Classics Today Insider

Big Boxes: Ansermet’s Rousing Russian Collection

by David Hurwitz

For all the grotty playing and occasionally screechy sonics, there’s something very endearing about this set. Ansermet really was a terrific conductor. He could be quirky, both on the quick side (Autumn from Glazunov’s The Seasons) and the slow (Stravinsky’s two Suites for Small Or... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Tamberg Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Estonian composer Eino Tamberg (b. 1930) is the real deal–a composer with a fresh take on traditional tonal music who knows how to write tunes and score them with unfailing color and point. His Concerto Grosso–for flute, trumpet, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, piano, harp, strings, a... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Rozhdestvensky Mummifies Stravinsky

by David Hurwitz

These two discs capture some of the most terrible Stravinsky performances ever recorded, in equally bad sound. The London Symphony Orchestra can (and has) played all of this music superbly for other conductors, so blame for this fiasco rests squarely with Rozhdestvensky. The iconic moment here must ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Kubelik Complete on EMI/Warner

by David Hurwitz

Rafael Kubelik’s recorded legacy for EMI represents a hodge-podge of miscellaneous recordings dating from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. It is not remotely comparable to his later efforts for DG, and to some extent he finds himself at the mercy of the iffy ensemble quality that blighted mo... Continue Reading


“Original??” Strauss from Maazel and Vienna

by David Hurwitz

Lorin Maazel recorded Strauss multiple times on multiple labels with multiple orchestras. Just why remains a mystery. Not many conductors had the opportunity to do both the Sinfonia domestica and Macbeth more than once, and it’s impossible to understand why any sane collector would want to own... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

by David Hurwitz

Does the last line of Dryden’s Ode for St. Ceclia’s Day make any sense at all? “The dead shall live, the living die, and music shall untune the sky.” Yeah, right. How about, “and all shall have a slice of pie?” Or maybe, “and none shall know the reason why?&... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Anastasia Voltchok’s (mostly) Grim Goldbergs

by Jed Distler

The puff piece in the form of an introductory booklet note accompanying Anastasia Voltchok’s Bach Goldberg Variations lauds the pianist for boldly choosing to record the work by playing it twice through in a single day, and allowing herself to be guided by the spirit of the moment. We’re told th... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: APR’s Arthur de Greef Collection

by Jed Distler

The Belgian pianist Arthur de Greef (1862-1940) made his mark as a Liszt pupil, although he also studied with Saint-Saëns and was a close associate of Grieg. As avid collectors of historic piano discs know, de Greef left authoritative recordings of works by these three composers, and much more. APR... Continue Reading


Florian Uhlig’s “Completer Than Complete” Ravel Cycle

by Jed Distler

Florian Uhlig’s Ravel cycle is “completer than complete”, so to speak. It contains all of the surviving solo piano works, the Symphonic Fragments from Daphnis et Chloé in what appears to be only the second commercial recording of Ravel’s piano arrangement, plus the composer’s familiar La ... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Complete Decca Cleveland Recordings

by David Hurwitz

It would of course have been too much to ask Decca to simply release the complete Maazel recordings. They already blew that opportunity by issuing a randomly assembled Vienna box. At least we have this complete edition of Maazel’s Cleveland performances. Since he recorded everything for everyo... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Smart Bartók From Falletta

by David Hurwitz

Here’s a fine way to plug a hole in your Bartók collection. Kossuth is a big, fat Straussian symphonic poem (eight horns and all that) lasting about twenty minutes. It has all of the German composer’s fabled opulence of sonority, but lacks memorable tunes. Still, it gets the job done, a... Continue Reading


Reznicek’s Conflicted Symphonies 3 & 4

by David Hurwitz

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek had a very conflicted relationship with the German symphonic legacy. His First Symphony, subtitled “Tragic,” is anything but. The Second, the “Ironic,” is arguably too cute for its own good. The Fifth is a suite of dances orchestrated from piano ori... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Howard Karp–A Musician’s Musician in Concert

by Jed Distler

Many great American pianists have been attracted to academia, where they can sustain their artistry away from the proverbial big time and nurture young talents along the way. They wind up known and respected but rarely famous, and tend to be musicians’ musicians. A good example is Howard Karp,... Continue Reading


Bavouzet’s Otherwise Excellent Haydn Concertos

by David Hurwitz

A couple of years ago this release would have made an easy reference recording. Bavouzet’s Haydn thus far has been excellent, and his playing on this disc is extremely fine: tasteful in its sustained lyricism in the adagios, and brilliant in the outer movements. Indeed the finales are, if anyt... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Hamelin, Labadie Team Up In Sensational Haydn

by David Hurwitz

On this astonishing disc Marc-André Hamelin demonstrates conclusively that a modern piano can do anything a fortepiano can in music of the classical period, while still retaining its superiority in dynamic range, sonority, and the ability to spin out a true, singing legato in the slow movements. Ha... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dohnányi’s Unbeaten Firebird

by David Hurwitz

On balance, this is the finest complete Firebird on disc. It’s also a tribute to a conductor who’s often taken for granted. Christoph von Dohnányi demonstrates his mastery of this score on every page, not least in his ability to get the Vienna Philharmonic to preserve all of its storied... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Dohnányi Smokes in Petrushka, Mandarin

by David Hurwitz

Christoph von Dohnányi’s Vienna Philharmonic recordings of Stravinsky and Bartók were outstanding not just as interpretations in and of themselves, but in the way in which the conductor got the Vienna players to achieve such idiomatic results in music not normally associated with them. To be... Continue Reading


Handel: Sanguine, Melancholy, Supernal

by David Vernier

You probably haven’t ever heard this extraordinary bit of Handelian theatre, a sort of cross between ode and oratorio. Apparently—and inexplicably—it’s only had one new recording in more than a decade, until this captivating newcomer, whose presence all but eliminates the need for th... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Abbado’s Complete RCA and Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

Packaged in original jacket facsimiles, Sony/BMG’s complete collection of Claudio Abbado’s RCA and Sony recordings comes as no surprise in the wake of the conductor’s death in January 2014. It also offers no real artistic revelations, for Abbado was nothing if not consistent throug... Continue Reading


Koroliov’s Chopin Mazurkas: Diversified Dramas

by Jed Distler

A little less than half of Chopin’s complete surviving Mazurkas make up this 2009 release, ordered not according to opus number but for the purpose of an effective program that can sustain one’s interest for 80 minutes. The Mazurkas hold up under many different interpretive game plans, from Igna... Continue Reading


Sultry, Sexy Alisa Weilerstein; Oh, And She Plays the Cello

by David Hurwitz

Alisa Weilerstein is an exceptionally talented cellist whose promotion by Decca is just plain embarrassing. There she is, in her strapless gown, roaming the presumably Bohemian forests, inviting us with sultry gaze to listen to her make love to the Dvorák Cello Concerto. It’s rather tawdry. A... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Rozhdestvensky Mummifies Stravinsky

by David Hurwitz

These two discs capture some of the most terrible Stravinsky performances ever recorded, in equally bad sound. The London Symphony Orchestra can (and has) played all of this music superbly for other conductors, so blame for this fiasco rests squarely with Rozhdestvensky. The iconic moment here must ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Anastasia Voltchok’s (mostly) Grim Goldbergs

by Jed Distler

The puff piece in the form of an introductory booklet note accompanying Anastasia Voltchok’s Bach Goldberg Variations lauds the pianist for boldly choosing to record the work by playing it twice through in a single day, and allowing herself to be guided by the spirit of the moment. We’re told th... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Schoonderwoerd’s Mindless Beethoven Massacre

by David Hurwitz

The great Donald Francis Tovey summarized everything that is wrong with this absurd set of performances when he said, “Scholarship itself is not obliged to insist on the restoration of conditions that ought never to have existed.” Pianist Arthur Schoonderwoerd pretends to be an expert on... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dohnányi’s Miserable Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

Christoph von Dohnányi once ruefully observed of his tenure in Cleveland, “We give a great concert and George Szell gets the credit.” It’s easy to sympathize, for the orchestra gave many great concerts under Dohnányi, and equalled and surpassed Szell in much of the standard reper... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Ticciati Commits Suicide By Schumann

by David Hurwitz

There’s so much bad Schumann around, but I have to say that I’m shocked to have to include Robin Ticciati, normally such a fine musician, among the ever-growing crowd of Schumann misfits. Everything, and I mean everything, about these performances is bad. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra p... Continue Reading


CD from Hell: Thielemann Kills The “Rhenish”

by David Hurwitz

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many listeners new to classical music wonder what we critics are up to when we start complaining about a new recording. After all, the standard of performance today is very high. Most interpretations of repertory staples are at least competent, and few if any ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Thielemann’s Horripilating Schumann 1 & 4

by David Hurwitz

Before signing a recording contract, performers should be forced to take a modified form of the Hippocratic oath, specifically the part that states, “First do no harm.” With this latest atrocity, and despite a promising start with the Second Symphony, Christian Thielemann (the self-style... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Marriner’s Roman Decline and Fall

by David Hurwitz

This utterly pointless, unspeakably vile recording of Respighi’s Roman Trilogy isn’t quite as stupid as it looks. Marriner released a lot of Respighi for EMI and Philips, and much of it was excellent. But there’s a big difference between cute, neoclassical charmers for chamber orch... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Furtwängler’s Filched Beethoven Cycle

by David Hurwitz

Frankly, it’s impossible to tell whether many of the Furtwängler issues available today are authorized or pirated, and I suppose it no longer really matters. What is certain, however, is that these performances were filched from various issues by DG, EMI, and Tahra, and this reissue, while ch... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: A Bruckner Third To Die–Period

by David Hurwitz

This is the most spiritual recording of Bruckner’s Third you will ever hear. I guarantee that the experience of listening must be the closest thing on this mortal orb to enduring an eternity in purgatory. The version is Bruckner’s original one of 1873, and the performance lasts 89 excruc... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: A Perfect Fool of a Planets

by David Hurwitz

The blurb on the tray card says it all: “Of the many recordings of Holst’s brilliantly orchestrated showpiece, this provides a particularly devastating combination of players, conductor, acoustic, and recording technique.” You said it baby: “devastating” is the word. At... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Oundjian’s Rubenesque Sheherazade

by David Hurwitz

The justification for this disc is incomprehensible. It’s only fort-five minutes long—there is no coupling. Not that you’d want one. This is an utterly forgettable performance. From the flabby, or shall we say “Rubenesque” portrait of the heroine herself at the start from first violinist J... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Postnikova’s Plodding Tchaikovsky Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Listening to this dreary set brings to mind the story of the elderly couple in Miami leaving a restaurant after the “early bird special.” The woman asks her husband, “How was the food?” “Terrible,” he replies. “Yes,” she agrees, “and such small p... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Grotesque Debussy and Ravel for Organ

by David Hurwitz

Debussy and Ravel wrote nothing for organ, and with good reason. Their music, which depends almost entirely on color, texture, and rhythm, and in any event tends to avoid counterpoint, is completely unsuited to the instrument. Gunnar Idenstam argues that he has chosen to play this recital of his own... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Harold’s Italian Passport Revoked

by David Hurwitz

What can even a fine conductor do with a bad orchestra in an acoustically lousy room? Leonard Slatkin has had my admiration for decades, but the series of recordings that he has made in Lyon have been almost uniformly disappointing. Here he’s recording French music with a French orchestra that... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Abbado’s First Berlin Beethoven Cycle

by Victor Carr Jr

During his tenure in Berlin, Abbado replaced more than 80 members of the orchestra, virtually eradicating all traces of Karajan’s particular musical personality (while still pursuing his goal of a super-refined ensemble sound). Abbado also uses the Barenreiter edition, featuring Jonathan Del M... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Welser-Möst’s Disaster in the Alps

by David Hurwitz

Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony is many things: huge, glitzy, tuneful, maybe a bit tacky, bombastic, and long-winded, but the one thing it must not be is boring. Believe it or not, this is Welser-Möst’s second recording of the work. His first, for EMI with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra ... Continue Reading


Carmen From Hell

by Robert Levine

This is an enormously frustrating set. The best thing about it is prime Jon Vickers (1969), offering a José that is beautifully sung and acted, from a menacing fff–he’ll scare you to death in Act 4–to ppp. The end of the Flower Song is ravishing, as is the entire duet with Micaela... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Collins Mangles Sibelius, Pt. 1

by David Hurwitz

If “legendary” can be used to suggest “famously great”, then perhaps the correct term to describe the quality of these performances should be “mythical”. It may be that some older listeners imprinted on them, and there are always listeners faithful to the notion t... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Collins Mangles Sibelius, Pt. 2

by David Hurwitz

Like the first pair of Eloquence discs containing Symphonies Nos. 1-4, these mid-1950s performances are mediocre and irrelevant, compromised by Anthony Collins’ lack of distinctive insights (other than basically correct tempos) and the orchestra’s often miserable response. Most awful is ... Continue Reading

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“Original??” Strauss from Maazel and Vienna

by David Hurwitz

Lorin Maazel recorded Strauss multiple times on multiple labels with multiple orchestras. Just why remains a mystery. Not many conductors had the opportunity to do both the Sinfonia domestica and Macbeth more than once, and it’s impossible to understand why any sane collector would want to own... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

by David Hurwitz

Does the last line of Dryden’s Ode for St. Ceclia’s Day make any sense at all? “The dead shall live, the living die, and music shall untune the sky.” Yeah, right. How about, “and all shall have a slice of pie?” Or maybe, “and none shall know the reason why?&... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Hamelin, Labadie Team Up In Sensational Haydn

by David Hurwitz

On this astonishing disc Marc-André Hamelin demonstrates conclusively that a modern piano can do anything a fortepiano can in music of the classical period, while still retaining its superiority in dynamic range, sonority, and the ability to spin out a true, singing legato in the slow movements. Ha... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dohnányi’s Unbeaten Firebird

by David Hurwitz

On balance, this is the finest complete Firebird on disc. It’s also a tribute to a conductor who’s often taken for granted. Christoph von Dohnányi demonstrates his mastery of this score on every page, not least in his ability to get the Vienna Philharmonic to preserve all of its storied... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Dohnányi Smokes in Petrushka, Mandarin

by David Hurwitz

Christoph von Dohnányi’s Vienna Philharmonic recordings of Stravinsky and Bartók were outstanding not just as interpretations in and of themselves, but in the way in which the conductor got the Vienna players to achieve such idiomatic results in music not normally associated with them. To be... Continue Reading


Handel: Sanguine, Melancholy, Supernal

by David Vernier

You probably haven’t ever heard this extraordinary bit of Handelian theatre, a sort of cross between ode and oratorio. Apparently—and inexplicably—it’s only had one new recording in more than a decade, until this captivating newcomer, whose presence all but eliminates the need for th... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Is The Creation Hogwood’s Finest Performance?

by David Hurwitz

This extraordinary recording of Haydn’s The Creation may just be Christopher Hogwood’s best release of anything. It will come as a shock to anyone who knows, and has been disappointed by, his anemic interpretations of the symphonies. Haydn intended The Creation to be performed by vast fo... Continue Reading


Hogwood Aces Gade Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7

by David Hurwitz

Christopher Hogwood’s recording of Niels Gade’s Fourth Symphony originally appeared in tandem with music by another composer, but so successfully does he realize Gade’s particular mixture of neo-classical and conservative Romantic elements that it’s no surprise that Chandos o... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gade Symphonies 3 & 6 from Hogwood

by David Hurwitz

Niels Gade may not have been a particularly original personality, but his music is well made and though conservative, gives hints of more interesting things to come. For example, both the relaxed third movement of his Third Symphony and its rugged counterpart in the Sixth strikingly anticipate the &... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gade Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5

by David Hurwitz

This excellent disc completes Christopher Hogwood’s sterling Niels Gade symphony cycle on a high note. In fact, these are Gade’s two most interesting symphonies. The First has a “Nordic” cut to its themes that the composer largely abandoned in later works, and the scoring of ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Karajan’s Cosmic Bruckner Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

Bruckner’s Te Deum is a very special and compelling choral work. Even if you don’t like the symphonies, you’ll probably like this. It sounds, as often as not, like a giant Gregorian chant for chorus, orchestra, and organ (marked ad lib. but absolutely essential), and has a primal q... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: RCA’s Walton Collection

by David Hurwitz

The album title for this two CD set, “Sir William Walton: Collected Works,” is odd. Yes, the music is by Walton, and the works are “collected,” but there’s no pretense to completeness, obviously. What you get is a set containing the First Symphony and the four concertan... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Nielsen Symphonies Plus Maskarade

by David Hurwitz

Herbert Blomstedt’s San Francisco recordings of the complete Nielsen symphonies remain a reference edition. There are no weak links; the performances are consistently superb. I suppose we could ask for a crazier snare drum cadenza in the first movement of the Fifth, but this is still awfully g... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Re-Release of Excellent Monteverdi L’Orfeo

by Robert Levine

It’s wonderful to have this recording readily available again (a few copies of the previous issue are still available for almost $80.00). Since its appearance in 1974 (when it was one of only three or four Historically Informed Performances on disc) there have been a dozen other versions–som... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Baker’s Dido Gets Laid (in Earth)

by David Hurwitz

There have been plenty of fine recordings of Purcell’s gem of an opera Dido and Aeneas, but let’s face it, the work hangs on the character of Dido, and no one, but no one, had the vocal artistry to portray noble suffering like Janet Baker. It was her specialty, and Dido was one of her [&... Continue Reading


The Artful Fugue

by David Vernier

One of the advantages of performing The Art of Fugue on the organ is the sheer variety of colors available for the various voices, and the ability to use this opportunity to both highlight important thematic material and enliven and enrich the textural effects throughout what can be a rather tedious... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Muti’s Terrifying Prokofiev Third

by David Hurwitz

Prokofiev’s Third Symphony, based on music from his expressionistic opera The Fiery Angel, is the best score never written for a horror film. The scherzo, in particular, has a ghastly, slithery quality that’s absolutely unforgettable, particularly in this performance where those fabulous... Continue Reading


The “Best” Callas Norma, Refurbished

by Robert Levine

With more than a dozen separate performances of Norma starring Maria Callas to choose from, recorded between 1949 and 1965 (including two for EMI; the others all “private”), what’s a person to do? Since it’s absolutely necessary for every fan of great singing and/or this opera to own at leas... Continue Reading


A Reference Ballo From La Scala, 1975

by Robert Levine

This live, 1975 performance from La Scala may seem an odd choice for a reference recording, but it captures one of those remarkable moments when all soloists, and even a relatively underpowered conductor, were in their primes and decided to live their characters. There has been no dearth of Ballo re... Continue Reading


Ormandy Owns the “Classical” Symphony

by David Hurwitz

There are some recordings that should never go out of print. This is one of them. Naturally, it’s out of print, but not too hard to find used at super cheap prices as of the time of writing (8/14). Everyone records the “Classical” Symphony, but not everyone does it with such perfec... Continue Reading

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Under The Radar: Howard Karp–A Musician’s Musician in Concert

by Jed Distler

Many great American pianists have been attracted to academia, where they can sustain their artistry away from the proverbial big time and nurture young talents along the way. They wind up known and respected but rarely famous, and tend to be musicians’ musicians. A good example is Howard Karp,... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dohnányi’s Unbeaten Firebird

by David Hurwitz

On balance, this is the finest complete Firebird on disc. It’s also a tribute to a conductor who’s often taken for granted. Christoph von Dohnányi demonstrates his mastery of this score on every page, not least in his ability to get the Vienna Philharmonic to preserve all of its storied... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Dohnányi Smokes in Petrushka, Mandarin

by David Hurwitz

Christoph von Dohnányi’s Vienna Philharmonic recordings of Stravinsky and Bartók were outstanding not just as interpretations in and of themselves, but in the way in which the conductor got the Vienna players to achieve such idiomatic results in music not normally associated with them. To be... Continue Reading


Handel: Sanguine, Melancholy, Supernal

by David Vernier

You probably haven’t ever heard this extraordinary bit of Handelian theatre, a sort of cross between ode and oratorio. Apparently—and inexplicably—it’s only had one new recording in more than a decade, until this captivating newcomer, whose presence all but eliminates the need for th... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Dohnányi’s Vibrant Schumann

by David Hurwitz

There are simply dozens of Schumann cycles around; I only keep my top ten or fifteen on hand. The rest sit in the “overflow” stock my parent’s barn, where I can access them on weekends. Try as we might to keep track of them all, it’s just impossible, and I have to confess tha... Continue Reading


Janina Fialkowska’s Distinctive Chopin Mazurkas

by Jed Distler

Janina Fialkowska’s 2008 and 2011 all-Chopin recital discs for Atma Classique included a total of seven Mazurkas in highly distinctive and original interpretations that boded well for a comprehensive Mazurka survey. Sure enough, my prayers were answered when Fialkowska recorded the cycle in 2012 a... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Karajan’s Fantastic 1975 Fantastique

by David Hurwitz

There’s more to this recording than the best funeral bells and the most focused tuba playing on disc in the finale of the Fantastique (sound clip). Karajan did not record much Berlioz, but like many German conductors he had a special feeling for this particular work. He recorded it three times... Continue Reading


Boccherini’s Winsome Octet, Symphony No. 28 & Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

This music is wonderful, and you really won’t want to miss hearing it. Boccherini was an amazing melodist and a superb orchestrator. The symphony, actually an overture in three linked movements–fast, slow, fast–has excitement and lyricism aplenty, while the Octet’s opening An... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ferrara’s Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Franco Ferrara (1911-85) probably was the most renowned conducting teacher before Finland’s Jorma Panula. His brilliant early career ended due to a nervous condition that made it impossible for him to conduct in public (he developed a disconcerting tendency to pass out in mid-beat), but it did... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Excellent Vienna Sibelius

by David Hurwitz

With the passing of Lorin Maazel, the world of classical music lost one of its strangest yet most talented figures. The man was a cypher. He held just about every major post that it’s possible to get, his discography was huge and duplicative, and given the quantity of records that he made surp... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shirley Verrett’s Great Carmen

by Robert Levine

Precisely why this recording—made live at Covent Garden in 1973—is not better known is a mystery; it’s the best Carmen on the market. In the title role on CD there’s no dearth of great singers available, but Angeles is too pure; Callas is too vocally iffy; Norman sounds like a drag queen loo... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Solti’s Strauss Tone Poems

by David Hurwitz

It’s interesting that Georg Solti’s recordings of Strauss tone poems seem never to have gotten the attention that they deserve. True, he did not program them with the same frequency and comprehensiveness that he did Strauss’ contemporary Mahler, but Solti’s credentials as an ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Taming Puccini’s Wild West Opera

by Robert Levine

Fanciulla is Puccini’s hardest opera to cast. The role of Minnie is unlike any other in his canon: Turandot is more direct, half the length, and rarely requires anything other than exclamatory singing; and Johnson is longer, higher, and louder than Calaf or Des Grieux. The opera also requires a be... Continue Reading


Four-Hands Requiem Is Hands-Down Success

by David Vernier

It’s only natural, I suppose, to assume that an “arrangement” or “transcription” for piano of a great orchestral work will be inferior to the original. But that depends on the particular arrangement and on your mindset. Depending on the skill and creativity of the arran... Continue Reading


Under the Radar (!): Jochum and Gilels Play Brahms

by David Hurwitz

Remember these? For a good couple of decades these recordings were lauded as reference versions of the Brahms piano concertos, but they seem to have slipped below the horizon in recent years. Indeed, Gilels’ reputation has waned since his death in 1985, one hopes temporarily, and collectors ar... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Markevitch’s Zarzuela Collection

by David Hurwitz

Here’s a disc that many of you may have missed, even Markevitch fans: his collection of preludes, intermezzos, arias, and choruses from 11 Zarzuelas, both familiar and unfamiliar–71 minutes in all. The Zarzuela repertoire dates back some three centuries. It is vast, it is wonderful, and ... Continue Reading


A Frühbeck de Burgos Testament: Sensational Liszt

by David Hurwitz

This is the best Liszt orchestral recital to come along in many a moon, and it’s all the more enjoyable given the involvement of Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, a fine conductor and a real trouper who has not received much attention since he ended his association with EMI several decades ago. My, b... Continue Reading


Andrew Davis Does Elgar Proud

by David Hurwitz

OK, so we don’t actually need another box of Elgar, but after his very disappointing series of Holst recordings for Chandos, it’s nice to renew one’s acquaintance with these excellently recorded performances and hear Andrew Davis on top of his game. He is one of the few conductors ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ozawa’s First Mahler First

by David Hurwitz

The 1970s was the decade, discographically speaking, when the Mahler boom really began. Non-specialist conductors began to record the symphonies regularly, especially the First and Fourth, and some of those issues were superb. This release represents a case in point, hands down the best performance ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Tetzlaff and Kirshbaum in Bach

by Jed Distler

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff recorded Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas in 1993, bringing a remarkably high level of technical finesse and musical maturity to his performances. He scans phrases with astute harmonic awareness and subtle accentuation to the point where his generally fast tempos and pe... Continue Reading

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Historical Gems: Kubelik Complete on EMI/Warner

by David Hurwitz

Rafael Kubelik’s recorded legacy for EMI represents a hodge-podge of miscellaneous recordings dating from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. It is not remotely comparable to his later efforts for DG, and to some extent he finds himself at the mercy of the iffy ensemble quality that blighted mo... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: APR’s Arthur de Greef Collection

by Jed Distler

The Belgian pianist Arthur de Greef (1862-1940) made his mark as a Liszt pupil, although he also studied with Saint-Saëns and was a close associate of Grieg. As avid collectors of historic piano discs know, de Greef left authoritative recordings of works by these three composers, and much more. APR... Continue Reading


Ormandy Owns the “Classical” Symphony

by David Hurwitz

There are some recordings that should never go out of print. This is one of them. Naturally, it’s out of print, but not too hard to find used at super cheap prices as of the time of writing (8/14). Everyone records the “Classical” Symphony, but not everyone does it with such perfec... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Fascinating Take On “Bluebeard”

by Robert Levine

This previously unreleased performance, recorded live at the 1962 Lucerne Festival and sung in German (rather than Hungarian), is an eerie, riveting experience that, strangely, does not bring any other to mind. The Kertesz on Decca remains ideal in every way, including its use of Hungarian and the b... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Ancerl’s Anguished Prokofiev R&J

by David Hurwitz

One of the things most critics learn early (if indeed they ever learn anything at all!) is never to call any recording “definitive”. So I won’t. The fact remains, though, that this is the best recording of music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet yet to appear. In The Death of... Continue Reading


Schulhoff Plays Schulhoff: The Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

The death of Erwin Schulhoff in a concentration camp in 1942 silenced one of the most interesting and creative composers of his generation, a committed communist whose unfettered fusion of jazz, folk, and classical elements has been increasingly embraced by contemporary performers. He also was a ski... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Live Dvorák 7th: Dark and Massive

by David Hurwitz

Kubelik’s studio Dvorák Seventh may have been good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this live version from 1979. It’s a big, dark, passionate, tragically intense vision of the work, at least in the outer movements. The first is strongly contrasted and powerfully driven, rising to ... Continue Reading


Classic Kubelik: Dvorák “New World” and String Serenade

by Victor Carr Jr

This live Dvorák Ninth from 1980 features many similar attributes to Rafael Kubelik’s generally well-regarded 1973 studio recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. There’s the same emphasis on rhythm, which keeps the musical pulse flowing excitedly, even in the slow movement, and Kubelik ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kubelik’s Brilliant Dvorák 6th and Janácek Sinfonietta

by David Hurwitz

Kubelik’s commercial recording of Dvorák’s Sixth for DG with the Berlin Philharmonic still stands with the best, but this newcomer takes his interpretation to another level entirely. The hard-edged brilliance and rhythmic exactitude that characterized the earlier recording has been repl... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Exciting Brahms & Dvorák from Kubelik & Szeryng

by David Hurwitz

Clear, somewhat dry mono sound gives these 1967 performances a touch of shrillness and puts a raw edge on Henryk Szeryng’s violin tone that he surely didn’t have in person. Oddly, this brightness complements the performances, which have remarkable vitality and generosity of spirit. Tempo... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Bruckner 9 Stunner

by David Hurwitz

This wonderful disc demonstrates two important facts: first, that there’s no such thing as a “definitive” performance because great artists always manage to say something new about great music; and second, that the most surprising “insights” often result from a literal ... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Live Bartók

by David Hurwitz

Rafael Kubelik recorded Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra twice commercially, and two live recordings (including this one) also grace the current catalog. His finest version, indeed one of the select reference editions of the work, remains his Boston Symphony performance for DG, but his live ef... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Beethoven with Serkin and Kubelik

by Jed Distler

For at least a half century Beethoven’s piano concertos played a central role in Rudolf Serkin’s repertoire. In 1941 he recorded the “Emperor” with Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic, and nearly a decade later he embarked on the full cycle with Eugene Ormandy and the ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Thrill-A-Minute Forza

by Robert Levine

This 1941 recording actually does come under the category of “they’re not making them like this anymore.” Recorded in Italy by Italian Radio, Turin, with a cast steeped in Italian tradition in addition to featuring remarkable singing and conducting, there is a style that cannot be faked or imi... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Shirley Verrett’s Great Carmen

by Robert Levine

Precisely why this recording—made live at Covent Garden in 1973—is not better known is a mystery; it’s the best Carmen on the market. In the title role on CD there’s no dearth of great singers available, but Angeles is too pure; Callas is too vocally iffy; Norman sounds like a drag queen loo... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: St. Matthew Profound and Unbound

by David Vernier

That opening chorus!–a nearly 12-minute marvel of Klempererian engineering–of musical forces and Bach’s complex yet perfect design–whose conception and extraordinary execution uniquely captures the profundity and power of Bach’s music. That’s what hooked me, at ab... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karajan and His Soloists 1

by David Hurwitz

Most of these performances richly deserve their classic status. Schumann and Mozart piano concertos with Dinu Lipatti, Beethoven, Mozart, Franck, Schumann and Grieg with Walter Gieseking, and Mozart’s horn concertos with Dennis Brain are all historic performances. The truth is that KarajanR... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Rare Géza Anda from the SWR

by Jed Distler

Recorded in 1952 and 1963, these SWF Radio Orchestra broadcasts featuring pianist Géza Anda make their first authorized CD appearance here. Anda’s 1952 Mozart G Major K, 453 collaboration with Hans Rosbaud preserves his clear and direct interpretation in less animated and nuanced estate compared ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Hindemith Plays (with) Himself

by David Hurwitz

Hindemith was a lousy conductor, but not of his own music, fortunately. This is because he regarded the role of conductor as sort of a human metronome, and while it’s certainly possible to get more human emotion out of this music than he thought necessary, it actually works very well if you ju... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Krauss Conducts Strauss in Vienna

by David Hurwitz

Although advertised as “The Complete Decca Recordings,” this set is should be called “The Complete Vienna Philharmonic Decca Recordings,“ since Krauss made an earlier version of Till Eulenspiegel with the orchestra of La Scala, Milan, and his only version of Death and Transfiguration in Lond... Continue Reading

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Major Discoveries: Tamberg Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Estonian composer Eino Tamberg (b. 1930) is the real deal–a composer with a fresh take on traditional tonal music who knows how to write tunes and score them with unfailing color and point. His Concerto Grosso–for flute, trumpet, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, piano, harp, strings, a... Continue Reading


Reznicek’s Conflicted Symphonies 3 & 4

by David Hurwitz

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek had a very conflicted relationship with the German symphonic legacy. His First Symphony, subtitled “Tragic,” is anything but. The Second, the “Ironic,” is arguably too cute for its own good. The Fifth is a suite of dances orchestrated from piano ori... Continue Reading


Handel: Sanguine, Melancholy, Supernal

by David Vernier

You probably haven’t ever heard this extraordinary bit of Handelian theatre, a sort of cross between ode and oratorio. Apparently—and inexplicably—it’s only had one new recording in more than a decade, until this captivating newcomer, whose presence all but eliminates the need for th... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Dohnányi’s Delicious String Trio and Sextet

by Michael Liebowitz

Ernö Dohnányi’s music slowly has been getting the discographic attention it deserves, and these exemplary readings of his marvelous Serenade for String Trio and Sextet happily join company with some other fine versions. By and large, these new renditions do not necessarily improve on the oth... Continue Reading


Hogwood’s Refreshing Gade Symphonies 2 & 8

by David Hurwitz

If you like Mendelssohn and the Leipzig School in general, you’ll like Gade. A gentle composer at heart, even when Gade says “con fuoco”, as in the first movement of the Eighth Symphony, this isn’t Tchaikovsky or even Schumann we’re talking about here. Nor will you find... Continue Reading


Hogwood Aces Gade Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7

by David Hurwitz

Christopher Hogwood’s recording of Niels Gade’s Fourth Symphony originally appeared in tandem with music by another composer, but so successfully does he realize Gade’s particular mixture of neo-classical and conservative Romantic elements that it’s no surprise that Chandos o... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gade Symphonies 3 & 6 from Hogwood

by David Hurwitz

Niels Gade may not have been a particularly original personality, but his music is well made and though conservative, gives hints of more interesting things to come. For example, both the relaxed third movement of his Third Symphony and its rugged counterpart in the Sixth strikingly anticipate the &... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gade Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5

by David Hurwitz

This excellent disc completes Christopher Hogwood’s sterling Niels Gade symphony cycle on a high note. In fact, these are Gade’s two most interesting symphonies. The First has a “Nordic” cut to its themes that the composer largely abandoned in later works, and the scoring of ... Continue Reading


Hogwood’s Recusant Fitzwilliam Virginal Book

by David Hurwitz

Much mystery surrounds the collection of 297 Tudor-era keyboard pieces popularly known as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. At first it was alleged that it was owned by Queen Elizabeth I, but that turned out to be a fiction. Then it was suggested that the collection was copied by one Francis Tregian in... Continue Reading


Martinu’s Magnificent Violin Concertos, Concluded

by David Hurwitz

The only serious competition for this disc, the final installment in Hyperion’s splendid four-volume survey of Martinu’s complete music for solo violin and orchestra, comes from Josef Suk’s classic Supraphon versions with this same orchestra under Vaclav Neumann. There is very litt... Continue Reading


Martinu: Works for Violin & Orchestra 3

by David Hurwitz

The Suite Concertante has one of the most curious histories of any of Martinu’s works. It was originally composed in 1939 in five movements, the orchestration for one of which is lost. Hence it is performed here in a four-movement version that works perfectly well. This was the period of Marti... Continue Reading


Marvelous Martinu Double Concertos for Violin and Piano

by David Hurwitz

There is some marvelous music here. The Sonata da camera, written for Paul Sacher around the time of the Second World War, is actually a double concerto for violin and piano. Its harmonic language is tense and angular, very similar to the Fifth String Quartet and the much more famous Concerto for Tw... Continue Reading


Martinu’s Stunning Violin Concertos Vol. 1

by David Hurwitz

This first disc in a new series of Martinu’s complete music for solo violin(s) and orchestra promises a splendid voyage of discovery for music lovers. Some of these pieces have been recorded previously: the Duo concertante and Concerto for Two Violins can be found on an Arte Nova release, but ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Hogwood Gets Martinu in St. Paul

by David Hurwitz

Of all the early-music specialist conductors, the late Christopher Hogwood seems to have made the most successful transition to playing music of other periods (although Andrew Manze is coming on strong). This is because he basically limited himself to performing contemporary works that share a simil... Continue Reading


More Rzewski from Ralph van Raat

by Jed Distler

Following up his Naxos recording of Frederic Rzewski’s monumental 1975 variation set The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, Ralph van Raat turns to the composer’s Four Pieces (1977), The Housewife’s Lament (1980), and Hard Cuts, a recent work for piano solo and ensemble. Rzewski conceived ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: J.L. Dussek Piano Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Every so often a Dussek disc comes out and we all wonder that such attractive music should be so neglected. Then it gets neglected. He really was an excellent composer, as the three concertos on this release show, but they also perhaps answer why he’s fallen into such neglect. The first work h... Continue Reading


Lars-Erik Larsson: A New Series Begins on CPO

by David Hurwitz

I was wondering when someone would get around to a comprehensive series of recordings devoted to the orchestral music of Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-86), and what a pleasant surprise to see Andrew Manze on the podium leading the charge. This, rather than Brahms symphonies, is the sort of thing that he s... Continue Reading


Mercadante’s Enjoyable Orchestral Works, Finally

by David Hurwitz

Let’s hope this disc represents the start of a series. Mercadante wrote a lot of orchestral music: concertos, fantasias, and whole series of quasi-programmatic pieces that he called, probably for want of a better term, “symphonies”. There’s a tendency, in considering 19th cen... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Petrassi’s Neoclassical Works

by David Hurwitz

First the bad news: the sound quality on this release is highly variable. In the Divertimento and Partita the engineering is rich and full but raw, with the brass in your face and edgy. It’s exciting, to be sure, but also a bit crude. The two vocal soloists in the Four Sacred Hymns sing well [... Continue Reading


Boccherini’s Winsome Octet, Symphony No. 28 & Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

This music is wonderful, and you really won’t want to miss hearing it. Boccherini was an amazing melodist and a superb orchestrator. The symphony, actually an overture in three linked movements–fast, slow, fast–has excitement and lyricism aplenty, while the Octet’s opening An... Continue Reading

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

by David Hurwitz

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


Filling In The Gaps: Smart Bartók From Falletta

by David Hurwitz

Here’s a fine way to plug a hole in your Bartók collection. Kossuth is a big, fat Straussian symphonic poem (eight horns and all that) lasting about twenty minutes. It has all of the German composer’s fabled opulence of sonority, but lacks memorable tunes. Still, it gets the job done, a... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Poulenc Ballets On Piano

by David Hurwitz

Although there are some issues both with the interpretations and the music itself, this is an interesting disc in several respects. It features performances of the three major Poulenc ballets taken from the piano scores that are necessarily prepared to assist in rehearsals prior to getting the ensem... Continue Reading


Seductive Chaminade from Steinway

by David Hurwitz

Everyone needs at least one disc of Chaminade’s piano music, and this disc would make an excellent choice. Yes, she composed a great deal of “salon” music, but what matters is that she did it very well. These pieces are consistently attractive, and they never try to be more than wh... Continue Reading


Moszkowski’s Four Hand Music: Complete At Last

by Jed Distler

Few composers wrote better salon music for piano than Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925), whose solo etudes and character pieces are always fun to hear, at least in the hands of pianists who ooze technique and charm. And like all good salon composers, Moszkowski contributed his fair share to the late 19t... Continue Reading


Prokofiev’s Original Film Score for Alexander Nevsky

by David Hurwitz

This is an excellent performance of Prokofiev’s original score to Alexander Nevsky, though it’s deceptive of RCA not to tell us right up front that what’s on the disc is not the more familiar cantata. The truth of the matter is that the cantata gives you all of the important music ... Continue Reading


Beethoven’s Plus-Size Late Quartets

by David Vernier

There’s a long tradition of transcribing/arranging string quartets for string orchestra–not only numerous Beethoven settings (including Mahler’s of the Op. 95 F minor and the Bernstein/Mitropoulos Op. 131 and 135) but also the famous Barshai version of Shostakovich’s Quartet ... Continue Reading


Schulhoff Plays Schulhoff: The Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

The death of Erwin Schulhoff in a concentration camp in 1942 silenced one of the most interesting and creative composers of his generation, a committed communist whose unfettered fusion of jazz, folk, and classical elements has been increasingly embraced by contemporary performers. He also was a ski... Continue Reading


Patricia Goodson Explores Foerster’s Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

Pianist Patricia Goodson has made a systematic study of Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s piano music, and presents it complete for the first time on this inexpensive and very well-recorded four-CD set. Throughout his long life (1859-1951) Foerster wrote a great deal of music. The latest numbered work... Continue Reading


Jerome Lowenthal’s Beethoven Cadenza Feast

by Jed Distler

In 2005 I had the privilege to share a recital program with Jerome Lowenthal and Frederic Rzewski that focused on Beethoven. I played the 32 C minor Variations with an improvised cadenza before the coda; Rzewski played his own Andante Con Moto (a variation set based on the Appassionata sonata’s ce... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Orff’s Die Kluge on EMI (Warner)

by David Hurwitz

In my review of the Kegel recording on Berlin Classics pairing these two stage works based on Grimm fairy tales, I gave a brief synopsis of each and noted that if you want the best recording of Der Mond, Kegel’s your man; but for Die Kluge this twofer is your best bet, with a performance [&hel... Continue Reading


Four-Hands Requiem Is Hands-Down Success

by David Vernier

It’s only natural, I suppose, to assume that an “arrangement” or “transcription” for piano of a great orchestral work will be inferior to the original. But that depends on the particular arrangement and on your mindset. Depending on the skill and creativity of the arran... Continue Reading


A Box of Orff. Nazaza?

by David Hurwitz

This five-CD set contains a relatively pale early 1970s recording of Carmina Burana whose standout quality is the participation of Lucia Popp and Hermann Prey as soprano and baritone soloists. The Bavarian Radio Chorus is only so-so (the women especially), and Eichhorn’s leadership is reliable... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The LaSalle’s Classic 2nd Viennese School Quartets

by Jed Distler

Although both DG and Brilliant Classics have reissued the LaSalle Quartet’s 1968/70 Second Viennese School survey on CD, this latest incarnation via DG’s Collector’s Edition also includes the ensemble’s pioneering early digital recordings of the four Alexander Zemlinsky quartets and the Firs... Continue Reading


Sterling Hindemith from Frank Peter Zimmermann

by David Hurwitz

Hindemith’s music seems to be out of fashion these days. There was a time in the 1960s and 70s when few major violinists did not program his Violin Concerto–sort of a modern German composer’s answer to Brahms. Check out, for example, the extended passage for wind ensemble that open... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Finally, A Great Beethoven Triple

by Jed Distler

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto works best when played like a svelte, bubbly concerto grosso rather than middle-period Beethoven pretending to be Elgar. For that to happen, you need a firm, decisive podium master who keeps everything clear and moving ahead. And you need three virtuoso soloists wit... Continue Reading


Filling In the Gaps: A Fine Collection of Haydn Songs

by David Hurwitz

The programming concept here is attractive: Haydn’s English art songs interspersed with a selection of his Scottish folk song settings. In the event, there are a couple of issues that militate against playing the entire program at a sitting, and we’ll get to them, but in all other respec... Continue Reading


Nazis on Parade: Karajan’s Classic March Album

by David Hurwitz

This epic set of Prussian and Austrian military marches was issued in the mid-1970s, and it raised a few eyebrows. I suppose it represents Karajan and the Berliners letting their hair down and having some fun, in a manner of speaking, and while much of the music dates from the 19th century, that rea... Continue Reading


Britten On Air and On Stage

by David Vernier

Although not regarded among Britten’s most important works, his music written for the theatre, radio, and for films during the 1930s and ’40s represents a very significant period in his development and maturity as a composer of truly significant, later masterpieces. Constrained by time a... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Dvorák Complete Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

Along with the lesser-known operas, most collectors will probably wait until the very end of their Dvorák hunting to get to the complete piano works. Dvorák, as we all know, was a violist by profession, although he was (like most musicians of the day) trained on a keyboard instrument as well–... Continue Reading

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Big Boxes: Ansermet’s Rousing Russian Collection

by David Hurwitz

For all the grotty playing and occasionally screechy sonics, there’s something very endearing about this set. Ansermet really was a terrific conductor. He could be quirky, both on the quick side (Autumn from Glazunov’s The Seasons) and the slow (Stravinsky’s two Suites for Small Or... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Kubelik Complete on EMI/Warner

by David Hurwitz

Rafael Kubelik’s recorded legacy for EMI represents a hodge-podge of miscellaneous recordings dating from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. It is not remotely comparable to his later efforts for DG, and to some extent he finds himself at the mercy of the iffy ensemble quality that blighted mo... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Complete Decca Cleveland Recordings

by David Hurwitz

It would of course have been too much to ask Decca to simply release the complete Maazel recordings. They already blew that opportunity by issuing a randomly assembled Vienna box. At least we have this complete edition of Maazel’s Cleveland performances. Since he recorded everything for everyo... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Abbado’s Complete RCA and Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

Packaged in original jacket facsimiles, Sony/BMG’s complete collection of Claudio Abbado’s RCA and Sony recordings comes as no surprise in the wake of the conductor’s death in January 2014. It also offers no real artistic revelations, for Abbado was nothing if not consistent throug... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Giulini’s Complete Sony Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Giulini’s recorded repertoire was limited,  and he set down many of the same works for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, and Sony. As this box proves, the last recordings were not necessarily the slowest, or dullest, and comparison reveals some interesting facts. So here is what we get: Discs 1-3: Mo... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Prokofiev Ballets and Film Music

by David Hurwitz

This appealing set contains all of Prokofiev’s most important ballets and film scores, either complete (the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella), or as arranged for concert performance (Alexander Nevsky, Lieutenant Kijé, Ivan the Terrible). Oh, and you also get the Classical Symphony, wel... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Nielsen Symphonies Plus Maskarade

by David Hurwitz

Herbert Blomstedt’s San Francisco recordings of the complete Nielsen symphonies remain a reference edition. There are no weak links; the performances are consistently superb. I suppose we could ask for a crazier snare drum cadenza in the first movement of the Fifth, but this is still awfully g... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Podium Brilliance from DG’s Complete Fricsay Edition Vol. 1

by Jed Distler

Ferenc Fricsay’s tragically early death at 48 from stomach cancer in 1963 robbed the world of a great artist and formidable conductor at the peak of his powers. Fortunately his relationship with Deutsche Grammophon from 1949 until his death yielded a larger and wider-ranging discography than one m... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sinopoli The Accompanist

by David Hurwitz

Given his tendency to wallow decadently in late romantic music, Giuseppe Sinopoli turns out to be a very sensitive accompanist on these eight CDs, bringing his own ideas to the proceedings where he can but letting his soloists strut their stuff. Indeed, a set like this can only marginally be about t... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sinopoli The Decadent

by David Hurwitz

This Italian Universal box (the listing of Brahms’ “Un Requiem tedesco” is a dead giveaway) contains a generally well-chosen selection of Giuseppe Sinopoli’s non-operatic output. It should have been called “The Art of Decadence” because if anything stands out, it&... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Marriner’s (Mainly) Argo Years

by David Hurwitz

First, let’s discuss the performances. Like most artists active in the go-go decades at the end of the last century, Neville Marriner made too many recordings. However, as long as he stuck with his own Academy of St Martin in the Fields (which, by the way, contrary to its name is a church smac... Continue Reading


DG’s Mongrel Shostakovich Cycle

by David Hurwitz

The main purpose in putting this set together, obviously, was to recycle Järvi’s incomplete (for DG) Shostakovich cycle–the rest of it is on Chandos. Järvi has always been a fine Shostakovich conductor, and here he offers Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3, which no one especially cares about eve... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karajan’s Mostly Berlin, Mostly Analog Strauss

by David Hurwitz

This richly packaged, splendidly annotated (with complete texts and translations) limited edition contains the following: 1. All of Karajan’s non-digital stereo Berlin Strauss recordings for DG: Till, Don, Death, Zarathustra, Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben, Metamorphosen, Salome’s Dance, t... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Prokofiev Symphonies and Concertos from Naxos

by David Hurwitz

This box is a terrific deal. Having had the opportunity to review several of these recordings on initial release, I can say without qualms that after Neeme Järvi’s Chandos benchmarks, this is the best Prokofiev symphony cycle available, and the addition of the concertos combined with the budg... Continue Reading


Stupid Box Du Jour: Maazel In Vienna

by David Hurwitz

What on earth was Decca thinking? This should have been so simple. Just take all of Maazel’s Vienna Philharmonic recordings and stick them in a box. But no. Some moron had to actually think about it and make decisions. And so we get the Tchaikovsky symphony cycle (including Manfred) plus Hamle... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Belohlávek’s Dull Dvorák, Again

by David Hurwitz

Jirí Belohlávek must be a nice guy, because he invariably turns in “nice” performances: pleasant, unadventurous, faithful to the score–but insightful and exciting? Not so much. The utter pointlessness of this release is underlined by the fact that Belohlávek recorded symphonies ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Pires’ Complete DG Solo Recordings

by Jed Distler

No sooner did Warner Classics release its edition of Maria João Pires’ complete Erato catalog than Deutsche Grammophon issued its own 20-disc collection containing the pianist’s entire solo sessions for the label packaged in original jacket facsimiles. For the most part it’s an impressive bod... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Pires’ Complete Erato Recordings

by Jed Distler

To mark Maria Joåo Pires’ 70th birthday in July 2014, Warner Classics has reissued the pianist’s entire output for the Erato label in a 17- CD boxed set, packaged and programmed in original LP and CD jacket facsimiles. Dating from 1972 through 1987, some of this material has either been unavail... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Marriner Plays Mostly Modern Music

by David Hurwitz

This ten-disc set is billed as containing “20th Century Classics,” including such modern gems as Bizet’s Symphony in C, Wagner’s Siegfried-Idyll, the Baermann Adagio for Clarinet and Strings, Grieg’s Holdberg Suite and his Elegiac Melodies. The problem is that the ̶... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Best Strauss Collection Since Kempe

by David Hurwitz

In the hands of the major labels, the word “complete” is a dangerous weapon. Usually, the collection in question is not complete, but this one errs in the opposite direction, and all to the good: it is more than complete. Not only do you get all of the tone poems and concertos, but there... Continue Reading

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