Classics Today Insider

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

by David Hurwitz

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


McGegan Shines In Haydn 88, 101 and 104

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Szell’s Irreplaceable Haydn Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

It says something about Haydn’s aesthetic vision that the best performances of his symphonies, by and large, have all been on modern instruments, whether Szell and Cleveland, Bernstein with various orchestras, Mackerras and St. Lukes, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra–even Klemperer or Scher... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: Leinsdorf, Browning, Perlman Play Prokofiev

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Ghedini’s Frail But Compelling Sound World

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Remembering Van Cliburn–April 11, 1958

by Jed Distler

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


In Talvela, A Boris With A Real Boris

by Robert Levine

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Lazy Shostakovich Tenth

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Carl Stamitz Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

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


Hope’s Original, But More Importantly Superb, Mendelssohn

by Victor Carr Jr

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


Major Discoveries: Kraus Symphonies–Move Over Mozart

by David Hurwitz

This set contains eight magnificent symphonies by a composer who, had he lived, could have been one of the major voices of the classical period. Kraus’ lifespan (1756-92) was almost exactly the same as Mozart’s, and to be honest, a lot of his music is every bit as good. His “Sturm und Drang”... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Herreweghe’s Sensual Monteverdi Vespers

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Brendel’s Demonic Liszt Concertos

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Previn’s Glorious Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Martinu Chamber Music With Flute

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Piano Concertos by Tansman and Boulanger

by David Hurwitz

Here’s an excellent concept program (interesting music composed roughly contemporaneously) that’s almost derailed by yet another mediocre recording of Rhapsody in Blue. Pianist David Greilsammer twists the tempos around like taffy in his solos, with results alternately boring and mannered. Sloan... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Lazy Shostakovich Tenth

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Bad Singing Kills Early Bizet

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Tasteless, Crude Vivaldi and Rebel

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: A Fallible Fortepiano Recital

by Jed Distler

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


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Comatose Debussy

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by Robert Levine

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


CD From Hell: Haydn Horn Flatulence from Fey

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Boulez Defeated In Moscow

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Gergiev Remakes Shostakovich, Mostly Badly

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by John Greene

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


Stupid Organ Transcriptions Vol. 98,593: Berlioz

by David Hurwitz

Yes, it’s the Symphonie fantastique transcribed for organ. Such things can be fun, or at least marginally less than horrible, on the right instrument–a “symphonic” organ such as the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia, or the Woolsey Hall Organ at Yale. Those instruments, built t... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Strauss Was No Beethoven Conductor

by David Hurwitz

It was a cute idea: for the centenary of the death of Germany’s greatest dead composer, record the nine symphonies and include a few conducted by Germany’s greatest living composer. Never mind that Strauss’s temperament was about as antithetical to Beethoven’s as it’s p... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Sexless Poulenc Concertos from Hickox

by David Hurwitz

These joyless, sexless performances get all of the notes right but miss the musical point almost entirely. The Piano Concerto suffers from Richard Hickox’s stolid accompaniments. He’s fractionally too slow in the first movement, with no warmth or sensuousness from the strings (they shoul... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Pfitzner’s Oleaginous Beethoven 1 & 6

by Jed Distler

Hans Pfitzner’s Beethoven Symphony recordings, to put it charitably, are not among the 78 era’s great milestones. When the curmudgeonly composer/conductor set down Beethoven’s Sixth with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1930, at least four competing Pastorals already graced the ... Continue Reading


Pfitzner’s Beethoven: Not “Historical,” Merely Old

by Jed Distler

With the advent of electrical recording, the German firm Polydor resolved to bring out the complete Beethoven symphonies in time for the composer’s centenary in 1927. The project took until 1933 to complete, with podium chores divided among four conductors: Erich Kleiber (No. 2) Oskar Fried (N... Continue Reading


CD from Historical Hell: Koussevitzky Commissions and Ruins Pictures

by David Hurwitz

Given the fact that Koussevitzky commissioned Ravel’s famous orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, it’s surprising that Boston hasn’t recorded the work more often, and that this 1930 performance stands among the least attractive available. The opening “Promenade” ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Mild About Wild

by Jed Distler

It’s encouraging to see young pianists champion Earl Wild’s original piano works and transcriptions. After all, Wild’s keyboard writing was just as skillful, dazzling, and imaginative as his piano playing. However, Giovanni Doria Miglietta is the wrong man for the job. His renditions of Wild... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Enough Reger To Last A Lifetime (Or End It)

by David Hurwitz

What a puzzle Max Reger was! A master of counterpoint and variation, a purveyor of chromatic sludge, or (most likely) a bit of both? This eleven disc box won’t provide any answers. It consists of the 7-CD Berlin Classics set of orchestral works, plus four more discs containing the String Trio ... Continue Reading

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Reference Recording: Herreweghe’s Sensual Monteverdi Vespers

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Brendel’s Demonic Liszt Concertos

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Previn’s Glorious Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Stokowski’s Yummy Dvorák & RVW

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Abbey Simon’s Ravel Piano Music

by Jed Distler

Vox repackages Abbey Simon’s mid-1970s Ravel cycle with spruced-up cover art and a slimmer jewel case. Hopefully this will help generate sales, for Abbey Simon is nothing less than a stunning and individual Ravel interpreter on every level. Note the uncommon clarity of dynamics, voicing, and t... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Hindemith and Walton Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

This recording constitutes nothing less than a landmark in both the Hindemith and Walton discographies. The Walton Concerto is the better known of the two, but it’s an elusive work that often fails to make a strong impression. It has never received a more shapely, focused, and intelligent perf... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Solti’s Gripping Moses und Aron

by David Hurwitz

This was a major release when it first appeared, and it remains one, not that there’s a lot of competition (Gielen and Boulez, basically). Despite his ubiquity as a Decca artist, and his popularity during his lifetime, it’s difficult to think of many Solti recordings after The Ring that remain f... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Pair of Complete Ginastera Ballets

by David Hurwitz

Ginastera’s two early ballets, Panambí and Estancia, continue to sustain his reputation among music lovers, even though he wrote quite a bit of worthwhile music in a variety of styles (including one of the most exciting and appealing dodecaphonic piano concertos ever). The two suites, which a... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Talich’s Brahms Sextets

by David Hurwitz

La Dolce Volta has taken over the Talich Quartet recordings from the now defunct Calliope catalog, and a good thing it is for they contain a slew of reference recordings, including this luscious disc of the Brahms sextets. Although easily the finest works in their medium, the sextets tend to be negl... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Stoki’s Phase 4 Faun, And Other Fun Stuff

by David Hurwitz

Given the appearance of Valery Gergiev’s horrid new LSO recording of La Mer and Faun with (in La Mer) the same orchestra, I thought it might be interesting to revisit Leopold Stokowski’s Phase 4 recordings from 1970 just to discuss briefly why it’s so brilliant and Gergiev frankly sucks. First... Continue Reading


Marilyn Horne’s Magnificent Mahler

by David Hurwitz

For some ridiculous reason, whenever Decca issued these recordings on CD they left off one of the Mahler cycles in favor of Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with those songs, but if you have all of the Mahler, and you issued them together on LP, why not on CD, ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mendelssohn String Quartets

by David Hurwitz

Two of the three discs in this set have been reviewed individually (by Dan Davis), who gave both of them our highest rating. That leaves the three quartets of Op. 44 for consideration, and they are every bit as fine as the rest. The Talich Quartet plays this music about as well as it can […]... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Karajan’s Luscious Schoenberg

by David Hurwitz

Herbert von Karajan. Remember him? Considering how much he recorded, he gets remarkably little mention nowadays—but at his best, as here, he was amazing. He reportedly paid for these recordings himself because he believed in the importance of preserving the masterworks of the Second Viennese Schoo... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Harris’ Neglected Piano Works

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Martinon’s Sultry, Smoking Schmitt

by David Hurwitz

There have been several new recordings of Schmitt’s most famous work, the tone poem The Tragedy of Salome, but none has eclipsed Martinon’s for sheer excitement and textural interest. If you haven’t heard the way he whips up the climax in the closing pages (sound clip), then you really don’t... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Talich Quartet’s Beethoven

by Dan Davis

There are numerous fine renderings of the complete Beethoven Quartets in the catalogue, ranging from the treasured old Budapest Quartet recordings on Sony, the sleek Alban Berg on EMI, the dramatic Emersons on Deutsche Grammophon, the warm probings of the Italiano on Philips, and the ripely humane V... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Milstein Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn

by David Hurwitz

“All’s not false that’s taught in the public schools,” Tovey was fond of quoting, and this is one of those occasions where the “standard” recommendation still holds true. It’s tempting in the world of classical music to cheer for the underdog, to look for th... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Pollini’s Late Schubert Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

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


Le Quattro Stagioni Definitive

by John Greene

When this recording was first issued in 1994 it was fascinating to see how Teldec varied the cover art from country to country. Italy arguably got the most fitting design, with a reproduction of a Canaletto painting of the Piazza San Marco in Venice where Vivaldi resided at the time. Germany got a d... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Rameau’s Epic Dardanus

by Robert Levine

Rameau composed Dardanus in 1739 at the height of the war between the Lullistes and the Ramistes. The opera was almost universally trashed but still managed to run up 26 performances, due mostly to a thousand avid Ramistes who attended all of them. The opera was revived in 1744 and it was turned int... Continue Reading

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McGegan Shines In Haydn 88, 101 and 104

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


In Talvela, A Boris With A Real Boris

by Robert Levine

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


Under the Radar: Previn’s Glorious Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Martinu Chamber Music With Flute

by David Hurwitz

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


Markevitch’s Remarkable Bach Musical Offering

by David Hurwitz

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


Eric Le Sage’s Late Beethoven: Vivid and Alive

by Jed Distler

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


Under the Radar: Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz

by Robert Levine

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


Under the Radar: Kremer and Davis in Berg

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Harris’ Neglected Piano Works

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Pollini’s Late Schubert Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

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


Dohnányi’s Hot Beethoven and Brahms Arrangements

by David Hurwitz

This is one hot disc, and like so many recordings by Dohnányi it seems never to have gotten the attention that it deserved back in the day. Mahler’s arrangement of Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet (No. 11, if you’re counting) is respectful, but also smart. Of all B... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Hummel’s Mozart Arrangements

by David Hurwitz

This is one of those series that has been flying under the radar for a good while, and so it’s very satisfying to see BIS boxing it up and offering these four discs at a special price. Our own Jed Distler reviewed one of these releases previously and pointed out that soloist Fumiko Shiraga may... Continue Reading


Ruzicková’s Amazing Poulenc Concert champêtre

by David Hurwitz

Zuzana Ruzicková was a force of nature. Interned in multiple concentration camps during the Second World War and forced to perform slave labor, she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, married composer Victor Kalabis, and continued studies in post-War Czechoslovakia. As we all know, the commun... Continue Reading


Sanderling’s Powerful Late Mahler

by David Hurwitz

Kurt Sanderling’s three late Mahler recordings represent an outstanding testament to a first-class artist. They are decidedly “Germanic:” sober, serious, never theatrical or gratuitously showy, but this does not mean that they are not powerfully expressive or exciting. They are uni... 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


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

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

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Remembering Van Cliburn–April 11, 1958

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Richter’s Complete Albums on Sony

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Furtwängler’s Lucerne Ninth, Again

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Stokowski’s Yummy Dvorák & RVW

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: Fritz Kreisler’s Classic EMI Recordings

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Incomparable Callas, Remastered–The True Sound

by Robert Levine

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


The Singers: Sensational Beverly Sills

by Dan Davis

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


Historical Gems: Juicy 1960 Rigoletto with Bastianini and Scotto

by Robert Levine

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


Historical Gems: Klemperer’s Incandescent ’56 German Requiem

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: A Lili Kraus Treasure Trove

by Jed Distler

Announcements about Erato’s boxed set devoted to the great pianist Lili Kraus (1903-1986) generated understandable anticipation among piano mavens, and now that it’s arrived, let us be thankful for this complete, systematic, and newly remastered survey of Kraus’ recordings for the Ducretet-Tho... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Britten conducts Britten at the SWR

by David Hurwitz

Captured in decent, 1956 mono sonics, these performances represent a significant addition to the Britten discography. Of course, he recorded the Sinfonia da Requiem for Decca in excellent stereo, but the “Symphonic Suite” from Gloriana is a superb work, as important and enjoyable as the “Four ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Samson François’ Complete Ravel Recordings

by Jed Distler

Samson François (1922-1970) was a brilliant yet mercurial pianist who left a fascinating and uneven discography, reflected in the Warner Classics/Erato reissue of his complete EMI Ravel recordings. The two concertos with André Cluytens leading the Paris Conservatory Concert Society Orchestra remai... Continue Reading


Schmidt’s Still Estimable Nielsen Cycle

by David Hurwitz

It seems like ages ago, but it was actually 1974-ish when this set became the first stereo Nielsen cycle to be released under the baton of a single conductor–amazing now that the symphonies have become firmly established in the international repertoire. The engineering was and remains a bit du... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Marcelle Meyer’s Genius Rameau

by Jed Distler

The legendary French pianist Marcelle Meyer’s 1953 cycle of Rameau’s complete keyboard music is a milestone of the piano discography. Her instinctive sense of style, gorgeous phrasing, impeccable diction, ear tickling ornaments, and multi-colored palette of sonorities enliven and communicate thi... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Moriz Rosenthal–Complete Recordings

by Jed Distler

The artistry of Moriz Rosenthal (1862-1946) arguably stands head and shoulders above all recorded Liszt pupils. Whatever thunder and power Rosenthal had lost by the time he made his first recordings in 1928 during his 66th year, his effortless facility, prodigious tonal palette, aristocratic rubato,... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Moeran and Ireland Premieres from Heward

by David Hurwitz

British conductor Leslie Heward died of tuberculosis just a few months after these 1942 recordings were issued in January of 1943. It was a serious loss: Heward was a major talent, as these Walter Legge productions clearly demonstrate. Made in the midst of war, with Manchester’s Free Trade Hal... 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


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

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

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Ghedini’s Frail But Compelling Sound World

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Carl Stamitz Cello Concertos

by David Hurwitz

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


Hope’s Original, But More Importantly Superb, Mendelssohn

by Victor Carr Jr

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


Major Discoveries: Kraus Symphonies–Move Over Mozart

by David Hurwitz

This set contains eight magnificent symphonies by a composer who, had he lived, could have been one of the major voices of the classical period. Kraus’ lifespan (1756-92) was almost exactly the same as Mozart’s, and to be honest, a lot of his music is every bit as good. His “Sturm und Drang”... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu Chamber Music With Flute

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: Piano Concertos by Tansman and Boulanger

by David Hurwitz

Here’s an excellent concept program (interesting music composed roughly contemporaneously) that’s almost derailed by yet another mediocre recording of Rhapsody in Blue. Pianist David Greilsammer twists the tempos around like taffy in his solos, with results alternately boring and mannered. Sloan... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Torroba Guitar Concertos–A Great New Series

by David Hurwitz

Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982) is known today for billions of little guitar pieces that dot just about every Spanish guitar collection. You might assume from this that he was either a composer of little consequence, or one of those guys who lived forever but wrote only a tiny amount of music. H... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Englund’s Super Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

I was quite surprised, reading the notes to this recording, to find myself quoted as saying (some time ago) that Einar Englund’s Second Symphony (subtitled the “Blackbird”) was one of the masterpieces of the 20th century orchestral literature. It was a huge relief, then, to listen ... Continue Reading


Bach Meets The Beatles

by David Vernier

We don’t need to spend too much time here: this is one of the coolest, cleverist piano recordings in the catalog, impressively virtuosic and genuinely entertaining–no gimmicks, just, well, an amazing demonstration of style, technique, and improvisatory skill that’s nearly impossibl... Continue Reading


Turina Vol. 6: Tons of Good Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

If you’re a sucker for Spanish music (as I am), then you’re going to love this disc. Turina’s piano music—there’s a ton of it—sounds a lot like Debussy in his Spanish mode, only more so. In other words, it’s consistently colorful, intensely lyrical, harmonically evocative, and so prett... Continue Reading


The One Ginastera Disc You Really Need

by David Hurwitz

Here’s a terrific Ginastera collection. The Estancia and Panambi suites are drawn from Ben-Dor’s complete recording, also now on Naxos, and they are somewhat different from the composer’s own. So if you don’t have the complete versions but do have other recordings of these two suites, you re... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Pair of Complete Ginastera Ballets

by David Hurwitz

Ginastera’s two early ballets, Panambí and Estancia, continue to sustain his reputation among music lovers, even though he wrote quite a bit of worthwhile music in a variety of styles (including one of the most exciting and appealing dodecaphonic piano concertos ever). The two suites, which a... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Markevitch’s La Taille de l’Homme

by Dan Davis

Volume 5 of Marco Polo’s essential series of Igor Markevitch’s music has become Volume 6 as reissued here on Naxos, and oddly enough the Marco Polo issue seems to have remained available, at least for now. Whether Volume 5 or Volume 6, the music still sheds light on one of the strangest... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Emmanuel’s Glittering Sonatinas

by David Hurwitz

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


Markevitch’s Remarkable Bach Musical Offering

by David Hurwitz

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


Not Your Usual Dukas CD

by David Hurwitz

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


Major Discoveries: W.F. Bach’s Nifty Cantatas

by David Vernier

Entirely too little attention has been given in our time to the music of Johann Sebastian’s oldest son—and Carus is making a serious effort to correct that, with its series of cantatas, concertos, keyboard works, and chamber music. This program of four cantatas written by W.F. Bach for St. Marie... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Raff’s Second and Shakespeare Preludes

by David Hurwitz

Joachim Raff’s symphonies have a reputation as being diffuse, bloated, and just not terribly interesting. On the basis of some of his programmatic works in the form, perhaps this is true, at least some of the time, but his Second is a lively, compact, formally shapely and melodically rich work... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Cartellieri’s Four Excellent Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Antonio Cartellieri (1772-1807), despite his Italian name, actually was trained in Berlin and Vienna, and his music has all of the best characteristics of Viennese classicism. Indeed, his models are easy to detect: Gluck’s “Dance of the Furies” in the finale of his Symphony No. 1 (... Continue Reading

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

by David Hurwitz

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


Hope’s Original, But More Importantly Superb, Mendelssohn

by Victor Carr Jr

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Vernier

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


Filling In The Gaps: The Major Mozart Violin Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

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


Liszt’s Charming “Bunte Reihe” Transcriptions

by Jed Distler

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


Not Your Usual Dukas CD

by David Hurwitz

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


Filling In The Gaps: La Serva Padrona

by David Hurwitz

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


Not Just Your Usual Berlioz Harold in Italy

by David Hurwitz

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


Poulenc’s “Blisteringly exciting” Organ Concerto Reissued

by David Hurwitz

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


Filling In The Gaps: Holst Beyond The Planets

by David Hurwitz

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


Beck’s Bounteous Op. 4 Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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

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Big Boxes: Leinsdorf, Browning, Perlman Play Prokofiev

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: Richter’s Complete Albums on Sony

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: Sony/BMG’s Charles Rosen Collection

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Leslie Howard’s Epic Complete Liszt

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: Karajan’s Haydn Paris and London Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

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


The 2013 Seattle Ring

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Fritz Kreisler’s Classic EMI Recordings

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: Incomparable Callas, Remastered–The True Sound

by Robert Levine

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


Big Boxes: Boulez’s Complete Columbia Collection

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: Koopman’s Compelling Complete Bach Organ Works

by David Vernier

If you missed these recordings, made during the mid-to-late 1990s, or have crossed paths with a volume or two in a used-CD shop, you can now obtain the whole collection in one 16-disc boxed set. Koopman isn’t everyone’s favorite Bach interpreter—at least consistently across such a vast reperto... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Heifetz’s Complete Album Collection

by Jed Distler

Although Heifetz’s art has been abundantly well served in the CD era, nothing quite compares to Sony/BMG’s imposing 103-disc set Jascha Heifetz: The Complete Album Collection. It contains all of the violinist’s issued RCA and HMV recordings, his valedictory 1972 concert issued by Columbia Mas... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Lili Kraus Treasure Trove

by Jed Distler

Announcements about Erato’s boxed set devoted to the great pianist Lili Kraus (1903-1986) generated understandable anticipation among piano mavens, and now that it’s arrived, let us be thankful for this complete, systematic, and newly remastered survey of Kraus’ recordings for the Ducretet-Tho... Continue Reading


A Big Box of Early Brendel: First Time’s a Charm

by Jed Distler

As Alfred Brendel brought to a close his public performing career in 2008, Brilliant Classics compiled a 35-CD set devoted to the pianist’s complete solo and concerted discs for the Vox, Turnabout, and Vanguard labels, recorded prior to the long affiliation with Philips that helped cement his ... Continue Reading


A Big Bad Box of Gergiev

by David Hurwitz

This twelve-disc set contains an unfortunate number of performances of striking mediocrity. Gergiev’s position in the record works recalls that of Charles Dutoit. You may recall that on the basis of a couple of good recordings he (with the Montreal Symphony) became Decca’s “house&#... Continue Reading


Really Big Boxes: Sony’s Bernstein Editions

by David Hurwitz

Who knew when Sony’s Bernstein: The Symphony Edition came out several years ago that we would have to wait so long for its successor? I held on to the former because it raised some questions that could only be answered by succeeding volumes, so here is the story as regards the first two sets c... Continue Reading


Pietro de Maria’s Quirky Complete Chopin

by Jed Distler

American piano enthusiasts may know Pietro de Maria’s work from several VAI releases stemming from the Miami International Piano Festival, and from a stunning Naxos recording of Clementi’s three Op. 40 sonatas. Between 2006 and 2009 the pianist recorded Chopin’s complete solo-piano works for D... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Carlo Bergonzi–Verdi Tenor Nonpareil In Style

by Robert Levine

Carlo Bergonzi, the tenor who died in July at the age of 90, undoubtedly was one of the great tenors of the last half of the 20th century. He began his career as a baritone, debuting in 1948 as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, but within two years he realized that his voice was […]... Continue Reading


Please God, Let This Be The Last Ozawa Box

by David Hurwitz

First, there was the 11-disc Seiji Ozawa Anniversary Box, then there was The Art of Seiji Ozawa (16 CDs), then there was Seiji Ozawa: A Life for Music (23 CDs), and now we have the 50-disc Seiji Ozawa: The Philips Years Original Jacket Collection. I just hope that Maestro Ozawa has a lot of good [&h... Continue Reading

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