Classics Today Insider

Reference Recording: The Panocha’s Essential Dvorák String Quartets

by David Hurwitz

DvorakEssentialQts

The Panocha Quartet’s complete Dvorák cycle remains the finest yet produced, and a testament to the great Czech tradition of quartet playing. This three-disc set drawn from the larger box, billed as “the essential string quartets,” does exactly what it says it does, and will appea... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Hans Henkemans’ Philips Debussy Recordings

by Jed Distler

51dCcamaZAL

It is safe to say that the Dutch pianist Hans Henkemans (1913-1995), who also composed throughout his life, was not exactly a household name, certainly not in the United States. Yet he had a fascinating career. Along with his musical training, Henkemans also studied to be a doctor, but abandoned his... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: The 1930 Solesmes Choir Gregorian Chant Recordings

by Jed Distler

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The 1930 recordings by the Monks at the Abbey of Solesmes under the direction of Dom Joseph Gajard more-or-less set the standard for Gregorian chant recordings. In the mid 1990s, Pearl reissued the complete series in a two-disc set that’s been unavailable for years. Around that same time the monks... Continue Reading


Bernstein’s Better Posthumous Mahler Ninth

by David Hurwitz

M9LBIsrael

Only the release is posthumous; the performance, obviously, took place while Bernstein was very much alive, in this case in 1985. Bernstein took the Israel Philharmonic on tour with the Ninth Symphony; I caught one of the performances at Carnegie Hall. This version was recorded in Israel, which is a... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mutter’s Miraculous Dvorák Concerto

by David Hurwitz

DvorMut

Having lived with this recording for some time now, I have no hesitation in recommending it as a modern reference for the Dvorák Violin Concerto. It’s always interesting to learn if a wild, “over the top” interpretation like this one will hold up to repeated listening, but it did,... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Holy Crap, They Left Out Barber!

by David Hurwitz

SlatkinAmer

Slatkin’s American music recordings are uniformly marvelous, and self-recommending. On purely artistic grounds this set is a 10, but it needs to be docked at least a point because RCA, in its dim-witted wisdom, has left off Slatkin’s two Barber CDs containing the three solo concertos, th... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Tingaud’s Smokin’ Poulenc Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

PoulencTing

Great performance reviews often resort to grilling analogies, for some reason: sizzling, smoking, scorching, flaming, searing–roasting, basting–ok, the last two not so much. These performances are all of those good things, and best of all, they sound truly French. Tingaud’s RTÉ re... Continue Reading


Level-Headed Beethoven From Leipzig

by Jens F. Laurson

BEETHOVEN_String-Quartets_Leipziger-Streichquarett_MDG_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

In a way, every cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets is impressive–even with 50-some (67, to be precise) on the market already. That’s certainly true of the “complete” traversal by the Leipzig String Quartet, recorded between 1994 and 2006 (the string quintets were added in 201... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Gounod’s String Quartets

by Jed Distler

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The chronology and provenance of Charles Gounod’s five complete surviving string quartets is shadowy at best. Only the A minor quartet appeared in print during the composer’s lifetime, while three additional quartets only came to light as late as 1993, resulting from an auction of Gounod manuscr... Continue Reading


A Tale of Two Liszt Sonatas

by Jed Distler

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Paul Badura-Skoda’s repertoire stretches far and beyond the central Austro/German canon for which he’s probably best known. The pianist’s mono Chopin Etudes released by Westminster, for example, count among these works’ finest recorded versions, while I once heard him play Ondine from Ravel... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Complete Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

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To mark Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 60th birthday year in 2018, Sony/BMG lavishes big box treatment upon the conductor’s complete Sony Classical recordings, mostly dating from the mid-1980s until 2001. The contents mainly focus on 20th-century music, where Salonen’s confident authority and insights pa... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dire Days for Debussy at the Orchestre National

by David Hurwitz

DebKriv

Having just heard Daniele Gatti’s horrendous Debussy disc with the Orchestre National de France on Sony Classical, I was very curious about how this almost identical program with the same orchestra would sound. The answer: just as bad. Granted, Krivine’s performances aren’t quite a... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gatti’s Deathly Dull Debussy

by David Hurwitz

DebGatti

Can French orchestras still play French music? Not on evidence here. Daniele Gatti leads the Orchestre National de France in some of the droopiest Debussy performances to appear in many a year. The Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun comes off best since it’s a slow, dreamy piece under any circ... Continue Reading


Rosbaud From The Archives: A Collector’s Near-Complete Bruckner Cycle

by Jens F. Laurson

Rosbaud_Bruckner_SWRClassic

Hans Rosbaud, born in Graz, Austria in 1895, led Germany’s South-West Radio Symphony Orchestra (the orchestra of the broadcaster established in the French Zone of Occupation that would go on to become the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg and that has since been merged with the Stuttg... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Grandly Communicative Live Messiaen Vingt Regards

by Jed Distler

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Pianist Jean-Rodolphe Kars made a handful of studio recordings for Decca in the 1970s before ending his concert career in 1981 to enter the priesthood. Among those recordings were excerpts from Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus. The Messiaen selections revealed Kars’ supreme technic... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Jörg Demus’ Debussy Cycle

by Jed Distler

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In 1999 Australian Eloquence brought out an all-Debussy reissue that included selections from a 1960 Deutsche Grammophon recital by Jörg Demus. I wrote that the Austrian pianist’s clearly contoured and sensitively nuanced playing might surprise listeners who understandably linked this artist with... Continue Reading


Ernest Krenek’s Piano Concertos Emerge from Obscurity

by Jed Distler

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Like its predecessor, Volume Two of Toccata Classics’ survey of Ernest Krenek’s works for piano and orchestra includes several recorded premiers. If you’re craving a dodecaphonic waltz that features a nimble solo piano part, energetic brass writing and cannily deployed percussion rejoinders, t... Continue Reading


Saygun’s Fresh and Distinctive Quartets

by Jed Distler

Having surveyed Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s symphonies, CPO turns to the 20th-century Turkish master’s four string quartets. The “wonderfully evocative folk melos” my colleague David Hurwitz referred to in the symphonies organically interfaces with Saygun’s terse chromatic lan... Continue Reading


Saygun: Powerful Symphony No. 4 and Violin Concerto

by David Hurwitz

This release completes CPO’s excellent cycle of Saygun symphonies in fine fashion, and we can only hope that the series continues with additional orchestral works. Both the intense, pithy, alternately violent and lyrical Fourth Symphony (sound clip) and the Violin Concerto are late composition... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Masterful Symphonies by Ahmed Adnan Saygun

by David Hurwitz

Saygun’s Third Symphony is a masterpiece, reflecting both the composer’s roots in Turkish folk music and also a compositional sophistication that recalls Bartók (whom the composer assisted on ethno-musicological expeditions in Turkey). At 38 minutes, it’s a major statement, full o... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Saygun’s Spirited First Two Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-91) speaks in a very powerful, ethnically inflected language that shares many characteristics with that of Bartók. His melodic style clearly derives from the folk music of his homeland, but Saygun employs elements that permit him to expand his harmonic voca... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Revisiting the Budapest String Quartet’s 1951/2 Beethoven Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Recorded in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, the Budapest String Quartet’s 1951/2 Beethoven cycle for Columbia Masterworks gained its first integral CD release in an eight-disc set from United Archives that didn’t last long in the catalog. Sony/Classical’s edition extends to... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Dire Days for Debussy at the Orchestre National

by David Hurwitz

DebKriv

Having just heard Daniele Gatti’s horrendous Debussy disc with the Orchestre National de France on Sony Classical, I was very curious about how this almost identical program with the same orchestra would sound. The answer: just as bad. Granted, Krivine’s performances aren’t quite a... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Gatti’s Deathly Dull Debussy

by David Hurwitz

DebGatti

Can French orchestras still play French music? Not on evidence here. Daniele Gatti leads the Orchestre National de France in some of the droopiest Debussy performances to appear in many a year. The Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun comes off best since it’s a slow, dreamy piece under any circ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Immerseel’s Recipe for a Beethoven Disaster

by David Hurwitz

BeetImmer

HOW TO MAKE BEETHOVEN IN FIVE EASY STEPS MAIN INGREDIENTS 1. Choose your pitch, in this case A=440. 2. Select instruments of the period, and specific place. 3. Limit the ensemble to a “typical” minimum size. 4. Obey all metronome markings strictly. 5. Eliminate string vibrato to the exte... Continue Reading


Really Bad Wagner From Buffalo

by David Hurwitz

WagnerFall

Well, it had to happen. If the UConn women’s basketball team could lose to Notre Dame in the NCAA Final Four, then Falletta and Buffalo could end their winning streak with a truly dreadful disc of Wagner excerpts. Just about everything about this production sounds wrong: the tinny, low-level s... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Vänskä Leads The Stepford Phil In Mahler’s Sixth

by David Hurwitz

Mahler6Vanska

Oh boy, here we go again. Vänskä has turned the Minnesota Orchestra into the Stepford Philharmonic. The playing here is robotic, submissive, note perfect, tensionless, and utterly lacking in Mahlerian passion. So it was also in the Fifth Symphony; but if anything the situation has gotten worse in ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Appalling Beethoven from van Zweden and the NYP

by David Hurwitz

BeetZwedenNY

Are these people insane? Before turning to the performances in detail, let’s just list the myriad reasons this release is idiotic. 1. Van Zweden recorded this same program already in Dallas, a disc that is still readily available. What on earth has he done to warrant a second shot at the same ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Immerseel’s Ghastly, Gruesome, Grotesque Gershwin

by David Hurwitz

GershwinImmerseel

This is a remarkably generous, perfectly dreadful program: eighty-six minutes of the worst Gershwin it has ever been my misfortune to hear. Actually, it would have been about seventy-five minutes had Immerseel played the music up to speed, but more on that anon. Its sole redeeming virtue is Claron M... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Rattle Gets Lost on An Imaginary Haydn Journey

by David Hurwitz

HaydnRattle

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a CD From Hell to talk about. Happily, you can usually count on Simon Rattle to deliver the goods. Haydn: An Imaginary Orchestral Journey is an idiotic assemblage of miscellaneous bits and pieces designed to showcase “the most forward-looking... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Ballot’s Vile Bruckner Sixth

by David Hurwitz

Bruck6Ballot

Rémy Ballot has no affinity for music. There I’ve said it. How this self-styled Bruckner “specialist” managed to swindle his way into leading the Upper Austrian Youth Orchestra in live recordings of Bruckner’s symphonies is one of those anomalies that only general deafness o... Continue Reading


Big Box From Hell: Bernstein Demastered

by David Hurwitz

Bernstein Remastered

It would be difficult to imagine a more ridiculous, randomly assembled, pointless, and even lazy project. Lots of Bernstein has already been remastered: Mahler, Sibelius, and most significantly, Bernstein himself in Sony’s very recent “Bernstein the Composer” box. So it should come... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Faust and Heras-Casado Starve Mendelssohn

by David Hurwitz

MendelFaust

The hypocrisy of the period performance movement is nowhere more evident than in this release. The principal justification behind “authentic” practice has been that modern playing distorts the true timbres, rhythms, balances, and what have you, that the composer originally intended. Yet ... Continue Reading


Konwitschny’s Surprisingly Boring Bruckner 4

by David Hurwitz

What a disappointment! This 1952 mono recording sounds extremely boxy and constricted in dynamic range (at least in this transfer), nor does the Czech Philaharmonic brass on this outing–the horns especially–have what it takes to infuse Bruckner’s musical edifices with the necessary... Continue Reading


Kleiber and Pfitzner Mess Up Beethoven

by David Hurwitz

Listening to these two wretched performances, recorded in the late 1920s, offers the audio equivalent of desecrating a cemetery. Why, one wonders, can’t we let the dead rest in peace? Actually, what’s so remarkable about Kleiber and Pfitzner is that both are equally terrible, but in comp... Continue Reading


Andante’s Vienna Junk Collection

by David Hurwitz

The lesson of this set: never believe your own PR. The Vienna Philharmonic is one of the world’s greatest orchestras. It’s recorded all of the music on these four discs numerous times under ideal studio conditions, and many of those performances constitute reference editions of the works... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Klemp’s Weirdly Zippy Mahler 2, Down Under

by Jed Distler

Fasten your seat belts, Mahler heads. Here comes the Resurrection Express, live from Sydney, Australia, 50 years ago, zooming across the finish line for what may be the fastest Mahler Second preserved in sound. I use the word “sound” advisedly, since the original broadcast aircheck is of... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bychkov Botches Tchaikovsky’s Manfred

by David Hurwitz

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Classical recordings these days have to have titles akin to Robert Ludlum novels. This is volume two of “The Tchaikovsky Project,” and I suppose it will be succeeded by “The Borodin Disparagement” and “The Rimsky-Korsakov Ultimatum.” Bychkov’s performance, i... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Knappertsbusch Bombs Dresden

by Jed Distler

Fwwwwwaaahhhh! Ppplllllaaaahhh! So go the opening chords to Brahms’ Third Symphony as played here by the Dresden Staatskapelle (sound clip). After 35 more minutes of imprecise entrances, soggy attacks, and ponderous pacing, you wonder if Hans Knappertsbusch had even rehearsed this 1956 broadca... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Walter’s Godawful Vienna Mahler Ninth

by David Hurwitz

Every first recording of a major work has historic interest, and this one has more than most; but there’s no inherent reason why it should be particularly fine musically, and this one isn’t. Bruno Walter himself spoke out against it, and much has been made of the political circumstances ... 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

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Reference Recording: The Panocha’s Essential Dvorák String Quartets

by David Hurwitz

DvorakEssentialQts

The Panocha Quartet’s complete Dvorák cycle remains the finest yet produced, and a testament to the great Czech tradition of quartet playing. This three-disc set drawn from the larger box, billed as “the essential string quartets,” does exactly what it says it does, and will appea... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Mutter’s Miraculous Dvorák Concerto

by David Hurwitz

DvorMut

Having lived with this recording for some time now, I have no hesitation in recommending it as a modern reference for the Dvorák Violin Concerto. It’s always interesting to learn if a wild, “over the top” interpretation like this one will hold up to repeated listening, but it did,... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Tingaud’s Smokin’ Poulenc Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

PoulencTing

Great performance reviews often resort to grilling analogies, for some reason: sizzling, smoking, scorching, flaming, searing–roasting, basting–ok, the last two not so much. These performances are all of those good things, and best of all, they sound truly French. Tingaud’s RTÉ re... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Pettersson’s Glorious, Scarifying 8th Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Pettersson8

This music grows on you. Unlike most of Pettersson’s other symphonies, the Eighth has two movements, although it’s anyone’s guess why. They share much of their thematic material, and there are no major contrasts in either tempo or mood. Still, the whole thing works for some reason.... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Pettersson’s Gripping Seventh Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Pettersson7

We have been following BIS’ ongoing Allan Pettersson symphony cycle with some dedication, but what are arguably his two most iconic symphonies, the Seventh and Eighth, were released before ClassicsToday.com got started in 1999, and so it’s time to play a bit of catchup. What makes both w... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Arrau and Davis Play Beethoven’s Piano Concertos 4 & 5

by David Hurwitz

Certainly one of the more intelligent releases in the “Philips 50”, this single disc combines the contents of two earlier single CDs, and most importantly offers the Fourth Piano Concerto without that annoying disc change you have to deal with in the complete set of five. Claudio Arrau&#... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Jochum’s Classic Haydn–The 12 London Symphonies

by Dan Davis

This slim “Collector’s Edition” five-CD box of Haydn Symphonies is a delight from start to finish. Eugen Jochum was a wonderful Haydn conductor and even in this age of historically informed performance orthodoxy, no apologies are necessary. These are simply great performances that ... Continue Reading


Bargain Byrd Box From New College

by David Vernier

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These very fine performances were originally issued on three separate CDs during the 1980s and ’90s; according to CRD, this set, which simply collects all three original discs in one “bargain” box, first appeared in 2002. And for the convenience of those who missed it the first tim... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Excellent Debussy (not complete) Edition

by David Hurwitz

Debussy

This is not the recent DG Complete (not) Edition, but rather its earlier and much better Debussy box. If you’re not an absolute completist–in which case the Warner/Erato box is the way to go–then this is the one to get. Unlike Universal’s only fitfully excellent Ravel box, th... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: The Takács Plays Brahms String Quintets

by David Hurwitz

BrahmsQuints

I recently had an interesting exchange with a good friend and Brahms scholar about why the two string quintets tend to receive less attention than the composer’s other major chamber works. In her opinion, they get short shrift for two main reasons: 1. String quintets in general get played less... Continue Reading


Alsop’s Magnificent Bernstein Box

by David Hurwitz

BernsteinAlsop

Here, in one convenient box, are all of Marin Alsop’s Bernstein recordings for Naxos–eight CDs worth–performances as fine as Bernstein’s own, and sometimes even better. This version of Mass, which Alsop regards as Bernstein’s masterpiece, is the new reference version. H... Continue Reading


Karajan’s Classic Vienna Brahms and Dvorák Revisited

by David Hurwitz

Dvor8Br3Karaj

Herbert von Karajan made so many records that sifting through them to find the true gems can be a real chore. The fact that he remade the same repertoire every decade or so only makes matters even more complicated. This release offers a case in point. There are at least four Brahms Thirds, and three... Continue Reading


Debussy: The (Really) Complete Works on Warner

by David Hurwitz

DebWarner

Unlike DG’s recent incomplete Complete Works box, this one, all 33 CDs of it, really makes an effort to do the job right. Indeed, it contains more than the complete works, because you get both everything Debussy wrote as well as everything he arranged or transcribed–like movements from T... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Big Box of Koechlin Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin

Here, accompanied by a lavish booklet with re-edited and expanded notes alongside complete texts and translations in German, French and English, are all of SWR’s Koechlin releases led by Heinz Holliger with the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart. It’s a class act, one not likely to b... Continue Reading


All’s Well That Blends Well–Bravo To Buff Brit B Minor

by David Vernier

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All’s well, everything precisely where it should be with this new Bach B minor Mass, albeit from a source not known for many forays into this territory. The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge is one of the world’s finest choirs, one that operates in an atmosphere and expectation of exce... Continue Reading


The Freire/Chailly Brahms Concertos: Still Holding Up A Decade On

by David Hurwitz

The Brahms piano concertos are recorded so frequently, and so poorly, that at times you might despair of ever hearing a modern performance that has both a point of view as well as a profound understanding of the composer’s style. Well, look no further. Coming hard on the heels of the droopy an... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Martinu’s Truly “Epic of Gilgamesh”

by David Hurwitz

Gilgamesh

This terrific live performance offers the premiere recording of Martinu’s late masterpiece, The Epic of Gilgamesh, in its original English version. In you haven’t heard the work before in any of its prior Czech language versions, and even if you have, this is now the recording to own. It... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Essential Gershwin from Wild and Fiedler

by David Hurwitz

This is the finest Gershwin disc available, period. The items featuring Earl Wild have never been bettered, particularly the Concerto in F, which is dazzling in its excitement and irresistible panache. Hearing this brilliant finale, it’s difficult to accept alternate interpretations. It simply... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Bruckner 9 Stunner

by David Hurwitz

kubelikBruck9

Reviewers Note: One of the great things about running a website is that you can go back and correct mistakes, and one of the great things about CT.com readers is that they will write graciously to us to point them out. In this case, I reported that the Handel Concerto Grosso on this disc was [&helli... Continue Reading


Karabits Crushes Walton’s Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

WaltonKarabits

This is without a doubt the finest single disc coupling of the two Walton Symphonies currently available. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra knows the music well, having made excellent recordings of it already with Andrew Litton, but Kirill Karabits is, if anything, even more exciting. There is comp... Continue Reading

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Under the Radar: Hans Henkemans’ Philips Debussy Recordings

by Jed Distler

51dCcamaZAL

It is safe to say that the Dutch pianist Hans Henkemans (1913-1995), who also composed throughout his life, was not exactly a household name, certainly not in the United States. Yet he had a fascinating career. Along with his musical training, Henkemans also studied to be a doctor, but abandoned his... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Jörg Demus’ Debussy Cycle

by Jed Distler

81WWWdXDjML._SL1500

In 1999 Australian Eloquence brought out an all-Debussy reissue that included selections from a 1960 Deutsche Grammophon recital by Jörg Demus. I wrote that the Austrian pianist’s clearly contoured and sensitively nuanced playing might surprise listeners who understandably linked this artist with... Continue Reading


Grieg & Schumann Concertos: Claudio Arrau At His Serious Best

by David Hurwitz

Claudio Arrau recorded these concertos twice for Philips, the present performances in 1963, and then again in 1980 with Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony. There’s very little to chose between them. Tempos are almost identical, and contrary to what one might expect, the slow movement of the S... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Jochum’s Surprisingly Fine Mahler Das Lied

by David Hurwitz

Well isn’t this a pleasant surprise? We’ve been bombarded with second-rate Das Lieds, from dreary recent recordings by Salonen, Boulez, Levine, and Maazel, to reissues of overrated, indifferently played, sung, and/or conducted historical “legends” such as Walter/Ferrier and H... Continue Reading


Karajan’s Classic Vienna Brahms and Dvorák Revisited

by David Hurwitz

Dvor8Br3Karaj

Herbert von Karajan made so many records that sifting through them to find the true gems can be a real chore. The fact that he remade the same repertoire every decade or so only makes matters even more complicated. This release offers a case in point. There are at least four Brahms Thirds, and three... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Ukrainian Piano Treasures

by Jed Distler

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A disclaimer is in order. I heard this disc prior to its release, and provided a written endorsement on the jacket that states: “Here is piano music that needs to be known, piano music that abounds with visceral vibrancy and expressive intensity, not to mention being skillfully and subtly wrought ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Eugen Jochum’s DG Recordings Vol. 1–Orchestral Music

by David Hurwitz

Jochum 1

Eugen Jochum was such a modest soul that he was easily overshadowed by other conductors in DG’s stable. During his lifetime he was sometimes called, both admiringly and disparagingly, “baby Furtwängler,” but the fact is that he was a vastly superior conductor than Furtwängler, of... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Solti’s First (and best) Mahler Symphony No. 2

by David Hurwitz

Georg Solti’s first recording of the “Resurrection” Symphony, dating from 1966, belongs with his LSO accounts of the First and Ninth as among the great Mahler performances of the “first wave” of stereo versions. Along with the Decca Ring, these releases established Solt... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Solti’s LSO Mahler Symphony No. 9

by David Hurwitz

Mahler9Solti

Generally speaking, when it comes to Solti’s Mahler, the earlier the better. His LSO recordings of Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, and 9 are superior to his Chicago remakes, while his Chicago analog recordings of Nos. 6 through 8 are more successful than his later, digital efforts. This Ninth is a great... 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


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

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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

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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

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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 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 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 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

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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

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Historic Gems: The 1930 Solesmes Choir Gregorian Chant Recordings

by Jed Distler

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The 1930 recordings by the Monks at the Abbey of Solesmes under the direction of Dom Joseph Gajard more-or-less set the standard for Gregorian chant recordings. In the mid 1990s, Pearl reissued the complete series in a two-disc set that’s been unavailable for years. Around that same time the monks... Continue Reading


Rosbaud From The Archives: A Collector’s Near-Complete Bruckner Cycle

by Jens F. Laurson

Rosbaud_Bruckner_SWRClassic

Hans Rosbaud, born in Graz, Austria in 1895, led Germany’s South-West Radio Symphony Orchestra (the orchestra of the broadcaster established in the French Zone of Occupation that would go on to become the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg and that has since been merged with the Stuttg... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: A Grandly Communicative Live Messiaen Vingt Regards

by Jed Distler

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Pianist Jean-Rodolphe Kars made a handful of studio recordings for Decca in the 1970s before ending his concert career in 1981 to enter the priesthood. Among those recordings were excerpts from Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus. The Messiaen selections revealed Kars’ supreme technic... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Revisiting the Budapest String Quartet’s 1951/2 Beethoven Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Recorded in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, the Budapest String Quartet’s 1951/2 Beethoven cycle for Columbia Masterworks gained its first integral CD release in an eight-disc set from United Archives that didn’t last long in the catalog. Sony/Classical’s edition extends to... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Arrau’s EMI Chopin Recital

by Jed Distler

EMI first reissued Claudio Arrau’s 1960 Chopin Third Sonata and F minor Fantasy coupling in 1991. More detail and tonal richness distinguishes this sonic upgrade, although the transfers surely stem from the mono mastertape as they did last time around, despite EMI’s indication to the con... Continue Reading


Furtwängler’s Newly Discovered Manfred Overture

by David Hurwitz

FurtwangerSchum

None of these performances constitute essential Furtwängler, not even the newly discovered Schumann Manfred Overture. We already have a perfectly fine version of that piece, long available on DG, from a 1949 RIAS radio recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. That performance features smoother trans... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Ormandy Conducts Bluebeard’s Castle, And How!

by David Hurwitz

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This is a hoot. Who knew that in 1960, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra took a swipe at Bluebeard’s Castle for Columbia, in English no less? Maybe it’s because of the language, or perhaps it’s hearing the work rendered with sizzling vividness by the Fabulous Philadelph... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Hans Rosbaud Conducts Weber and Mendelssohn

by David Hurwitz

RosbaudMend

Collectors have been waiting for an official SWR Hans Rosbaud edition for decades. Beloved of orchestras, universally respected, a true musician’s musician, there was so much more to him than the Philips recording of Moses und Aron and the Turnabout/Vox Bruckner Seventh. You can hear his quali... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Michelangeli’s 1965 Salzburg Recital

by Jed Distler

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These previously unreleased recordings of the Bach/Busoni Chaconne and the Beethoven Sonata Op. 2 No. 3 document the only portion of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s August 7, 1965 Salzburg Festival recital that the pianist permitted for either broadcast or publication. Fans of the pianist may balk... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Prime Jorge Bolet From Audite

by Jed Distler

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Collectors who know Jorge Bolet as the reserved and occasionally diffident elder statesman of the studio Decca recordings from his final decade generally will find a younger, more energetic, and more inspired pianist throughout these 1962-73 German radio broadcasts. It belabors the point to cite com... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Smetácek Conducts Dvorák, Glazunov and Gershwin (!)

by David Hurwitz

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Recently I have had many occasions to remark on the differences between a pickup orchestra full of excellent players (such as the Lucerne Festival Orchestra), and an excellent orchestra. The Prague Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s was certainly not one of the world’s great aggregations, but it ... Continue Reading


Kubelik’s Bruckner 9 Stunner

by David Hurwitz

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Reviewers Note: One of the great things about running a website is that you can go back and correct mistakes, and one of the great things about CT.com readers is that they will write graciously to us to point them out. In this case, I reported that the Handel Concerto Grosso on this disc was [&helli... Continue Reading


Walter Gieseking’s Bach: The “Prima Vista” Klavier

by Jed Distler

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To tie in with the 1950 anniversary marking J.S. Bach’s death in 1750, Radio Saarbrücken engaged Walter Gieseking to play through a large portion of the composer’s keyboard works for a series of marathon recording sessions. The recordings usually took place in the evening, after the pianist had... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Gieseking’s Debussy Remastered

by Jed Distler

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To several generations of music lovers, Walter Gieseking and the piano music of Debussy are synonymous. Gieseking’s boundless coloristic resources, super-subtle pedaling, and near-clairvoyant ability to tap into the composer’s elusive sense of fantasy remain points of reference to this day. Desp... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Toscanini’s “Leningrad:” The Right Version

by David Hurwitz

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Shostakovich allegedly hated Toscanini’s performance of the “Leningrad” Symphony. Toscanini allegedly hated the “Leningrad” Symphony was well as his performance of it. Later in life he relented, calling it “not bad.” We don’t know if Shostakovich had a... Continue Reading


Historial Gems: Koussevitzky’s Surprisingly Stylish Bach

by David Hurwitz

After Furtwängler’s perverse desecration of Bach’s Third and Fifth Brandenburg Concertos, this release didn’t at first glance promise to provide much listening pleasure. After all, Koussevitzky’s background and artistic preferences place him even farther from Bach’s ow... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Mono Milstein In Beethoven & Brahms Violin Concertos

by David Hurwitz

I don’t get it. A few years ago, EMI released this exact coupling in its Full Dimensional Sound series, and here it is again, remastered yet again, sounding almost exactly the same except for an extra touch of hardness in the solo violin’s upper registers in the Brahms. In other words, i... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Toscanini’s Legendary Philharmonia Brahms Cycle

by Jed Distler

By 1952 the Philharmonia Orchestra, in its seven years of existence, had evolved into one of Europe’s finest ensembles. Its reputation was in many respects consolidated by Herbert von Karajan’s role as music director and orchestra builder, and was further shaped by legendary guest conduc... Continue Reading


Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander Overture; Tannhäuser; and Other Goodies

by Jed Distler

The three Wagner selections here featuring Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony are taken from broadcast performances; they have previously appeared on independent labels in transfers ranging from mediocre to quite good. Although I cannot ascertain if Testament’s restorations were effected fr... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Toscanini’s BBC Verdi Requiem

by Robert Levine

There are three recordings of Toscanini’s take on Verdi’s Requiem, each stunning in its own way. This one from 1938, despite the tubby, always problematic but certainly listenable sound, is remarkable for how much instrumental detail is audible and dramatically part of the whole: the des... Continue Reading

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Major Discoveries: Gounod’s String Quartets

by Jed Distler

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The chronology and provenance of Charles Gounod’s five complete surviving string quartets is shadowy at best. Only the A minor quartet appeared in print during the composer’s lifetime, while three additional quartets only came to light as late as 1993, resulting from an auction of Gounod manuscr... Continue Reading


Ernest Krenek’s Piano Concertos Emerge from Obscurity

by Jed Distler

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Like its predecessor, Volume Two of Toccata Classics’ survey of Ernest Krenek’s works for piano and orchestra includes several recorded premiers. If you’re craving a dodecaphonic waltz that features a nimble solo piano part, energetic brass writing and cannily deployed percussion rejoinders, t... Continue Reading


Saygun’s Fresh and Distinctive Quartets

by Jed Distler

Having surveyed Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s symphonies, CPO turns to the 20th-century Turkish master’s four string quartets. The “wonderfully evocative folk melos” my colleague David Hurwitz referred to in the symphonies organically interfaces with Saygun’s terse chromatic lan... Continue Reading


Saygun: Powerful Symphony No. 4 and Violin Concerto

by David Hurwitz

This release completes CPO’s excellent cycle of Saygun symphonies in fine fashion, and we can only hope that the series continues with additional orchestral works. Both the intense, pithy, alternately violent and lyrical Fourth Symphony (sound clip) and the Violin Concerto are late composition... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Masterful Symphonies by Ahmed Adnan Saygun

by David Hurwitz

Saygun’s Third Symphony is a masterpiece, reflecting both the composer’s roots in Turkish folk music and also a compositional sophistication that recalls Bartók (whom the composer assisted on ethno-musicological expeditions in Turkey). At 38 minutes, it’s a major statement, full o... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Saygun’s Spirited First Two Symphonies

by David Hurwitz

Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-91) speaks in a very powerful, ethnically inflected language that shares many characteristics with that of Bartók. His melodic style clearly derives from the folk music of his homeland, but Saygun employs elements that permit him to expand his harmonic voca... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Leo Brouwer’s Ever-Inventive Music for Two Guitars

by Jed Distler

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Leo Brouwer (born 1939) is a composer and guitarist whose music lives, breathes, and flows with fluent craftsmanship and unfettered creativity. This was true going back to the Triptico from 1958, written when Brouwer was 19. Already he was writing some of the most idiomatic and assured guitar music ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Brouwer Channels the Beatles

by David Hurwitz

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer occupies an interesting niche in the world of contemporary music. A versatile creative mind in many different media, his reputation rests largely on his extensive oeuvre for guitar, and deservedly so. His music for the instrument is marvelous. Indeed, it would be difficult... Continue Reading


Saygun’s Hot Piano Concertos

by David Hurwitz

If you can imagine the combination of Bartók’s alternately nocturnal and percussive keyboard writing (and scoring) married to the chromatic luxuriance of Szymanowski or Scriabin, then you have a good sense of what to expect from these two marvelous concertos. Saygun was without question a maj... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Saygun’s Superb Concertos for Viola and Cello

by David Hurwitz

This disc strikes me as an ideal introduction to the music of Turkey’s greatest composer. Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s style might be described as “Szymanowski with a primal rhythmic feel.” If you love that composer’s First Violin Concerto then you will find here a very similar... Continue Reading


Pettersson’s Appealingly Dismal Sixth Symphony

by David Hurwitz

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Who ever knew that music could capture such a wide range of negative emotion? Allan Pettersson’s Sixth runs the gamut from sad, tragic, wrathful, miserable, and stormy, to neurotic, stressful, dismal, pained, vicious, and sepulchral. What it never sounds is happy, though as we all know there o... Continue Reading


Pettersson’s Ninth and the Joy of Chromatic Misery

by David Hurwitz

Pettersson9

Allan Pettersson’s Ninth Symphony lasts 70 brutal, continuous minutes. The entire work is based on a simple chromatic scale, and unlike many of this composer’s previous symphonies it moves at a basically swift tempo. It must be torture for the orchestra to play, especially the violins, w... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Karayev’s Fine First Symphony

by David Hurwitz

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Kara Karayev was both Azerbaijan’s most important 20th century composer (that we know about), and an FOS (Friend of Shostakovich), whose music he often emulates. The First Symphony is a major work. It dates from 1943, and formally follows the outline of Beethoven’s Op. 111 piano sonata: ... Continue Reading


A Scrumptious Box of Koechlin Chamber and Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin Chamber

What a delicious collection this is! Take a moment and listen to the opening of the imposing, half-hour long Viola Sonata’s third movement. A simple sounding melody gradually descends in steps, from the viola’s highest register to its lowest. Underneath, the piano plays a series of gentl... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Big Box of Koechlin Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin

Here, accompanied by a lavish booklet with re-edited and expanded notes alongside complete texts and translations in German, French and English, are all of SWR’s Koechlin releases led by Heinz Holliger with the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart. It’s a class act, one not likely to b... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Prokofiev’s Real Cello Concerto

by David Hurwitz

ProkIsser

Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto Op. 58 is a major work. It dates from the mid 1930s, and for a variety of reasons it never enjoyed many performances or much success on the infrequent occasions when it was performed. As a consequence, the composer reworked some of the same material when he composed ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Emilie Mayer’s Piano Quartets

by David Hurwitz

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German composer Emilie Mayer (1812-83) does not deserve to be forgotten. She was one of the very few nineteenth-century female composers who actually made a living as a female composer. Her output is large and comprehensive, including chamber music of various kinds, vocal works, symphonies and overt... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Hausegger’s Epic Natursymphonie

by David Hurwitz

If you’re a fan of Mahler, Strauss, or late Romanticism in general, this disc is a must-listen. Siegmund von Hausegger (1872-1948) wrote only five orchestral works, but this 1911 “everything but the kitchen sink” hour-long extravaganza is a whopper of a piece. Scored for a generous... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Lajtha’s Magical Music for String Orchestra

by David Hurwitz

Lajtha Strings

Hungarian composer Laszlo Lajtha’s symphony “Les Soli” for string orchestra, harp and percussion is a masterpiece. Comparisons with Bartók’s earlier Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta are logical and obvious, but the two works couldn’t sound more different. Wher... Continue Reading


Lajtha’s Last Two Symphonies, Now On Naxos

by David Hurwitz

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The neglect of Lásló Lajtha’s music has robbed music lovers of the opportunity to enjoy not only Hungary’s greatest symphonist, but also a truly original voice in 20th century music–a talent fully comparable to Bartók and Kodály. The reasons for his neglect internationally stem... Continue Reading

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Ernest Krenek’s Piano Concertos Emerge from Obscurity

by Jed Distler

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Like its predecessor, Volume Two of Toccata Classics’ survey of Ernest Krenek’s works for piano and orchestra includes several recorded premiers. If you’re craving a dodecaphonic waltz that features a nimble solo piano part, energetic brass writing and cannily deployed percussion rejoinders, t... Continue Reading


Pettersson: Curiously Compelling String Concerto No. 3

by David Hurwitz

Slowly and steadily, BIS continues its advocacy of the works of Swedish compatriot Allan Pettersson, a labor of love if ever there were one, since lovable this music certainly is not. The Third String Concerto is a huge work, with two ample quickish movements surrounding a monstrous, 25-minute-long ... Continue Reading


Pettersson: Two Gloomy String Concertos

by David Hurwitz

The performances here are uniformly excellent, though whether or not you’ll like the music is another matter. Allan Pettersson’s Barefoot Songs, to his own poetry, are harmonically traditional and very attractive. The words, typically, are very serious–about death, poverty, and the... Continue Reading


Andor Foldes’ Variable Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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Andor Foldes (1913-1992) was one of the busier pianists in Deutsche Grammophon’s stable during the 1950s and early 1960s. Most of his recordings for the label languished in obscurity throughout the CD era, although certain significant items gained reissue, such as his important four-disc Bartók c... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Michelangeli’s 1965 Salzburg Recital

by Jed Distler

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These previously unreleased recordings of the Bach/Busoni Chaconne and the Beethoven Sonata Op. 2 No. 3 document the only portion of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s August 7, 1965 Salzburg Festival recital that the pianist permitted for either broadcast or publication. Fans of the pianist may balk... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Saint-Saëns’ Music for Cello and Orchestra

by David Hurwitz

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Naxos already has a nearly identical disc featuring soloist Maria Kliegel, and a fine one it is. It lacks only the brief Romance in F major for cello and orchestra, and even includes an orchestral arrangement of The Swan, as does this newcomer. However, if you want the most of Saint-Säens’ mu... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: A Ho-Hum Stravinsky Premiere

by David Hurwitz

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Don’t worry about the not-so-gaping hole in your complete Stravinsky box. His recently uncovered Chant funèbre (Op. 5) turns out to be a bore. It’s ten minutes of undigested Rimsky-Korsakov and Wagner, with a moment that sounds a bit like the conclusion of Strauss’ Elektra (sound ... Continue Reading


Hausegger’s Lisztian Symphonic Poems

by David Hurwitz

Hausegger

If you enjoyed Hausegger’s epic Natursymphonie, you may be disappointed with these shorter pieces. They are, in their way, no less ambitious–Hausegger was nothing if not serious, always, but like Liszt in his symphonic poems–with their pretentious philosophical programs–Hause... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Rossini & Verdi Overtures from Abbado

by Victor Carr Jr

With its qualities of intelligent, impassioned conducting married to polished and vibrant orchestral playing, Claudio Abbado’s Rossini overture collection offers much for listeners to enjoy. Abbado wonderfully captures Semiramide’s pomp and majesty, Il barbiere di Siviglia’s learne... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Verdi Opera Choruses

by Anastasia Tsioulcas

There’s plenty of impressive swagger here, and you can take consistent vocal excellence (precision of ensemble and superb diction) for granted with this classic compilation of Verdi opera choruses with La Scala forces under Claudio Abbado. Most of the expected favorites are here, including ... Continue Reading


Hamelin and Andsnes Deliver A Knockout Rite On Two Pianos

by David Hurwitz

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First a threshold question: Is there any point in listening to the Rite of Spring in its arrangement for two pianos in the first place? The answer is “yes,” even though this necessarily monochrome version (compared to the orchestral original) can’t possibly capture the impact that ... Continue Reading


The Best of Fey’s Haydn (4 of 4): Symphonies Nos. 70, 73, & 75

by David Hurwitz

[Editor’s Note: Thomas Fey’s recent accident and serious injury (he fell down a flight of stairs in his home) means that his projected Haydn cycle will remain incomplete. Here, then, is a four review retrospective describing some of his best efforts.] Thomas Fey’s Haydn series goes... Continue Reading


The Best of Fey’s Haydn (3 of 4): Symphonies Nos. 60 & 61

by David Hurwitz

[Editor’s Note: Thomas Fey’s recent accident and serious injury (he fell down a flight of stairs in his home) means that his projected Haydn cycle will remain incomplete. Here, then, is a four review retrospective describing some of his best efforts.] Happily Thomas Fey dispenses with th... Continue Reading


The Best of Fey’s Haydn (2 of 4): Symphonies Nos. 57, 59, & 65

by David Hurwitz

[Editor’s Note: Thomas Fey’s recent accident and serious injury (he fell down a flight of stairs in his home) means that his projected Haydn cycle will remain incomplete. Here, then, is a four review retrospective describing some of his best efforts.] If you love classical music you̵... Continue Reading


The Best of Fey’s Haydn (1 of 4): Symphonies Nos. 69, 86, & 87

by David Hurwitz

[Editor’s Note: Thomas Fey’s recent accident and serious injury (he fell down a flight of stairs in his home) means that his projected Haydn cycle will remain incomplete. Here, then, is a four review retrospective describing some of his best efforts.] After a slightly disappointing showi... Continue Reading


More Marvelous Mendelssohn from Howard Shelley

by Jed Distler

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Because Howard Shelley has turned out to be one of the most prolific and dependable pianists on disc, it’s all too easy to take him for granted, or not to notice or even care when a truly exceptional new CD appears. Yet the third installment of his ongoing complete Mendelssohn cycle continues to p... Continue Reading


Alicia de Larrocha’s RCA Granados Recordings

by Jed Distler

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To several generations of piano lovers, Alicia de Larrocha and the music of Enrique Granados were synonymous. As such, it makes both musical and marketing sense for Sony/BMG to bundle her three RCA Granados CDs in a boxed set. Dating from the late 1980s and early ’90s, the recordings mostly of... Continue Reading


Plagiarism 101: Mayr Overtures

by David Hurwitz

MayrOvertures

Giovanni Simone Mayr may not have been a great composer, but he was certainly an opportunistic one. The seven opera overtures presented here, from the first two decades of the nineteenth century, are entertaining enough. Ercole in Lidia has a luscious harp part, but the real treat is the overture to... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Richter’s Schubert From Profil

by Jed Distler

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Profil’s boxed set purportedly devoted to Sviatoslav Richter’s Schubert “live in Moscow” actually derives from various sources. Let’s nail these down. Three selections come from Kiev concerts. Two Paris studio sessions are tacked on as “bonus” items. One is EMI’s oft-reissued 1963 Wa... Continue Reading


Filling In The (Bernstein) Gaps: Oedipus Rex

by David Hurwitz

Sony France has been doing wonderful things with reissues, so it’s not surprising that they’ve unearthed the one significant omission in all past Bernstein reissue programs: the conductor’s outstanding Boston performance of Oedipus Rex recorded in connection with his Norton Lecture... Continue Reading

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Big Boxes: Holy Crap, They Left Out Barber!

by David Hurwitz

SlatkinAmer

Slatkin’s American music recordings are uniformly marvelous, and self-recommending. On purely artistic grounds this set is a 10, but it needs to be docked at least a point because RCA, in its dim-witted wisdom, has left off Slatkin’s two Barber CDs containing the three solo concertos, th... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Complete Sony Recordings

by Jed Distler

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To mark Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 60th birthday year in 2018, Sony/BMG lavishes big box treatment upon the conductor’s complete Sony Classical recordings, mostly dating from the mid-1980s until 2001. The contents mainly focus on 20th-century music, where Salonen’s confident authority and insights pa... Continue Reading


Rosbaud From The Archives: A Collector’s Near-Complete Bruckner Cycle

by Jens F. Laurson

Rosbaud_Bruckner_SWRClassic

Hans Rosbaud, born in Graz, Austria in 1895, led Germany’s South-West Radio Symphony Orchestra (the orchestra of the broadcaster established in the French Zone of Occupation that would go on to become the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg and that has since been merged with the Stuttg... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Revisiting the Budapest String Quartet’s 1951/2 Beethoven Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Recorded in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, the Budapest String Quartet’s 1951/2 Beethoven cycle for Columbia Masterworks gained its first integral CD release in an eight-disc set from United Archives that didn’t last long in the catalog. Sony/Classical’s edition extends to... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Alicia De Larrocha–Complete EMI/Warner Recordings

by Jed Distler

No doubt piano connoisseurs will relish the opportunity to acquire, in a single, budget-priced bound, all of the late Alicia de Larrocha’s EMI/Warner recordings. Most of the material originally was recorded for the Spanish Hispavox label in the 1960s, and first appeared on LP in America on Epi... Continue Reading


Saint-Saens: A Box of Symphonies & Concertos

by David Hurwitz

It’s puzzling that Brilliant Classics was unable to get any of the several EMI/Warner sets of Saint-Saëns piano concertos to fill out this set, instead of licensing the decent but not terribly special Vox recordings featuring Gabriel Tacchino and Louis de Froment. At this price, however, you ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: DG’s Excellent Debussy (not complete) Edition

by David Hurwitz

Debussy

This is not the recent DG Complete (not) Edition, but rather its earlier and much better Debussy box. If you’re not an absolute completist–in which case the Warner/Erato box is the way to go–then this is the one to get. Unlike Universal’s only fitfully excellent Ravel box, th... Continue Reading


Alsop’s Magnificent Bernstein Box

by David Hurwitz

BernsteinAlsop

Here, in one convenient box, are all of Marin Alsop’s Bernstein recordings for Naxos–eight CDs worth–performances as fine as Bernstein’s own, and sometimes even better. This version of Mass, which Alsop regards as Bernstein’s masterpiece, is the new reference version. H... Continue Reading


A Scrumptious Box of Koechlin Chamber and Piano Music

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin Chamber

What a delicious collection this is! Take a moment and listen to the opening of the imposing, half-hour long Viola Sonata’s third movement. A simple sounding melody gradually descends in steps, from the viola’s highest register to its lowest. Underneath, the piano plays a series of gentl... Continue Reading


Debussy: The (Really) Complete Works on Warner

by David Hurwitz

DebWarner

Unlike DG’s recent incomplete Complete Works box, this one, all 33 CDs of it, really makes an effort to do the job right. Indeed, it contains more than the complete works, because you get both everything Debussy wrote as well as everything he arranged or transcribed–like movements from T... Continue Reading


DG’s Incomplete, Grab Bag of a Complete Debussy Box

by David Hurwitz

DebussyDG

In mathematics it is possible to accept the notion that there can be different sets of infinite yet unequal sizes, but “Debussy Complete Works” ought to mean what it says; and when the present set contains 22 CDs (plus 2 DVDs), and EMI/Warner’s also complete Debussy consists of 33 ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: A Big Box of Koechlin Orchestral Works

by David Hurwitz

Koechlin

Here, accompanied by a lavish booklet with re-edited and expanded notes alongside complete texts and translations in German, French and English, are all of SWR’s Koechlin releases led by Heinz Holliger with the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart. It’s a class act, one not likely to b... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Gerard Schwarz Delivers the Goods on Naxos

by David Hurwitz

Schwarz

This has got to be the most intelligent, comprehensive, and well-earned big box tribute to a living conductor yet assembled. Gerard Schwarz is one of those conductors we tend to take for granted. Always in the public eye on disc, his career has encompassed large ensembles and small, alongside a majo... Continue Reading


Big Boxes; Karl Böhm’s Complete DG Operas

by Jed Distler

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Have you noticed how recent boxed sets devoted to a particular artist’s “Complete Deutsche Grammophon Recordings” also include that artist’s recordings for other labels controlled by Universal Classics? Recent Karajan, Bernstein, Barenboim, and Pollini boxes are cases in point. Likewise, the... Continue Reading


St. John’s Affirms Its Legacy With Welcome Guest Box

by David Vernier

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To those who follow and truly care about these things, George Guest’s musical vision and purposeful, singularly compelling leadership of the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge for 40 years not only set the standard and defined its sound for the following decades, but set a new course... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Finally, Neumann’s First Dvorák Cycle

by David Hurwitz

dvoraka

Supraphon has finally released Václav Neumann’s 1970s Dvorák symphony cycle, and what a wonderful event it is. These performances are, on the whole, fresher and freer than his digital remakes, fine though those are, and more warmly recorded. The only exception is the somewhat shrill engineer... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Piano Legend Eileen Joyce’s Complete Studio Recordings

by Jed Distler

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In 2011 APR released the complete Parlophone and Columbia solo recordings by the Tasmanian-born pianist Eileen Joyce (1908-1991) on five CDs. Not to be outdone, Australian Eloquence has gone one better with a truly complete edition of her studio recordings on ten discs, enough to make any self-respe... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: The Art of Nikita Magaloff

by Jed Distler

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Pianist Nikita Magaloff (1912-1992) amassed a large and sometimes confusing discography over a long career. Much of his output appeared on small independent labels, only to be licensed to other small labels. Then there were dozens of live performances issued both legitimately and illegitimately. In ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Karajan’s Complete DG and Decca Recordings

by Jed Distler

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Universal Classics’ limited edition of Herbert von Karajan’s complete Deutsche Grammophon and Decca recordings encompasses the largest release ever devoted to a single classical artist, not to mention the largest boxed set in history to date. It adds up to 330 CDs, 23 DVDs, plus two audio-only B... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Eugen Jochum’s DG Recordings Vol. 1–Orchestral Music

by David Hurwitz

Jochum 1

Eugen Jochum was such a modest soul that he was easily overshadowed by other conductors in DG’s stable. During his lifetime he was sometimes called, both admiringly and disparagingly, “baby Furtwängler,” but the fact is that he was a vastly superior conductor than Furtwängler, of... Continue Reading

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