Latest Music Reviews

Karajan’s 1970s Beethoven In Blu-ray Audio: A Controversial Set Revisited

by Jens F. Laurson


Herbert von Karajan was once the high-holy name in classical music. So much so it was inevitable that the historical pendulum would swing the other way. And so he became something of an outcast among the self-declared cognoscenti. When customers asked for Karajan at the... Continue Reading

Volume 26: St. Gallen’s Bach Cantata Cycle Marches On

by Jens F. Laurson


Step by lively step, the St. Gallen Bach Foundation’s cantata series moves ahead with its sneakily magnificent releases. One of the latest efforts, Volume 26, features the usual qualities: Unspectacular, buoyant, deeply felt readings with fine singers with clear, natural voices. BWV 25 opens the... Continue Reading

Vinikour Plays Magnificent 20th Century Harpsichord Concertos

by David Hurwitz


For imaginative choice of repertoire married to sterling performances, this has got to be one of the outstanding discs of 2019. Yes, there are great 20th-century harpsichord concertos besides those of Poulenc, Martin, Falla, and Martinu. Jory Vinikour has chosen four. Let’s get right to... Continue Reading

Back in Print: Peter Hurford’s Seminal Bach Survey On Argo/Decca

by Jens F. Laurson


Peter Hurford’s traversal of Bach’s complete organ works has been out of print for years. As a result, all that I had to go by, for assessing Hurford’s take on that oeuvre—which, outside the cantatas, best shows Bach at his essence—was a well-loved, much-played best-selling... Continue Reading

The Liszt and Lyapunov Transcendental Etudes Paired

by Jed Distler


So far as I can tell, this release marks the first time that both Liszt and Lyapunov sets of Twelve Transcendental Etudes have been paired on disc. Given the luscious sonority and opulent power that Konstantin Scherbakov summons in concert, his performances of the first... Continue Reading

One-To-A-Part Bach Harpsichord Concertos: Great In Detail But Big-Picture Pale

by Jens F. Laurson


Ideology has done much to shape how we listen to baroque music. There was, for one, the one-voice-per-part coterie around Joshua Rifkin that insisted on undernourished performances of cantatas and now-no-longer “choral” works. Analogously, in instrumental works, the concertos have been recast (or restored) as... Continue Reading

CD From Hell: Thielemann’s Schumann Gets Worse (Believe It Or Not)

by David Hurwitz


Christian Thielemann hates rhythm. Schumann demands it. Thielemann despises sudden dynamic contrasts. Schumann thrives on them. Thieleman seems not to care about instrumental balances. Schumann’s thick scoring requires smart podium management. The Staatskapelle Dresden recorded a reference Schumann cycle under Wolfgang Sawallisch. Thielemann nearly ruins... Continue Reading

A Hearty Hearth Of Howells String Music

by Victor Carr Jr


Here is an enjoyable album of 20th-century British string music. If you don’t know the composer Herbert Howells, familiarity with the string works of Vaughan Williams (and a bit of Britten) will give you some idea of what to expect. Howells’ Concerto for String Orchestra... Continue Reading

Anonymous Schubert from Gardner and Birmingham

by David Hurwitz


It doesn’t get any duller than this first release in what promises to be a worthless new series of Schubert symphonies. Oh joy. These are fast, clipped, coldly competent performances offering little beyond rhythmic accuracy and a certain unyielding energy. The outer movements of the... Continue Reading

Well Played Cramer Etudes (but was this release really needed?)

by Jed Distler


Before Chopin’s Etudes there were Clementi’s teaching pieces collectively known as Gradus ad Parnassum. And before Clementi, pianists struggled with Johann Baptist Cramer’s 84 Etudes, originally published between 1804 and 1808. Cramer published the original complete 84 Etudes in two books: the first in 1804... Continue Reading

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