Classics Today Insider

Erich Kleiber’s Complete Polydor 78s: Mostly Good, Sometimes Awful

by David Hurwitz

Ekleiber

This three-disc set, very carefully remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn, contains all of Erich Kleiber’s recordings for Polydor, including alternate takes of Smetana’s The Moldau (Vltava) and half of the scherzo of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. The performances range from... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Rachmaninov Bargain

by Jed Distler

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Note that this boxed set is not identical to Brilliant Classics’ 2010 complete Rachmaninov piano music edition issued in the label’s deleted Piano Library series. Its contents largely stem from the Piano Classics label’s 2016 Rachmaninov box. Included are Lukas Geniušas’ sensitive, musician... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: John Eliot Gardiner–The Sour Grapes Edition (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Gardiner

The Bottom Line: As Gardiner remakes a lot of his core repertoire on his own label, DG/Archiv disgorges this huge, 104-CD box of earlier stuff (on which they must have invested a fortune) as if to say,, “Here. Take that!” Trouble is, it only represents a fraction of Gardiner’s best... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Riccardo Chailly’s Mostly Terrific Stravinsky Edition (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

StravChailly

The Bottom Line: Yet another celebration of Stravinsky’s 50th deathiversary, this 11-CD set contains mostly splendid recordings of many of the major works, plus a couple of duds. Those include the newly discovered, boring Chant funèbre, and a sadly underpowered remake of The Rite of Spring, a... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: The Remarkable Emma Boynet

by Jed Distler

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I had never heard of the French pianist Emma Boynet (1891-1974) before this remarkable release came to my attention and hooked me for life. Boynet studied with the legendary Isidor Philipp, with whom she remained associated throughout his long life. During the 1930s and ’40s Boynet made freque... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Ormandy’s Astonishing Columbia Monos (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Ormandy

The Bottom Line: This beautifully packaged 120-CD set, containing all of Eugene Ormandy’s mono recordings for Columbia Records, is a genuine collector’s item. It’s also a welcome corrective to many of the myths surrounding the conductor: that he was not a persuasive exponent of the... Continue Reading


Previn’s Really Good Complete Warner Box (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Previn

The Bottom Line: This 96-CD set contains all of André Previn’s recordings for EMI/HMV and Teldec, EXCEPT for his late recording featuring the Vaughan Williams Fifth Symphony with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra–it should have been included. Still, 96 CDs is nothing to sneeze at, and Previ... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: John Butt’s Bach Trio Sonatas

by Jed Distler

71-WGMdyvZL._SS500

Originally released by Harmonia Mundi in 1992, and reissued on their short-lived Classical Express budget line in 2001, John Butt’s recording of the six Bach Trio Sonatas easily retains its reference status to this day. For starters, you’ll rarely hear an organ (the Greg Harrold organ at Hertz H... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Profil’s Louis Kentner Box

by Jed Distler

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Profil’s 10-disc Louis Kentner collection offers a diverse, if somewhat skewed, representation of the Hungarian-born/London-based pianist’s large recorded output. Among his sessions with violinist Yehudi Menuhin included here, the 1961 Ravel Trio, 1954 Chausson concerto, the 1956/57 Brahms sonat... Continue Reading


Video Review: Decca’s Grumiaux Edition–Fixed and Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

Grumiaux

The Bottom Line: If you got this set with the defective CD45 (the Beethoven Violin Concerto that should have been with Colin Davis conducting, but wasn’t), the problem has now been fixed. Contact your dealer for a replacement disc or, failing that, send an email to info@decca.com. They’l... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Bernstein Conducts Stravinsky–and How!!

by David Hurwitz

Stravinsky

The Bottom Line: Bernstein was an incomparably great Stravinsky interpreter, certainly a better conductor than the composer himself, and this set of his complete recordings for Sony has more than it’s share of reference versions, including stunning performances of the Firebird Suite (sound cli... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Scribendum’s Vedernikov Edition

by Jed Distler

avedernikov

Unlike his slightly older contemporaries and fellow Heinrich Neuhaus pupils Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, pianist Anatoly Vedernikov (1920-1993) is all but unknown in the West. The same can be said for his sizeable discography. Denon brought out at least 26 Vedernikov CDs, which, of course, la... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Warner’s Stravinsky Edition

by Jed Distler

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Warner Classics’ edition marking the 50th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s death offers a not-quite-complete yet very well-rounded overview of the composer’s output, together with an indispensable historical component. Whether or not the performances all hold equal appeal, or represent the bes... Continue Reading


Järvi’s Prokofiev Sixth: Still The Version Of Choice

by David Hurwitz

prok6jarvi

Prokofiev’s Sixth was pretty much neglected by major conductors in the West (Ormandy and Martinon excepted) until Neeme Järvi scored a sensation with this recording in 1985, and then the floodgates opened with versions from Previn, Ashkenazy, Rostropovich, Ozawa, Kuchar, and others appearing ... Continue Reading


Tubin’s Powerful Complete Symphonies from BIS

by David Hurwitz

Tubin

BIS has conveniently packaged Neeme Järvi’s epoch-making set of Eduard Tubin’s complete symphonies, hopefully giving them a new lease on retail life. In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past decade or so, these works constitute as fine a legacy of Scandinavian music... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Currentzis Sweats Beethoven’s Seventh

by David Hurwitz

Beet7

After Teodor Currentzis’ atrocious, inhibited Beethoven Fifth, this Seventh sounds like it might turn out better. True, the diminuendos on every woodwind phrase in the introduction are annoying, but once the first movement gets going there’s plenty of energy and rhythmic point. On the ot... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sony’s Rodzinski Album Collection

by Jed Distler

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Despite his high standing among conductors who dominated the American orchestral scene in the mid-20th century, Artur Rodzinski’s reputation seems to have faded over the years. Yet his 1930s and 1940s recordings convey a level of musical directness, textural clarity, and orchestral discipline that... Continue Reading


Colin Davis’ Happy Beethoven Odyssey (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

DavisBeet

The Bottom Line: When Colin Davis was “on,” he was as good as any conductor of his day, and for much of this set he was unquestionably on top of his game. Unavailable for many years, his early Beethoven symphony cycle with the London and BBC Symphonies, alongside a stunning version of th... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Orfeo’s “Legendary” Pianists–An Uneven Grab Bag

by Jed Distler

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Orfeo has been marking its 40th anniversary with boxed sets respectively dedicated to “legendary” conductors, singers, and pianists. The piano items encompass both archival live performances and original studio productions from Orfeo’s back catalog, some of which have not been easy to source f... Continue Reading


The Best Abbado Big Box on DG, Finally (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

AbbadoLSO

The Bottom Line: Finally, DG has boxed up Claudio Abbado’s best (or at least most consistent) series of recordings–the ones he made with the London Symphony Orchestra in the early maturity of his career. These are the performances that led to his later fame, and many of them are indeed s... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: An Enticing Mozart Piano Bargain

by Jed Distler

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Here are all of the Mozart recordings that pianist Christian Zacharias made for EMI, assembled in original jacket style at budget price. You get the piano concertos Nos. 5-27, and all of the piano sonatas, save for the wonderful hybrid Sonata/Rondo in F major K. 533/494. And if that wasn’t enough,... Continue Reading


Fabulous Music for Horn(s) and Orchestra from Ondine

by David Hurwitz

HornOndine

The Bottom Line: Don’t let this terrific disc pass you by. The Schumann, especially, is one of his most original masterpieces, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic horn section, led by Markus Maskuniitty, plays it (and everything else on the disc) fabulously. Check out the video review and the... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Currentzis Sweats Beethoven’s Seventh

by David Hurwitz

Beet7

After Teodor Currentzis’ atrocious, inhibited Beethoven Fifth, this Seventh sounds like it might turn out better. True, the diminuendos on every woodwind phrase in the introduction are annoying, but once the first movement gets going there’s plenty of energy and rhythmic point. On the ot... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Antonini’s Horrible Haydn “Farewell”

by David Hurwitz

Haydn45Alpha

This disc is so bad that I’m reviewing it twice, both as a video on my YouTube channel and here. What is it about Haydn that leads performers to treat him as a blank canvas on which to smear whatever interpretive graffiti suits them? In this case, Antonini’s approach to this is music is ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Another Dismal Prokofiev 5th

by David Hurwitz

PetPro5

The Bottom Line: Why is this symphony so hard to play successfully? Petrenko’s sluggish tempos, recessed percussion compared to how it ought to be done (sound clips) and general waywardness in the big first and third movements turn this most powerful and passionate of symphonies into a dismal ... Continue Reading


Alexander “Brail-lousy” Plays Chopin

by Jed Distler

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This Sony Masters 5-CD budget box brings together all of the solo recordings that Alexander Brailowsky made for Columbia Masterworks. His rendition of Chopin’s Preludes Op. 28 explains why a musician colleague of mine nicknamed the pianist “Brail-lousy”. I’ve rarely heard such crude, unmusic... Continue Reading


CD from Hell: Beethoven Knob-Fiddling

by Jens F. Laurson

mitterer cover

Didn’t Glenn Gould tell us that a child’s fiddling with the knobs of the home stereo was already the first step in a creative act? He might have loved Wolfgang Mitterer. Or maybe not. But on the album “Beethoven: Nine in One”, that’s pretty much exactly what Mitterer–organist, compos... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bezuidenhout Badly Botches Beethoven (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

BeethPC4

The Bottom Line: This is atrocious.... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bellucci’s Baffling Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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Sometime in early 2000 I received for review a remarkable disc from the small and now long-defunct Assai label. It featured a 34-year-old pianist named Giovanni Bellucci in assertive, strikingly personalized, yet utterly riveting performances of the Liszt/Busoni “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” Fant... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Immerseel’s Clunky and Prosaic Beethoven

by Jed Distler

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As a Beethoven fortepianist, Jos Van Immerseel never attained the inspiration of recorded competitors like Robert Levin, Steven Lubin, Tom Beghin, or Ronald Brautigam, not to mention Peter Serkin’s remarkable forays into the late sonatas. Yet Immerseel usually rose to the occasion and held his own... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Rouvali Tippy-Toes Through Sibelius 2

by David Hurwitz

Sibelius2Rouv

There’s something vaguely surreal about being stuck at home during a pandemic, listening to a crappy performance of Sibelius’ sunny and optimistic Second Symphony. Santtu-Matias Rouvali is the latest product of the Finnish conducting assembly line. He’s kind of like a new flavor of... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Barbirolli’s Spasmodic Sibelius Cycle

by David Hurwitz

SibBarb

With Warner set to issue a big Barbirolli box containing some 100 CDs, of which this Sibelius set will be a centerpiece, it seems sensible to have a listen to it again to see of there needs to be any reassessment. In my view, nothing has changed, and the original review explains why plainly enough. ... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Evan Johnson’s Sound Installation (With Sadistic Toy Piano)

by Jens F. Laurson

Evan-Johnson_Forms-of-Complaint_KAIROS_ClassicalCritic_ClassicsToday

Amid the sea of beautiful, intelligent, vigorous contemporary music, which has at long last recovered from the damage that ideologically charged academicism and anti-sensual strands had successfully inflicted on it, there are still plenty of exponents of yesteryear’s avant-garde music. Not so much... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: A Haydn Cycle Sinks To New Lows

by Jed Distler

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My colleague David Hurwitz has covered Hyperion’s ongoing Haydn cycle, disparaging The London Haydn Quartet’s ugly tone, lifeless phrasing, poor intonation, and annoying “period performance” mannerisms by citing chapter and verse with pinpointed accuracy. If anything, the ensemble (and I use... 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: Teutonic, Prosaic Schubert & Liszt Sonatas

by Jed Distler

AUD20043.20191008033044

Many years back I was fortunate enough to acquire a disc featuring piano works by the late Ulrich Leyendecker. I especially admired Jimin Oh-Havenith’s masterful and supple interpretation of this composer’s tricky Bagatelles. On that basis, I expected her Schubert to be sensitive and poetic. How... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Scherchen Butchers The Suite From Mahler’s Fifth

by David Hurwitz

Mahler5Scher

This legendary release captures a 1965 live performance of Mahler’s Fifth, or rather a version so cut that it amounts to an extended suite. Two thirds of the scherzo are missing, as is about a third of the finale. The playing elsewhere is so poor that it would make a bad community orchestra bl... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Revisiting Furtwängler’s Notorious Nazi Ninth

by David Hurwitz

CultCondiii

Well, here it is again, Furtwängler’s despicable 1942 Beethoven Ninth, the one with Hitler and Goebbels in attendance, hailed by his groupies as his greatest, and therefore the greatest ever. What makes it so great, theoretically, is the supposedly audible level of additional interpretive ten... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Horenstein’s Eroica–Not The Worst, But Most Dysfunctional

by David Hurwitz

CultCond

This may not be the worst “Eroica” ever recorded technically speaking, but it’s certainly the most dysfunctional. Time and again Horenstein sets up the big moments and then utterly fails to deliver. The huge sequential dissonant pileup in the first movement’s development, the... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Bernhard Lang Fools With Parsifal

by Jens F. Laurson

Bernhard-LANG_PARZEFOOL_KAIROS_ClassicalCritic_ClassicsToday

The idea of re-writing and reinterpreting extant works to make them appear in new guise is a well-worn one in contemporary music. For years, the tool of (ostentatiously ironic) quotation was the only “out” for composers to squeeze any beauty or conventional harmony into their works. It o... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Horenstein’s Obsolete Mahler 8th

by David Hurwitz

Although released some time ago and not reviewed then, the flood of new Mahler 8ths over the past decade or so has prompted me to go back and revisit this “legendary” recording to see if it’s still as lousy as it has always sounded, and the answer is a resounding “Yes!”... Continue Reading


CD From Hell: Vänskä’s Torpid Minnesota Mahler First

by David Hurwitz

Mahler1Vanska

Webster’s defines “torpid” as, “(a) sluggish in functioning or acting, or (b) having lost motion or the power of exertion or feeling.” This describes Vänskä’s Mahler First perfectly. At no point does he betray the slightest interest in the expressive point of th... Continue Reading

More "CDs from Hell" Reviews »

Reference Recording: John Butt’s Bach Trio Sonatas

by Jed Distler

71-WGMdyvZL._SS500

Originally released by Harmonia Mundi in 1992, and reissued on their short-lived Classical Express budget line in 2001, John Butt’s recording of the six Bach Trio Sonatas easily retains its reference status to this day. For starters, you’ll rarely hear an organ (the Greg Harrold organ at Hertz H... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Bernstein Conducts Stravinsky–and How!!

by David Hurwitz

Stravinsky

The Bottom Line: Bernstein was an incomparably great Stravinsky interpreter, certainly a better conductor than the composer himself, and this set of his complete recordings for Sony has more than it’s share of reference versions, including stunning performances of the Firebird Suite (sound cli... Continue Reading


Järvi’s Prokofiev Sixth: Still The Version Of Choice

by David Hurwitz

prok6jarvi

Prokofiev’s Sixth was pretty much neglected by major conductors in the West (Ormandy and Martinon excepted) until Neeme Järvi scored a sensation with this recording in 1985, and then the floodgates opened with versions from Previn, Ashkenazy, Rostropovich, Ozawa, Kuchar, and others appearing ... Continue Reading


Tubin’s Powerful Complete Symphonies from BIS

by David Hurwitz

Tubin

BIS has conveniently packaged Neeme Järvi’s epoch-making set of Eduard Tubin’s complete symphonies, hopefully giving them a new lease on retail life. In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past decade or so, these works constitute as fine a legacy of Scandinavian music... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Buchbinder’s RCA Beethoven Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Rudolf Buchbinder’s second recorded cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas stems from live concerts that took place at Dresden’s Semperoper in 2010 and 2011. It briefly appeared as an expensive import, and is now reissued at budget price, minus the original booklet and annotations. In certain r... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Charles Rosen’s Distinctive Diabellis

by Jed Distler

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Carlton Classics’ CD reissue of Charles Rosen’s 1977 Beethoven Diabelli Variations lasted for about 10 seconds in the catalog. The physical disc has long been difficult to source. However, one now can access the performance via digital platforms. It remains one of the most distinctive interpreta... Continue Reading


Video Review: Classic Gershwin and Gould from Slatkin Sr. and Pennario

by David Hurwitz

GershSlatF

Click HERE for the video, or on the image below, and please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay up to date on new videos as they’re posted.... Continue Reading


Video Review: Munch’s Ultimate Coriolan Overture

by David Hurwitz

Cult Cond

Please click HERE or on the image for the video review, and below for a sample clip of this stunning performance of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture. Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay up to date on new videos as they’re posted.... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Végh’s Immortal Mozart Serenades and Divertimentos

by David Hurwitz

veghMozdiv

This set offers 10 CDs of pure joy. It already has achieved classic status, and deservedly so. Anyone who can make Eine kleine Nachtmusik sound this new and fresh (sound clip) deserves a permanent seat in the Classical Music Hall of Fame, and Végh does it not just in that work, but in every piece [... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Barber as a Barber Conductor

by David Hurwitz

Barber

Until the Second Symphony’s parts were discovered in a London warehouse some years after Barber’s death, this 1950 recording was the only officially existing evidence of the work–aside from its middle movement, published separately as Night Flight. Since then it has been recorded a... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Klemperer’s Missa Solemnis Still Delivers

by Jed Distler

I’ve owned Otto Klemperer’s classic 1965 recording of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis in many guises, from LP and reel-to-reel tape to cassette and compact disc. Yet it’s never sounded so good as it does via EMI’s latest CD incarnation. Compared with the previous CD transfer... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Amazingly Great Moravec Beethoven 4th Concerto

by David Hurwitz

Beet4Mor

Ivan Moravec recorded Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto twice. This first version, accompanied by the soloist’s brother-in-law Martin Turnovsky in 1963, in demonstration-quality sound, is one of the finest you’ll ever hear. As you might expect from this artist, Moravec’s tone an... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Finally, A Great Beethoven Triple

by Jed Distler

BeetTrip

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto works best when played like a svelte, bubbly concerto grosso rather than middle-period Beethoven pretending to be Elgar. For that to happen, you need a firm, decisive podium master who keeps everything clear and moving ahead. And you need three virtuoso soloists wit... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Bruckner’s Neglected Second Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Bruck2Stein

It’s difficult to find a stand-alone version of the Second Symphony to recommend as a reference version. It remains Bruckner’s most neglected major work, and although it contains some very beautiful things the fact is that there’s nothing in it that he didn’t do better elsewh... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: St. Gallen’s Bach Cantatas, Vol. 30

by Jens F. Laurson

BACH_Cantatas-vol30_Bach-Stiftung-St-Gallen_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

Every release of the St. Gallen Bach cantata cycle-in-the-making is a joy. And every volume only raises the project in my estimation. But just as all animals are equal, some are more equal than others. This applies to these volumes and–closely related–to the cantatas themselves. All of B... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Harnoncourt and Haydn in Paris–and Heaven

by David Hurwitz

HaydPar

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


Cult Conductors: Walter’s Youthful Valedictory Mahler 2

by David Hurwitz

Mahler2Walter

Individual Sony titles imported from Japan are showing up on these shores at surprisingly reasonable prices. This is one of the real gems. Walter’s late, stereo recordings vary in quality, unsurprisingly. Like so many conductors he tended to slow down and “go soft” with age, althou... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Bruno Walter’s Perfect Columbia Symphony “Pastoral”

by David Hurwitz

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In their biography of Bruno Walter, Erik Ryding and Rebecca Pechefsky cite Olin Downes’ review of the conductor’s Boston debut: “When a musical phrase is truly felt by the conductor, and when the orchestra feels it with him, the orchestra breathes, and this natural, deep rhythmical... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Mravinsky and Shostakovich’s Much Maligned 12th

by David Hurwitz

Shost12

Like most of us, I had very little patience for this symphony. Even Shostakovich thought it was junk, or at least feared that it was. But on closer acquaintance it turns out that there’s really a lot to enjoy. The first movement is incredibly exciting, in Shostakovich’s best cinematic ve... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kubelik’s Brilliant Dvorák 6th and Janácek Sinfonietta

by David Hurwitz

KubelikDvor6

Kubelik’s commercial recording of Dvorák’s Sixth for DG with the Berlin Philharmonic still stands with the best, but this newcomer takes his interpretation to another level entirely. The hard-edged brilliance and rhythmic exactitude that characterized the earlier recording has been repl... Continue Reading

More "Reference Recordings" Reviews »

Fabulous Music for Horn(s) and Orchestra from Ondine

by David Hurwitz

HornOndine

The Bottom Line: Don’t let this terrific disc pass you by. The Schumann, especially, is one of his most original masterpieces, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic horn section, led by Markus Maskuniitty, plays it (and everything else on the disc) fabulously. Check out the video review and the... Continue Reading


Video Review: Classic Gershwin and Gould from Slatkin Sr. and Pennario

by David Hurwitz

GershSlatF

Click HERE for the video, or on the image below, and please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay up to date on new videos as they’re posted.... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Amazingly Great Moravec Beethoven 4th Concerto

by David Hurwitz

Beet4Mor

Ivan Moravec recorded Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto twice. This first version, accompanied by the soloist’s brother-in-law Martin Turnovsky in 1963, in demonstration-quality sound, is one of the finest you’ll ever hear. As you might expect from this artist, Moravec’s tone an... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Finally, A Great Beethoven Triple

by Jed Distler

BeetTrip

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto works best when played like a svelte, bubbly concerto grosso rather than middle-period Beethoven pretending to be Elgar. For that to happen, you need a firm, decisive podium master who keeps everything clear and moving ahead. And you need three virtuoso soloists wit... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Albert Wolff Crushes Tchaikovsky’s Fourth

by David Hurwitz

TchaikWolff

Recorded in 1959 is very good stereo, Albert Wolff’s Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony is a knockout: swift, exciting, and splendidly played by the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra. The first movement, which so often hangs fire in other performances, moves as if self-propelled. The key moment you’... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Ormandy’s Luscious and Lively Bruckner 7th

by David Hurwitz

Bruck7Orm

This is a performance to cherish, not least because Ormandy proves himself to be the “anti-Celibidache” or “anti-Karajan” or “insert name of Bruckner specialist conductor of your choice.” There’s not a shred of spiritual folderol or metaphysical pretense in ... Continue Reading


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

by Jed Distler

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


Under The Radar: Music In Renaissance Prague

by David Vernier

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There is an ancient depiction of Bohemia as a rose, with Prague at its center, which presumably is the source of the disc’s title (and stylized cover art), although, from a marketing standpoint, the exclusive Latin inscription on the CD’s front cover is more likely to result in bewilderm... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Solti’s Early, Still Competitive Vienna Beethoven Symphonies 3, 5, & 7

by David Hurwitz

Dating from the late 1950s, these generally fine performances show Solti’s consistency as a Beethoven interpreter. In fact, timings are virtually identical to his later versions (give or take a repeat or two). Even at this comparatively early date a craggy directness entirely appropriate to Be... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Leinsdorf’s Much Better Than You Thought Beethoven 9th

by Dan Davis

Arnold Schoenberg’s tribute to the victims of inhumanity is ironically paired with Beethoven’s ode to brotherhood–the same program Erich Leinsdorf performed for his 1969 farewell concerts with the Boston Symphony two days before this recording was made. A Survivor From Warsaw makes... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Peter Donohoe’s Superb Brahms PC1

by Jed Distler

Few if any of Peter Donohoe’s full-priced EMI releases have made headway in the label’s American catalog, including this Brahms disc. Now that it’s reissued on EMI’s budget Seraphim line, I offer two words of advice: grab it! This is one of the most gripping Brahms D minor Co... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Klemperer’s Noble, Dazzling Tchaikovsky Fifth

by David Hurwitz

Otto Klemperer’s Tchaikovsky Fifth is one of the half dozen or so greatest recordings of the work. This may come as a surprise to those who regard him solely as a German repertoire specialist, and equally astonishing are his tempos for the symphony’s first two movements–among the s... Continue Reading


Kancheli’s Sunny Night

by David Vernier

kanchelisunnynight

You’re in a café, a quiet little out of the way place. The sudden sound of violin and piano, perhaps later a bandonéon, playing a sweet, romantic tune creates the perfect atmosphere for evening romance, contemplation, or just enjoying the wine and the solitude (sound clips). This is not the ... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Herreweghe’s First St. Matthew Passion

by David Hurwitz

On its initial release in 1985, this recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion made a huge impression, for a number of reasons. One was the exceptional quality of the recording itself, a typically classy Harmonia Mundi production that we have since come to expect, but that at the time was giving... 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


Under the Radar: Previn’s Glorious Mahler 4th

by David Hurwitz

Mahler4Previn

For years I’ve been referring to this recording as a “reference” for Mahler’s Fourth, and it’s a pleasure to be able to talk about it in greater detail. This is one of those “sleepers” that comes along occasionally, a disc by artists that aren’t normally associated with the repertoir... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Caballé’s Wholly Convincing Salome

by David Hurwitz

salome

This recording has always been sort of the stepchild among Salome performances, but it is a great one, for all that the principals are not usually associated with their roles, or with German opera more generally. Sherrill Milnes makes a firm-voiced, very serious Jokanaan indeed. His German is excell... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Viola Concertos Rediscovered

by David Vernier

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Violist Jean-Eric Soucy devotes the majority of his booklet notes to describing his search for, discovery/re-discovery, and ultimate proper attribution of these viola concertos, an interesting glimpse into how one innocent musicological quest can unearth and ultimately resolve a longstanding if obsc... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Cavalli’s Should-I-Die-Before-I-Wake Requiem

by Jens F. Laurson

CAVALLI_Requiem_Ensemble-Polyharmonique_RAUMKLANG_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

Francesco Cavalli is a lesser-known composer of the Italian high baroque, known best (if that’s the word) for his opera La Calisto that René Jacobs and, back in the days, Raymond Leppard have recorded. If you ever have a chance of catching David Alden’s wild production at the Munich State Opera... Continue Reading


Under the Radar: Gounod’s Piano Music

by Jed Distler

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Everyone knows about Charles Gounod’s operas and choral works, but who knew that he also wrote solo piano music? I certainly didn’t, until this release came to my attention. It offers a judiciously contrasted representation of the composer’s keyboard output, starting with two beautiful charmer... Continue Reading

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Erich Kleiber’s Complete Polydor 78s: Mostly Good, Sometimes Awful

by David Hurwitz

Ekleiber

This three-disc set, very carefully remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn, contains all of Erich Kleiber’s recordings for Polydor, including alternate takes of Smetana’s The Moldau (Vltava) and half of the scherzo of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. The performances range from... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: The Remarkable Emma Boynet

by Jed Distler

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I had never heard of the French pianist Emma Boynet (1891-1974) before this remarkable release came to my attention and hooked me for life. Boynet studied with the legendary Isidor Philipp, with whom she remained associated throughout his long life. During the 1930s and ’40s Boynet made freque... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Bernstein Conducts Stravinsky–and How!!

by David Hurwitz

Stravinsky

The Bottom Line: Bernstein was an incomparably great Stravinsky interpreter, certainly a better conductor than the composer himself, and this set of his complete recordings for Sony has more than it’s share of reference versions, including stunning performances of the Firebird Suite (sound cli... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Major Violinist Rediscovered

by Jed Distler

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The eminent violinist and pedagogue Franco Gulli (1926-2001) may be familiar to collectors mainly through his stellar contributions to I Musici’s Vivaldi Edition on the Philips label. Yet his virtuosity, musicianship, and repertoire covered ample territory. One could argue that professionals and s... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Dinu Lipatti’s Complete 1947-1948 Columbia Recordings

by Jed Distler

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In 1999 APR reissued piano legend Dinu Lipatti’s complete issued 1947 recordings in superb remasterings. It returns to the catalog as an expanded two-CD edition that now includes Lipatti’s 1948 sessions, plus five 1947 test recordings with cellist Antonio Janigro. Three of the latter appeare... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Barber as a Barber Conductor

by David Hurwitz

Barber

Until the Second Symphony’s parts were discovered in a London warehouse some years after Barber’s death, this 1950 recording was the only officially existing evidence of the work–aside from its middle movement, published separately as Night Flight. Since then it has been recorded a... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Abendroth’s Mostly Great 1951 Beethoven Ninth

by David Hurwitz

BeetAbend

Hermann Abendroth was supposed to be the avatar of a now-lost style of conducting–the sort of Romantic push and pull approach to tempo and phrasing. Of course, we can’t say just how common this really was. There were always musicians who favored strict tempos, and those who phrased more ... Continue Reading


Historical Gems: Albert Wolff Crushes Tchaikovsky’s Fourth

by David Hurwitz

TchaikWolff

Recorded in 1959 is very good stereo, Albert Wolff’s Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony is a knockout: swift, exciting, and splendidly played by the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra. The first movement, which so often hangs fire in other performances, moves as if self-propelled. The key moment you’... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Danacord’s Ignaz Friedman Edition

by Jed Distler

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Although Romantic piano master Ignaz Friedman’s recordings have been well served on CD reissues, there’s something to be said for Danacord’s pioneering “complete” edition, which now receives its first CD transfer. It originally came on as a 6-LP boxed set in 1985, produced by Allan Evans (... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Prime Kreisler

by Jed Distler

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Naxos’ more-or-less chronological survey of Fritz Kreisler’s complete Victor and HMV solo recordings has been proceeding at a snail’s pace since launching nearly 20 years ago. The long-awaited Volume 9 brings us to 1927 and 1928, when Kreisler still was at the fullness of his powers. What is m... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Walter’s Youthful Valedictory Mahler 2

by David Hurwitz

Mahler2Walter

Individual Sony titles imported from Japan are showing up on these shores at surprisingly reasonable prices. This is one of the real gems. Walter’s late, stereo recordings vary in quality, unsurprisingly. Like so many conductors he tended to slow down and “go soft” with age, althou... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Arrau On The Air

by Jed Distler

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Because the five concertos contained on these discs exist in multiple studio and live recorded versions throughout Claudio Arrau’s discography, one would understand why these previously unreleased SWR archival recordings might not be a priority. Yet they often reveal the pianist on more spontaneou... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Brailowsky’s Best

by Jed Distler

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Alexander Brailowsky (1896-1976) made his first recordings for the German Polydor label between 1928 and 1936, which, for the most part, represent the pianist in far more flattering light than in his largely harsh-toned and musically crude RCA Victor and Columbia Masterworks LP-era releases. While o... Continue Reading


Historic Gems: Bella Davidovich At Her Best

by Jed Distler

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As of this writing (November 2019) Bella Davidovich is alive and well at 91, although retired from performing. Melodiya’s excellent restorations for these early 1960s recordings surely will please the pianist, for they represent her artistry at its technical and musical apex. Indeed, I find her at... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Mravinsky and Shostakovich’s Much Maligned 12th

by David Hurwitz

Shost12

Like most of us, I had very little patience for this symphony. Even Shostakovich thought it was junk, or at least feared that it was. But on closer acquaintance it turns out that there’s really a lot to enjoy. The first movement is incredibly exciting, in Shostakovich’s best cinematic ve... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Kubelik’s Brilliant Dvorák 6th and Janácek Sinfonietta

by David Hurwitz

KubelikDvor6

Kubelik’s commercial recording of Dvorák’s Sixth for DG with the Berlin Philharmonic still stands with the best, but this newcomer takes his interpretation to another level entirely. The hard-edged brilliance and rhythmic exactitude that characterized the earlier recording has been repl... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Stoki’s Looniest Wagner CD

by David Hurwitz

WgStoki

This wonderfully insane disc belongs in every Wagner collection, most particularly for the Magic Fire Music. How on earth did Stokowski get this sound out of the 1959/60 Houston Symphony Orchestra? Listen to the sound clip below. Did the entire population of Houston take up the harp for this recordi... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Scherchen’s Most Insane Haydn Disc Ever

by David Hurwitz

Haydn

It goes without saying that when Universal put together their Scherchen box of Haydn symphonies, they left out the most important material: his stereo remake of the “Military” Symphony. Happily, it was issued in Japan, coupled to this “Farewell,” which was included in the DG ... Continue Reading


Cult Conductors: Scherchen’s Reference Beethoven Eighth

by David Hurwitz

CultCondi

Hermann Scherchen was, to put it mildly, a quirky conductor, but also an erratically brilliant one. He shocked the musical world in the 1950s by insisting on taking Beethoven’s metronome markings seriously, and the result was a symphony cycle at times stimulating, at times infuriating. It̵... Continue Reading


Norma Fisher: A Great Pianist Rediscovered

by Jed Distler

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Born in 1940, British pianist Norma Fisher enjoyed a busy performing life before the onset of focal dystonia in her right arm forced her to retire from concertizing in the 1990s and refocus her career on teaching. Although Fisher did not make commercial recordings, live and radio archival tapes surv... Continue Reading

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Remarkable Reicha Quartets (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

ReichaQuat

Please click below for the video review. The Bottom Line: This disc contains some of the most entertaining and unusual music for string quartet to appear in a long time. The Quatuor Scientifique is a twelve-movement extravaganza displaying Reicha’s “new method” of fugal writing, wh... Continue Reading


Irgens-Jensen: Glorious Orchestral Works from CPO

by David Hurwitz

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Had he written more music, Norwegian Ludvig Irgens-Jensen would be considered a great composer today. I have no doubt about it. This two-disc set contains most of his orchestral music without voices, and it’s glorious. Start with Disc 2, containing his single symphony, plus the Passacaglia. Se... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Nikita Koshkin’s Preludes & Fugues For Solo Guitar

by David Vernier

koshkin

You enjoy the guitar, you want to hear something new, but not some off-the-wall, out-there experiment in how much abuse a guitar string (or the guitar itself) can take (attention-getting but not usually pleasant listening). Nor are you looking for yet another go at Recuerdos de la Alhambra or Asturi... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: The Neoclassical Skalkottas

by David Hurwitz

Skalkottas

It was a smart idea to give this disc a title. “The Neoclassical Skalkottas” nicely sums up what to expect, even for those who don’t know that the composer is best known for his gnarly, atonal music. It turns out that this was just a phase. Aside from the delightful Greek Dances, S... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: The Wonderful, Gentle Side of George Antheil

by Jens F. Laurson

ANTHEIL_Serenades_CPO_ClassicsToday_Jens-f-Laurson_ClassicalCritic

CPO’s series of George Antheil’s music has been a boon to music lovers and very successful in showing the composer’s softer side, as musically he wasn’t so much the bad boy he liked to present himself. As Robert Reilly points out in Surprised by Beauty: “after 1926, Antheil turned ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Roger Sacheverell Coke’s Cello Sonatas

by Jed Distler

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Composer and pianist Roger Sacheverell Coke (1912-1972) was born into an affluent family and produced a large body of works before a number of mental and physical health problems took their toll. Coke bankrolled concerts to promote his music, yet critical acclaim largely eluded him. Then again, his ... Continue Reading


Under The Radar: Music In Renaissance Prague

by David Vernier

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There is an ancient depiction of Bohemia as a rose, with Prague at its center, which presumably is the source of the disc’s title (and stylized cover art), although, from a marketing standpoint, the exclusive Latin inscription on the CD’s front cover is more likely to result in bewilderm... Continue Reading


Gallo Trio Sonatas: The Source for Stravinsky’s Pulcinella

by David Vernier

Gallo

Within the first few seconds of the first track—the Sonata No. 1 in G major—most listeners will find themselves in surprisingly familiar territory—surprising because this little-known 18th-century composer seems to have written a popular tune long attributed to Pergolesi, a misattribution give... Continue Reading


Rouse’s Brilliant Percussion and Violin Concertos

by David Hurwitz

Having recently enjoyed Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s Eleventh Symphony for percussion ensemble and orchestra (BIS), I have come to the conclusion that percussion concertos are to music what professional wrestling is to sports. They can be immensely entertaining (as indeed this one certainly i... Continue Reading


Rousing Rouse From Gilbert And The NY Phil

by David Hurwitz

rouse

Christopher Rouse was one of the very few recent composers who could write music in large forms with the kind of expressive immediacy and emotional integrity of the great classical composers. I don’t say this lightly, but the evidence is plain and liberally scattered throughout the works on th... Continue Reading


Rouse’s Hot Symphony No. 1

by David Hurwitz

Christopher Rouse is an exciting composer. All of his music, even a dark, slow work such as the First Symphony, features a striking level of tension. He’s also been lucky in that his music has received a good deal of attention on disc. Both the First Symphony and Iscariot have been recorded pr... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Kalliwoda’s Intriguing First Symphony

by David Hurwitz

Kalliwoda

Written in 1825, Kalliwoda’s First Symphony attracted many admirers, including Mendelssohn and Schumann, before dropping from sight for almost two centuries. It did not deserve the neglect. In fact, Schumann liked it so much that he cribbed the opening the scherzo (here still called Menuetto) ... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Braga Santos Missing Pieces

by David Hurwitz

BragaSantosPC

This disc fills a useful gap in the discography of Portugal’s greatest twentieth-century composer, Joly Braga Santos. There have already been a couple of recordings of the Symphonic Overture No. 3, but none of Nos. 1 and 2 (subtitled “Lisbon”) until now. The First is a learning wor... Continue Reading


Stölzel: Good Enough for Bach, Definitely Good Enough for Us

by Jens F. Laurson

STOELZEL_Laemmlein_GLOSSA_ClassicsToday_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

If you’ve heard enough Beethoven and want to switch it up, there are Wilms, Raff, Cherubini, et al. If you’ve heard enough Brahms, there are composers of extraordinary if secondary excellence like Bruch, Gernsheim, Herzogenberg, etc. And any baroque composer with a vaguely Italian name can likew... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Images of Brazil for Violin and Piano

by David Hurwitz

Brazil

This is one of those discs you’d be tempted to overlook: seven works by seven different composers, most of them unknown (except for Villa-Lobos and Guarnieri), scored or arranged for violin and piano, and played (very well) by performers who aren’t exactly household names. I dismissed it... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: Schreker’s Four Little Pieces for Large Orchestra

by David Hurwitz

SchrekerWard

It might seem silly to recommend a disc on the basis of four brief pieces lasting less than ten minutes in total, but Schreker’s Four Little Pieces for Large Orchestra (a.k.a. Four Film Sketches) are so characterful, so typical of their composer, and so unlike anything else that they deserve t... Continue Reading


A Danish Four Seasons In Song

by David Vernier

danishsongs

A program of Danish songs, set for a cappella choir? Understandably this kind of thing may not be on your “must purchase”–or even “must listen”–list. But one of the reasons we’re here is to share discoveries such as this, and hope that you may find it as rew... Continue Reading


Major Discovery: Henri Marteau’s Intriguing Works for String Quartet

by Jens F. Laurson

MARTEAU_Works-for-string-quartet-v1_CPO_ClassicsToday_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

Henri Marteau was born in 1874 in Reims. His career as a violinist–where he made something of a name for himself, especially as an interpreter of Reger–took him all across Europe, although he eventually settled in Lichtenberg, Germany, in the northeastern part of Bavaria. As World War I ... Continue Reading


Major Discovery: Orff’s Surprising Gisei

by Jens F. Laurson

ORFF_Gisei_CPO_ClassicsToday_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

Carl Orff is–just behind Johann Pachelbel, who dominated my unscientific Twitter poll on the topic–the quintessential one-hit composer. It’s Carmina-or-bust with him. He hits all the criteria: His one hit is very famous and the fame-disparity between that hit and his next-best-known wo... Continue Reading


Major Discoveries: War and Peace by Villa-Lobos

by David Hurwitz

Villa Lobos

These two symphonies were both composed in 1919 and reflect the composer’s response to the First World War. Musically they have a lot in common, save that the “War” Third Symphony features a lengthy funeral march while the “Victory” Fourth Symphony (I know, it’s n... Continue Reading

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The Complete Fitzwilliam Virginal Book

by Jed Distler

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The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is essentially a collection of late Rennaisance and early Baroque keyboard music that stems from manuscripts owned by Viscount Fitzwilliam and bequeathed to Cambridge University in 1816. The composers constitute a Who’s Who of the period. Works by John Bull, Giles Far... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Wilhelm Backhaus’ 1940s Recordings

by Jed Distler

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The recording career of Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969) spanned 60 years from 1908 until the pianist’s final recital in 1969, shortly before his death. The Pearl, Biddulph, and APR labels reissued most of his 78s, while Universal Classics brought out a boxed set encompassing Backhaus’ complete Decc... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Beethoven For The Mandolin

by Jens F. Laurson

BEETHOVEN_Mandolin-Suites_Martineau_NAIVE_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Beethoven wrote for the mandolin. The four surviving pieces aren’t very often recorded, and even in the complete sets of his works you have to trudge through a good bit of also-ran music before hitting upon them. Even then, those recordings are really just ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Rudolf Kerer Revisited

by Jed Distler

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American piano connoisseurs may be fleetingly aware of Rudolf Kerer (1923-2013), whose 1961 recording of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 appeared in Brilliant Classics’ 25-CD Legendary Russian Pianists boxed set, not to mention a briefly available LP reissue in the 1970s of his Brahms Piano Con... Continue Reading


Video Review: Naxos’ Complete Beethoven Edition 90-CD Box

by David Hurwitz

BeetNaxos

Click HERE for video, or on the screen below, and please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay up to date on new videos as they’re posted.... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Végh’s Immortal Mozart Serenades and Divertimentos

by David Hurwitz

veghMozdiv

This set offers 10 CDs of pure joy. It already has achieved classic status, and deservedly so. Anyone who can make Eine kleine Nachtmusik sound this new and fresh (sound clip) deserves a permanent seat in the Classical Music Hall of Fame, and Végh does it not just in that work, but in every piece [... Continue Reading


Reference Recording: Finally, A Great Beethoven Triple

by Jed Distler

BeetTrip

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto works best when played like a svelte, bubbly concerto grosso rather than middle-period Beethoven pretending to be Elgar. For that to happen, you need a firm, decisive podium master who keeps everything clear and moving ahead. And you need three virtuoso soloists wit... Continue Reading


Reynaldo Hahn’s Complete Songs

by Jed Distler

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Reynaldo Hahn’s contributions to the French art song tradition may be underestimated. One reason is that only a handful of his songs frequently turn up on disc and in recital. However, this splendid release devoted to the composer’s 107 solo songs aims to put the situation right. In a certain se... Continue Reading


A Major Anton Rubinstein Four-Hand Rarity

by Jed Distler

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As much as I appreciated the performances by Sara Bartolucci and Rodolfo Alessandrini on their first Brilliant Classics release in a survey of Anton Rubinstein’s music for piano duet, the boxy sonics impeded my full enjoyment. Volume 2 retains a close microphone perspective, yet with somewhat warm... Continue Reading


Gallo Trio Sonatas: The Source for Stravinsky’s Pulcinella

by David Vernier

Gallo

Within the first few seconds of the first track—the Sonata No. 1 in G major—most listeners will find themselves in surprisingly familiar territory—surprising because this little-known 18th-century composer seems to have written a popular tune long attributed to Pergolesi, a misattribution give... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Dukas’ Marvelous Ariane With Gary Bertini

by Jens F. Laurson

DUKAS_Ariane-et-barbe-bleue_Bertini_CAPRICCIO_ClassicsToday_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

If you think of Paul Dukas as a Mickey-Mouse composer, think again. He may be forever associated with a famous musical rodent through Disney’s depiction of his tone poem on Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the film Fantasia. But there’s a good deal more to Dukas, even though he abandoned an... Continue Reading


Hindemith’s Die Harmonie der Welt: Great Music, So-So Opera

by David Hurwitz

The importance of this release can’t be overestimated: the first official recording (and most likely the last) of the major work from the final period of one of the 20th century’s very greatest composers. Musically it’s magnificent, and anyone who enjoys the eponymous symphony that... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Handel’s Glorious Occasional Oratorio

by Jens F. Laurson

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George Frideric Handel’s Occasional Oratorio—essentially a pastiche cantata—was meant to buck up the London crowds (and curry political favor) as England was facing a war of succession from Jacobite Charles Edward Stuart. The work presents us with a conundrum: Those for whom having the fringe ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: A Lotta Great Handel Cantatas

by David Hurwitz

HandelCantatas

There’s nothing more heartbreaking in surveying the current state of the classical music industry than the knowledge that, amidst the constant flow of useless dreck hitting the market daily, there are wonderful sets such as this one that will never receive the acclaim (and financial success) t... Continue Reading


Bach’s Pupils Shine In Sacred Motets

by David Vernier

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The idea to make a program of music composed by members of Johann Sebastian Bach’s family, especially the lesser-known ones, has been realized many times, including in several earlier productions by Hänssler. Here we have some motets by both a son—Johann Christoph Friedrich—and a son in l... Continue Reading


Ives: Three Holidays and a Football Game

by David Hurwitz

James Sinclair is always an excellent guide to this music, even through Ives’ most complex textural thickets. The Fourth of July has real celebratory fervor and a sense of fun, while the climax of Thanksgiving, so often a muddle, here achieves real transcendence, with the choir perfectly integ... Continue Reading


Copland’s Third with Original, Even Louder Ending

by David Hurwitz

CopSlat

Leonard Slatkin can always be counted on to offer a new take on familiar classics. He recorded an excellent Copland Third for RCA back in his St. Louis days, and this performance is almost identical in terms of tempo and expression–but not quite. Copland’s publishers, Boosey and Hawkes, ... Continue Reading


Zelenka Goodness From Stuttgart

by Jens F. Laurson

zelenkasancti

Jan Dismas Zelenka is one of the most consistent sources of delight: A major late-baroque composer known well enough to be performed but still so unexploited as to bear constant surprises and discoveries. Case in point, this Missa Sancti Josephi, a Mass, like the Missa Divi Xaverii (Accent), that sk... Continue Reading


Filling in the Gaps: Romantic Works for Viola and Piano

by David Hurwitz

ViolaSonatas

Here’s a lovely disc that deserves a spot in your collection of Romantic chamber music. Georges Onslow’s Sonata in F major, Op. 16 No. 1 was originally written for cello, and it appears here in a well made transcription for viola and piano. The music, as you might expect, is tuneful and ... Continue Reading


Filling In The Gaps: Viola Concertos Rediscovered

by David Vernier

Entwürfe cpo-Cover April–Mai 2018_cover.indd

Violist Jean-Eric Soucy devotes the majority of his booklet notes to describing his search for, discovery/re-discovery, and ultimate proper attribution of these viola concertos, an interesting glimpse into how one innocent musicological quest can unearth and ultimately resolve a longstanding if obsc... Continue Reading

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Big Boxes: A Rachmaninov Bargain

by Jed Distler

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Note that this boxed set is not identical to Brilliant Classics’ 2010 complete Rachmaninov piano music edition issued in the label’s deleted Piano Library series. Its contents largely stem from the Piano Classics label’s 2016 Rachmaninov box. Included are Lukas Geniušas’ sensitive, musician... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: John Eliot Gardiner–The Sour Grapes Edition (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Gardiner

The Bottom Line: As Gardiner remakes a lot of his core repertoire on his own label, DG/Archiv disgorges this huge, 104-CD box of earlier stuff (on which they must have invested a fortune) as if to say,, “Here. Take that!” Trouble is, it only represents a fraction of Gardiner’s best... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Riccardo Chailly’s Mostly Terrific Stravinsky Edition (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

StravChailly

The Bottom Line: Yet another celebration of Stravinsky’s 50th deathiversary, this 11-CD set contains mostly splendid recordings of many of the major works, plus a couple of duds. Those include the newly discovered, boring Chant funèbre, and a sadly underpowered remake of The Rite of Spring, a... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Ormandy’s Astonishing Columbia Monos (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Ormandy

The Bottom Line: This beautifully packaged 120-CD set, containing all of Eugene Ormandy’s mono recordings for Columbia Records, is a genuine collector’s item. It’s also a welcome corrective to many of the myths surrounding the conductor: that he was not a persuasive exponent of the... Continue Reading


Previn’s Really Good Complete Warner Box (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Previn

The Bottom Line: This 96-CD set contains all of André Previn’s recordings for EMI/HMV and Teldec, EXCEPT for his late recording featuring the Vaughan Williams Fifth Symphony with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra–it should have been included. Still, 96 CDs is nothing to sneeze at, and Previ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Profil’s Louis Kentner Box

by Jed Distler

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Profil’s 10-disc Louis Kentner collection offers a diverse, if somewhat skewed, representation of the Hungarian-born/London-based pianist’s large recorded output. Among his sessions with violinist Yehudi Menuhin included here, the 1961 Ravel Trio, 1954 Chausson concerto, the 1956/57 Brahms sonat... Continue Reading


Video Review: Decca’s Grumiaux Edition–Fixed and Fabulous

by David Hurwitz

Grumiaux

The Bottom Line: If you got this set with the defective CD45 (the Beethoven Violin Concerto that should have been with Colin Davis conducting, but wasn’t), the problem has now been fixed. Contact your dealer for a replacement disc or, failing that, send an email to info@decca.com. They’l... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Bernstein Conducts Stravinsky–and How!!

by David Hurwitz

Stravinsky

The Bottom Line: Bernstein was an incomparably great Stravinsky interpreter, certainly a better conductor than the composer himself, and this set of his complete recordings for Sony has more than it’s share of reference versions, including stunning performances of the Firebird Suite (sound cli... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Scribendum’s Vedernikov Edition

by Jed Distler

avedernikov

Unlike his slightly older contemporaries and fellow Heinrich Neuhaus pupils Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, pianist Anatoly Vedernikov (1920-1993) is all but unknown in the West. The same can be said for his sizeable discography. Denon brought out at least 26 Vedernikov CDs, which, of course, la... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Warner’s Stravinsky Edition

by Jed Distler

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Warner Classics’ edition marking the 50th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s death offers a not-quite-complete yet very well-rounded overview of the composer’s output, together with an indispensable historical component. Whether or not the performances all hold equal appeal, or represent the bes... Continue Reading


Tubin’s Powerful Complete Symphonies from BIS

by David Hurwitz

Tubin

BIS has conveniently packaged Neeme Järvi’s epoch-making set of Eduard Tubin’s complete symphonies, hopefully giving them a new lease on retail life. In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past decade or so, these works constitute as fine a legacy of Scandinavian music... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Sony’s Rodzinski Album Collection

by Jed Distler

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Despite his high standing among conductors who dominated the American orchestral scene in the mid-20th century, Artur Rodzinski’s reputation seems to have faded over the years. Yet his 1930s and 1940s recordings convey a level of musical directness, textural clarity, and orchestral discipline that... Continue Reading


Colin Davis’ Happy Beethoven Odyssey (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

DavisBeet

The Bottom Line: When Colin Davis was “on,” he was as good as any conductor of his day, and for much of this set he was unquestionably on top of his game. Unavailable for many years, his early Beethoven symphony cycle with the London and BBC Symphonies, alongside a stunning version of th... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Orfeo’s “Legendary” Pianists–An Uneven Grab Bag

by Jed Distler

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Orfeo has been marking its 40th anniversary with boxed sets respectively dedicated to “legendary” conductors, singers, and pianists. The piano items encompass both archival live performances and original studio productions from Orfeo’s back catalog, some of which have not been easy to source f... Continue Reading


The Best Abbado Big Box on DG, Finally (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

AbbadoLSO

The Bottom Line: Finally, DG has boxed up Claudio Abbado’s best (or at least most consistent) series of recordings–the ones he made with the London Symphony Orchestra in the early maturity of his career. These are the performances that led to his later fame, and many of them are indeed s... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: An Enticing Mozart Piano Bargain

by Jed Distler

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Here are all of the Mozart recordings that pianist Christian Zacharias made for EMI, assembled in original jacket style at budget price. You get the piano concertos Nos. 5-27, and all of the piano sonatas, save for the wonderful hybrid Sonata/Rondo in F major K. 533/494. And if that wasn’t enough,... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Buchbinder’s RCA Beethoven Cycle

by Jed Distler

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Rudolf Buchbinder’s second recorded cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas stems from live concerts that took place at Dresden’s Semperoper in 2010 and 2011. It briefly appeared as an expensive import, and is now reissued at budget price, minus the original booklet and annotations. In certain r... Continue Reading


A Beautiful Bělohlávek Box (Video Review)

by David Hurwitz

Belohlavek

The Bottom Line: Entitled “Recollection,” this very well curated boxed set contains a splendid selection of the late Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek’s best recordings, including music by Smetana, Dvořák, Suk, Martinu, Bartók (Insider-only sound clips, below), Ravel, Mozart, ... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Eloquence’s Complete Andor Foldes Edition

by Jed Distler

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Between 1951 and 1963 Deutsche Grammophon made a sizeable number of recordings with Andor Foldes (1913-1992). Australian Eloquence has assembled the pianist’s complete DG output under one roof for the first time, together with his 1949/50 French Polydor recordings and his 1950/51 sessions for Amer... Continue Reading


Big Boxes: Lord, Have Percy! Chandos’ Complete Grainger Edition

by Jed Distler

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Chandos has reissued its standard-setting 19-CD Percy Grainger Edition set to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the composer’s death, complete with new packaging and two additional CDs. The discs are conveniently ordered by genre as follows: orchestral works (CDs 1-3), works for chorus and orche... Continue Reading

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