Latest Music Reviews

Even Bernstein Worshipers Might Lose Patience

by Robert Levine


This four-hour-and 25-minute Tristan was recorded over a period of several months (January, April, and November, 1981), one act at a time. It was released by Philips in 1982, in an audio-only format; I was not aware that the semi-staged performances had been videotaped until... Continue Reading

Cellos For Pleasure

by David Vernier


It’s easy to find recordings of cellos–single cellos, duo cellos, even whole orchestras full of nothing but cellos. You have little or no problem negotiating this vast gallery of choices if your aim is to find one of the major works performed by a world-class... Continue Reading

Alto & Strings Illuminate Rare Baroque Works

by David Vernier


Before you read this you should read Bob Levine’s review of Handel arias by countertenor Franco Fagioli. Now that your unfounded concerns regarding the countertenor voice have been thoroughly quelled (if you ever had such concerns), you can freely proceed to assess the merits of... Continue Reading

Lachner’s Third Symphony: It’s About Timing

by David Hurwitz


Franz Lachner (1803-90) is best known today as the Munich Kapellmeister whose career was cut short by the arrival of Wagner and the nuttiness of King Ludwig II, but his career as a composer was long and distinguished. His Third Symphony shows promise. It’s full... Continue Reading

Melnikov Plays Debussy

by Jed Distler


The 1885 Erard piano used in this recording of Debussy’s Preludes Book II stands out for the distinct character of its sonorities in different registers (a mellifluous middle register, a twangy bass, and so forth), plus its capacity to produce a wide variety of sustain... Continue Reading

Fischer’s Micro-Managed Mendelssohn

by David Hurwitz


Iván Fischer seems to have caught a severe case of Micro-Managitus, not that we couldn’t see it coming. The symptoms are evident in the Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture: the oddly slow tempo to be able to “expressively” shape passagework designed to flit by as swiftly... Continue Reading

Martin & Martinu: Mass, Mary, Ariel, and Dandelions

by David Vernier


It’s easy to hear the opening of Frank Martin’s Mass and think–Vaughan Williams, as in his own setting for a cappella double choir, composed in the early 1920s, just a year or two before Martin’s work. Not to say there’s any direct connection, but that... Continue Reading

Great Lovers, Uncommitted Leadership Make An Odd Tristan

by Robert Levine


As hard as it is to believe that there are more vintage recordings of Tristan coming to light, it’s even harder to believe that anyone would need a review of one. But I played this when I got it: getting the chance to hear Nilsson... Continue Reading

Stupendous Handel From Franco Fagioli

by Robert Levine


I have finally figured out that like anchovies, you can’t convince people to like the countertenor voice if they don’t “get” it. Their infantile squeamishness no longer interests me; nor do their excuses–“it just doesn’t sound natural.” Birgit Nilsson sounds “natural”? Joan Sutherland sounds “natural”?... Continue Reading

Vivaldi–Bagpipes, And Drunken Sailors

by Jens F. Laurson


This disc opens with terrific, riveting interpretations of famous Vivaldi concertos “La Tempesta di Mare” and “Il Gardellino”–performances that absolutely fly off the page thanks to Jeremy Irons look-alike François Lazarevitch directing his band Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien while playing the respective recorder and transverse... Continue Reading

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