Classics Today Insider

Jerome Lowenthal’s Beethoven Cadenza Feast

by Jed Distler

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


Big Boxes: EMI Gets Annie Fischer Right

by Jed Distler

Annie Fischer’s complete EMI recordings have been available in various CD reissues over the years, yet never all together until now. Certain items in this 8-disc collection are newly transferred from stereo masters that sound more open, dynamically expanded, and full-bodied than in earlier mono in... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Glorious Trovatore

by Robert Levine

Try though I may, I’ve yet to find a more satisfying version of this opera on disc, which was recorded in 1952. Other, newer recordings have featured some great singers–Leontyne Price in three, Placido Domingo in a couple, Sutherland, Pavarotti, Horne, Callas, di Stefano, Bergonzi, Corelli, ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Grotesque Debussy and Ravel for Organ

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Abbado’s Berlin Brahms

by David Hurwitz

If this set were all that survived from Abbado’s tenure in Berlin, collectors would be salivating for additional recordings, certain that they would reveal further evidence of an astonishingly high quality of performance and interpretation. Well, we have those recordings, and sadly very few of... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Grab Bag of Strauss Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

This seven disc sets contains the nine canonic tone poems plus a selection of Strauss’ other orchestral works, drawn from the RCA and Sony catalogs. Some of the choices are obvious, and no less appropriate for that: Reiner’s Ein Heldenleben, Zarathustra, Symphonia domestic, Bourgeois gen... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Frustratingly Decent Strauss

by David Hurwitz

The best disc in this five-CD set of the nine major Strauss tone poems plus a couple of shorter works is the last, containing Don Quixote, the Romance for Cello and Orchestra, and the Cello Sonata with Steven Isserlis and pianist Stephen Hough. The reason is not that the performances are “the ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Harold’s Italian Passport Revoked

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Alkan & Chopin Cello Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

Until now the recording of choice for the Alkan sonata was Bertrand/Amoyel on Harmonia Mundi, with Rostropovich/Argerich on DG for the Chopin. The two sonatas make an inspired coupling, all the more so as this newcomer sweeps the board in both works. There’s an odd rule in the classical music ... Continue Reading


Spányi’s CPE Bach Concerto Series Concludes

by David Hurwitz

With this twentieth volume, Miklós Spányi’s imposing series of the complete keyboard concertos of CPE Bach draws to a close. The two concertos, Wq. 46 for two harpsichords, and Wq. 47 for harpsichord and piano, are two of Bach’s finest orchestral works in any form. The latter, in parti... Continue Reading


Rische’s CPE Bach Concertos Vol. 3

by David Hurwitz

There seems to be no plan at Hänssler to record all of the CPE Bach keyboard concertos on modern piano, but the three volumes that pianist Michael Rische has released thus far have been splendid, and generally superior to the competition from Miklós Spányi on BIS if only because Rische takes the ... Continue Reading


Nigel Rogers and Paul O’Dette Do Dowland

by David Hurwitz

Dowland’s lute songs are marvelous, and should be better known to mainstream listeners. Sting’s collection has helped to redress the balance in that regard, but to a large extent they remain the province of modern countertenors, whose often grotesque crooning has no basis in “authe... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: John Williams Plays Everything Spanish

by David Hurwitz

Well, maybe not everything Spanish, but as much as you’ll ever want or need, most likely, including three versions of the Concierto de Aranjuez. The best of these is the earliest, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, because it’s the quickest, especially in the central Ada... Continue Reading


Karajan’s Last Sibelius Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Make no mistake, Karajan was a very great Sibelius conductor. He left four recordings of the Fifth Symphony, and two of the Second, a work that he didn’t particularly care for (and it shows–more on that shortly). When these late Karajan/early digital versions of the symphonies were relea... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Hindemith’s Complete Nobilissima

by David Hurwitz

“First recording of complete ballet” this CD tray card proudly proclaims. Sorry guys, that honor goes (at a minimum) to Karl Anton Rickenbacher with the Bamberg Symphony on Koch, released way back in 1995. Statements such as this are all the more annoying when they can be disproved in ab... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Big, Tense Onegin, Gloriously Sung

by Robert Levine

This 1987 recording may not be the most “authentic” Onegin on the market–there’s not a Russian in the cast (Burchuladze is Georgian)–but it is the most intense, dramatic, and engrossing. Perhaps James Levine’s involvement with Verdi brought him to concentrate on the red-blood... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Thrill-A-Minute Forza

by Robert Levine

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


Reference Recording: Klemperer’s Matchless Fidelio

by Jed Distler

Even if you have the earlier, full-priced transfer of this colossus-like performance, try to sample EMI’s newest remastering. It’s quite something. The orchestral and choral detail were always proportioned and focused, but now boast greater definition and thrust, with more air around the... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Abbado’s First Berlin Beethoven Cycle

by Victor Carr Jr

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


Historical Gems: Shirley Verrett’s Great Carmen

by Robert Levine

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Kegel’s Smashing Orff Der Mond

by David Hurwitz

If you like Carmina burana and want to hear its logical successor, Der Mond is the place to go. Not only does it actually quote from the earlier work, but it contains a maximum of music with a minimum of dialogue. The story could not be simpler: four traveling fellows happen across the moon hanging ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Grotesque Debussy and Ravel for Organ

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Harold’s Italian Passport Revoked

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Abbado’s First Berlin Beethoven Cycle

by Victor Carr Jr

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Carmen From Hell

by Robert Levine

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


CD From Hell: Collins Mangles Sibelius, Pt. 1

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Collins Mangles Sibelius, Pt. 2

by David Hurwitz

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


CD From Hell: Venzago’s Bruckner 8–Apocalypse Now

by David Hurwitz

Hearing this worst-ever recording of Bruckner’s Eighth is actually a heartwarming experience. It reminds us that even in these days of high playing standards the great masterpieces still resist being mauled by nutcase conductors able to attract sufficient funds (and gullible labels) to inflect... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Scherchen Butchers The Suite From Mahler’s Fifth

by David Hurwitz

This legendary release captures a 1965 live performance of Mahler’s Fifth, or rather a version so cut that it amounts to an extended suite. Two thirds of the scherzo are missing, as is about a third of the finale. The playing elsewhere is so poor that it would make a bad community orchestra bl... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gergiev’s Messy Rite

by David Hurwitz

Gergiev’s recording of The Rite of Spring, recorded live in Baden-Baden, never should have been released. It’s a mess, both interpretively and especially technically. The problems announce themselves from the very first measures, as the far-too-forward microphone placement limits the dyn... Continue Reading


CD From Hell (or Siberia): A Punch-the-Pianist, Mannerist Figaro

by Robert Levine

Some things you should know: This complete recording was made in the city of Perm, just at the edge of Siberia (a closed city devoted to arms manufacturing previously called “Molotov” during the Soviet era), over a period of 11 days and for up to 14 hours per day—the type of total immersion on... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Haitink Euthanizes Vaughan Williams

by David Hurwitz

If we didn’t already know that Bernard Haitink has no sense of humor as an interpreter, I would call this set a joke. We all know that the British press loves it when major international artists come to England and pay homage to native composers–as distinct from when they attempt to do i... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dreadful Riffs On Purcell From Pluhar

by Robert Levine

I’ve been a great fan of Christina Pluhar and her period-instrument-and-voice group, L’Arpeggiata, which frequently highlights the wonderful countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as does this release. Pluhar is known for allowing and encouraging improvisation as well as for adding rhythmic alteration... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Furtwängler the Bach Mangler

by David Hurwitz

This release does Furtwängler’s reputation no credit at all. 1950 was a Bach year (the bicentennial of his death), and the great conductor had his heart set on a Vienna performance of the St. Matthew Passion–which already had been promised to his arch-rival, Herbert von Karajan. In an e... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Koussevitzky Drools All Over Sibelius

by David Hurwitz

These boring, indifferently played, soggily recorded performances haven’t held up well at all (if indeed they ever did when first issued). The first movement of the Second Symphony never catches fire (what a dreary opening!–sound clip), and in the ensuing “Tempo andante” seco... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Davis’ Shameful RCA Sibelius

by David Hurwitz

The prospect of Colin Davis, a committed Sibelian, remaking the symphonies and lots of orchestral music, including Kullervo, with the London Symphony for RCA initially sounded exciting. After all, his Boston cycle was (and remains) a reference recording. The result was a disaster. I have some inside... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Oramo’s Push-Me-Pull-You Elgar

by David Hurwitz

As readers of CT.com will know, I am a big fan of Elgar performances by non-native forces. After all, he cannot be the great international composer that his fans claim while simultaneously being the private preserve of a select few British interpreters gifted with understanding of his unique idiom. ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Karajan Slimes Beethoven Overtures

by David Hurwitz

This disc features Herbert von Karajan’s Beethoven style at its worst. Super-legato phrasing (the opening of the Consecration of the House Overture sounds more like a march from Night of the Living Dead), balances that bury woodwind parts even when they have the tune (the coda of Leonore No. 3... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bernstein’s Bloated “Jupiter” Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Bernstein played a lot of Mozart in his day, and there’s no question that he genuinely loved the music. And yet, he really wasn’t a very idiomatic Mozart interpreter, which is all the more fascinating because he was a spectacular Haydn conductor. Perhaps owing to its relatively Haydnesqu... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Angela East Destroys Bach Cello Suites

by David Hurwitz

Reviewing music is such a subjective business; few and far-between are the opportunities to cover a disc so horrendous that you can trash it and know that there can be no dissent, that you speak objective truth. So when my colleague at CTFrance.com, Christophe Huss, called me up and said, “You... Continue Reading

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Reference Recording: Glorious Trovatore

by Robert Levine

Try though I may, I’ve yet to find a more satisfying version of this opera on disc, which was recorded in 1952. Other, newer recordings have featured some great singers–Leontyne Price in three, Placido Domingo in a couple, Sutherland, Pavarotti, Horne, Callas, di Stefano, Bergonzi, Corelli, ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Abbado’s Berlin Brahms

by David Hurwitz

If this set were all that survived from Abbado’s tenure in Berlin, collectors would be salivating for additional recordings, certain that they would reveal further evidence of an astonishingly high quality of performance and interpretation. Well, we have those recordings, and sadly very few of... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Alkan & Chopin Cello Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

Until now the recording of choice for the Alkan sonata was Bertrand/Amoyel on Harmonia Mundi, with Rostropovich/Argerich on DG for the Chopin. The two sonatas make an inspired coupling, all the more so as this newcomer sweeps the board in both works. There’s an odd rule in the classical music ... Continue Reading


Nigel Rogers and Paul O’Dette Do Dowland

by David Hurwitz

Dowland’s lute songs are marvelous, and should be better known to mainstream listeners. Sting’s collection has helped to redress the balance in that regard, but to a large extent they remain the province of modern countertenors, whose often grotesque crooning has no basis in “authe... Continue Reading


Karajan’s Last Sibelius Recordings

by David Hurwitz

Make no mistake, Karajan was a very great Sibelius conductor. He left four recordings of the Fifth Symphony, and two of the Second, a work that he didn’t particularly care for (and it shows–more on that shortly). When these late Karajan/early digital versions of the symphonies were relea... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Big, Tense Onegin, Gloriously Sung

by Robert Levine

This 1987 recording may not be the most “authentic” Onegin on the market–there’s not a Russian in the cast (Burchuladze is Georgian)–but it is the most intense, dramatic, and engrossing. Perhaps James Levine’s involvement with Verdi brought him to concentrate on the red-blood... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Klemperer’s Matchless Fidelio

by Jed Distler

Even if you have the earlier, full-priced transfer of this colossus-like performance, try to sample EMI’s newest remastering. It’s quite something. The orchestral and choral detail were always proportioned and focused, but now boast greater definition and thrust, with more air around the... Continue Reading


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Kegel’s Smashing Orff Der Mond

by David Hurwitz

If you like Carmina burana and want to hear its logical successor, Der Mond is the place to go. Not only does it actually quote from the earlier work, but it contains a maximum of music with a minimum of dialogue. The story could not be simpler: four traveling fellows happen across the moon hanging ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Solti’s Strauss Tone Poems

by David Hurwitz

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


Savall Personalizes Dowland’s Lachrimae

by David Hurwitz

Most recordings of Dowland’s beautifully touching and melancholy Lachrimae place the seven “passionate Pavans” that give the collection its title up front (as did Dowland himself). The result is about 25-30 minutes of mostly slow, thematically related music, and modern listeners wh... Continue Reading


Dowland’s Lachrimae, And Then Some

by David Hurwitz

This lovely performance of Dowland’s Lachrimae features lutenist Paul O’Dette in three additional solos related to the contents of the larger collection of consort music in five parts. Particularly noteworthy is a Pavane allegedly dedicated to Dowland by Mortiz, Landgrave of Hessen-Kasse... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dowland’s Lachrimae From Jakob Lindberg

by David Hurwitz

Believe it or not, the “seven passionate Pavans” that open Dowland’s epochal Lachrimae collection of consort music do not constitute the gloomiest music in the series. That honor, especially in these intense performances, belongs to Sir Henry Umpton’s Funerall and Semper Dowl... Continue Reading


Fretwork’s Intimate Dowland Lachrimae

by David Hurwitz

Dowland’s Lachrimae has been billed (by Cambridge University Press) as “the earliest instrumental music to be generally known,” or words to that effect. Whether true or not, it is an amazingly beautiful collection, and an interesting one too. Its 21 numbers open with seven “p... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Taming Puccini’s Wild West Opera

by Robert Levine

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


Reference Recording: Time Stands Still–Songs by John Dowland

by David Vernier

With good reason, the songs of John Dowland prove a perennial and irresistible attraction for singers and lutenists, and they’re best heard when performed by a clear-voiced, lyrical soloist who can project these songs’ incomparably lovely melodies with sincere emotion. Happily, that̵... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The In-Your-Face Salome To End Them All

by Robert Levine

There may have actually been “greater” Salomes in recordings of Salome; Hildegard Behrens is arguably more insightful, and Montserrat Caballé more kittenish and vocally opulent–but Nilsson is in a class by herself. Normal human beings–even great singers who seem supernatural... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: A “Live” Don Carlo for Life

by Robert Levine

There are arguments to be made in favor of both versions of Don Carlo, in four or five acts (never mind French or Italian), although either way it remains a very long opera. Karajan’s EMI recording of the four-act edition, with a very similar cast to this one, remains one of his greatest Verdi... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Duruflé Requiem

by David Hurwitz

Maurice Duruflé preferred the grandly orchestrated large-ensemble version of his Requiem to the organ solo or chamber editions, but there have been remarkably few excellent recordings of it–starting with the composer’s own, which is rather grungy sounding. Basically, choice comes down t... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: St. Matthew Profound and Unbound

by David Vernier

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

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Historical Gems: Shirley Verrett’s Great Carmen

by Robert Levine

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


Under the Radar: Solti’s Strauss Tone Poems

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Taming Puccini’s Wild West Opera

by Robert Levine

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


Four-Hands Requiem Is Hands-Down Success

by David Vernier

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Under The Radar: Markevitch’s Zarzuela Collection

by David Hurwitz

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


A Frühbeck de Burgos Testament: Sensational Liszt

by David Hurwitz

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


Andrew Davis Does Elgar Proud

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Ozawa’s First Mahler First

by David Hurwitz

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


Under the Radar: Tetzlaff and Kirshbaum in Bach

by Jed Distler

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


Scarlatti On The Modern Harpsichord

by David Hurwitz

It’s very odd that most Scarlatti recordings feature either piano or “historical” harpsichords, but very few offer the latter instrument’s modern incarnation. I suppose, in a sense, all harpsichords are historical to the extent that they are copies of older models, but you mi... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: A Great New Glagolitic Mass

by David Hurwitz

Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass is one of the great “collectible” works, in the sense that it has so many readily audible moments that aficionados listen for and love to compare from one performance to the next: the soprano and tenor soloists, those crazy timpani solos, the tempos at th... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ozawa’s Sublime Berlioz R&J

by David Hurwitz

This well-nigh definitive recording of Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet last appeared in a big box called something like “The Berlioz Experience”, surrounded by a bunch of far less desirable performances of the composer’s other major works. Other than that, it has not been reissued... Continue Reading


Beethoven’s Violin Concerto for the 21st Century

by David Hurwitz

Christian Tetzlaff is a brilliant violinist, one whose technique is equaled by his intelligence. He recorded a very respectable Beethoven Violin Concerto with Michael Gielen, last available on Point Classics in so-so sound. This newcomer is finer still, an interpretation with real personality and a ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Finally, A Great Beethoven Triple

by Jed Distler

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


Under the Radar: An “Emperor” Worthy of the Name

by David Hurwitz

Are the Bronfman/Zinman Beethoven piano concertos the modern answer to Fleisher/Szell? It would seem so. When this cycle was issued originally in the mid-2000s the distribution situation with Arte Nova was just a tad questionable on these shores, and Sony/BMG were more of a mess than usual. So we we... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Really Excellent Beethoven 3rd and 4th PCs

by David Hurwitz

These are sensational performances. They have everything: drama, poetry, and a real point of view, all while recognizing the latest scholarship with respect to playing music of the Classical period. It’s fascinating to hear how interesting an interpretation can become when a big-boned Romantic... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Bronfman and Zinman’s Stellar Beethoven Early Concertos

by David Hurwitz

The period-instrument movement has accomplished some wonderful things, not least of which has been the improvement of performances that aren’t on period instruments. So many ex-Soviet or Eastern European pianists felt the need to be barn-storming virtuosos, and so few really were. I remember v... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Swensen Aces Brahms’ Violin Concerto

by David Hurwitz

This remarkable performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto stands among the finest available–indeed, it’s just about perfect, and all the more remarkable coming from a soloist who also (at least nominally) conducts. I say “nominally” because one of the most outstanding feature... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Slatkin’s Grossly Underrated Mahler “Resurrection”

by Victor Carr Jr

The CD version of Leonard Slatkin’s Mahler Second was a vast improvement over the original LPs, which, one critic complained, sounded as if “wrapped in fur”. Now SACD technology allows the full-bandwidth of the Soundstream original to be experienced in the home. Listening to the so... Continue Reading

More "Under the Radar" Reviews »

Historical Gems: A Thrill-A-Minute Forza

by Robert Levine

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


Historical Gems: Shirley Verrett’s Great Carmen

by Robert Levine

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


Reference Recording: St. Matthew Profound and Unbound

by David Vernier

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


Big Boxes: Karajan and His Soloists 1

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Rare Géza Anda from the SWR

by Jed Distler

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


Historical Gems: Hindemith Plays (with) Himself

by David Hurwitz

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


Historical Gems: Krauss Conducts Strauss in Vienna

by David Hurwitz

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


Big Boxes: The Arthur Rubinstein Complete Album Collection

by Jed Distler

Arthur Rubinstein’s 82 years before the public comprised one of the longest and most fulfilling piano careers in history. He adored giving concerts, and audiences in turn responded to the communicative immediacy and emotional balance governing the pianist’s red-blooded and generous approach to m... Continue Reading


Berman’s Liszt Transcendental Etudes: Justly Legendary

by Jed Distler

The late Lazar Berman (1930-2005) recorded two complete cycles of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes for Melodiya. His 1959 version appeared in the long-deleted BMG/Melodiya Russian Piano School CD reissue series. The 1963 remake presented here was briefly available via Japanese Victor and as part of a... Continue Reading


Karajan’s Mono Beethoven “Officially” Remastered (Again)

by David Hurwitz

This is one heck of a fine Beethoven cycle. That said, David Patmore assures us in his booklet notes that of the four complete cycles Karajan left us, this one “is generally considered to be the best.” By whom, I wonder? That honor belongs to the 1963 release with the Berlin Philharmonic... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Fricsay’s Epic Háry János

by David Hurwitz

Kodály’s Háry János Suite is a difficult work to perform badly, not that is hasn’t been done. Tuneful, colorfully scored, and full of folksy charm, it has been brilliantly recorded by the likes of Szell, Kertesz, Dorati, and Fischer. Fine as those versions undoubtedly are, though, no ... Continue Reading


A Legendary Ives “Concord” Sonata–Finally On CD

by Jed Distler

Among musicians closely associated with Charles Ives and his music, John Kirkpatrick possessed an innate affinity for the composer’s rough and tumble sound world that bordered on clairvoyance. A brilliant and adventurous pianist, Kirkpatrick (1905-1991) gave the complete public premiere of Ives’... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Aida Live, Munich, 1972

by Robert Levine

There are dozens of complete recordings of Aida on the market, and many have something unique to offer: Vickers’ urgent Radames with Price’s ravishing Aida; Caballé stunning in the title role; Toscanini’s white-hot conducting; and more than one searing interpretation by Callas. Do... Continue Reading


Fricsay’s Posthumous “Pathétique”

by David Hurwitz

Ferenc Fricsay died before approving this performance for release, and so it was only issued in 1996 despite being recorded in 1959/60. Shockingly, it never enjoyed a formal, international distribution, although it is easy enough to find now. This is without question one of the most intensely moving... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Fricsay’s Reference Beethoven 9th

by David Hurwitz

Debilitating illness and premature death prevented Ferenc Fricsay from extensive work in the studio, which is a terrible shame because virtually all of his surviving recordings are excellent. This one, DG’s first stereo Ninth, remains among the best ever recorded. It’s difficult to pinpo... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Krauss Does A Daring Strauss D&T

by David Hurwitz

It goes without saying that the Decca “complete” Krauss recordings box of Strauss tone poems is not complete. Missing are these late 1940s versions of Till Eulenspiegel, with the La Scala Orchestra, and Death and Transfiguration with the London Philharmonic. It’s interesting to hea... Continue Reading


Tretyakov’s Prodigious Paganini

by David Vernier

Russian violinist Victor Tretyakov was 19 years old in 1966 when he won first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition and when he made this marvelous recording of the Paganini Violin Concerto No. 1. I was, um, a bit younger but had been studying the violin for eight years when I first put on the LPR... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Milstein Plays Tchaikovsky and Dvorák

by David Hurwitz

Despite outstanding recordings, indeed reference versions, by the likes of Heifetz and Oistrakh, there was a general consensus that Nathan Milstein “owned” the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for most of the mid to late 20th century. Those who were fortunate enough to see him play it (as I d... Continue Reading


Strauss Conducts Historically, If Not Convincingly

by David Hurwitz

It’s always interesting to hear a composer conduct his own work even when that composer said, as did Strauss, that the job bored him. To be honest, if it bored him that much he wouldn’t have done it so often, which is not to say that he always did it well. In his own music, […]... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Beinum’s Budget Bruckner

by David Hurwitz

Now available from Australian Eloquence, Beinum’s Bruckner recordings are classics–as unique as they are rewarding. These discs were briefly available in a slim Philips box and in a few other configurations, but if you blinked you probably missed them. Symphonies Nos. 7-9 were studio rec... Continue Reading

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Reference Recording: Alkan & Chopin Cello Sonatas

by David Hurwitz

Until now the recording of choice for the Alkan sonata was Bertrand/Amoyel on Harmonia Mundi, with Rostropovich/Argerich on DG for the Chopin. The two sonatas make an inspired coupling, all the more so as this newcomer sweeps the board in both works. There’s an odd rule in the classical music ... Continue Reading


Spányi’s CPE Bach Concerto Series Concludes

by David Hurwitz

With this twentieth volume, Miklós Spányi’s imposing series of the complete keyboard concertos of CPE Bach draws to a close. The two concertos, Wq. 46 for two harpsichords, and Wq. 47 for harpsichord and piano, are two of Bach’s finest orchestral works in any form. The latter, in parti... Continue Reading


Rische’s CPE Bach Concertos Vol. 3

by David Hurwitz

There seems to be no plan at Hänssler to record all of the CPE Bach keyboard concertos on modern piano, but the three volumes that pianist Michael Rische has released thus far have been splendid, and generally superior to the competition from Miklós Spányi on BIS if only because Rische takes the ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Hindemith’s Complete Nobilissima

by David Hurwitz

“First recording of complete ballet” this CD tray card proudly proclaims. Sorry guys, that honor goes (at a minimum) to Karl Anton Rickenbacher with the Bamberg Symphony on Koch, released way back in 1995. Statements such as this are all the more annoying when they can be disproved in ab... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kegel’s Smashing Orff Der Mond

by David Hurwitz

If you like Carmina burana and want to hear its logical successor, Der Mond is the place to go. Not only does it actually quote from the earlier work, but it contains a maximum of music with a minimum of dialogue. The story could not be simpler: four traveling fellows happen across the moon hanging ... Continue Reading


Savall Personalizes Dowland’s Lachrimae

by David Hurwitz

Most recordings of Dowland’s beautifully touching and melancholy Lachrimae place the seven “passionate Pavans” that give the collection its title up front (as did Dowland himself). The result is about 25-30 minutes of mostly slow, thematically related music, and modern listeners wh... Continue Reading


Dowland’s Lachrimae, And Then Some

by David Hurwitz

This lovely performance of Dowland’s Lachrimae features lutenist Paul O’Dette in three additional solos related to the contents of the larger collection of consort music in five parts. Particularly noteworthy is a Pavane allegedly dedicated to Dowland by Mortiz, Landgrave of Hessen-Kasse... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Dowland’s Lachrimae From Jakob Lindberg

by David Hurwitz

Believe it or not, the “seven passionate Pavans” that open Dowland’s epochal Lachrimae collection of consort music do not constitute the gloomiest music in the series. That honor, especially in these intense performances, belongs to Sir Henry Umpton’s Funerall and Semper Dowl... Continue Reading


Fretwork’s Intimate Dowland Lachrimae

by David Hurwitz

Dowland’s Lachrimae has been billed (by Cambridge University Press) as “the earliest instrumental music to be generally known,” or words to that effect. Whether true or not, it is an amazingly beautiful collection, and an interesting one too. Its 21 numbers open with seven “p... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Martin’s Marvelous Mass

by Dan Davis

Frank Martin’s Mass, completed in 1926, premiered in 1963, and now perhaps his most frequently performed work, usually is described as “austere”. It is, but with emotional, musical, and even sensual layers the word doesn’t describe. The austerity is obvious in the homophonic,... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gouvy’s Glorious Fourth Symphony

by David Hurwitz

You can tell from the opening bars of Gouvy’s D minor Fourth Symphony that this is the real deal (sound clip): urgent, compellingly scored, and thematically distinctive. Yes, the idiom is conservative for the 1850s/60s, but good music is good music, and this may well be great music. After a st... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Williamson’s Our Man in Havana

by David Hurwitz

When Malcolm Williamson died in 2003, the musical world scarcely noticed. Still, I suppose it’s better to enjoy growing posthumous recognition than to vanish into obscurity after transient popularity in one’s own lifetime. So if Chandos’ series of Williamson’s orchestral work... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: D’Albert’s Cinderella and Little Mermaid

by David Hurwitz

Eugen D’Albert was a tremendously gifted musician, and even had he not been we would owe him respect for being married six times and inspiring his second wife, the also multiply married Venezuelan pianist Teresa Careño, to utter that immortal line, “Darling, your children and my childre... Continue Reading


Hamelin’s Standard-Setting Busoni

by Jed Distler

Ninety years have passed since Ferruccio Busoni’s death in 1924, and his original piano works remain box-office poison, although they’ve proliferated on disc. Recent recordings include several all-Busoni discs by Roland Pontinen on CPO along with Wolf Harden’s ongoing complete Busoni cycle for... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Florent Schmitt’s Children’s Ballet

by David Hurwitz

Florent Schmitt really, really liked Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. He liked it so much that he wrote his own piano suite based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fable about the little elf that puts children to sleep and sends them magical dreams. When Ravel orchestrated his suite, then added in... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Crumb’s Spanish and American Songbooks

by David Hurwitz

George Crumb returns to his favorite poet, Lorca, for the texts of Ghosts of Alhambra, even including one (Malagueña) that he set previously. Crumb’s style by now is well known: the extended performance techniques (both vocal and instrumental), evocative percussion, and the atmospheric contra... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Symphonies by a Modern David

by David Hurwitz

Johann Nepomuk David (1895-1977) was a German/Austrian symphonist in the neoclassical style of Hindemith, although he sounds quite different. His music is buoyantly contrapuntal and rhythmically muscular, but far less aggressive than that of his contemporary, as well as less harmonically acerbic. It... Continue Reading


Dacapo’s Riisager Edition Concludes Brilliantly

by David Hurwitz

This third and, sadly, last entry in Dacapo’s Riisager Symphonic Edition contains some of the best music so far, smashingly performed and recorded. The Summer Rhapsody on Danish folk melodies sounds just as advertised. It’s a jolly potpourri of catchy tunes, scored with glittering abando... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Karayev Ballet Suites

by David Hurwitz

Kara Karayev’s ballet music isn’t quite as unknown as the rest of his output. This exact coupling was released previously on Melodiya, then Olympia, and now evidently reissued on Delos. Fans of the brilliant and eccentric comedian Ernie Kovacs might notice that he used the concluding Pro... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Williamson Plays Williamson

by David Hurwitz

Having gone back and listened to this disc while in the process of covering Hyperion’s new release of all the Williamson piano concertos, I noticed that I hadn’t written about it previously, so here we are. The Organ Concerto, dedicated to Adrian Boult, is one wild piece. The opening mov... Continue Reading

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Jerome Lowenthal’s Beethoven Cadenza Feast

by Jed Distler

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


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

by David Hurwitz

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


Four-Hands Requiem Is Hands-Down Success

by David Vernier

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


A Box of Orff. Nazaza?

by David Hurwitz

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


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

by Jed Distler

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


Sterling Hindemith from Frank Peter Zimmermann

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Finally, A Great Beethoven Triple

by Jed Distler

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


Filling In the Gaps: A Fine Collection of Haydn Songs

by David Hurwitz

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


Nazis on Parade: Karajan’s Classic March Album

by David Hurwitz

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


Britten On Air and On Stage

by David Vernier

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


Filling In The Gaps: Dvorák Complete Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

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


Filling In The Gaps: Wagner’s Patriotic Potboilers

by David Hurwitz

For the Wagnerite who wants everything the Meister wrote, this disc is just the ticket. Polonia and Rule Britannia are two early patriotic potboilers from the time of the first operas, and they are neither better nor worse that you might expect. Noisy and strident, they get the job done, and are con... Continue Reading


Boulez’ First (Almost) Complete Webern Now A Bargain

by David Hurwitz

Actually, although Boulez is the marquee artist for this collection, he has relatively little to do given the fact that most of Webern’s 31 opus numbers consists of chamber music and songs. These are quite impressively done by sopranos Heather Harper and Halina Lukomska, pianist Charles Rosen,... Continue Reading


Delius in Norway

by David Hurwitz

Norway is a gorgeous country, and it’s no surprise that Delius found much of his inspiration there. The pieces on this intelligently planned program run from 1889-1917, and are programmed in roughly chronological order. They range from the charming orchestration of good friend Edvard GriegR... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Mozart’s Thamos, King of Egypt

by David Hurwitz

Mozart spent a good seven years, on and off, working on his incidental music to Gebler’s play Thamos, King of Egypt. No one much cared about it then–the play, that is–and we care about it even less now. However, Mozart wrote three choruses, four orchestral interludes, and some brie... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: An Exciting Josephslegende

by David Hurwitz

Every Strauss lover needs a recording of this ballet, composed just before (or during) An Alpine Symphony, for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris. The work has suffered from Strauss’ professed lack of interest in the title character, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t work hard... Continue Reading


Matchless Bach Mass Box

by David Vernier

Pygmalion is a Paris-based choir and period-instrument orchestra founded by Raphaël Pichon in 2006 and has since been active in promoting the music of Bach and Rameau, appearing in various European festivals and making several well-received recordings, including the ones contained in this new box, ... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Paavo Järvi’s Useful Sibelius Box

by David Hurwitz

This is a very useful set for anyone looking to fill in their Sibelius collection. Yes, it has some familiar works: the Lemminkäinen Suite, the Valse triste, and Pelléas et Mélisande. But the rest—Kullervo, The Maiden in the Tower, and the various cantatas—includes some of his least known pie... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Interesting Bizet Orchestrations

by David Hurwitz

Forget about this droopy, dull performance of the Symphony in C, with its opening that’s anything but “allegro vivo” (sound clips for comparison). What makes this disc interesting is the orchestration of the complete Jeux d’enfants, with the bits that Bizet didn’t orche... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Best Carmen Without Carmen

by David Hurwitz

What to do about Carmen? The tunes are so great, the suites so short, and sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for all that screaming and yelling (never mind the dialog). The solution: “Carmen without words.” It’s been done many times, but seldom as well as here. Shchedrin&#... Continue Reading

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Big Boxes: EMI Gets Annie Fischer Right

by Jed Distler

Annie Fischer’s complete EMI recordings have been available in various CD reissues over the years, yet never all together until now. Certain items in this 8-disc collection are newly transferred from stereo masters that sound more open, dynamically expanded, and full-bodied than in earlier mono in... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Grab Bag of Strauss Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

This seven disc sets contains the nine canonic tone poems plus a selection of Strauss’ other orchestral works, drawn from the RCA and Sony catalogs. Some of the choices are obvious, and no less appropriate for that: Reiner’s Ein Heldenleben, Zarathustra, Symphonia domestic, Bourgeois gen... Continue Reading


Maazel’s Frustratingly Decent Strauss

by David Hurwitz

The best disc in this five-CD set of the nine major Strauss tone poems plus a couple of shorter works is the last, containing Don Quixote, the Romance for Cello and Orchestra, and the Cello Sonata with Steven Isserlis and pianist Stephen Hough. The reason is not that the performances are “the ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: John Williams Plays Everything Spanish

by David Hurwitz

Well, maybe not everything Spanish, but as much as you’ll ever want or need, most likely, including three versions of the Concierto de Aranjuez. The best of these is the earliest, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, because it’s the quickest, especially in the central Ada... Continue Reading


Andrew Davis’ Estimable RVW Cycle

by David Hurwitz

This box comes with a glowing review on the back published in BBC Music Magazine. That the featured orchestra is the BBC Symphony should give listeners pause, just as a positive review of a MET performance in that house’s organ, Opera News, should make readers think twice. Even if there is no... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Ivo Janssen Plays Complete Bach Keyboard Works…and how!

by Jed Distler

In 1998 Dutch pianist Ivo Janssen launched the Void Classics label with a fleet, witty, and intelligently ornamented interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Over the next eight years Janssen recorded the rest of Bach’s keyboard works, all of which are now available in an attractively price... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Leonard Bernstein Collection Volume 1

by Jed Distler

If you’ve been waiting for DG to systematically reissue its complete catalog of Leonard Bernstein recordings, your day has come. Organized alphabetically and sequentially by composer in original sleeve facsimiles, this first of two mega boxed sets covers A through L, so to speak, beginning with Be... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karajan and His Soloists 1

by David Hurwitz

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


Reference Recording: Engeset’s Complete Grieg, and Then Some

by David Hurwitz

Choices, choices! Ole Kristian Ruud’s superb Grieg box on BIS was and remains a reference for this music, and it is just a smidgen more technically polished than these otherwise excellent performances. However, Engeset has a couple of points in his favor that may weigh significantly with colle... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Ruud’s Complete Grieg Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

At eight discs for the price of three, this is a great set and a great bargain. It has basically ruled the Grieg marketplace for the past few years, but now that Engeset’s Naxos box is also available collectors are spoiled for choice in this music, for both are equally fine. There are some rea... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Kubelik–The Symphony Edition

by David Hurwitz

This set represents Rafael Kubelik’s art in a wholly positive way. His Mahler and Dvorák cycles are very well-known. The Dvorák remains, along with those by Rowicki and Kertesz, one of the three reference editions of the complete symphonies, and the only one featuring a Czech conductor. It&#... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Living Stereo, the Sequel

by Jed Distler

Sony/BMG’s Living Stereo Volume 2 big box differs from its predecessor in several respects. Whereas Volume 1 replicated highly acclaimed Living Stereo CD reissues in space-saving cardboard covers, Volume 2 adheres to a strict “original jacket” game plan based on original vinyl LP contents, exc... Continue Reading


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

by Jed Distler

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


A Kubelik Miscellany On Sony

by David Hurwitz

This hodge-podge collection gathers together Rafael Kubelik’s Sony recordings: symphonies by Mozart, Schumann, and Bruckner. The outstanding item is the Schumann cycle. Kubelik’s earlier Berlin recordings were good, but these are better: big, beefy, but texturally transparent and always ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Arthur Rubinstein Complete Album Collection

by Jed Distler

Arthur Rubinstein’s 82 years before the public comprised one of the longest and most fulfilling piano careers in history. He adored giving concerts, and audiences in turn responded to the communicative immediacy and emotional balance governing the pianist’s red-blooded and generous approach to m... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Seiji Ozawa, A Life For Music

by David Hurwitz

Of the three random boxes of Ozawa stuff that Universal has dumped onto the market roughly simultaneously(!)–Seiji Ozawa Anniversary; The Art of Seiji Ozawa; and this one, A Life for Music–this 23-disc set arguably contains the best mix of material. It’s still missing some of Ozawa... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Mixed Up Art of Ozawa

by David Hurwitz

I am sitting here trying to sort out three inanely assembled Seiji Ozawa boxes. They are: Seiji Ozawa Anniversary (11 dics); Seiji Ozawa: A Life for Music (23 discs); and the present release, The Art of Seiji Ozawa (16 discs). The latter two are on DG; “Anniversary” is on Decca. All cont... Continue Reading


A Big Box of Böhm

by David Hurwitz

These performances have been reissued literally dozens of times, collectively, which says something about their quality and popularity. Böhm had a reputation for being a bit stodgy in the core German repertoire, and in some of these pieces–the Brahms symphonies and a couple of the Beethovens ... Continue Reading


Pinnock’s Handel: Bigger and Cheaper

by David Hurwitz

You can purchase this 11-disc set of all of Trevor Pinnock’s Handel orchestral recordings for around 20 bucks less than Archiv’s previous, 6-disc collection, which puzzlingly remains available. Go figure. The performances are well known and always have been respected for their vivacity, ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Mid-Size Chunk of Excellent Vivaldi

by David Hurwitz

Choosing Vivaldi recordings is like buying cheese: you do it by the pound. This mid-size (7 CD) box contains 55 concertos, including The Four Seasons (but not the rest of Op. 8), L’estro armonico, La stravaganza, the Six Flute Concertos of Op. 10, and a selection of well-chosen, miscellaneous ... Continue Reading

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