” like Handel. The crowds would flock to the performances just to hear the latest great tunes and irresistibly agreeable orchestral overtures and dances, all so skillfully and ingeniously written to exploit a work’s ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Sibelius’ Marvelous, Too-Little-Known Songs

by David Hurwitz

Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski has never made a more beautiful recording than this. She offers what must be accounted, hands down, as the finest performance of the tone poem Luonnotar currently available. Not only does she pronounce the words more clearly and meaningfully than anyone else, but she e... Continue Reading

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Big Boxes: Archiv Produktion Analogue Stereo Recordings

by Jed Distler

archivanalog

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


Big Boxes: Great Stott!

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Lazar Berman’s Complete Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

bermancompletesony

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


Big Boxes: The Most of Malcolm Arnold

by David Hurwitz

Arnold

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


Big Boxes: Atterberg’s Complete Symphonies

by Victor Carr Jr

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


Previn’s Vaughan Williams Re-Reissued

by Victor Carr Jr

RVWP

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


Landowska’s RCA Bach In A Box

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: DG’s Mono Era

by Jed Distler

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


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

by David Hurwitz

TchaikSvet

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


Big Boxes: Morton Gould’s Chicago Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Gould

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


Big Boxes: Great Chopin Pianists

by Jed Distler

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What an interesting idea, to compile Chopin recordings by all 18 Warsaw International Chopin Competition winners from 1927 (the competition’s first year) up through 2010. Disc 1 presents the first three victors, starting with Lev Oborin (1927). To be frank, I’ve always felt Oborin to be a strong... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Rest of Bernstein’s Universal Legacy

by David Hurwitz

Bernstein2Rite

Bernstein’s Universal boxes have, on the whole, been more intelligently assembled than his Sony legacy. Of course there’s a bit less of it, more tidily organized, but Universal wisely decided to take everything and just stick it into a couple of boxes, whereas Sony divided things up into... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Lovely Anna Moffo Mostly In Her Glory

by Robert Levine

Moffo

The first time I saw La traviata it was the mid-‘60s at the Met and it starred Anna Moffo. Her Alfredo was Barry Morell, a fine tenor with a beautiful voice whose only crime was that he invariably sang flat in duets, and among other things I recall Moffo’s graciousness during those moments: she ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Gulda’s Mozart

by Jed Distler

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Friedrich Gulda’s Mozart recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have been gathered together in this boxed set, along with the pianist’s Decca Mozart material. Five of the ten discs are devoted to a Mozart sonata cycle that Gulda recorded in the early 1980s. The recordings never appeared during Gulda... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Gilels’ Complete DG Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Emil Gilels was the first great Soviet pianist to make an international impact, followed closely by his older contemporary Sviatoslav Richter. Now that the Richter centenary has come and gone, Deutsche Grammophon ushers in Gilels’ 100th birthday year with a complete edition of his recordings for t... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Radu Lupu Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Decca’s “complete” edition of Radu Lupu’s recordings pretty much covers all of the bases. In addition to the pianist’s complete output for the label, this boxed set includes his two EMI Schubert lieder discs with soprano Barbara Hendricks, all of his Sony collaborations with pianist Murray... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Boulez’s Exceptional (First) Ravel Recordings

by David Hurwitz

RavelBoulez

Pierre Boulez remade most of this music for Deutsche Grammophon, and choice between the two series is really difficult. The DG recordings contain the Piano Concerto in G major (twice actually), which he never did for Sony. The latter set, on the other hand, has his only version of the Shéhérazade ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Zacharias’ Second Mozart Concerto Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Previously available on individual discs, Christian Zacharias’ MDG Mozart Piano Concerto cycle has now been assembled in a space-saving, specially priced boxed set. Among recorded Mozart cycles with the soloist conducting from the keyboard, Zacharias’ entry scores higher for all-around consi... Continue Reading


CD Partially From Hell: Backhaus’ Second-Best Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Perlman’s Complete Warner (EMI) Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Perlman

This enormous set contains 77 CDs packed in 59 individual volumes, along with a lavish hardcover book–and by “complete” Warner really means complete. In addition to Perlman’s speaking roles in Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals, you even get his lines as the j... Continue Reading

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