Classics Today Insider

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Rudolf Serkin’s Monumental Hammerklavier Sonata

by Jed Distler

To some pianists, Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata is a monster to tame. Rudolf Serkin treats it as a mighty pillar to surmount. His performance grips you by its extraordinary kinetic drive and linear clarity, especially in the outer movements. The final fugue’s trills, for instance, rar... 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


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


MTT’s First Rite On SACD: Phew!

by David Hurwitz

StravMTT

This is such a great recording of The Rite of Spring. Michael Tilson Thomas has always been a superb Stravinsky conductor, and this performance combines the excitement and enthusiasm of youth with the beauty of sound and sophisticated sonority for which Boston is famous. The result is an unparallele... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Sanderling’s Magnard Symphonies 1 & 3

by David Hurwitz

There’s been a small flurry of recent interest in the music of Albéric Magnard, the finest French symphonist before Tournemire and Roussel. EMI reissued Plasson’s pioneering recordings of all four symphonies (there was one earlier version of the Third conducted by Ansermet that was reis... Continue Reading


Marvelous Magnard From CPO

by Jed Distler

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Since recordings of Albéric Magnard’s hefty 1904 Op. 18 piano trio are few and far between, any new contender is bound to get attention. On balance, violinist Geneviève Laurenceau, cellist Maximilian Hornung, and pianist Oliver Triendl give us the most consistently satisfying version from both s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Cello Music by Magnard, Koechlin & Widor

by Dan Davis

Cellist Mats Lindström and pianist Bengt Forsberg excel in this stimulating exploration of off-the-beaten-path French cello music dating from the years before World War I. The main attraction is the sonata by Magnard, whose strongly profiled music is too rarely heard in concert. The Sonata in A maj... 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


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’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


CD From Hell: Shapeless Chopin From Edna Stern

by Jed Distler

Edna Stern’s shapeless, wishy-washy, rhythmically spineless Chopin playing may aspire to “authenticity”, yet it has little to do with the controlled freedom and internalized sense of timing that bona fide Romantic Chopin pianists as different as Cortot, Rachmaninov, Rosenthal, Mois... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Furtwängler’s Shaky Strauss and Spastic Smetana

by David Hurwitz

Furtwängler’s Moldau simply stinks. The opening is heavy and lumpish, the playing lackluster. He lurches forward for the hunting episode, makes a mess of the rapids, and then speeds up still for the big chorale at the end (sound clip), just the opposite of what Smetana intended. There’s... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Mengelberg Mangles Tchaikovsky

by David Hurwitz

Willem Mengelberg’s freakish and often marginally musical distortions of tempo and balance were conceived at a time when the concept of the “virtuoso conductor” was new, and like many soloists of his day the right of the performer to do as he pleased trumped that of the composer to... Continue Reading


CD From the Ninth Circle of Hell: Barto Batters Brahms

by Jed Distler

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It would take hundreds of thousands of words to categorically describe every scrap of interpretive graffiti, every vulgar expressive gesture, and every affront to the letter and spirit of the composer’s score that Tzimon Barto commits in his recordings of Brahms’ two piano concertos. Christoph E... Continue Reading


Simon Rattle: The Mediocrity Collection

by David Hurwitz

RattleCBSO

Simon Rattle’s years in Birmingham constituted a phenomenon, no doubt about it. As a local hero, he engendered much civic pride and, thanks to a helpful push from that lapdog of nationalist PR, the British press, he and his orchestra rose to international prominence. A few decades and god know... Continue Reading


Stokowski Leads A Rare Historical Horror Show

by David Hurwitz

StokiNY

These “classic” (according to Cala) recordings are easily dispatched: Stokowski leads a thrilling and vibrant Flying Dutchman Overture, a swift and fallibly played (horns!) Messiaen L’Ascension that’s not a patch on his later Phase 4 stereo version (also on Cala), a surprisin... Continue Reading


A Rachmaninov Second Concerto from Hell

by Jed Distler

RachCziff

Little interpretive variation distinguishes Georges Cziffra’s 1969 Grieg Concerto (reissued here) from its EMI predecessor. Both are surprisingly straightforward and uncluttered readings from a pianist who often rode through Romantic repertoire on roller coasters. In 1969 Cziffra played the Gr... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Harnoncourt Gives Bruckner 8 “The Treatment”

by David Hurwitz

This live recording represents Harnoncourt at his Harnoncourtiest. The mannered phrasing of the opening melody doesn’t bode well (sound clip): emphasizing the famous 2+3 “Bruckner” rhythm is all fine and dandy, but when you realize that you’re going to have to endure listenin... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Monteux’s Dreary Westminster Beethoven 9th

by Jed Distler

Beet9Mont

Good news first: the Pierre Monteux Beethoven Ninth receives its clearest and cleanest transfer to date. At least two previous incarnations (the 1970s Westminster LP and MCA Double-Decker CD reissues) reproduced the Scherzo movement a half-tone flat; here it is properly pitched. Now for the bad news... Continue Reading


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

by Jed Distler

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


A Real Salome From Hell

by Robert Levine

Salomegoltz

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


CD From Hell: Abbado’s Very Posthumous Schubert Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Schubert9Abbado

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

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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


Rudolf Serkin’s Monumental Hammerklavier Sonata

by Jed Distler

To some pianists, Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata is a monster to tame. Rudolf Serkin treats it as a mighty pillar to surmount. His performance grips you by its extraordinary kinetic drive and linear clarity, especially in the outer movements. The final fugue’s trills, for instance, rar... 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


MTT’s First Rite On SACD: Phew!

by David Hurwitz

StravMTT

This is such a great recording of The Rite of Spring. Michael Tilson Thomas has always been a superb Stravinsky conductor, and this performance combines the excitement and enthusiasm of youth with the beauty of sound and sophisticated sonority for which Boston is famous. The result is an unparallele... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Munch’s Poulenc Organ Concerto

by David Hurwitz

MunchPoulenc

Charles Munch’s blistering recording of Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani has not been all the easy to find over the years. Originally issued in a coupling with Stravinsky’s Jeu de cartes (even harder to source) it is available in the Japanese Munch Edition, and las... Continue Reading


Great Ginastera, Not From Dudamel

by David Hurwitz

Following up on their superb Villa-Lobos CD, Venezuelan conductor Jan Wagner and his fine Odense orchestra turn their attention to Ginastera, producing at a stroke the single most recommendable introduction to that composer’s orchestral music. Most of the best-known and popular of the composer... Continue Reading


Grieg’s Gorgeous Music for Strings on SACD

by David Hurwitz

Here’s an easy call: these are gorgeous performances of music that you’d have to be either deaf or dead not to love. Yes, there are zillions of performances of the Holberg Suite out there, many of them excellent, but Ruud’s version is so compelling that it simply makes you forget a... Continue Reading


Classic Grieg/Schumann Concertos from Fleisher and Szell

by David Hurwitz

Although the sonics are understandably a bit dated, there is no finer coupling of these two favorite concertos. In the Grieg, Leon Fleisher plays the music with uncommon strength–and without any of that precious fussiness that can make the music sound inappropriately soft-edged. In the outer m... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Pellucid Grieg Violin Sonatas from Amoyal and Chiu

by David Hurwitz

The neglect of these pieces is simply unaccountable. Along with the Brahms violin sonatas, the three of Grieg comprise the largest single contribution to this very difficult but rewarding medium by a major Romantic composer. And they are, one and all, wonderful. The turbulent C minor sonata always h... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Ozawa’s Mother Goose on SACD

by David Hurwitz

Ravel Ozawa

This is a great Ravel disc, and one of the best things about it is what is does not contain: no Boléro, no La Valse, no Rhapsodie espagnole, Pavane, or any other of the most popular pieces. Since you already probably own two or three dozen versions of each of those, you can purchase this […]... Continue Reading


A 2015 Top Ten Selection: Honeck And Pittsburgh’s Beethoven For The Ages

by David Hurwitz

BeetHon

No matter how many billion recordings of this music we already have, a great performance offers its own justification, these are very great performances. In his thoughtful booklet notes, conductor Manfred Honeck reveals his understanding not just of Beethoven, but more importantly for our purposes, ... Continue Reading


A Scarlatti Classic: Igor Kipnis’ Sonata Recital For ex-EMI

by Jed Distler

Are Igor Kipnis and Domenico Scarlatti an item or what? Here are some of the most playful, audacious, poetic, and joyfully virtuosic Scarlatti sonata performances in recorded history, beautifully engineered and dirt cheap to boot. Kipnis studiously avoids sewing-machine metronomics, tailoring agogic... Continue Reading


Beyond Brilliant: Arnold’s English, Scottish, Cornish, & Irish Dances

by David Hurwitz

ArnoldDances

This now-legendary recording of Malcolm Arnold conducting his own delightful English, Scottish, Irish, and Cornish Dances (plus the Sarabande and Polka from the ballet Solitaire) never has been surpassed. Having played these pieces many times in concert, I just want to add that you’d be amazed... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Malcolm Arnold’s Nine Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

ArnoldPenny

This set arguably constitutes the best series of recordings in the Naxos catalog–performances of uniformly high quality made in the presence of the composer and recorded with more realistic balances and cleaner textures than any of their rivals. While all of these readings are first class, hig... Continue Reading


An Early Handel Masterpiece: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo

by Robert Levine

This Italian-language, Neapolitan “cantata a tre” from 1708 bears no resemblance (save for the Aci-and-Galatea-are-in-love-and-the-hideous-Polifemo-loves-Galatea-so-he-kills-Aci aspect of the plot) to the composer’s better-known English-language Acis and Galatea, written 10 years l... Continue Reading


A New Classic Coupling of Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Mass, and Cantata

by David Hurwitz

StravNocesReuss

This exceptional program exactly reproduces one of Karel Ancerl’s most impressive Supraphon recordings, but does so in state-of-the-art sound. Both Ancerl and Daniel Reuss lead a performance of Les Noces (or more properly, Svadebka) as noteworthy for its rhythmic precision and transparency of ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Boult’s Valedictory Gerontius

by David Hurwitz

It’s impossible to write about The Dream of Gerontius with total seriousness, not because the music isn’t great (it certainly is), but because the text is so embarrassingly silly. The “plot” involves the journey of the soul of the title character as he passes from life to dea... 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


Stravinsky’s Three Greek Ballets: Delicious

by David Hurwitz

StravGreek

I can’t think of another conductor I would rather hear in this music than Robert Craft, not just because he is more respectful of the text than just about anyone else, but because he has the confidence and integrity to respect the music’s understated idiom–to suggest rather than an... Continue Reading


Not Since Ancerl: Craft’s Triumphant Oedipus and Noces

by David Hurwitz

StravOedNoce

Robert Craft leads a thrilling performance of Oedipus Rex–incisive, swift, and as mercilessly inevitable as fate itself. From the opening bars, where those spine-chilling runs in the trumpet penetrate the orchestral tutti like screams of horror (sound clip), you can tell that Craft has every d... Continue Reading

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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


Under the Radar: Haydn’s 60th Distracted? Not Under Végh

by David Hurwitz

HaydnVegh

The late conductor Sándor Végh was a marvel. Well known as a leader of the Végh Quartet (whose late Beethoven still claims the title “definitive” for many music lovers), he also was an inspirational teacher and conductor. In this latter capacity he remains little known, save for some ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Kondrashin’s Smokin’ Live Mahler 7th

by David Hurwitz

Kirill Kondrashin was an important, at times great Mahler conductor. He recorded all of the symphonies except Nos. 2 and 8 for Melodiya, and in particular turned in an excellent recording of No. 7 with the storied Leningrad Philharmonic. Kondrashin’s Mahler was truly “Russian” in i... Continue Reading


Karg-Elert’s Pleasantly Arcane Piano/Harmonium Wagner Arrangements

by Jed Distler

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The idea of Wagner opera excerpts arranged for piano and harmonium may sound bizarre to modern-day music lovers. However, it made perfect sense to composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert, whose acquaintance with the Berlin publisher and leading harmonium dealer Carl Simon led him to create a prolific output of ... Continue Reading


SOUVENIR OF A GOLDEN ERA

by Robert Levine

In case you had forgotten that Marilyn Horne was one of the 20th century’s greatest singers, Decca has re-released “Souvenir of a Golden Era”, recorded in 1965. This was during the period when Horne was “converting” to bel canto; she was still singing Marie in Wozzeck o... Continue Reading


Ancerl’s Gut-Wrenching Nevsky

by David Hurwitz

Karel Ancerl’s Alexander Nevsky, like his famous recording of the same composer’s Romeo and Juliet ballet extracts, wrings every drop of emotion from a score that in most hands comes across as merely colorful. The Crusaders in Pskov has a positively expressionistic intensity (sound clip)... Continue Reading


Ancerl’s Bright and Rustic Mahler First

by David Hurwitz

Karel Ancerl’s Mahler First offers many subtle pleasures to connoisseurs of the piece, though it may not appeal to listeners looking for maximum power and brilliance. Still, there are wonderful things here that you won’t find anywhere else, starting at the very beginning with Ancerl̵... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl’s Amazing Stravinsky

by David Hurwitz

AncerlPetrush

There are many reasons why appreciation of Karel Ancerl’s art has been so long in coming, not least of which has been the spotty availability of his recordings. But even more important has been the (welcome) evolution of our definition of what constitutes “greatness” in a conductor... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ancerl in Shostakovich and Bartók Concertos

by Victor Carr Jr

ShostCellAnc

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


Historical Gems: Shostakovich 1 & 5 by Ancerl

by David Hurwitz

Shost5Anc

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


Ancerl’s Pictures: Out-Russianing the Russians

by David Hurwitz

AncerlMussorgsky

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

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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


Reference Recording: Munch’s Poulenc Organ Concerto

by David Hurwitz

MunchPoulenc

Charles Munch’s blistering recording of Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani has not been all the easy to find over the years. Originally issued in a coupling with Stravinsky’s Jeu de cartes (even harder to source) it is available in the Japanese Munch Edition, and las... Continue Reading


Classic Grieg/Schumann Concertos from Fleisher and Szell

by David Hurwitz

Although the sonics are understandably a bit dated, there is no finer coupling of these two favorite concertos. In the Grieg, Leon Fleisher plays the music with uncommon strength–and without any of that precious fussiness that can make the music sound inappropriately soft-edged. In the outer m... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Legendary Tristan with Flagstad, Melchoir & Reiner

by Jed Distler

WagnerReiner

Sonically speaking, there’s little to choose between the Naxos edition of Reiner’s gripping 1936 Covent Garden Tristan and VAI’s 1992 release, both transferred by Ward Marston. I prefer the Naxos edition for four reasons:(1) It lacks the smidgen of added reverb present in the VAI s... Continue Reading


Historic Hungarian Pianists Play Liszt

by Jed Distler

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The pianists featured in this collection of archival Liszt performances culled from Hungaroton’s back catalog share a common Hungarian heritage, yet approach the composer in their own ways. A live 1956 Third Consolation captures the nearly 80-year-old Ernó Dohnányi on great form, spinning out lo... 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


Historical Gems: Albert Sammons’ Proprietary Elgar and Delius

by David Hurwitz

In his notes for this release, Tully Potter makes two of the stupidest remarks that I have ever seen in print. First, he characterizes Menuhin’s 1932 performance of the Elgar concerto (with the composer conducting) as “nicely played, to be sure, but sounding more and more like the work o... Continue Reading


Beecham’s Appalachia: Delius As It Was Meant To Be

by David Hurwitz

Volume Three in Naxos’ series of Beecham’s Delius Society recordings includes a typical mix of items, some unique to this compilation, others available in later (and in this case uniformly better) versions. Beecham eclipsed his sloppy, hasty, dimly recorded 1929 Brigg Fair twice over, in... Continue Reading


Classic Historical Heifetz in Sibelius, Wieniawski, and Tchaikovsky

by Jed Distler

Little can be added to what’s been written over the years about Jascha Heifetz’s supremacy in these works, except to stress that what we have here are his 78 rpm versions of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos. Try to hear his stereo versions first. The stereo remakes with the Chicago... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Mengelberg’s Best Beethoven

by Jed Distler

For this release, Mark Obert-Thorn has gathered all of Mengelberg’s Telefunken Beethoven repertoire for the first time under one roof. In contrast to the new literalism that came to dominate Beethoven performance practice in the 1920s and ’30s, Mengelberg’s subjective, ultra-rhetor... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Mengelberg–The Music Minus One Sessions

by David Hurwitz

When the disgraced Willem Mengelberg, banished in the late 1940s from his position at the helm of the Concertgebouw Orchestra for his association with Hitler’s regime, retired to Switzerland it was feared that his career was over. Indeed, he died only a few short years later. Now, with his mus... Continue Reading


The Best of Beecham’s Early Delius

by David Hurwitz

Naxos’ ongoing survey of Thomas Beecham’s 1930s Delius Society recordings continues with perhaps the most important volume of all, containing as it does what many consider to be the composer’s masterpiece, Sea Drift. More on this anon. Two of the works on this disc, Over the Hills ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Stoki’s Best Debussy?

by Jed Distler

Here are all the Debussy recordings Leopold Stokowski made during his alliance with the Capitol label in the late 1950s. They sounded great on LP, better on EMI’s late-’80s CD reissues, and absolutely breathtaking in this latest incarnation. EMI’s open and airy new transfers transp... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Great Mitropoulos Collection

by Dan Davis

Here’s a set that shows Dimitri Mitropoulos at his considerable best in music that plays to his strengths. He charges it with a nervous tension that can be overwhelming, but he also controls long musical spans and makes easeful transitions. He’s reminiscent of Furtwängler, a conductor h... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Michelangeli Unbuttons His Tux for Grieg

by Jed Distler

GriegpcMich

Some of the few concerts Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli didn’t cancel took place in London, and were broadcast by the BBC. This 1965 Grieg Concerto briefly circulated on a Rococo LP, which sounds nowhere near as vibrant and impactive as BBC’s remastering, odd balances and all. In essence ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Bouquet of Flowers from Martinu and Ancerl

by David Hurwitz

Careful remastering has opened up the top of these two classic performances, putting them across with newfound vividness and immediacy. This is true even of the mono recording of Martinu’s little-known masterpiece, Bouquet of Flowers, a sort of Czech answer to Stravinsky’s Les Noces. At ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shostakovich plays Shostakovich

by Dan Davis

ShostplaysShost

Here’s an instance in which a “great recording of the century” isn’t. While this is a pretty good disc, its prime worth lies in hearing one of the great composers of the 20th century perform his own music, although only the selections from his Preludes and Fugues qualify as p... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Victoria de los Angeles is Manon

by Dan Davis

MassManon

In Act 2, Manon, reading the letter her lover Des Grieux is writing to his father, sings the line, “nulle voix n’a plus de doux accents” (“no voice has a sweeter sound”). It wouldn’t surprise me if Victoria de los Angeles blushed while singing it, for she’s ... Continue Reading

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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


Major Discoveries: Sanderling’s Magnard Symphonies 1 & 3

by David Hurwitz

There’s been a small flurry of recent interest in the music of Albéric Magnard, the finest French symphonist before Tournemire and Roussel. EMI reissued Plasson’s pioneering recordings of all four symphonies (there was one earlier version of the Third conducted by Ansermet that was reis... Continue Reading


Marvelous Magnard From CPO

by Jed Distler

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Since recordings of Albéric Magnard’s hefty 1904 Op. 18 piano trio are few and far between, any new contender is bound to get attention. On balance, violinist Geneviève Laurenceau, cellist Maximilian Hornung, and pianist Oliver Triendl give us the most consistently satisfying version from both s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Cello Music by Magnard, Koechlin & Widor

by Dan Davis

Cellist Mats Lindström and pianist Bengt Forsberg excel in this stimulating exploration of off-the-beaten-path French cello music dating from the years before World War I. The main attraction is the sonata by Magnard, whose strongly profiled music is too rarely heard in concert. The Sonata in A maj... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Schmitt’s Decadent Antoine et Cléopâtre

by David Hurwitz

Schmitt

It may be pseudo-oriental fluff, but it’s opulent, decadent pseudo-oriental fluff. Schmitt’s two suites from Anthony and Cleopatra date from 1920, and if you like his ballet/symphonic poem The Tragedy of Salome then you’ll love this, and know just what to expect. There’s an a... Continue Reading


Antheil’s Characterful Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6

by Victor Carr Jr

Antheil

George Antheil’s 1923 Symphony No. 1 comes as a surprise after hearing his No.4 and No. 6 on Naxos. This is a far more personal, varied and moving composition than the later works. Antheil began composing the work while studying with Ernest Bloch (whose music is sometimes resembles), and thoug... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martucci’s Unjustly Obscure Piano Trios

by Jed Distler

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In an era when Italian composers tended to gravitate toward opera, the works of Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909) are thoroughly marked by German Romanticism. The passionate dynamic surges and skillfully-honed contrapuntal writing characterizing the Second Trio’s opening movement are brilliantly cut f... Continue Reading


A 2015 Top Ten Selection: Chaplin’s Stupendous Score to Modern Times

by David Hurwitz

ModTimes

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


A 2015 Top Ten Selection: Emmanuel’s Glittering Sonatinas

by David Hurwitz

Emmanuel

Maurice Emmanuel (1862-1938) is a composer of great originality and importance, and more to the point, great quality. A noted musicologist, expert on the music of ancient Greece, teacher of Dutilleux and Messiaen (among others), he composed approximately 75 works but destroyed (or disowned) all but ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Antheil’s Infamous Ballet Mécanique

by David Hurwitz

George Antheil’s infamous Ballet Mécanique exists in (basically) three versions, the first of which (for lots of synchronized mechanical pianos and percussion) has only recently been premiered and recorded for the first time by the UMass Lowell Percussion Ensemble. The version that scandalize... Continue Reading


An Early Handel Masterpiece: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo

by Robert Levine

This Italian-language, Neapolitan “cantata a tre” from 1708 bears no resemblance (save for the Aci-and-Galatea-are-in-love-and-the-hideous-Polifemo-loves-Galatea-so-he-kills-Aci aspect of the plot) to the composer’s better-known English-language Acis and Galatea, written 10 years l... Continue Reading


Superhuman Piau Plows Through Handel’s Opera Seria Arias

by David Vernier

This arguably is the best Handel aria recording ever made by a soprano, and that’s acknowledging the fine efforts of singers such as Emma Kirkby and Renée Fleming, whose traversals of similar territory simply pale by comparison to the scintillating, virtuoso vocalism of Sandrine Piau. Beginni... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Piau’s Fast & Furious Handel

by David Vernier

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French soprano Sandrine Piau is a singer with formidable technique and exceptional musical sensibility. She’s proven this on many previous recordings, but if you’re in doubt, just listen to the way she dispatches the insanely fast roulades in the opening aria “Disserratevi, o porte... Continue Reading


Emma Kirkby Sings Glorious Handel Sacred Cantatas

by David Vernier

Emma Kirkby always has been an excellent Handel singer, from her two 1985 recordings–Italian Cantatas with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music (L’Oiseau Lyre) and German Arias with Charles Medlam and the London Baroque (EMI)–and 1987’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo... Continue Reading


KIRKBY’S HANDEL–OPERA ARIAS & OVERTURES VOL. 2

by David Vernier

The anticipation builds during the introduction to Emma Kirkby’s entrance on this program of music from Handel’s “later” operas. (Kirkby already covered the earlier ones on two previous Hyperion issues.) In fact, the first track is a six-minute-long overture–to an opera... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gerhard’s Densely Glittering Concerto for Orchestra

by David Hurwitz

Most classical music listeners tend to shy away from music that falls into the category of “atonal”. This isn’t surprising. Most atonal music is horrible. There’s lots of horrible tonal music too, of course, but usually you can sleep through it undisturbed, and therein lies t... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Lilburn’s Three Fine Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Lilburn

The New Zealand players ought to know this fine music, and it doesn’t take long for them to convince you that they certainly do. New Zealander Douglas Lilburn, who died in 2001 in his mid-80s, wrote only three symphonies (between 1949 and 1961). The first two have been compared to Sibelius, bu... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Leifs’ “Choreographic Drama” Baldr

by David Hurwitz

Baldr is Jon Leifs’ richest and longest single work, and like most of his larger pieces he never heard it performed. Its two acts last about 90 minutes, and fans of this expert at composing musical natural disasters will be delighted to learn that it contains both a hurricane and a volcanic er... Continue Reading


Who Is That Soprano? Lucy Crowe’s Dynamite Handel Recital

by David Vernier

Who is that soprano?; Oh! it’s Lucy Crowe! That little dialogue with myself must have occurred four or five times over the past year as I listened to new recordings of vocal works with various soloists. Whether she’s singing with Sarah Connolly, Carolyn Sampson, Jennifer Larmore, Gerald ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Joly Braga Santos’ Third Symphony

by David Hurwitz

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The Third Symphony of Portuguese composer Joly Braga Santos bears a striking resemblance to the Third Symphony of Vaughan Williams, both in overall structure (scherzo in third place) as well as harmony and even scoring. Compare, for example, the trios of the two scherzos (sound clips); it’s ki... Continue Reading

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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


Filling in the Gaps: Johann Müthel’s Keyboard Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Muthelbis

Johann Müthel (1728-88) was one of J.S. Bach’s last pupils. He was friendly with C.P.E. and spent the best part of his career as organist at St. Peter’s in Riga, Latvia. He was highly regarded as a composer, although his output is very small, and very serious. He only wrote when the spi... Continue Reading


Siegfried Wagner: Sonnenflammen, Sound and Fury Signifying…?

by Robert Levine

Here is yet another of Siegfried Wagner’s 14 operas, the eighth, completed in 1912. It takes place at the Byzantine court in the 13th century, and there are Crusaders on the march, one of whom is not our anti-hero, Fridolin, who would rather hang around the court and woo Iris, who in fact woul... Continue Reading


Siegfried Wagner: Die heilige Linde, For the Converted

by Robert Levine

Philo, a favorite of the Roman emperor and a wily manipulator and troublemaker, flatters and seemingly befriends the nearby Germanic ruler Abrogast. Despite the warnings of the local wise-man Ekhart, Abrogast allows the town’s holy linden tree (Die heilige Linde), a symbol of good luck, to be ... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Everyone Needs Gabrieli

by David Hurwitz

Gabrielli

Back in the 1960s, Columbia Records made what for many remains the ultimate brass disc, works of Gabrieli using the combined sections of the Cleveland, Chicago, and Philadelphia orchestras. This production aims to surpass that one, and while comparisons really are invidious, let’s just say tha... Continue Reading


Ravel’s Quartet Expanded: Yes!

by David Hurwitz

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been curious as to how the Ravel quartet would sound as played by a string orchestra, particularly its finale, which really cries out for more volume and weight of tone than a mere four players can provide. Thanks to Rudolf Barshai we have the cha... Continue Reading


SOUVENIR OF A GOLDEN ERA

by Robert Levine

In case you had forgotten that Marilyn Horne was one of the 20th century’s greatest singers, Decca has re-released “Souvenir of a Golden Era”, recorded in 1965. This was during the period when Horne was “converting” to bel canto; she was still singing Marie in Wozzeck o... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Gaîté Parisienne–An Original Cast Recording

by David Hurwitz

OffenRosen

Everyone knows Offenbach’s famous “Cancan” from the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, but how many casual listeners have heard it in its original version, as a chorus of demons(!) in Hades? In fact, the version best known is this one, as arranged for the ballet Gaîté Parisienne... Continue Reading


Now on Naxos: Two Classic Arnold Film Scores

by David Hurwitz

ArnoldCopp

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


Filling in the Gaps: Strauss’ Dodgy Friedenstag

by Robert Levine

Friedenstag

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


Super Strauss for Chamber Orchestra

by Joseph Stevenson

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


Major Discoveries: Star-Spangled Vieuxtemps for Violin and Orchestra

by Dan Davis

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

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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


Big Boxes: Decca’s Complete Clifford Curzon Edition

by Jed Distler

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Between 2003 and 2007 Decca released nearly all of Clifford Curzon’s commercial recordings in four boxed sets. Those who missed these Original Masters series reissues on CD (they’re still available as digital downloads) will welcome this first truly complete Decca Curzon edition. The “new” m... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Boulez’s Complete Columbia Collection

by David Hurwitz

Boulez

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


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


Big Boxes: Ormandy’s Almost Complete Sibelius

by David Hurwitz

OrmandySib

Why is it that BMG/Sony or whatever they are called this week seems to fear mono–the engineering that is, not the disease? This box includes all of Ormandy’s stereo Sibelius recordings except the Violin Concerto with Oistrakh (you get Stern instead). His mono Columbia recordings of Symph... Continue Reading


Horowitz Live and Unedited, Warts and All

by Jed Distler

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In 2013 Sony/BMG released a massive boxed set encompassing unedited and painstakingly restored Vladimir Horowitz Carnegie Hall concerts. The label’s follow-up project, Vladimir Horowitz: Unreleased Live Recordings 1966-1983, offers 50 CDs containing nearly every non-Carnegie Hall Horowitz concert ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Patchy Sibelius Edition

by David Hurwitz

SibeliusEdition

I never thought I’d live to see the day when Deutsche Grammophon, the Holy Grail of classical record labels, would license content from that budget-priced upstart Naxos, but here it is: Jorma Panula’s relatively plain-Jane version of the Kullervo Symphony, sneakily included among Bernste... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Glenn Gould’s Complete (ish) Columbia Discography Remastered

by Jed Distler

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Given the endless procession of Glenn Gould reissues throughout the CD era, cynical collectors and critics might look askance at Sony/BMG’s Glenn Gould Remastered: The Complete Columbia Album Collection. I mean, haven’t we had our fill of Glenn Gould Big Boxes? Consider 2007’s “The Complete ... Continue Reading


A Big Box Of Historical Sibelius–Some Good, Lots Bad

by David Hurwitz

SibeliusHistorical

Most of this material has been released many times previously, including on Naxos Historical (reviewed for Insider) and other labels. It demonstrates pretty conclusively that “historical” does not necessarily mean “good”. The performances of Robert Kajanus, in particular, run... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Argerich Complete DG Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Between 2008 and 2014 Universal Classics reissued nearly all of Martha Argerich’s Deutsche Grammophon recordings in a series of boxed sets, largely according to genre (solo, chamber, duo, concerto, and so forth). There also was a box containing her output for the Philips label and another devoted ... Continue Reading


Simon Rattle: The Mediocrity Collection

by David Hurwitz

RattleCBSO

Simon Rattle’s years in Birmingham constituted a phenomenon, no doubt about it. As a local hero, he engendered much civic pride and, thanks to a helpful push from that lapdog of nationalist PR, the British press, he and his orchestra rose to international prominence. A few decades and god know... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Stephen Kovacevich’s Complete Philips Recordings

by Jed Distler

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The 21-year-old Stephen Kovacevich first attracted serious attention in 1961 with a debut recital at London’s Wigmore Hall that included Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Seven years later he launched a fruitful 15-year association with Philips. Kovacevich’s entire output for the label is gathe... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Great Martinon on EMI and Erato

by David Hurwitz

Martinon

This splendid box contains all of Jean Martinon’s late recordings for EMI and Erato (now collectively Warner Classics) made between 1968-’75–with one exception noted below. Unlike recent “original jacket” releases, with their often short playing times spreading over num... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Michelangeli’s Ambiguously “Complete” Warner Recordings

by Jed Distler

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I preface this review of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s “Complete Warner Recordings” with discographical housekeeping that may benefit collectors. Discs 1 through 5 contain all of the recordings under Michelangeli’s name issued by EMI and its subsidiary labels. These include the Galuppi B-f... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Horowitz in Original Jackets

by Jed Distler

Horowitz

Finally–a comprehensive and consistently organized collection that encompasses all of Vladimir Horowitz’s RCA, Columbia Masterworks, and Sony Classical recordings, many of which I’ve covered in various states of reissue for Classicstoday.com. In terms of cover art and programming, ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Markevitch’s DG Legacy, In Part

by David Hurwitz

Markevitch

Igor Markevitch was a remarkable conductor: stylish, unsentimental, and a true “servant of the score” as befits a composer with his particular leanings. He was marvelous in music of the classical period and always could be counted on to highlight the “classical” side of Roman... Continue Reading

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