Classics Today Insider

CD From Hell: Tenitone Jonas Kaufmann Crashes And Burns In Das Lied

by David Hurwitz

MahlerKauf

This performance memorializes a stupid stunt. One singer trying to perform all six songs in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, written for alto (or baritone), tenor, and orchestra, is the vocal equivalent of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump over the Snake River Can... Continue Reading


Polyphony For Nuns

by David Vernier

borgiasdaughter

Artists and record labels often attempt to attract attention to their projects with innovative programming, intriguing/provocative titles, or both. Here’s one–and it does catch your interest. If the title doesn’t get you, the subtitle–“Princess, nun, and musician; Motet... Continue Reading


New Works For Piccolo

by Jed Distler

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Those who think that the piccolo is nothing but a high and shrill member of the flute family may be surprised at the variety of new music presented on this disc. What is more, Natalie Schwaabe’s supple virtuosity, immaculate sense of pitch, and keen gift for characterization makes the best case fo... Continue Reading


Gál’s Marvelous Music for Mandolins

by David Hurwitz

GalMand

Aside from having a remarkably flat head (see cover photo), Hans Gál was a composer of real distinction. He had a buddy in Vienna who ran an “orchestra” of mandolins–a “Zupforchester,” or “plucked orchestra.” It consisted primarily of mandolins, guitars, an... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Vienna Philharmonic Symphony Edition

by David Hurwitz

ViennaSyms

Back in 2012 DG released this 50-CD box of symphonies. A limited edition, like most such projects, it may or may not still be available at time of writing, but in order to understand why the more recent 175th Anniversary Box is such a failure, relatively speaking, we need to examine the contents of ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Random Vienna Philharmonic 175th Anniversary Edition

by David Hurwitz

Vienna175DG

This 45-disc random assortment of material does a singular disservice to the Vienna Philharmonic, but it reveals some interesting facts about the corporate catastrophe that is Universal Music. You would think that because Decca, Philips, and DG effectively constitute a single company, it should be p... Continue Reading


Tone Poems From The “Cow Pat” School

by David Hurwitz

BritTonePoems1

Let’s be honest: Chandos couldn’t just come out and call this disc “Second String British Tone Poems,” but that’s what they are. With the exception of Bantock’s faux-Tchaikovsky-sounding The Witch of Atlas, all of them are pleasant, nature inspired effusions of re... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Feldman’s For John Cage

by David Hurwitz

FeldmanCage

It’s exciting to see hatART’s recordings available again, especially of Morton Feldman. For John Cage, although at sixty-nine minutes not one of his longer late works, is still one of his tougher ones. Scored for violin and piano, its difficulty lies less in its motivic material than in ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Abbado’s Frustrating Mahler

by David Hurwitz

MahlerAbb

Abbado’s best Mahler recordings were his earliest, made in Chicago, of Symphonies Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 7. The Chicago First was wrecked by bad early digital sonics: this Berlin remake is demonstrably better. Other fine performances in this set, relatively speaking, include symphonies Nos. 8 and 9. Tru... Continue Reading


Splendid Recorded Premieres Of Four Alwyn Quartets

by Jed Distler

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Considering how well William Alwyn’s music has fared on disc, perhaps it’s surprising that his Tenth through Thirteenth string quartets from the 1930s have not been recorded until now. After all, Alwyn always wrote effectively and beautifully for the genre. While the Tenth’s four movements dep... Continue Reading


Kozeluch Symphonies, Volume 1: Nice Music

by David Hurwitz

Kozeluch1

If you enjoy fluent, finely crafted classical period symphonies then this well-played, well-recorded disc is for you. Kozeluch was one of a constellation of Czech symphonies active in eighteenth-century Vienna. His Bohemian roots show in his music’s innate tunefulness (sound clip), as well as ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps With Jochum’s Reference Bruckner 1st and Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

BruckDeum

This reasonably priced, Japanese DG release very conveniently offers two reference recordings on a single disc, and that makes it an ideal supplement or single-disc addition to many a Bruckner collection. Jochum’s version of the Te Deum has been difficult to acquire outside of his set of the s... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Ginastera’s Gripping, Expressionistic Bomarzo

by David Hurwitz

Bomarzocover

Without any fanfare or ceremony, Sony has reissued on CD for the first time, at budget price, one of the most important recordings of 20th-century opera: the 1967 premiere of Ginastera’s Bomarzo. No notes, no libretto, and barely a synopsis, but it doesn’t matter. The work is a masterpie... Continue Reading


Calmus’ Cool Luther Chorale Collage

by David Vernier

luthercollage

The 500th anniversary of the generally agreed beginning of the Reformation–when Martin Luther published his famous “disputations” (the Ninety-five Theses) in October, 1517–not surprisingly has sparked an outpouring of recordings focused not on the Reformation but on Luther... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Feldman’s Three Voices

by David Hurwitz

Feldman

If you’re looking for an introduction to Morton Feldman’s special sound world, I can’t think of a better place to start than with Three Voices. It was originally written for Joan La Barbara, whose recording for New Albion is pretty hard to beat, but Juliet Fraser gives her an impre... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Sokolov’s Bogus Profundity In Mozart and Rachmaninov

by David Hurwitz

Sokolov

Put this release squarely into the “naked emperor” category. Scrounging around for unpublished Sokolov recordings, DG has dug up a lackluster Rachmaninov Third from a 1995 Proms Concert at Royal Albert Hall, and a Mozart 23rd Concerto from Salzburg in 2005 so devoid of tension and drama ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Feldman’s For Christian Wolff

by David Hurwitz

It may be a cliché to say so, but this really is a disc for people who like this sort of thing. For my money, For Christian Wolff, with its scoring for flute and piano (doubling celesta) isn’t quite as interesting as some of Feldman’s more timbrally varied late works (Crippled Symmetry,... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus

by Jed Distler

I’m tempted to retitle Morton Feldman’s 1985 piano composition For Bunita Marcus “1001 ways to manipulate three notes”. All kidding aside, Feldman’s subtle rhythmic shifts, total avoidance of “interval fatigue”, and carefully staged increments of soft dynami... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: András Schiff’s Beethoven Sonata Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Recorded mostly live in concert at Zürich’s Tonhalle between 2004 and 2007, András Schiff’s Beethoven sonata cycle for ECM finally gets the boxed set treatment. Schiff is similar to pianists as disparate as Schnabel, Kempff, Arrau, and Gulda in that he brings a distinctively individual (and so... Continue Reading


Songs By Pavel Haas

by David Vernier

haassongs

In May, 1944, in the Terezín concentration camp (the infamous garrison town north of Prague where, among the many thousands, numerous important Czech musicians were imprisoned during 1941-44), the young bass Karel Berman was preparing a recital. Along with songs by Beethoven, Dvorák, and Wolf, he ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bad Transfers of Kletzki’s Embarrassing Mahler 1 and 9

by David Hurwitz

MahlerKletz

Kletzki made some fine Mahler recordings for EMI (Symphony No. 4 and Das Lied von der Erde), but these earlier performances are terrible, the First especially so. Kletzki is more of a Klutzki. It’s not just that the Israel Philharmonic in 1954 was no one’s idea of a great orchestra–... Continue Reading


Kempe Surprises in Stravinsky and Britten

by David Hurwitz

StravKempe

It’s always fun to hear great musicians playing music outside of their comfort zones–at least when they’re on top form, as here. The Staatskapelle Dresden in 1976 was hardly an orchestra known for its Stravinsky and Britten, but they were a sensational ensemble and Kempe was a mast... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Tenitone Jonas Kaufmann Crashes And Burns In Das Lied

by David Hurwitz

MahlerKauf

This performance memorializes a stupid stunt. One singer trying to perform all six songs in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, written for alto (or baritone), tenor, and orchestra, is the vocal equivalent of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump over the Snake River Can... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Sokolov’s Bogus Profundity In Mozart and Rachmaninov

by David Hurwitz

Sokolov

Put this release squarely into the “naked emperor” category. Scrounging around for unpublished Sokolov recordings, DG has dug up a lackluster Rachmaninov Third from a 1995 Proms Concert at Royal Albert Hall, and a Mozart 23rd Concerto from Salzburg in 2005 so devoid of tension and drama ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bad Transfers of Kletzki’s Embarrassing Mahler 1 and 9

by David Hurwitz

MahlerKletz

Kletzki made some fine Mahler recordings for EMI (Symphony No. 4 and Das Lied von der Erde), but these earlier performances are terrible, the First especially so. Kletzki is more of a Klutzki. It’s not just that the Israel Philharmonic in 1954 was no one’s idea of a great orchestra–... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Karajan’s Choral Music Box

by David Hurwitz

KarajanChoral

If you think that songs like “Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life” represent sincere expressions of religious sentiment, then you’ll surely respond to Karajan’s handling of the choral music in this set. Indeed, calling it “choral music” may be technica... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: The Atrocious London Haydn Quartet–At It Again

by David Hurwitz

Haydn5455

The world’s ugliest string quartet is at it again, scraping and hacking its way through Op. 54/55 with its trademark hideous tone, approximate intonation, insensitivity to nuance, flabby phrasing, snorting, sniffling, and “historically informed” mannerisms. Dynamics are mezzo. Don&... 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

stravdavies

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

pictures

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

tchaik6mar

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

RespighiMarr

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

MahlerSvet

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

HaydnTicc

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

naganodanse

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

dvorakorozco

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

CPEAlstaedt

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

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Filling In The Gaps With Jochum’s Reference Bruckner 1st and Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

BruckDeum

This reasonably priced, Japanese DG release very conveniently offers two reference recordings on a single disc, and that makes it an ideal supplement or single-disc addition to many a Bruckner collection. Jochum’s version of the Te Deum has been difficult to acquire outside of his set of the s... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus

by Jed Distler

I’m tempted to retitle Morton Feldman’s 1985 piano composition For Bunita Marcus “1001 ways to manipulate three notes”. All kidding aside, Feldman’s subtle rhythmic shifts, total avoidance of “interval fatigue”, and carefully staged increments of soft dynami... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Markevitch’s Memorable Mussorgsky

by David Hurwitz

MussPicMark

This all but unknown performance remains one of the reference recordings for Pictures at an Exhibition. It has so many felicities of accent, balance, pacing, and phrasing that it’s impossible to even begin to list them. You can hear right from the opening Promenade that this version is going t... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Sanderling’s Intense Shostakovich 5th

by David Hurwitz

SandShost

Berlin Classics has reissued this performance countless times, and it’s not surprising. It remains a reference version of the Fifth Symphony, and its virtues have not dimmed with the years. It also represents one of conductor Kurt Sanderling’s finest outings on disc. Roughly speaking, Sh... Continue Reading


A New Reference For Job

by David Hurwitz

RVWJob

Andrew Davis recorded exactly this coupling, and very well, for Warner (Teldec) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. We can only wonder what Chandos must have been thinking doing it again, and so soon. Fortunately, that’s their problem. This performance of Job is sensational, one of those rare mom... Continue Reading


The Amar Quartet’s Stellar Hindemith Cycle

by Jed Distler

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If you somehow missed each individual release in the Amar Quartet’s outstanding Hindemith cycle for Naxos, all three volumes now are bundled together, so there’s no excuse. Since my colleague David Hurwitz accurately praised the first two volumes in detail, I’d like to focus on Volume 3, which... 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


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

by David Hurwitz

kertdvor

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

janacek-jilek

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

munchtchaik6

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

haydnjochum

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

breconlestroarmonico

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

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Kempe Surprises in Stravinsky and Britten

by David Hurwitz

StravKempe

It’s always fun to hear great musicians playing music outside of their comfort zones–at least when they’re on top form, as here. The Staatskapelle Dresden in 1976 was hardly an orchestra known for its Stravinsky and Britten, but they were a sensational ensemble and Kempe was a mast... Continue Reading


Suitner’s Terrific Mozart Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

MozSuit

Otmar Suitner was a first class Mozart conductor. These recordings of symphonies Nos. 39 and 40 rank with the best. Of course, having the Staatskapelle Dresden on hand helps considerably. One of the secrets of playing this music well is to pay careful attention to the bass lines and accompaniments. ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Markevitch’s Memorable Mussorgsky

by David Hurwitz

MussPicMark

This all but unknown performance remains one of the reference recordings for Pictures at an Exhibition. It has so many felicities of accent, balance, pacing, and phrasing that it’s impossible to even begin to list them. You can hear right from the opening Promenade that this version is going t... Continue Reading


Julia Fischer’s Tchaikovsky Concerto 10 Years On

by David Hurwitz

FischerTchaik

Has it already been so long? Julia Fischer, as we all recall, made some first rate recordings of the basic concerto repertoire for Pentatone before jumping ship for Decca. That label make a small handful of mostly solo or chamber recordings, in keeping with its “philosophy” to make their... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Yara Bernette’s Exquisite Rachmaninov Preludes

by Jed Distler

71gMOJoUObL._SL1200

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

51doftpmSJL

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

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Historical Gems: Paderewski’s American Recordings

by Jed Distler

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With this complete survey of Ignace Jan Paderewski’s RCA Victor recordings, APR concludes its complete reissue series devoted to the pianist. It is true that Paderewski (1860-1941) had an erratic technique and his rhythmic equilibrium was not exactly a model of stability, even by the Romantic era... Continue Reading


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

Gesualdo

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

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Polyphony For Nuns

by David Vernier

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Artists and record labels often attempt to attract attention to their projects with innovative programming, intriguing/provocative titles, or both. Here’s one–and it does catch your interest. If the title doesn’t get you, the subtitle–“Princess, nun, and musician; Motet... Continue Reading


Gál’s Marvelous Music for Mandolins

by David Hurwitz

GalMand

Aside from having a remarkably flat head (see cover photo), Hans Gál was a composer of real distinction. He had a buddy in Vienna who ran an “orchestra” of mandolins–a “Zupforchester,” or “plucked orchestra.” It consisted primarily of mandolins, guitars, an... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Feldman’s For John Cage

by David Hurwitz

FeldmanCage

It’s exciting to see hatART’s recordings available again, especially of Morton Feldman. For John Cage, although at sixty-nine minutes not one of his longer late works, is still one of his tougher ones. Scored for violin and piano, its difficulty lies less in its motivic material than in ... Continue Reading


Kozeluch Symphonies, Volume 1: Nice Music

by David Hurwitz

Kozeluch1

If you enjoy fluent, finely crafted classical period symphonies then this well-played, well-recorded disc is for you. Kozeluch was one of a constellation of Czech symphonies active in eighteenth-century Vienna. His Bohemian roots show in his music’s innate tunefulness (sound clip), as well as ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Ginastera’s Gripping, Expressionistic Bomarzo

by David Hurwitz

Bomarzocover

Without any fanfare or ceremony, Sony has reissued on CD for the first time, at budget price, one of the most important recordings of 20th-century opera: the 1967 premiere of Ginastera’s Bomarzo. No notes, no libretto, and barely a synopsis, but it doesn’t matter. The work is a masterpie... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Feldman’s Three Voices

by David Hurwitz

Feldman

If you’re looking for an introduction to Morton Feldman’s special sound world, I can’t think of a better place to start than with Three Voices. It was originally written for Joan La Barbara, whose recording for New Albion is pretty hard to beat, but Juliet Fraser gives her an impre... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Feldman’s For Christian Wolff

by David Hurwitz

It may be a cliché to say so, but this really is a disc for people who like this sort of thing. For my money, For Christian Wolff, with its scoring for flute and piano (doubling celesta) isn’t quite as interesting as some of Feldman’s more timbrally varied late works (Crippled Symmetry,... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus

by Jed Distler

I’m tempted to retitle Morton Feldman’s 1985 piano composition For Bunita Marcus “1001 ways to manipulate three notes”. All kidding aside, Feldman’s subtle rhythmic shifts, total avoidance of “interval fatigue”, and carefully staged increments of soft dynami... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Boccherini’s Touching, Expressive Stabat Mater

by David Hurwitz

BochStabat

There are two versions of Boccherini’s Stabat Mater, one for solo soprano and strings presented here, the other for three soloists (also with strings). Happily, both versions have now been published in a new Critical Edition as part of the ongoing Complete Works issued by the Centro Studi Ope... Continue Reading


Exciting Strauss From Falletta And Buffalo

by David Hurwitz

StraussFalletta

I sure hope the folks in Buffalo know what a prize they have in JoAnn Falletta. Her Naxos discography has few peers in terms of imaginative programming and quality of results. The city couldn’t ask for a more positive or alluring cultural calling card, and the present release offers a case in ... Continue Reading


Ole Buck’s Precision-Crafted Sinfonietta Works

by David Hurwitz

Buck

If you don’t know Danish composer Ole Buck, you’ve been missing something special. His music is approachable, imaginative, often nature-inspired, and crafted with remarkable precision. Each of these pieces is written for a different number of instruments or players (the notes unfortunate... 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


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

JuonJenk

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

erkin

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

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Tone Poems From The “Cow Pat” School

by David Hurwitz

BritTonePoems1

Let’s be honest: Chandos couldn’t just come out and call this disc “Second String British Tone Poems,” but that’s what they are. With the exception of Bantock’s faux-Tchaikovsky-sounding The Witch of Atlas, all of them are pleasant, nature inspired effusions of re... Continue Reading


Splendid Recorded Premieres Of Four Alwyn Quartets

by Jed Distler

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Considering how well William Alwyn’s music has fared on disc, perhaps it’s surprising that his Tenth through Thirteenth string quartets from the 1930s have not been recorded until now. After all, Alwyn always wrote effectively and beautifully for the genre. While the Tenth’s four movements dep... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps With Jochum’s Reference Bruckner 1st and Te Deum

by David Hurwitz

BruckDeum

This reasonably priced, Japanese DG release very conveniently offers two reference recordings on a single disc, and that makes it an ideal supplement or single-disc addition to many a Bruckner collection. Jochum’s version of the Te Deum has been difficult to acquire outside of his set of the s... Continue Reading


Songs By Pavel Haas

by David Vernier

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In May, 1944, in the Terezín concentration camp (the infamous garrison town north of Prague where, among the many thousands, numerous important Czech musicians were imprisoned during 1941-44), the young bass Karel Berman was preparing a recital. Along with songs by Beethoven, Dvorák, and Wolf, he ... Continue Reading


Tiberghien’s Bartók Concludes Impressively

by David Hurwitz

BartokTiber

Cédric Tiberghien’s fine Bartók piano music cycle for Hyperion faces the stiffest possible competition from Zoltan Kocsis on Philips (now Decca, I guess), and there are some works in which the late Hungarian pianist is almost impossible to beat. I am thinking especially of the Piano Sonata, ... Continue Reading


Exciting Strauss From Falletta And Buffalo

by David Hurwitz

StraussFalletta

I sure hope the folks in Buffalo know what a prize they have in JoAnn Falletta. Her Naxos discography has few peers in terms of imaginative programming and quality of results. The city couldn’t ask for a more positive or alluring cultural calling card, and the present release offers a case in ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: The Two Faces of Dvorák

by David Hurwitz

Hrusa

There were two major currents in Dvorák’s music personality: the Beethoven/Brahms tradition, and the “New School” of Liszt and Wagner. The former took in the symphonies, concertos, most of the chamber works, and the Symphonic Variations included here. In the latter we find the ope... 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


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

Mahler1Oz

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

janacek-jilek

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

honeckstrauss

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

haydnjochum

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

Rossini4

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

Rossini3

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

coplandslatkin

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

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Big Boxes: The Vienna Philharmonic Symphony Edition

by David Hurwitz

ViennaSyms

Back in 2012 DG released this 50-CD box of symphonies. A limited edition, like most such projects, it may or may not still be available at time of writing, but in order to understand why the more recent 175th Anniversary Box is such a failure, relatively speaking, we need to examine the contents of ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Random Vienna Philharmonic 175th Anniversary Edition

by David Hurwitz

Vienna175DG

This 45-disc random assortment of material does a singular disservice to the Vienna Philharmonic, but it reveals some interesting facts about the corporate catastrophe that is Universal Music. You would think that because Decca, Philips, and DG effectively constitute a single company, it should be p... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Abbado’s Frustrating Mahler

by David Hurwitz

MahlerAbb

Abbado’s best Mahler recordings were his earliest, made in Chicago, of Symphonies Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 7. The Chicago First was wrecked by bad early digital sonics: this Berlin remake is demonstrably better. Other fine performances in this set, relatively speaking, include symphonies Nos. 8 and 9. Tru... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: András Schiff’s Beethoven Sonata Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Recorded mostly live in concert at Zürich’s Tonhalle between 2004 and 2007, András Schiff’s Beethoven sonata cycle for ECM finally gets the boxed set treatment. Schiff is similar to pianists as disparate as Schnabel, Kempff, Arrau, and Gulda in that he brings a distinctively individual (and so... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Karajan’s Choral Music Box

by David Hurwitz

KarajanChoral

If you think that songs like “Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life” represent sincere expressions of religious sentiment, then you’ll surely respond to Karajan’s handling of the choral music in this set. Indeed, calling it “choral music” may be technica... 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


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

BeetJarvi

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

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


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

kertdvor

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

munch

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

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