Classics Today Insider

Historical Gems: Hindemith Conducts Hindemith (in Decent Mono)

by David Hurwitz

HindemithConductsHdg

In the early 1950s, DG had the bright idea of asking Hindemith to record his own orchestral works. For a variety of logistical, aesthetic, and financial reasons, it turned out to be a very frustrating experience for everyone, and after three CDs-worth of material, the project got picked up (in stere... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Hindemith Conducts Hindemith (in Stereo)

by David Hurwitz

HindemithSerena

Hindemith’s Horn Concerto is not one of his two or three hundred more interesting works, but this performance by Dennis Brain remains unequalled. The Clarinet Concerto, on the other hand, deserves more attention than it gets, while the Band Symphony is a classic of the genre. Symphonia serena ... Continue Reading


Almost Ideal Haydn, Vol. 3

by David Hurwitz

HaydnSolo

The programming is wonderful: three symphonies, one overture, and Haydn’s last concert aria in Italian, a 1798 setting of the Petrarch Sonnet Solo e Pensoso, affectingly sung by soprano Francesca Aspromonte. Il Giardino Armonico belongs to the “slam bang” school of period performan... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Saint-Saëns Neglected Third Piano Concerto

by David Hurwitz

SaintSaensPC3

This program really is wonderful. It’s great to see the Third Concerto getting solo billing for a change as the major work on a single album, and it’s just as enticing to see it coupled to the three short concertante pieces for piano and orchestra. The concerto begins with one of the mos... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karl Böhm’s Early Recordings

by Jed Distler

81jRkFM7wgL._SL1425

Collectors of historical recordings on LP may recall “Karl Böhm in Dresden: A Phonographic Documentary Issued in Honor of his 85th Birthday”. This was a series of boxed sets issued on the German Electrola label, encompassing Böhm’s complete early recordings with the Sächsische Staatskapelle... Continue Reading


Arvo Pärt’s Timeless Deer’s Cry

by David Vernier

deerscry

Occasionally a new release comes along that, because of its uniqueness, or particular sonic character, or some other strange yet compelling power, invites–or perhaps demands–a particular kind of listening, one that requires just sitting back and closing the eyes, letting the music just &... Continue Reading


Gielen Makes The Berlin Philharmonic Really Play Mahler

by David Hurwitz

Mahler7

In September 1994, Michael Gielen filled in for an ailing Klaus Tennstedt (didn’t everyone?), leading the orchestra in this magnificent account of the Seventh Symphony–one of his specialties. The music’s expressive ambiguity, complexity, high level of dissonance, and sheer outrageo... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: More Faux Elgar, For A Change

by David Hurwitz

ElgarWoods

They’re at it again. Just as Elgar may have stopped spinning in his grave thanks to Anthony Payne’s atrocious completion of the Third Symphony, out comes this disc, which ought to supply him with enough rotational energy to keep him moving for some time to come. We have more than enough ... Continue Reading


Suk: Ripening, and a Reference Version of Symphony No. 1

by David Hurwitz

Ripening, the successor to the Asrael Symphony and A Summer Tale, is a voluptuous late-Romantic extravaganza, and it’s very well performed here. Jirí Belohlávek often seems a trifle soft-edged, but here he galvanizes his large forces and produces an interpretation full of conviction. The tex... Continue Reading


Martinu: A Mostly Fine Collection Of Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

The back of the CD sleeve describes Martinu’s Toccata e due canzoni, one of his major neo-Baroque masterpieces, as scored “for strings and piano obbligato”. This is incorrect. The actual scoring is for piccolo, two oboes, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, timpani, percussion (cymbals, sn... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Janácek’s Marvelous Mr. Broucek

by David Hurwitz

Hopefully this recording will do something to make up for the neglect of this, Janácek’s least known mature opera. Stylistically, he’s already the composer of Taras Bulba and the late operas: with the colorful juxtapositions of high and low instruments, the rhythmic ostinatos, luscious ... Continue Reading


A Great New Mahler Third From Fischer & Co.

by David Hurwitz

Mahler3cc

Good, even very good recordings of Mahler’s Third Symphony are not rare; great ones are another story. The two reference editions, Bernstein I (Sony) and Haitink I (Philips/Decca) have withstood all challengers for a very long time, but this newcomer surely joins them. A great performance of t... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Carl Schuricht’s Complete Decca Recordings

by Jed Distler

71uXmRD75JL._SL12001

Recalling his first Decca Vienna Philharmonic recording sessions, producer John Culshaw wrote that Carl Schuricht couldn’t make up his mind when it came to the Schubert “Unfinished” Symphony’s first-movement tempo, calling the conductor “senile”. Yet hearing this performance for the firs... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Classic Brahms & Franck From Ashkenazy, Perlman, & Tuckwell

by Jed Distler

814RoBZIzPL._SL1200

To celebrate Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 80th birthday in July 2017, Decca compiled two large boxed sets for which I was commissioned to write booklet notes. One box consists of solo, chamber, and vocal recordings chosen by the pianist for inclusion. Among the choices were a 1968 coupling of the Franck V... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Nelsons Insults Bruckner

by David Hurwitz

BrucknerNelsons

This is an atrocious performance of Bruckner’s Third Symphony: sluggish, heavy-handed, superficial, and larded with the kind of bloated, false grandeur that makes a mockery of the composer’s intentions. It’s a classic case of a conductor working with an ensemble that knows the musi... Continue Reading


Inghelbrecht’s Historic, Imperfect Debussy La mer

by David Hurwitz

Inghelbrecht knew Debussy personally, and his interpretations were widely acknowledged in his lifetime as authoritative–even if these recordings were not. The problem stems from the poor quality of the playing, particularly from the orchestra’s acidulous wind section. For example Iberia&... Continue Reading


Inghelbrecht Directs Authentic Debussy

by Victor Carr Jr

This Debussy collection features attributes similar to its companion Testament disc previously reviewed by David Hurwitz. Inghelbrecht’s Debussy has an air of authenticity that makes even the endlessly overplayed Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune sound freshly engaging and creat... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 1970s Chopin Preludes

by Jed Distler

41lEy2qkw1L

Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 80th birthday in July 2017 has instigated tributes, reissue projects, and retrospectives of his vast recorded legacy. Although Chopin’s music plays a prominent role in the pianist’s discography, his 1970s version of the Preludes Op. 28 tends to get overlooked when piano ma... Continue Reading


Male Soprano + Theorbos = Handel From Hell

by Robert Levine

handel amen alleluias

Who knew? These are a series of “virtuoso” arias composed by Handel from the late 1720s to the late 1740s using only the words “Amen” and “Alleluia”. These teensy bits may seem dull, especially with nothing but a pair of theorbos and a positif organ as back-up, ev... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ashkenazy’s Late Beethoven Sonata Remakes

by Jed Distler

81gsb1rGh9L._SL1426

First released in 1992, Vladimir Ashkenazy’s digital versions of the last three Beethoven sonatas are not to be confused with earlier analogue recordings issued as part of the pianist’s integral Beethoven cycle. Although they didn’t last long in the catalogue, Arkivmusic.com has given the disc... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: The Ashkenazy/Solti Beethoven Concerto Cycle Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

71iZZ1eigtL._SL1303

With Vladimir Ashkenazy’s July 2017 80th birthday festivities on the classical music community’s radar, one cannot help but reflect upon his immense body of recorded work. Certain items long have held forth as references: the Rachmaninov Preludes, the Chopin Etudes, the Liszt Mephisto Waltz, and... Continue Reading


Sublime Sounds From A Sacred Space

by David Vernier

saintbasilchapel

When you listen to 200-300 new recordings of choral music every year, 90 percent of them sacred programs, you figure you’ve heard enough of these things to know what to expect from a given composer, choir, conductor, and record label. And then, something like this surprising release by a choir... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: More Faux Elgar, For A Change

by David Hurwitz

ElgarWoods

They’re at it again. Just as Elgar may have stopped spinning in his grave thanks to Anthony Payne’s atrocious completion of the Third Symphony, out comes this disc, which ought to supply him with enough rotational energy to keep him moving for some time to come. We have more than enough ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Nelsons Insults Bruckner

by David Hurwitz

BrucknerNelsons

This is an atrocious performance of Bruckner’s Third Symphony: sluggish, heavy-handed, superficial, and larded with the kind of bloated, false grandeur that makes a mockery of the composer’s intentions. It’s a classic case of a conductor working with an ensemble that knows the musi... Continue Reading


Male Soprano + Theorbos = Handel From Hell

by Robert Levine

handel amen alleluias

Who knew? These are a series of “virtuoso” arias composed by Handel from the late 1720s to the late 1740s using only the words “Amen” and “Alleluia”. These teensy bits may seem dull, especially with nothing but a pair of theorbos and a positif organ as back-up, ev... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Harnoncourt’s Twisted Aida Reissued

by Victor Carr Jr

AidaHarn

Harnoncourt fans will be excited to know that their hero has re-imagined Aida and made it his own by emphasizing crystalline textures (revealing newly-found colors in the score), immaculate Mozartean balances, and shimmering Wagnerian strings (despite Verdi’s denial of any influence). Harnonco... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Khatia Buniatishvili Defaces “Pictures”

by Jed Distler

71N7VY3dt4L._SL1500

Several piano pedagogues warned me about Khatia Buniatishvili’s recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition before I had the chance to hear it for myself. If you think that the Ivo Pogorelich or Maria Yudina versions are willful and perverse, you haven’t reckoned with Buniatishvili. Sh... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bringuier Botches Boléro

by David Hurwitz

RavelBring

Vanity, vanity: all is vanity! Evidently the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich paid off DG to release this set, which the label accordingly distributes but is doing nothing to promote. Not that they should bother. Bringuier led this same orchestra, not very impressively,  accompanying Yuja Wang’s ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Harnoncourt’s Perverse Verdi Requiem

by Dan Davis

Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s revisionist assault on Verdi continues. After a disastrous Aida we now have this equally-misbegotten Requiem. Once you penetrate the mumbo-jumbo of the booklet notes by a Bruckner scholar, you find that Harnoncourt’s interpretation transcends the mere “operat... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Abbado Plays Mozart with Authentic Amateurs

by David Hurwitz

11805_coverpic

Abbado is a dreadful Mozart conductor. When I was in college in the late 1970s and early ’80s I used to shop at a wonderful classical music store in Baltimore called Recordmasters. The staff was very knowledgeable, and when new releases came out every month they would display them with in-hous... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Abbado’s Deadly Mozart Requiem

by David Vernier

Beating a dead horse is one thing; beating a dead composer’s work–in this case, the work of at least two dead composers and a couple of living musicologist/editors–is another matter. But that’s what Claudio Abbado, who has led many superlative performances in his career (incl... 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

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Arvo Pärt’s Timeless Deer’s Cry

by David Vernier

deerscry

Occasionally a new release comes along that, because of its uniqueness, or particular sonic character, or some other strange yet compelling power, invites–or perhaps demands–a particular kind of listening, one that requires just sitting back and closing the eyes, letting the music just &... Continue Reading


Suk: Ripening, and a Reference Version of Symphony No. 1

by David Hurwitz

Ripening, the successor to the Asrael Symphony and A Summer Tale, is a voluptuous late-Romantic extravaganza, and it’s very well performed here. Jirí Belohlávek often seems a trifle soft-edged, but here he galvanizes his large forces and produces an interpretation full of conviction. The tex... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Janácek’s Marvelous Mr. Broucek

by David Hurwitz

Hopefully this recording will do something to make up for the neglect of this, Janácek’s least known mature opera. Stylistically, he’s already the composer of Taras Bulba and the late operas: with the colorful juxtapositions of high and low instruments, the rhythmic ostinatos, luscious ... Continue Reading


A Great New Mahler Third From Fischer & Co.

by David Hurwitz

Mahler3cc

Good, even very good recordings of Mahler’s Third Symphony are not rare; great ones are another story. The two reference editions, Bernstein I (Sony) and Haitink I (Philips/Decca) have withstood all challengers for a very long time, but this newcomer surely joins them. A great performance of t... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Classic Brahms & Franck From Ashkenazy, Perlman, & Tuckwell

by Jed Distler

814RoBZIzPL._SL1200

To celebrate Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 80th birthday in July 2017, Decca compiled two large boxed sets for which I was commissioned to write booklet notes. One box consists of solo, chamber, and vocal recordings chosen by the pianist for inclusion. Among the choices were a 1968 coupling of the Franck V... Continue Reading


Ozawa’s Reference Mother Goose Ballet

by David Hurwitz

Seiji Ozawa’s Ravel orchestral music series for DG has been regularly reissued, but not very highly regarded. It happens to be excellent, uniformly so, and especially in this performance of the complete Mother Goose ballet. It features absolutely magical playing from the BSO winds, sparkling p... 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


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

71Yrl8FstpL._SL1228

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

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Gielen Makes The Berlin Philharmonic Really Play Mahler

by David Hurwitz

Mahler7

In September 1994, Michael Gielen filled in for an ailing Klaus Tennstedt (didn’t everyone?), leading the orchestra in this magnificent account of the Seventh Symphony–one of his specialties. The music’s expressive ambiguity, complexity, high level of dissonance, and sheer outrageo... Continue Reading


Martinu: A Mostly Fine Collection Of Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

The back of the CD sleeve describes Martinu’s Toccata e due canzoni, one of his major neo-Baroque masterpieces, as scored “for strings and piano obbligato”. This is incorrect. The actual scoring is for piccolo, two oboes, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, timpani, percussion (cymbals, sn... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 1970s Chopin Preludes

by Jed Distler

41lEy2qkw1L

Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 80th birthday in July 2017 has instigated tributes, reissue projects, and retrospectives of his vast recorded legacy. Although Chopin’s music plays a prominent role in the pianist’s discography, his 1970s version of the Preludes Op. 28 tends to get overlooked when piano ma... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ashkenazy’s Late Beethoven Sonata Remakes

by Jed Distler

81gsb1rGh9L._SL1426

First released in 1992, Vladimir Ashkenazy’s digital versions of the last three Beethoven sonatas are not to be confused with earlier analogue recordings issued as part of the pianist’s integral Beethoven cycle. Although they didn’t last long in the catalogue, Arkivmusic.com has given the disc... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: The Ashkenazy/Solti Beethoven Concerto Cycle Reconsidered

by Jed Distler

71iZZ1eigtL._SL1303

With Vladimir Ashkenazy’s July 2017 80th birthday festivities on the classical music community’s radar, one cannot help but reflect upon his immense body of recorded work. Certain items long have held forth as references: the Rachmaninov Preludes, the Chopin Etudes, the Liszt Mephisto Waltz, and... Continue Reading


Ozawa’s Reference Mother Goose Ballet

by David Hurwitz

Seiji Ozawa’s Ravel orchestral music series for DG has been regularly reissued, but not very highly regarded. It happens to be excellent, uniformly so, and especially in this performance of the complete Mother Goose ballet. It features absolutely magical playing from the BSO winds, sparkling p... Continue Reading


Ozawa’s First Class Daphnis

by David Hurwitz

Ozawa’s Daphnis never has received the attention it deserves, largely because it had to compete with two outstanding prior recordings by the Boston Symphony under the legendary Charles Munch. That’s a hard act to follow, but the fact is that the orchestra’s playing here is every bi... Continue Reading


Ozawa’s Ravel Only Gets Better With Time

by David Hurwitz

One of the oddities of the record industry is that sometimes it’s better not to be regarded as “the best,” even when you really are. Ozawa’s Ravel is a case in point. Never has highly regarded as it deserved to be–there really is no finer complete edition of the orchest... 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


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

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Historical Gems: Hindemith Conducts Hindemith (in Decent Mono)

by David Hurwitz

HindemithConductsHdg

In the early 1950s, DG had the bright idea of asking Hindemith to record his own orchestral works. For a variety of logistical, aesthetic, and financial reasons, it turned out to be a very frustrating experience for everyone, and after three CDs-worth of material, the project got picked up (in stere... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Hindemith Conducts Hindemith (in Stereo)

by David Hurwitz

HindemithSerena

Hindemith’s Horn Concerto is not one of his two or three hundred more interesting works, but this performance by Dennis Brain remains unequalled. The Clarinet Concerto, on the other hand, deserves more attention than it gets, while the Band Symphony is a classic of the genre. Symphonia serena ... Continue Reading


Inghelbrecht’s Historic, Imperfect Debussy La mer

by David Hurwitz

Inghelbrecht knew Debussy personally, and his interpretations were widely acknowledged in his lifetime as authoritative–even if these recordings were not. The problem stems from the poor quality of the playing, particularly from the orchestra’s acidulous wind section. For example Iberia&... Continue Reading


Inghelbrecht Directs Authentic Debussy

by Victor Carr Jr

This Debussy collection features attributes similar to its companion Testament disc previously reviewed by David Hurwitz. Inghelbrecht’s Debussy has an air of authenticity that makes even the endlessly overplayed Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune sound freshly engaging and creat... Continue Reading


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

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Major Discoveries: Saint-Saëns Neglected Third Piano Concerto

by David Hurwitz

SaintSaensPC3

This program really is wonderful. It’s great to see the Third Concerto getting solo billing for a change as the major work on a single album, and it’s just as enticing to see it coupled to the three short concertante pieces for piano and orchestra. The concerto begins with one of the mos... Continue Reading


Hans Gál’s Powerful Second Symphony

by David Hurwitz

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Schubert and Gál are billed as “kindred spirits” in this release pairing the “Great” C Major Symphony with Gál’s Symphony No. 2, completed in 1943. I don’t hear it, frankly, and the Schubert is a performance of no special distinction, vaguely influenced by perio... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Rieti Music for Harpsichord(s)

by David Hurwitz

Rieti

Vittorio Rieti (1898-1994) was an Italian neoclassical composer of great skill and charm. On this disc, gifted harpsichordist Marina Minkin joins forces with several colleagues in exploring his output for her instrument. There’s some splendidly entertaining music here. You’d think that t... Continue Reading


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

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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

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Filling In The Gaps: Janácek’s Marvelous Mr. Broucek

by David Hurwitz

Hopefully this recording will do something to make up for the neglect of this, Janácek’s least known mature opera. Stylistically, he’s already the composer of Taras Bulba and the late operas: with the colorful juxtapositions of high and low instruments, the rhythmic ostinatos, luscious ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Ravel’s (Yes, Ravel’s) Antar

by David Hurwitz

RavelAntar

Now here’s a novelty that fans of Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov will want to hear. In 1910, the story of Antar reached the stage in Paris as a play, with incidental music by Ravel arranged out of Rimsky’s eponymous symphony/tone poem (with a bit of Mlada thrown in for good measure). There is... Continue Reading


Tone Poems From The “Cow Pat” School

by David Hurwitz

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Historical Gems: Hindemith Conducts Hindemith (in Decent Mono)

by David Hurwitz

HindemithConductsHdg

In the early 1950s, DG had the bright idea of asking Hindemith to record his own orchestral works. For a variety of logistical, aesthetic, and financial reasons, it turned out to be a very frustrating experience for everyone, and after three CDs-worth of material, the project got picked up (in stere... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karl Böhm’s Early Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Collectors of historical recordings on LP may recall “Karl Böhm in Dresden: A Phonographic Documentary Issued in Honor of his 85th Birthday”. This was a series of boxed sets issued on the German Electrola label, encompassing Böhm’s complete early recordings with the Sächsische Staatskapelle... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Carl Schuricht’s Complete Decca Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Recalling his first Decca Vienna Philharmonic recording sessions, producer John Culshaw wrote that Carl Schuricht couldn’t make up his mind when it came to the Schubert “Unfinished” Symphony’s first-movement tempo, calling the conductor “senile”. Yet hearing this performance for the firs... Continue Reading


The Pierre Fournier Edition: Get It While You Can!

by Jed Distler

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Aristocratic, elegant, tasteful, cultivated. These are only four clichés that most lazy critics use to describe the artistry of cellist Pierre Fournier, yet those four words constantly came to mind as I reacquainted myself with his Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, and Philips recordings, all gathered to... 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


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

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