Classics Today Insider

CD From Hell: Marriner’s Pathetic Pathétique

by David Hurwitz

tchaik6mar

Here’s a reissue that never should have been issued in the first place. It goes without saying that Marriner and the Academy know Tchaikovsky. How could they not? But there’s a world of difference between “knowing” and “performing.” Of course, the first movement&#... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Lajtha’s Second Symphony

by David Hurwitz

lajtha2

Now reissued on Naxos, Lajtha’s Second Symphony couldn’t be more different from the ebullient First. Its outer movements are anguished, the first a funeral march (sound clip), the finale an urgent and turbulent whirlwind. In the middle we find a fantastical scherzo, all of it scored with... Continue Reading


Turkey From the Ninth Circle of Hell: Barto Batters Brahms

by Jed Distler

51-0rSRtKVL

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


Turkeys!: Marriner’s Roman Decline and Fall

by David Hurwitz

RespighiMarr

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


Turkeys!: 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


Turkeys!: Svetlanov Offers The Worst Ever Mahler Cycle

by David Hurwitz

MahlerSvet

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


Turkeys!: Robotic Haydn From Ticciati

by David Hurwitz

HaydnTicc

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


Big Boxes: Pollini’s [Almost] Complete DG Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Among prominent pianists of our time, Maurizio Pollini represented the modern ideal to which the more serious-minded younger generations of pianists aspired. One didn’t attend a Pollini concert for entertainment, provocation or daredevil artistry. Instead, the takeaway was staggering yet mindful v... Continue Reading


Munch Complete: At Last!

by David Hurwitz

munch

I’ve been enjoying this set so much that it was hard to find time to write about it. Charles Munch was a very great conductor, and in ways that you might not expect. Yes, he gave us reference recordings of Ravel, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, anything by Berlioz, and French music generally; but it... Continue Reading


A Great Ives Collection From Seattle

by David Hurwitz

ivesmorlot

These live performances are outstanding, and the coupling gives you what is basically “the essential Ives” orchestral music. The Fourth Symphony is a tricky piece, particularly in its second and fourth movements, whose chaotic climaxes need to ride that border between riotous, tuneful ab... Continue Reading


Handel’s Piano Concertos, Concluded

by David Hurwitz

handelop7

This series of Handel organ concertos has been splendid, and this concluding disc is no exception. Matthias Kirschnereit sounds completely comfortable with the idiom; he ornaments convincingly, fills in the solo part as necessary, and generally seems to have a great time. Listen to the concluding Bo... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Lajtha Orchestral Works 1

by David Hurwitz

lajtha1

Here’s a welcome reissue from Marco Polo, now on the less expensive Naxos line. László Lajtha (1892-1963) was the major 20th century Hungarian symphonist. He had the good fortune to be picked up by an important publisher early on (Leduc), but suffered from being largely out of favor with the... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Zuzana Ružičková’s Legendary Bach Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Zuzana Ružičková is a remarkable artist with an extraordinary life story. As a teenager she was interned in multiple concentration camps during World War II and forced to perform slave labor. Her health hung by a thread at the time of her liberation from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, but she miraculousl... Continue Reading


Rare (Relatively) Jochum Haydn

by David Hurwitz

haydnjochum

Eugen Jochum was an outstanding Haydn conductor. His recording of the twelve “London” Symphonies with the London Philharmonic has been in print forever, and deservedly so. His even better (because of the orchestra) recordings of four of the late symphonies, with the Staatskapelle Dresden... Continue Reading


Moszkowski’s Orchestral Works: If Only…

by David Hurwitz

moszkowski

You want to love this disc. Some of the repertoire is unusual. It’s very well played by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under Martin West, and gorgeously recorded to boot. Alas, the music just isn’t all that interesting. Moszkowski was, at best, a composer of limited melodic gifts, a ... Continue Reading


Netopil’s Janácek Fails To Impress–Again

by David Hurwitz

jannetopil

We are past the point where a recording of Janácek opera suites is big news. The question now is what does Janácek “specialist” Tomás Netopil bring to the table? The answer is: a flexatone. I’m not kidding. Arranger Jaroslav Smolka has added one to the storm music in Kat’a... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Nagano’s All Tricks And No Treat

by David Hurwitz

naganodanse

There’s nothing more awful than a dully played, indifferently recorded “fun” program. This one’s about as much fun as a crutch. Ostensibly organized around the theme of Halloween, only one work, Ives’ tiny miniature of that name, directly evokes the day. However, there&... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis Offers The Bartók Solo Piano Bible

by Jed Distler

To those who’ve despaired of piecing together Zoltán Kocsis’ unprecedented solo Bartók cycle from various deleted single-disc releases, take heart. Here it is, all eight discs, housed in a slim-line, budget-priced boxed set, with terrific annotations to boot. From the simplest Mikrokos... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bartók’s First PC and MSPC

by David Hurwitz

Zoltán Kocsis’ Bartók piano concertos with Iván Fischer are probably the finest modern versions available. This recording of the First has everything: passion, drive, and a soloist who understands the music’s underlying lyricism. The contrast between percussive excitement and songful ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis in Rachmaninov’s Concertos and Paganini Rhapsody

by David Hurwitz

Rachpag

The recent death of Zoltán Kocsis represents a major loss to musical culture, even if he wasn’t playing the piano much as of late. He was also an excellent conductor, and just a fine musician overall in that innately warm and humane Hungarian tradition best represented by artists such as Sand... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis Nails Rachmaninov’s Second and Third Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Rach23

There are three Rachmaninov concerto cycles that could serve as reference versions: Wild/Horenstein (Chandos or Chesky), the newish Hough/Litton on Hyperion, and this one. All three have one thing in common: a certain swiftness of tempo throughout, and an understanding that virtuosity does not mean ... Continue Reading


Schnabel’s Beethoven Sonatas Reissued For Gazillion-And-First Time

by Jed Distler

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Little needs to be said at this late date about Artur Schnabel’s Beethoven Sonatas. These 1932-35 recordings continue to make a vivid musical, dramatic, and emotional impact, due to Schnabel’s headlong brio and raw-nerve response to the composer’s impassioned brand of classicism. What is more,... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Marriner’s Pathetic Pathétique

by David Hurwitz

tchaik6mar

Here’s a reissue that never should have been issued in the first place. It goes without saying that Marriner and the Academy know Tchaikovsky. How could they not? But there’s a world of difference between “knowing” and “performing.” Of course, the first movement&#... Continue Reading


Turkey From the Ninth Circle of Hell: Barto Batters Brahms

by Jed Distler

51-0rSRtKVL

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


Turkeys!: Marriner’s Roman Decline and Fall

by David Hurwitz

RespighiMarr

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


Turkeys!: 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


Turkeys!: Svetlanov Offers The Worst Ever Mahler Cycle

by David Hurwitz

MahlerSvet

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


Turkeys!: Robotic Haydn From Ticciati

by David Hurwitz

HaydnTicc

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


CD From Hell: Nagano’s All Tricks And No Treat

by David Hurwitz

naganodanse

There’s nothing more awful than a dully played, indifferently recorded “fun” program. This one’s about as much fun as a crutch. Ostensibly organized around the theme of Halloween, only one work, Ives’ tiny miniature of that name, directly evokes the day. However, there&... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Orozco-Estrada’s Bound and Gagged Dvorák

by David Hurwitz

dvorakorozco

Measure eight of the Seventh Symphony’s opening movement contains a string tremolo marked “fpp.” It’s a shudder, a jolt of electricity, a thrill of anticipation. Or at least it ought to be. Here it’s mush, a shrug of indifference, and this tiny moment sets the tone of m... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Imogen Cooper’s Dull Chopin

by Jed Distler

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Throughout her long career, Imogen Cooper has rightfully been acclaimed for her poetic and often inspired Schumann, Schubert, and Mozart. However, for the most part her first studio Chopin outing is deadly dull. Granted, her tone is beautiful, well modulated, and refined, and she doesn’t miss a no... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Altstaedt Shreds CPE Bach Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

CPEAlstaedt

These misguided, tonally hideous performances prove that there is more to a “historically informed” approach than a collection of textbook-approved mannerisms. I can only speculate as to why cellist Nicolas Altstaedt permits himself to make such sounds. It seems that, like so many modern... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Jansons’ Rotten Rhapsodies

by David Hurwitz

RhapsodyJans

Charisma. Some conductors have it, and some don’t. Jansons doesn’t. Granted, he has other qualities: precision, control, a clear beat; but this music requires dash, brilliance, color, spontaneity–in a word, charisma, and you won’t find it here. Take Chabrier’s España. ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Netopil Blows Janácek

by David Hurwitz

JanNetoSinf

Tomás Netopil bills himself as a Janácek specialist, and maybe he is. He should be ashamed of himself. His conducting is generally swift, and he doesn’t smooth out Janácek’s textures unduly, but beyond that he has nothing to say in this music. The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is no... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Janson’s Redundant Rachmaninov

by David Hurwitz

Rach2Jans

Familiarity breeds contempt, evidently. This is Jansons’ third recording of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, and easily his worst. It captures live performances patched together from three evenings in 2010, before a not ideally quiet audience. He and the orchestral coast along, lazily drif... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Svetlanov Disses Ravel, Big Time

by David Hurwitz

RavSvet

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


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

by David Hurwitz

SibLemVanska

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Atterberg3

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


CD From Hell: Awful Rachmaninov 3rd From Gergiev

by David Hurwitz

rach3

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


CD From Hell: Argerich and Barenboim Live in Buenos Aires

by Jed Distler

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


CD From Hell: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin Botches Handel

by David Hurwitz

HandelWaterHM

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


CD From Hell: Currentzis and Kopatchinskaja Play From Their Bowels

by David Hurwitz

TchaikStrav

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

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Rare (Relatively) Jochum Haydn

by David Hurwitz

haydnjochum

Eugen Jochum was an outstanding Haydn conductor. His recording of the twelve “London” Symphonies with the London Philharmonic has been in print forever, and deservedly so. His even better (because of the orchestra) recordings of four of the late symphonies, with the Staatskapelle Dresden... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis Offers The Bartók Solo Piano Bible

by Jed Distler

To those who’ve despaired of piecing together Zoltán Kocsis’ unprecedented solo Bartók cycle from various deleted single-disc releases, take heart. Here it is, all eight discs, housed in a slim-line, budget-priced boxed set, with terrific annotations to boot. From the simplest Mikrokos... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bartók’s First PC and MSPC

by David Hurwitz

Zoltán Kocsis’ Bartók piano concertos with Iván Fischer are probably the finest modern versions available. This recording of the First has everything: passion, drive, and a soloist who understands the music’s underlying lyricism. The contrast between percussive excitement and songful ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis in Rachmaninov’s Concertos and Paganini Rhapsody

by David Hurwitz

Rachpag

The recent death of Zoltán Kocsis represents a major loss to musical culture, even if he wasn’t playing the piano much as of late. He was also an excellent conductor, and just a fine musician overall in that innately warm and humane Hungarian tradition best represented by artists such as Sand... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis Nails Rachmaninov’s Second and Third Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Rach23

There are three Rachmaninov concerto cycles that could serve as reference versions: Wild/Horenstein (Chandos or Chesky), the newish Hough/Litton on Hyperion, and this one. All three have one thing in common: a certain swiftness of tempo throughout, and an understanding that virtuosity does not mean ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Messiaen-ic Marvels From Denmark

by David Vernier

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“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind–a journey into a wondrous land bounded only by imagination…” Although that was an introduction to the strange new world of the classic 1960s television series The Twilight ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Brecon Baroque’s Luminous L’Estro Armonico

by David Vernier

breconlestroarmonico

Rachel Podger knows how to play Vivaldi, and she has proven it on previous acclaimed recordings (reviewed here) of the Op. 4 concertos (“La stravaganza”) and Op. 9 “La Cetra”. Going back over my comments for those performances–“stunning, fiercely energetic, ardent... Continue Reading


References Revisited: Dvorak’s Piano Concerto chez Aimard & Harnoncourt

by Victor Carr Jr

Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Dvorák series with the Concertgebouw Orchestra remains some of his very best work in romantic repertoire. This disc features two of the composer’s rarer masterpieces. The Piano Concerto is as fine a work as any in the late-romantic genre, featuring expertly handle... Continue Reading


References Revisited: Harnoncourt’s “New World” Holds Up

by David Hurwitz

This remains Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s best Dvorák, and one of the great recordings of the “New World” Symphony. Comparison on initial release to the contemporaneous Abbado/Berlin recording on Deutsche Grammophon (and so many versions of the work since) was and remains instructive. W... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Harnoncourt Delivers in Dvorák’s Tone Poems

by David Hurwitz

DvorHarn

Originally coupled to his excellent versions of Dvorák’s Symphonies 7-9 plus the Piano Concerto, Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s equally superb performances of the four late tone poems based on folk tales are being offered by Warner at a “twofer” price. What makes these  interpretat... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Respighi’s Sinfonia Drammatica

by David Hurwitz

respighidram

In my review of the latest version of this trashy, decadent, but potentially fun piece of late romantic angst from John Neschling on BIS, I mentioned that the best version remained Daniel Nazareth’s Slovak Philharmonic performance, originally on Marco Polo, now conveniently reissued on Naxos. ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bach for All Time(s)

by David Vernier

bachmullejans

Is there ever a wrong time to listen to the Bach violin concertos? There are no more immediately ingratiating works in Bach’s oeuvre, which easily explains the number of recordings in the CD catalog: more than 150 for each concerto. Although today the “big three”—in A minor, E ma... Continue Reading


MUNCH CONDUCTS BERLIOZ

by David Hurwitz

berliozmunch

All of these recordings will appear in the big Munch box coming from RCA, but if you’re not in the market for 86 discs, it’s worth remembering this set, the most successful and complete prior reissue of Munch’s iconic Berlioz recordings. It may be difficult to find at this late dat... Continue Reading


Virtual Haydn Works For Keyboard: Virtually Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

haydnbeghin

Tom Beghin is one of the true keyboard geniuses among performers on period instruments. Here he has chosen seven gorgeous-sounding instruments–harpsichords, clavichords, and fortepianos–to present all of Haydn’s keyboard music in superlative performances, recorded to simulate the a... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Handel’s Solomon from Daniel Reuss

by David Vernier

solomon

Well, it’s happened again–another reference-recording shake-up. This new Solomon from Daniel Reuss, the RIAS Kammerchor, and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is now the one to own, and unless you’re a collector of these things, the only one you’ll need. And that’s not to... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bruckner Sacred Music by Jochum

by David Hurwitz

BrucknerJoch

In these days, when everyone is recording endless versions of everything, it’s kind of nice to note that there’s not so much duplication in Bruckner’s major sacred works. This set has very little competition–really only the Corydon Singers on Hyperion. Good as that is, this b... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: The Late, Great Marni Nixon Sings Copland

by David Hurwitz

CopNix

We have lost two great, largely unheralded American sopranos recently: Phyllis Curtin, and now Marni Nixon, the Hollywood voice of, well, just about everyone. A superb recitalist with a clear, bell-like tone and perfect pitch, Nixon sings this premiere recording of the orchestral version of Copland&... Continue Reading


Walter’s Authentic Brahms

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsWalter

This is unquestionably one of the great Brahms symphony cycles. Of course, it would have been good if Sony had also included Walter’s mono New York Philharmonic performances, with his incomparably exciting version of Symphony No. 2, but these remakes are better just about everywhere else. Walt... Continue Reading


Brahms by Trio Wanderer, Reissued

by Jed Distler

BrahmsTriosHM

Excellence abounds when it comes to the Brahms Piano Trios on disc, now reissued in Harmonia Mundi’s “Gold” series, especially considering recent versions from Nicholas Angelich and the Capuçons (Virgin), the Florestan Trio (Hyperion), and the Abegg Trio (Tacet). To these referenc... Continue Reading


Staier’s Great Haydn Keyboard Concertos Reissued

by David Hurwitz

HaydnStaier

This is one terrific disc, back in classy “Harmonia Mundi Gold” packaging. Haydn’s piano concertos are all early-to-middle-period works, and they have gotten something of a bum rap on account of the fact that they are not by Mozart. This isn’t entirely fair. All of them were ... Continue Reading

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

A Great Ives Collection From Seattle

by David Hurwitz

ivesmorlot

These live performances are outstanding, and the coupling gives you what is basically “the essential Ives” orchestral music. The Fourth Symphony is a tricky piece, particularly in its second and fourth movements, whose chaotic climaxes need to ride that border between riotous, tuneful ab... Continue Reading


Super Shostakovich 1 and 14 from Rattle, Quasthoff and Mattila

by David Hurwitz

I happened back on this release fresh from hearing Karita Mattila triumph at the MET as Kostelnicka in Janácek’s Jenufa. At this stage in her career she is singing better than ever, the voice warm, rich, and steady–no “fading diva with an ugly tone” here. She stole the show;... Continue Reading


Rossini: A Fine L’Italiana On Naxos

by Robert Levine

There is no want for recordings of this opera, and several are terrific: Jennifer Larmore/Raul Gimenez (Teldec); Horne/Alva (Opera d’Oro); Horne/Ramey (Erato); Baltsa/Raimondi (DG). But there’s always room for another if it’s good, and this new release, recorded at the 2008 Wildbad... Continue Reading


Harnoncourt’s Antidote to Bad Dvorák, Part 1

by David Hurwitz

As might be expected, Nikolaus Harnoncourt has one or two unusual ideas about how this music should go, but never at the expense of Dvorák’s sense of naturalness and flow. Once past an unusually “espressivo” treatment of the opening cello tune, we’re off to the races, and Ha... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: The Late, Great Marni Nixon Sings Copland

by David Hurwitz

CopNix

We have lost two great, largely unheralded American sopranos recently: Phyllis Curtin, and now Marni Nixon, the Hollywood voice of, well, just about everyone. A superb recitalist with a clear, bell-like tone and perfect pitch, Nixon sings this premiere recording of the orchestral version of Copland&... Continue Reading


Oddities & Trifles, Valentini & Acronym

by David Vernier

AcronymValentini

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


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

by Jed Distler

51doftpmSJL

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


Under the Radar: Ingratiating Gebel Quartets

by David Vernier

gebelquartets

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


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

by David Hurwitz

ShostMasur

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


Beethoven and Viotti: Classic Grumiaux

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Fine Martinu from Weller

by David Hurwitz

MartinuWeller

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


Under the Radar: Monteverdi Vespers from King

by David Hurwitz

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


A Great Live Poppea From Bavaria

by Robert Levine

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


Rozhdesvensky’s Pulverizing Czech Radio Shostakovich Fourth

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Scorching Shostakovich 11 From Lazarev

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by John Greene

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


Under The Radar: Oue’s Sonically Fabulous Copland

by Victor Carr Jr

CopOue

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


Under The Radar: Really Fine Copland From Falletta/Buffalo

by David Hurwitz

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


Wispelwey & Lazic in Exceptional Beethoven Cello Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Dausgaard & Berezovsky’s Estimable Beethoven

by David Hurwitz

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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

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Historic Gems: Rubinstein’s Early Chopin

by Jed Distler

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Arthur Rubinstein liked to say that he never really practiced and became a respectable pianist until later in his career. His early HMV Chopin recordings from the late 1920s through the 1930s prove otherwise. Not only do these recordings blaze with virtuosity, but they also convey a quality of verve... Continue Reading


The Other Kempe Meistersinger, Newly Remastered

by Jed Distler

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Because Rudolf Kempe’s 1956 Berlin Philharmonic recording of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger is rightly held in high regard for its superb cast and excellent mono sound for the time, his earlier Dresden recording usually is forgotten or ignored in the process. Apparently Heinz Arnold’s 1950 Dresden... Continue Reading


Richter’s Rare Live “48” Available Again

by Jed Distler

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In July and August of 1973 Sviatoslav Richter played Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier over the course of four concerts in Innsbruck. The performances were issued in Japan as a 4-CD set following the pianist’s death in 1997, and were withdrawn from the catalog after a few weeks due to a contractual c... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 3

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 2

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Boccherini Quintets, Vol. 1

by Dan Davis

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


Phyllis Curtin’s Sensational Latin American Song Recital

by Rad Bennett

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


Historical Gems: Magda Tagliaferro–A True Legend

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Phyllis Curtin Sings Copland & Rorem Songs

by Jed Distler

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


An Unreleased Youri Egorov Recital

by Jed Distler

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


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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


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

by David Hurwitz

Gesualdo

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


Historical Gems: Nadia Reisenberg’s Russian Classics Return

by Jed Distler

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


Landowska’s RCA Bach In A Box

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Fennell’s Legendary Holst Band Suites

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Dvorak’s 5th and Slavonic Rhapsodies

by Victor Carr Jr

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


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

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Beecham’s Incomparable Late Haydn

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Bizet On Authentic Instruments

by David Hurwitz

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

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Major Discoveries: Lajtha’s Second Symphony

by David Hurwitz

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Now reissued on Naxos, Lajtha’s Second Symphony couldn’t be more different from the ebullient First. Its outer movements are anguished, the first a funeral march (sound clip), the finale an urgent and turbulent whirlwind. In the middle we find a fantastical scherzo, all of it scored with... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Lajtha Orchestral Works 1

by David Hurwitz

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Here’s a welcome reissue from Marco Polo, now on the less expensive Naxos line. László Lajtha (1892-1963) was the major 20th century Hungarian symphonist. He had the good fortune to be picked up by an important publisher early on (Leduc), but suffered from being largely out of favor with the... Continue Reading


References Revisited: Dvorak’s Piano Concerto chez Aimard & Harnoncourt

by Victor Carr Jr

Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Dvorák series with the Concertgebouw Orchestra remains some of his very best work in romantic repertoire. This disc features two of the composer’s rarer masterpieces. The Piano Concerto is as fine a work as any in the late-romantic genre, featuring expertly handle... Continue Reading


Rouse’s Hot Symphony No. 1

by David Hurwitz

Christopher Rouse is an exciting composer. All of his music, even a dark, slow work such as the First Symphony, features a striking level of tension. He’s also been lucky in that his music has received a good deal of attention on disc. Both the First Symphony and Iscariot have been recorded pr... Continue Reading


Rousing Rouse From Gilbert And The NY Phil

by David Hurwitz

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Christopher Rouse is one of the very few composers active today who can write music in large forms with the kind of expressive immediacy and emotional integrity of the great classical composers. I don’t say this lightly, but the evidence is plain and liberally scattered throughout the works on... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Boccherini’s Op. 26 “Little” Quartets

by David Hurwitz

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Boccherini divided his quartet output into two categories, “big” works of three or four movements, and “small” pieces in two movements for stupid listeners with short attention spans who were too cheap to shell out the money for the larger pieces. Well, maybe it wasn’t ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Daugherty Trifecta from Nashville

by David Hurwitz

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You would think by now that Michael Daugherty’s American pop culture-inspired idiom would be starting to sound old, and if your patience with it has worn out I understand completely. We live in an era where, the norms of classical form having broken down, composers write “program music&#... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Alwyn’s Masterpiece For Harp

by David Hurwitz

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William Alwyn’s Lyra Angelica gets my vote as being his supreme masterpiece. It is unquestionably one of the greatest and most lovely of twentieth-century harp concertos, and this recording, with Osian Ellis the superb soloist, is also one of Lyrita’s finest recordings. Cast in four larg... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gounod’s Music For Pedal Piano–Great Stuff!

by David Hurwitz

gounod

This is Volume 62 in Hyperion’s epic and seemingly endless series of romantic piano concertos, and I have to say it strikes me as one of the most fascinating of the bunch. In order to create a modern pedal piano, the intrepid soloist Roberto Prosseda used an Italian-made pedal gadget to stack ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu’s Ballet “The Shadow”

by David Hurwitz

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This early ballet (1916), which plays for a bit over an hour, is inconsistent but interesting. The plot is one of those fin-de-siècle symbolist jobs about a girl who drops a ball into a pond, sees her reflection, and a shadows rises up out of the water. They dance around a lot until she collapses, ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Bacewicz Music for Strings

by David Hurwitz

Bacewicz

Grazyna Bacewicz was unquestionably a talented composer, one whose work is well worth getting to know. Stylistically these pieces from the 1940s and early ’50s might remind you a bit of Bartók and Stravinsky. Motoric allegros (sound clip) alternate with moody, passionate slow movements. The l... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Fikret Amirov Orchestral Works–Derivative And Fun

by David Hurwitz

Let’s face it, Shur sounds suspiciously like the third movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and if the opening of the Azerbaijan Capriccio isn’t Lohengrin orientalized (Act 3 prelude), then I don’t know what is (sound clip). But who cares? The music is delightful, colo... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Almost Complete Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Okay, the Ballade for Harp and String Orchestra technically isn’t a concerto, but who’s counting? Rautavaara’s concertos are arguably more consistent and representative than his symphonies. The First Piano Concerto, the earliest work here, exudes the sort of spiky Finno-Russian neo... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Complete Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

I have only two small reservations before enthusiastically recommending this set. First, this performance of the Brucknerian Third Symphony, while quite good, has been surpassed by the recently released Segerstam recording on the same label (but that is an SACD, so I understand the point in sticking... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Rautavaara Orchestral and Choral Works

by David Vernier

It’s taken far too long for classical musicians–and through them, the world’s classical audiences–to recognize the substantial creative credentials of the late Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. His past and ongoing contributions to 20th century music, especially in the ... Continue Reading


Rautavaara’s Beautiful Opera Aleksis Kivi

by Robert Levine

On its surface this concise, 97-minute opera may not seem like much of a gripping tale: it concerns the poet Aleksis Kivi (né Aleksis Stenvall, 1834-72), who was the founder of literature in the Finnish language. At the time he was writing, Swedish still was the “proper” language among ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Rautavaara’s True & False Unicorn

by David Vernier

As former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson used to say: “Wild stuff!” And fortunately for listeners, it’s not only wild but uniformly interesting, often very exciting, and totally worth hearing. Einojuhani Rautavaara’s fabulously inventive setting of avant-garde ... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Angel of Light Shines on Naxos

by David Hurwitz

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Hannu Koivula and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra turn in very good performances of these two works. Symphony No. 7, a beautifully luminous piece that has helped to establish Rautavaara’s high reputation outside of his native Finland, sounds as lovely as ever in this expertly paced and c... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Another Fine Eighth, Already

by David Hurwitz

Sadly, with his recent death at age 87, we now know that the Eighth will be Rautavaara’s last symphony. I attended the New York premiere of the Eighth Symphony with Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and at the time I was less than impressed, particularly with the slow movement (which ... Continue Reading


Rautavaara: Requiem in Our Time

by Anastasia Tsioulcas

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The Finnish Brass Symphony, directed by Hannu Lintu, has recorded a masterful survey of music by countryman Einojuhani Rautavaara. Spanning more than 45 years of the composer’s work, the album functions as something of a compendium of themes that Rautavaara has returned to time and again in hi... Continue Reading

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Handel’s Piano Concertos, Concluded

by David Hurwitz

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This series of Handel organ concertos has been splendid, and this concluding disc is no exception. Matthias Kirschnereit sounds completely comfortable with the idiom; he ornaments convincingly, fills in the solo part as necessary, and generally seems to have a great time. Listen to the concluding Bo... Continue Reading


Rare (Relatively) Jochum Haydn

by David Hurwitz

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Eugen Jochum was an outstanding Haydn conductor. His recording of the twelve “London” Symphonies with the London Philharmonic has been in print forever, and deservedly so. His even better (because of the orchestra) recordings of four of the late symphonies, with the Staatskapelle Dresden... Continue Reading


Naxos’ Rossini Overture Edition Complete

by David Hurwitz

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This volume completes Naxos’ very enjoyable four-disc set of the complete Rossini overtures. Think about it: that’s a lot of orchestral music from a composer known almost exclusively for his vocal works–three or four Bruckner symphonies’ worth, and what would you rather liste... Continue Reading


Naxos’ Rossini Overtures 3, Still Going Strong

by David Hurwitz

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This series continues with an appealing mix of familiar and unfamiliar works, all of which are well worth getting to know. Perhaps the least-known piece is the very early Grand’overtura ‘obbligata a contrabasso’. Even in a work of his student days, Rossini reveals himself as an irr... Continue Reading


Rossini Overtures: Volume 2 Maintains High Standards

by David Hurwitz

Rossini

Rossini’s overtures are so delightful, and so unlike any other music. Really, is there anything out there that delivers sheer pleasure so consistently? This second volume in Naxos’ ongoing series has one minor flaw: the final gallop in William Tell sounds just a bit cautious, all the mor... Continue Reading


Naxos’ Very Promising Complete Rossini Overtures Series

by David Hurwitz

Rossini

Up to now, the standard collection of Rossini overtures has been Neville Marriner’s correct but somewhat flat-footed series on Philips. This new project promises to improve on that set considerably. Christian Benda’s Prague Sinfonia has all of the discipline of Marriner’s ensemble,... Continue Reading


Copland Rarities Confidently Presented By Slatkin

by David Hurwitz

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Leonard Slatkin has a long history of delivering excellent Copland performances, and this new release is no exception. Hear Ye! Hear Ye! is a 1934 ballet about a murder trial in Chicago; each of the witnesses gives contradictory testimony until the exasperated jury finds all three guilty. Copland wi... Continue Reading


Alwyn: Orchestral Works and Fun Bits

by David Hurwitz

For a composer no one much cares about and whose music seldom appears on concert programs, William Alwyn has been extremely well treated by record labels (specifically Lyrita, Chandos, and Naxos). Perhaps it’s because he was a very good composer who wrote lots of attractive, beautifully finish... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Handel’s 1737 Il Trionfo del Tempo e della Verità

by Robert Levine

This almost unknown, large scale (almost 3 hour) oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth, was composed by Handel in Rome in 1707 and revised by him for performances in London’s Covent Garden in 1737 (the version recorded here) and then translated into English, revised again and presented, with... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Alwyn’s Appealing Violin Concerto

by David Hurwitz

William Alwyn was a very intelligent composer. His serious concert music, rewarding though much of it is, tends to work “motivically” rather than melodically, but the violin is first and foremost a melody instrument, and so Alwyn packs his concerto with an abundance of attractive tunes. ... Continue Reading


Unreleased Pinchas Zukerman Gems

by Jed Distler

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It’s not clear why these 1992-95 recordings by Pinchas Zukerman for Sony Classical never gained release until Biddulph recently licensed them. As the cliché goes, better late than never. Disc 1 contains collaborations with Zubin Mehta and the London Philharmonic. It begins with what must be (at l... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Diepenbrock Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Diepenbrock

All of this music has been recorded before, most notably on Chandos with Hans Vonk conducting–licensed to Brilliant Classics as well. There’s little to choose between those recordings and this one, save for the obvious superiority of CPO’s vivid engineering. Diepenbrock (1862-1923)... Continue Reading


Ives: Three Orchestral Sets, No. 3 a World Premiere

by David Hurwitz

Of all the composers on whom modern musicology is inflicting its current “completion mania”, the cause of Ives makes more sense than most. His manuscripts were a mess, his decision-making random, and much of his music consists of “works in progress”. He was working on a Third... Continue Reading


Ives: Three Holidays and a Football Game

by David Hurwitz

James Sinclair is always an excellent guide to this music, even through Ives’ most complex textural thickets. The Fourth of July has real celebratory fervor and a sense of fun, while the climax of Thanksgiving, so often a muddle, here achieves real transcendence, with the choir perfectly integ... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Argerich’s Early Recordings: A Legend In The Making

by Jed Distler

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


Filling In The Gaps: Berlioz’s Neglected Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

BerliozTedeum

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


Filling In The Gaps: A Ginastera Premiere

by David Hurwitz

Ginastera

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


Filling In The Gaps: Sibelius’ Choral Works

by David Hurwitz

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


Randall Thompson’s Requiem Recalled To Life

by David Vernier

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

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Big Boxes: Pollini’s [Almost] Complete DG Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Among prominent pianists of our time, Maurizio Pollini represented the modern ideal to which the more serious-minded younger generations of pianists aspired. One didn’t attend a Pollini concert for entertainment, provocation or daredevil artistry. Instead, the takeaway was staggering yet mindful v... Continue Reading


Munch Complete: At Last!

by David Hurwitz

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I’ve been enjoying this set so much that it was hard to find time to write about it. Charles Munch was a very great conductor, and in ways that you might not expect. Yes, he gave us reference recordings of Ravel, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, anything by Berlioz, and French music generally; but it... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Zuzana Ružičková’s Legendary Bach Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Zuzana Ružičková is a remarkable artist with an extraordinary life story. As a teenager she was interned in multiple concentration camps during World War II and forced to perform slave labor. Her health hung by a thread at the time of her liberation from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, but she miraculousl... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kocsis Offers The Bartók Solo Piano Bible

by Jed Distler

To those who’ve despaired of piecing together Zoltán Kocsis’ unprecedented solo Bartók cycle from various deleted single-disc releases, take heart. Here it is, all eight discs, housed in a slim-line, budget-priced boxed set, with terrific annotations to boot. From the simplest Mikrokos... Continue Reading


Big Boxes/Richter Redux: The Complete Warner Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Back in 2008 EMI Icon brought out a complete edition of pianist Sviatoslav Richter’s recordings for the label on 14 CDs. Fast forward to 2016: Warner Classics controls the EMI and Teldec back catalogs, and repackages everything as Richter’s “Complete Warner Recordings”, which contains all of... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Mozart 225–The New Complete Edition

by Jed Distler

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To some collectors, Universal Classics’ Mozart 225 limited edition boxed set, created in partnership with the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation, will evoke memories of Philips’ 1991 Complete Mozart Edition. The latter, of course, marked the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death, and generated lots o... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Ruth Laredo’s Rachmaninov Cycle Reissued

by Jed Distler

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Between 1974 and 1979 Ruth Laredo undertook the complete cycle of Rachmaninov’s solo piano works for Columbia Masterworks. These recordings helped establish Laredo’s career as a prominent American soloist and a highly visible figure on the classical music scene up until her untimely death from c... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Julius Katchen’s Complete Decca Recordings

by Jed Distler

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The American-born/Paris-based pianist Julius Katchen, who died in 1969 at 42 after battling cancer, would have turned 90 in 2016. Decca commemorates with a boxed set devoted to Katchen’s complete recordings for the label, including items gaining their first international CD release and several pre... Continue Reading


MUNCH CONDUCTS BERLIOZ

by David Hurwitz

berliozmunch

All of these recordings will appear in the big Munch box coming from RCA, but if you’re not in the market for 86 discs, it’s worth remembering this set, the most successful and complete prior reissue of Munch’s iconic Berlioz recordings. It may be difficult to find at this late dat... Continue Reading


Virtual Haydn Works For Keyboard: Virtually Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

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Tom Beghin is one of the true keyboard geniuses among performers on period instruments. Here he has chosen seven gorgeous-sounding instruments–harpsichords, clavichords, and fortepianos–to present all of Haydn’s keyboard music in superlative performances, recorded to simulate the a... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Haydn Symphonies Complete On Period Instruments

by David Hurwitz

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Antal Dorati’s complete set of Haydn symphonies has been the reference edition for the complete set since, well, forever, but this newcomer, also from Decca, gives it a good run for the money. The reason is simple: it contains Frans Brüggen’s complete Haydn symphony recordings, 43 of th... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Finally, Stravinsky’s Complete Columbia & RCA Recordings, The Right Way

by Jed Distler

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This release brings together all of the Columbia Masterworks and RCA Victor recordings involving Igor Stravinsky as performer, along with sessions conducted by his close associate Robert Craft. The collection also draws upon several other performers to fill repertoire gaps, such as Charles Rosen in ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sviatoslav Richter’s Eurodisc Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Sviatoslav Richter’s 1970-’83 Eurodisc recordings have appeared on countless reissues on countless labels in countless couplings, at prices ranging from rock bottom to sky high, and confusing collectors in the process. All the more reason to welcome this “official” original jacket collec... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Kempff’s Songful Schubert is Back

by Jed Distler

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In 2000 Deutsche Grammophon released a seven-CD budget box Collectors Edition with Wilhelm Kempff’s cycle of Schubert sonatas for that label. Sixteen years later, the company has repacked the cycle, adding two discs encompassing the rest of Kempff’s solo Schubert DG recordings. Since Universal C... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Jeroen van Veen’s Complete Satie

by Jed Distler

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The protean and prolific Jeroen van Veen turns his attention to Erik Satie’s complete piano works for a 9-CD boxed set that ties in with the composer’s 150th birthday year. In a way, the collection is completer than complete. It includes all of Satie’s published and unpublished works for solo ... Continue Reading


Walter’s Authentic Brahms

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsWalter

This is unquestionably one of the great Brahms symphony cycles. Of course, it would have been good if Sony had also included Walter’s mono New York Philharmonic performances, with his incomparably exciting version of Symphony No. 2, but these remakes are better just about everywhere else. Walt... Continue Reading


Puzzling Monteux Box From Italian Universal

by David Hurwitz

Monteux

This 20-disc set purports to contain “Decca Recordings,” which it both does and does not. You get the Philips recordings (an extra “Eroica” and Schubert’s “Unfinished”, the French items and Tchaikovsky suites), the Westminster recordings (the awful Beethoven... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Well-Chosen Dutoit Decca Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Dutoit

Charles Dutoit and his Montréal Symphony Orchestra were Decca’s late 20th century answer to Ernest Ansermet and L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Like Ansermet, Dutoit specialized in French music, with a healthy boost from Stravinsky and his Russian predecessors. If Ansermet was the mor... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: L’Oiseau-Lyre’s Lopsided Classical/Early Romantic Collection

by Jed Distler

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Unlike L’Oiseau-Lyre’s well-rounded Baroque Era big box, the label’s Classical and Early Romantic 50-CD collection presents a relatively lopsided repertoire perspective, although to be fair, collectors will welcome certain items that have not been available for years. Given Christopher Hog... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Archiv Produktion Analogue Stereo Recordings

by Jed Distler

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

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