Latest Music Reviews

Alexandra Papastefanou’s Captivating Bach French Suites

by Jed Distler


Alexandra Papastefanou’s captivating Bach pianism is hard to sum up in words. Certain aspects of harpsichord technique inform her approach in regard to varied articulations, strong finger independence, and the use of agogic caesuras and tenutos to demarcate phrase groupings. On the other hand, she... Continue Reading

Martin Ivanov’s Liszt

by Jed Distler


The young Bulgarian pianist Martin Ivanov’s impressive solo-CD debut featuring Chopin’s Waltzes led to an even more distinctive follow-up release including excellent performances of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke Op. 12 and Noveletten Op. 21. His third Gramola disc is given over to Liszt. It begins promisingly, with... Continue Reading

Big Boxes: Hans Swarowsky Reconsidered

by Jed Distler


Hans Swarowsky (1899-1975) is best known as one of the 20th century’s most sought-after conducting teachers, whose pupils include Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, Bruno Weil, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Mariss Jansons, Ivan Fischer, Jesus Lopez-Coboz, and countless others. Yet there’s less certainty in regard to Swarowsky’s reputation... Continue Reading

Free America!

by David Vernier


The title gets your attention. And its relevance–to particular periods, moments, and events in American history–likely depends on how you choose to interpret the word “free”: either as adjective or imperative. Either way, its connection to the musical program–“Early songs of Resistance and Rebellion”–is clear.... Continue Reading

Moog’s “Stratospheric” Liszt Sonata

by Jed Distler


If you want a modern day Liszt Sonata recording that parallels the fire and brimstone and headlong momentum of bygone legends like Alfred Cortot and Simon Barere, Joseph Moog just may be the ticket. Don’t expect introspection and majesty in the manner of Claudio Arrau,... Continue Reading

Karel Kovařovic’s (Mostly) Anonymous String Quartets

by Jed Distler


A composition pupil of Zdenek Fibich, Karel Kovařovic (1862-1920) was the director of the Prague National Theater who (in)famously turned down Janácek’s opera Jenufa for production. Many years later he changed his mind and offered Janácek a production, but only if the composer would accept... Continue Reading

Labor Of Love

by Jed Distler


If you’ve never heard of Josef Labor (1842-1924), you’re not alone. I only learned about him because he made what is considered to be the rarest piano recording in existence, containing a portion of the Beethoven Op. 10 No. 3 sonata slow movement. Labor’s very... Continue Reading

Kristjan Järvi’s Characterless Haydn Paris Symphonies

by David Hurwitz


Neat, swift, and completely lacking personality–that’s how these performances sound. Like so many conductors today, Kristjan Järvi opts for “period influenced” performance as if applying the correct formula and letting the music play itself is all that he need do. The result has a certain... Continue Reading

Reference Recording: Harnoncourt and Haydn in Paris–and Heaven

by David Hurwitz


[Editor’s Note: This set is available again (1/20) on as an import at an amazingly low price (about $14 plus shipping) for three discs. Originally it went out of print about 15 minutes after its domestic release, and could only be found in the... Continue Reading

Under the Radar: Ughi And Crowson’s 1978 Beethoven Cycle

by Jed Distler


Sony Classical’s budget price release of a 1978 Beethoven cycle originally issued by Dischi Ricordi featuring violinist Uto Ughi and pianist Lamar Crowson comes as a welcome surprise. The 34-year-old Ughi’s instrumental mastery and intelligent musicianship were captured at the cusp of his early maturity.... Continue Reading

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