Classics Today Insider

Historic Gems: Then-Bergh’s Reger & Baumgartner’s Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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Vintage recordings of two gigantic variation sets comprise this reissue. Beethoven wrestled with his Diabelli Variations for years, while Max Reger tossed off his Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Telemann in a mere eight days, and it shows. A composer friend quipped that the Reger set sounded like... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Yara Bernette’s Exquisite Rachmaninov Preludes

by Jed Distler

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The American-born/Brazilian-raised pianist Yara Bernette (1920-2002) may not be a familiar name to keyboard mavens, save for an exquisite 1969 Deutsche Grammophon LP devoted to Rachmaninov, containing most of the Op. 23 and Op. 32 Preludes, her only recording for the label. Bernette had actually rec... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Victor Babin, the Composer

by David Hurwitz

Babin

Bartók added an orchestral part to his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion in order to give him and his wife a virtuoso vehicle to take on tour and make a few bucks. The original being one of his greatest masterpieces, the Concerto version stands as a musical embodiment of the motto, “If it ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Harth-Bedoya Plays Garrido-Lecca

by David Hurwitz

Lecca

You gotta love those hyphenated Spanish surnames. Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya pays loving tribute to the music of one of Latin America’s major composers, Celso Garrido-Lecca, a major force in the musical development of both Peru and Chile. The four works included here were composed ... Continue Reading


Five Mahler 3s, Mr. Haitink, Is Four Too Many

by David Hurwitz

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Bernard Haitink once gave an interview in Gramophone Magazine where he said something to the effect that because Mahler is such a special composer, recordings of his music should be rare. That was when only one Mahler cycle by him was generally available. Since then, he has completely disregarded hi... Continue Reading


Gershwin: Porgy and Bess From, Yes, Harnoncourt

by David Hurwitz

Believe it or not, this was going to be an April Fools review (or “We Only Wish,” as we call them now), but reality caught up with it first. It just goes to show that in today’s classical music universe, there is nothing we can dream up that’s stranger than an actual major la... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gamzou’s Garish Mahler 10th

by David Hurwitz

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Here is yet another pointless realization of Mahler’s Tenth. Yoel Gamzou’s principal justification for undertaking the project is the fact that he has loved the work since he was twelve, which evidently was the age at which his aesthetic sense stopped maturing. The orchestration is bad e... Continue Reading


THE BIGGEST BOX EVER: NAXOS’ A-Z OF CLASSICAL MUSIC

by David Hurwitz

Never let it be said that the folks at Naxos aren’t ambitious. True to their promise, they have released the world’s largest classical sampler: 67,481 CDs, each containing 25-30 tracks and more than 75 minutes of music, with excerpts of 15-25 works on every conveniently indexed track. It... Continue Reading


DELIVERANCE II: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

by David Hurwitz

It was perhaps inevitable in this day of corporate “synergies” in the entertainment world that Sony Pictures would turn to its sister company’s catalog as a cost-saving measure, rather than commissioning an entirely new score for the sequel Deliverance II: Been There, Done That. An... Continue Reading


We Only Wish: The Legendary Barbirolli Turangalila-Symphonie

by David Hurwitz

At last, BBC Classics has unearthed one of the rarest and most eagerly sought-after of Barbirolli’s Hallé recordings: his legendary broadcast performance of April 1, 1965, consisting solely of Olivier Messiaen’s epic Turangalila-Symphonie. The circumstances of this one-time dip into the... Continue Reading


We Only Wish: Tavener’s GOD

by David Vernier

You already can hear the British press crying “masterpiece!” over John Tavener’s latest work, the first part of which has just been released by Chandos Records. All the fuss, including two-page, four-color advertising spreads in all the British magazines (which, according to the la... Continue Reading


We Only Wish: CELIBIDACHE–ADAGIO

by Victor Carr Jr

Rumors of this album have been circulating among Celibidache’s followers (and they are legion) since shortly after his death. EMI only just recently got permission from the Celibidache family to issue this 79 minute disc (they reportedly wanted to include his performance of Berlioz’s Hun... Continue Reading


HATTO PLAYS HATTO

by David Hurwitz

Will the madness never end? Despite claims from husband William Barrington-Coupe that the Hatto scam was over and done with, I received the present release unexpectedly in the mail this past week. Evidently it represents the next stage in the ongoing, delusional plot to make Ms. Hatto queen of the c... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Handel & Croft–Peace of Utrecht

by David Vernier

Handel had returned to England from Hanover in the fall of 1712, some months before the Treaty of Utrecht (actually a series of treaties) was signed the following April. However, evidence suggests that the composer already had in hand his Te Deum, long in advance of the celebratory events surroundin... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Roussel’s Complete Symphonies on Naxos

by David Hurwitz

Although other discs in this series have been released since (The Spider’s Feast and other works), here’s a timely reminder that Naxos has thoughtfully boxed up Stéphane Denève’s complete Roussel symphony cycle, thus providing an excellent excuse (once again) to give it the stron... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Leifs’ Very Approachable Edda Part 1

by David Hurwitz

It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Jon Leifs died leaving the third part of his Edda cycle unfinished, and he never heard a complete performance even of this Part One. It’s not hard to understand why. A refugee from Germany during the Second World War, he returned t... Continue Reading


Jón Leifs: Start Here

by David Hurwitz

Jón Leifs’ music tends to extremes: of volume, ensemble size, harmony, and rhythm. As such, people either love it or hate it. I love it. True, it’s a comparatively hermetic, or “closed” style, with a limited range of expressive devices. Harmonic motion follows the parallel f... Continue Reading


Singing Shostakovich

by David Vernier

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No one would accuse Shostakovich of being a choral composer, and no doubt many fans of his music aren’t aware of the works showcased here–two sets of vocal pieces written in 1951, two years before the end of the Stalin era. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the composer’s “deli... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Duchâble’s Chopin Re-Examined

by Jed Distler

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François-René Duchâble made headlines in 2003 by announcing his retreat from the international concert limelight, a gesture that he symbolized by hiring a helicopter to drop a piano into Lake La Colmiane, near Nice. Since then the pianist has maintained a low public profile, and his Erato and EMI... Continue Reading


Claudio Arrau’s EMI Schubert Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Claudio Arrau’s complete Schubert EMI recordings from the 1950s took up a couple of CDs in EMI’s 2011 Icon boxed set devoted to the pianist. While these 24-bit 96 kHz remasterings boast a little more presence and tonal heft in relation to earlier CD editions, the sonic differences are subtle at ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Reger’s Complete Piano Music Reissued

by Jed Distler

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So far as I know, Markus Becker is the only pianist to have recorded Max Reger’s complete piano music. His 12-CD series first appeared as individual volumes on Thorofon (several of which I reviewed for Classicstoday.com), and later as a boxed set. The Hamburg-based New Classical Adventure label no... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: LSO String Ensemble–Traitors To The Cause?

by David Hurwitz

ElgarSimovic

Let’s not waste time. This is a worthless disc. Roman Simovic is the Leader of the LSO string section, and probably a good one. He is no conductor. These are completely faceless performances of music that the players probably know by heart, and sound as if they are running through by rote. Per... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gamzou’s Garish Mahler 10th

by David Hurwitz

Mahler10Gam

Here is yet another pointless realization of Mahler’s Tenth. Yoel Gamzou’s principal justification for undertaking the project is the fact that he has loved the work since he was twelve, which evidently was the age at which his aesthetic sense stopped maturing. The orchestration is bad e... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: LSO String Ensemble–Traitors To The Cause?

by David Hurwitz

ElgarSimovic

Let’s not waste time. This is a worthless disc. Roman Simovic is the Leader of the LSO string section, and probably a good one. He is no conductor. These are completely faceless performances of music that the players probably know by heart, and sound as if they are running through by rote. Per... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Barenboim Blows It In Bruckner

by David Hurwitz

BrucknerBaren

“Barenboim” is a corruption of “Birnenbaum,” German for pear tree. The Spanish word is “peral.” This is also the name of the production company from which DG licensed this set. Barenboim comes from Argentina, hence “Peral Music.” Get it? Actually, this... Continue Reading


Pointless: Boring Stravinsky Monochrome And In Color

by David Hurwitz

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This is a vanity project, plain and simple. The person whose vanity is at issue is conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who must have come up with the idea of coupling boring performances of Stravinsky’s three early ballets with even more boring complete piano versions of each, and having the Base... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dudamel’s New “Pictures” Is A Dud

by David Hurwitz

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Before making a new recording of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” conductor and orchestra should be locked in a room and forced to listen to Ormandy, Reiner, Szell, Ancerl, Slatkin, Abbado (LSO), Maazel, Giulini (DG), or any one of a dozen or two excellent existing versions with the stern in... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Marriner’s Pathetic Pathétique

by David Hurwitz

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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

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


Turkeys!: Marriner’s Roman Decline and Fall

by David Hurwitz

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Reference Recording: Handel & Croft–Peace of Utrecht

by David Vernier

Handel had returned to England from Hanover in the fall of 1712, some months before the Treaty of Utrecht (actually a series of treaties) was signed the following April. However, evidence suggests that the composer already had in hand his Te Deum, long in advance of the celebratory events surroundin... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Roussel’s Complete Symphonies on Naxos

by David Hurwitz

Although other discs in this series have been released since (The Spider’s Feast and other works), here’s a timely reminder that Naxos has thoughtfully boxed up Stéphane Denève’s complete Roussel symphony cycle, thus providing an excellent excuse (once again) to give it the stron... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Kertesz’s Reference Complete LSO Dvorák, Blu-Ray Edition

by David Hurwitz

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I can’t help but think that you’re still better off buying the budget box containing exactly this repertoire, at about half the price. Is the remastered CD sound better? Perhaps marginally, but the original recordings themselves were not demonstration quality, and so nothing the engineer... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: The Best Janácek Opera Suites

by David Hurwitz

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Frantisek Jílek spent most of his career in Brno, at the head of that town’s orchestra. He was a Janácek specialist, but more than that a very good conductor overall. I haven’t heard a single poor recording from him, and I have no idea what political machinations in communist Czechoslo... Continue Reading


Munch’s Classic Pathétique Plus Romeo & Juliet

by David Hurwitz

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If you want these two works coupled on a single disc, this is still the one to get. I confirmed the truth of this observation in making comparisons with the new, very pretty but anodyne Bychkov release on Decca. There are other Pathéthiques as good or even, perhaps, slightly better: Fricsay, Mravin... 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


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

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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

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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

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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

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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


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

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Under the Radar: Yara Bernette’s Exquisite Rachmaninov Preludes

by Jed Distler

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The American-born/Brazilian-raised pianist Yara Bernette (1920-2002) may not be a familiar name to keyboard mavens, save for an exquisite 1969 Deutsche Grammophon LP devoted to Rachmaninov, containing most of the Op. 23 and Op. 32 Preludes, her only recording for the label. Bernette had actually rec... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Excellent Vienna Sibelius, Now On Blu-Ray

by David Hurwitz

maazelsib

The major labels keep trying to get people to buy the same stuff at ever-higher prices because, well, that’s what they need to do. My original view of this set can be found below. If you have a Blu-Ray player and want this cycle, and don’t care about price, go for it. The remastered CDs ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Janácek Rare and Familiar from Jílek

by Victor Carr Jr

The Brno Philharmonic, Janácek’s “hometown” orchestra, premiered many of the composer’s major works, and it maintains a Janácek tradition that lends a certain authenticity to the ensemble’s performances. The orchestra’s sound is lean and nimble, especially compa... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Idiomatic Janácek Sinfonietta and Danube

by Victor Carr Jr

Janácek’s most popular orchestral work, Sinfonietta, comes vividly to life in the hands of František Jílek and the Brno Philharmonic, who ideally capture the pagan splendor of the raucous brass fanfares in the outer movements while projecting the magical combination of mystery and playfulne... 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


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

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


Under the Radar: Ingratiating Gebel Quartets

by David Vernier

gebelquartets

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


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

by David Hurwitz

ShostMasur

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


Beethoven and Viotti: Classic Grumiaux

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Fine Martinu from Weller

by David Hurwitz

MartinuWeller

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


Under the Radar: Monteverdi Vespers from King

by David Hurwitz

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


A Great Live Poppea From Bavaria

by Robert Levine

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


Rozhdesvensky’s Pulverizing Czech Radio Shostakovich Fourth

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Scorching Shostakovich 11 From Lazarev

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by John Greene

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

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Historic Gems: Then-Bergh’s Reger & Baumgartner’s Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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Vintage recordings of two gigantic variation sets comprise this reissue. Beethoven wrestled with his Diabelli Variations for years, while Max Reger tossed off his Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Telemann in a mere eight days, and it shows. A composer friend quipped that the Reger set sounded like... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Yara Bernette’s Exquisite Rachmaninov Preludes

by Jed Distler

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The American-born/Brazilian-raised pianist Yara Bernette (1920-2002) may not be a familiar name to keyboard mavens, save for an exquisite 1969 Deutsche Grammophon LP devoted to Rachmaninov, containing most of the Op. 23 and Op. 32 Preludes, her only recording for the label. Bernette had actually rec... Continue Reading


Claudio Arrau’s EMI Schubert Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Claudio Arrau’s complete Schubert EMI recordings from the 1950s took up a couple of CDs in EMI’s 2011 Icon boxed set devoted to the pianist. While these 24-bit 96 kHz remasterings boast a little more presence and tonal heft in relation to earlier CD editions, the sonic differences are subtle at ... Continue Reading


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

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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

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Major Discoveries: Victor Babin, the Composer

by David Hurwitz

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Bartók added an orchestral part to his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion in order to give him and his wife a virtuoso vehicle to take on tour and make a few bucks. The original being one of his greatest masterpieces, the Concerto version stands as a musical embodiment of the motto, “If it ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Harth-Bedoya Plays Garrido-Lecca

by David Hurwitz

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You gotta love those hyphenated Spanish surnames. Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya pays loving tribute to the music of one of Latin America’s major composers, Celso Garrido-Lecca, a major force in the musical development of both Peru and Chile. The four works included here were composed ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Leifs’ Very Approachable Edda Part 1

by David Hurwitz

It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Jon Leifs died leaving the third part of his Edda cycle unfinished, and he never heard a complete performance even of this Part One. It’s not hard to understand why. A refugee from Germany during the Second World War, he returned t... Continue Reading


Jón Leifs: Start Here

by David Hurwitz

Jón Leifs’ music tends to extremes: of volume, ensemble size, harmony, and rhythm. As such, people either love it or hate it. I love it. True, it’s a comparatively hermetic, or “closed” style, with a limited range of expressive devices. Harmonic motion follows the parallel f... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Two Fine Finnish Violin Concertos

by David Hurwitz

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Here’s an easy call. These are two excellent violin concertos by two excellent Finnish composers. Einar Englund’s Violin Concerto is based on an expansive five-note motive (sound clip) that permeates all three movements, but never in a pointlessly repetitive or simplistic way. He was, in... Continue Reading


Paul Juon’s Pleasing Symphonic Music

by David Hurwitz

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Russian-German composer Paul Juon’s symphonic music already has featured on a couple of releases on the Sterling Label, while CPO has focused on the chamber music–until now. These two pieces date from the end of Juon’s life: the 1930s. They are both enjoyable, if not earth-shatteri... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Erkin’s Vibrant Orchestral Music

by David Hurwitz

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If anyone is looking for a theme song for “I Dream of Jeannie, The Next Generation,” they might want to check out Ulvi Cemal Erkin’s Dance Rhapsody, Köçekçe (sound clip). Indeed, much of Erkin’s music has what at first sounds like a relatively cheesy, B-movie oriental qual... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Jeanne’s Fan, A Rarity Complete From Naxos

by David Hurwitz

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We know L’Éventail de Jeanne (Jeannes’s Fan), a collaborative ballet in ten movements by ten composers, primarily from Ravel’s opening Fanfare and Poulenc’s Pastourelle, but the other numbers have plenty of appeal. Roussel’s bittersweet Sarabande adds weight to an othe... Continue Reading


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

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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

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Singing Shostakovich

by David Vernier

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No one would accuse Shostakovich of being a choral composer, and no doubt many fans of his music aren’t aware of the works showcased here–two sets of vocal pieces written in 1951, two years before the end of the Stalin era. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the composer’s “deli... Continue Reading


Rare Vaughan Williams, Pleasantly Played

by David Hurwitz

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If only the Chamber Orchestra of New York had a few more strings, this program might have been ideal. As it stands it’s pleasant enough, and the rarity of three items offers a useful opportunity to round out your RVW collection. The Solent, in case you were wondering (the notes don’t bot... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Ozawa’s Third Mahler First

by David Hurwitz

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Ozawa recorded three Mahler symphonies with the Saito Kinen Orchestra: the Second, the Ninth, and the First. The Second and Ninth were released by Sony, and have generally been available one way or another. The First, now on Japanese Decca, has never been easy to find outside of Japan. It’s no... Continue Reading


Handel: Three Magnificent Chandos Anthems

by David Vernier

Handel was fundamentally a theatrical composer, in the sense that no matter what the genre, his guiding principle seems to have been that the ultimate purpose of music is to entertain, to keep the audience in–if not on the edge of–their seats, and to keep them coming back for more. Even ... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: The Best Janácek Opera Suites

by David Hurwitz

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Frantisek Jílek spent most of his career in Brno, at the head of that town’s orchestra. He was a Janácek specialist, but more than that a very good conductor overall. I haven’t heard a single poor recording from him, and I have no idea what political machinations in communist Czechoslo... Continue Reading


Honeck’s Thrilling Elektra Suite

by David Hurwitz

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This is juicy. I’m sure that many music lovers have wished that Strauss had made a suite from Elektra. It is, after all, one of his most exciting scores, as well as one of his most symphonically cogent. Well, here it is, courtesy of Manfred Honeck and Tomas Ille, and it’s a doozy. You ge... Continue Reading


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

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THE BIGGEST BOX EVER: NAXOS’ A-Z OF CLASSICAL MUSIC

by David Hurwitz

Never let it be said that the folks at Naxos aren’t ambitious. True to their promise, they have released the world’s largest classical sampler: 67,481 CDs, each containing 25-30 tracks and more than 75 minutes of music, with excerpts of 15-25 works on every conveniently indexed track. It... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Duchâble’s Chopin Re-Examined

by Jed Distler

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François-René Duchâble made headlines in 2003 by announcing his retreat from the international concert limelight, a gesture that he symbolized by hiring a helicopter to drop a piano into Lake La Colmiane, near Nice. Since then the pianist has maintained a low public profile, and his Erato and EMI... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Reger’s Complete Piano Music Reissued

by Jed Distler

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So far as I know, Markus Becker is the only pianist to have recorded Max Reger’s complete piano music. His 12-CD series first appeared as individual volumes on Thorofon (several of which I reviewed for Classicstoday.com), and later as a boxed set. The Hamburg-based New Classical Adventure label no... Continue Reading


Paavo Järvi’s Beethoven In A Box

by David Hurwitz

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These performances have enjoyed only very spotty availability domestically, and at crazy prices. This box is no exception. I saw it listed on US Amazon.com for $168, which is patently insane, but you can get it on the international sites–both Amazon and everyone else–for around $30, whic... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Barenboim Blows It In Bruckner

by David Hurwitz

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“Barenboim” is a corruption of “Birnenbaum,” German for pear tree. The Spanish word is “peral.” This is also the name of the production company from which DG licensed this set. Barenboim comes from Argentina, hence “Peral Music.” Get it? Actually, this... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Maria João Pires’ Complete DG Chamber Music Recordings

by Jed Distler

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It’s interesting how certain world-class pianists with strong personalities as soloists are able to bring a true team spirit to their chamber music collaborations while leaving a personal stamp that draws attention to the music rather to themselves. Examples include the veteran Arthur Rubinstein i... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Michelangeli Edition, Reissued & Expanded

by Jed Distler

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This collection is basically an “original jacket” repackaging of Deutsche Grammophon’s 2003 slim-line boxed set containing Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s complete recordings for the label, but with two additional discs. One is a 2009 release preserving a live 1984 Schumann concerto with Dan... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Late, But Not Decrepit, Böhm

by David Hurwitz

Bohm

Most conductors stay active way past their expiration dates, but Karl Böhm did better than most. Yes, he slowed down a bit and became a tad stiff and crotchety, but then, he was always a tad stiff and crotchety, so his age showed less than it otherwise might have. Also, some of these recordings are... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Kertesz’s Reference Complete LSO Dvorák, Blu-Ray Edition

by David Hurwitz

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I can’t help but think that you’re still better off buying the budget box containing exactly this repertoire, at about half the price. Is the remastered CD sound better? Perhaps marginally, but the original recordings themselves were not demonstration quality, and so nothing the engineer... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Complete Chopin Goes Deluxe

by Jed Distler

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Deutsche Grammophon’s Complete Chopin Deluxe Edition is basically the label’s 2009 Complete Chopin Edition with additional bells and whistles. It retains most of the 2009 set’s performances while tossing in three bonus discs and a DVD for good measure. A new full-size 108-page book contains th... 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

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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

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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

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