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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Click for alphabetical listings by composer:
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RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Latin Church Music Vol. 1 Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Chorus/Ton Koopman rec. 2008 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72188 [74:54 + 75:03][BW]

Wonderful music – excellent performances and recording ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990) West Side Story chorus; orchestra/Leonard Bernstein rec. 1984 The Making of West Side Story - documentary DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777101 [CD: 76:36; DVD: 88:00][RB]

Rawness, rasp and romance... an out and out blast ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Falstaff – Symphonic Study, Op.68 (1913) [33:19] Enigma – Variations on an original Theme, Op.36 (1899) [29:46] Pomp and Circumstance March No.5 in C, Op.39 (1930) [5:41] New Philharmonia Orchestra/Andrew Davis rec. Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, 4-5 January 1974. ADD. LYRITA SRCD.301 [68:46] [BW]

Just has the edge over Davis’s own excellent re-makes .... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931) Orchestral Works Vol. 1 Jour dété à la montagne, La Forêt enchantée, Souvenirs Iceland SO/Rumon Gamba rec. 2007 CHANDOS CHAN10464 [63:25] [DM]

A sonic and musical treat. Not to be missed ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848) La Fille du Régiment The Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Bruno Campanella rec. 2007 VIRGIN CLASSICS 5190029 [132:00][RJF]

Dessay’s memorable performance as Marie will define her career ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Hugues DUFOURT (b. 1943) Le Cyprès blanc; Surgir Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Pierre-André Valade rec. 2004-6 TIMPANI 1C1112 [61:01][HC] 

Truly magnificent. Vital and assured readings of exacting scores ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Philip GLASS (b. 1937) The Concerto Project - Volume II Piano Concerto No. 2 “After Lewis And Clark”, Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra Paul Barnes (piano), R. Carlos Nakai (Native American flute) Jillon Stoppels Dupree (harpsichord) Northwest CO/Ralf Gothóni rec. 2005 ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC OMM0030 [58:53] [DJB]

Hypnotic in the best Glass tradition, also moving, thrilling and great fun! … see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759) Ariodante Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis rec. 2007 DYNAMIC 33559 2 DVDs [157:00][RM]

A very very good DVD of a great Handel opera ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Jonathan HARVEY (b. 1939) Tranquil Abiding, Body Mandala, Timepieces, White as Jasmine, … towards a Pure Land Anu Komsi (soprano) BBC Scottish SO/Ilan Volkov rec. 2007 NMC D141 [79:59] [TH]

You should have this disc of music by one of the UK’s finest elder statesmen ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Gustav MAHLER (1860-1811) Symphony 10 Wiener Philharmoniker/Daniel Harding rec. 2007 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777347 [78.00] [AOz]

A truly distinctive Mahler 10, to challenge and stimulate ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Josquin des PRÉS (c.1440-1521) Missa Sine Nomine; Missa ad Fugam The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips rec. 2007 GIMELL CD and DOWNLOAD CDGIM039 [69:12][BW] 

Superb performances of little-known but splendid works ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Sakontala reconstructed by Karl Aage RASMUSSEN Durwasas Kammerchor Stuttgart, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius rec. 2006 CARUS 83218 [55:52 + 30:27][MM-B]

A historic and wonderful recording of Schubert’s best work for the stage ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Kullervo Soile Isokoski (soprano); Tommi Hakala (baritone); YL Male Voice Choir, Helsinki PO/Leif Segerstam rec. 2007 ONDINE ODE1122-5 [77:56] [RB]

A fine and epic Kullervo commanding its own place in a crowded field ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Il Trovatore Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Vienna State Opera Ch, Vienna PO/Herbert von Karajan rec. live 1962 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4476592 [67:22 + 61:26] [ST]

The sheer theatrical magic produced by the best in the world in live performance ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Chant: Music for Paradise The Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz rec. Sanctuary of the Relic of the Holy Cross, Stift Heiligenkreuz, Austria, 21st March-3rd April, 2008. DDD.Booklet with notes, texts and translations. UNIVERSAL CLASSICS & JAZZ UCJ176 6016 [52:45] [BW]

Already a best-seller and deservedly so ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Karen Geoghegan plays Bassoon Concertos Johan Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837) Grand Concerto W23 for Bassoon and Orchestra in F major [23:45]; Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Andante e Rondo ungarese Op 35 in C minor [9:08]; Franz BERWALD (1796-1868) Concert Piece in F major [11:10]; Carl Heinrich JACOBI (1791-1852) Introduction and Polonaise Op 9 [9:00]; Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Romance Op 62 [5:13]; George GERSHWIN (1898-1937) Summertime [4:36] Karen Geoghegan (bassoon) Orchestra of Opera North/Benjamin Wallfisch rec. 9-10 January 2008, St George’s Hall, Bradford. DDD CHANDOS CHAN 10477 [51:46] [CR]

Extraordinary, deeply expressive, bassoon playing ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Legendary Piano Recordings The Complete Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Pugno, and Diémer recordings and other G & T rarities Edvard Grieg, Jules Massenet, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, Louis Diémer, Raoul Pugno (piano) rec. 1903-1919 MARSTON 52054-2 [77:47 + 79:50] [JW]

Technology applied with integrity at the service of music. Magnificent ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH David Nadien (violin): Volume 4 – the celebrated live concerto performances; Music by Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937), Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936), Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) and Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) David Nadien (violin); Various accompaniments rec. 1965-7 Bonus DVD – David Nadien – Life and Music, a film by Mordecai Shehori CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD130 [72:28 + DVD: 68:00][JW]

Bewitching colour, tonal variety, tremendous vitality and generosity ... see Full Review


BARGAINS OF THE MONTH

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Favourite Organ Works Werner Jacob rec. 1970-83 EMI CLASSICS Triple 5093932 [3CDs: 69:50 + 69:44 + 75:45] [BW]

An excellent 3-CD set for beginners and seasoned collectors alike ... see Full Review

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924) Popular Puccini: Tosca, Boheme, Butterfly - films of Puccini’s most popular Operas in one box DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 073 4417 [363:00][AB]

Classic films which despite minor faults are up with the best ... see Full Review

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975) Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Violin Concertos 1 & 2, Cello Concertos 1 & 2, Piano Quintet EMI CLASSICS 5094282 [3 CDs: 74:35 + 65:22 + 66:09] [BBr]

An invaluable set for the generalist or the ardent fan ... see Full Review



Click for alphabetical listings by composer:
[Part 1 New] [Part 2 A-B] [Part 3 C-L]
[Part 4 M-R] [Part 5 S-Z]
[Part 6 Misc A-L] [Part 7 Misc M-Z]
[Recommended recordings]


An excellent reissue by Hyperion on their Helios label, t

Over a period of three years from December 2003, I have spent a lot of time in the company of Harry Partch – not literally, of course, as he died in 1974, but working my way though an article and some eight reviews that can all be found on MusicWeb. Then, at the MusicWeb annual lunch (January 2007), the name of John Cage caught my ear. For reasons that my subconscious was not prepared to divulge, my curiosity was tickled. Partch and Cage have on occasion been paired off, as a sort of American "Debussy and Ravel" – was there any real connection between them?

This may come as a bit of an anticlimax but, other than them both being American originals with "far-out" ideas, I can’t really think of one. In fact, they are more on the lines of diametric opposites: with my tongue ever-so-slightly in my cheek, I could say that Partch was a seminal genius who got branded as a crackpot, and Cage was a crackpot who got branded as a seminal genius.

John Cage (1912-92) was nothing if not controversial. With his rise to prominence, an obliging World split into two opposing camps. His supporters saw him as a prime mover in the fields of experimental and electronic music, with abiding interests in "chance music", new ways of using traditional instruments, and practical application of his Zen Buddhist beliefs.

His detractors, the more radical of whom would have preferred the "nothing" option, complained that he just made a lot of silly noise, did unspeakable things to the private parts of otherwise perfectly respectable musical instruments, and came up with a load of airy-fairy claptrap to justify his bizarre buffoonery.

Partch, who was renowned for his considered and candid conclusions, didn’t have too high an opinion of Cage: "When he was younger, I found him rather charming, albeit shallow. Then later, when he was famed for the opening of doors to musical insight, I found myself obliged to use the word ‘charlatan’ . . . Pretty sounds do not necessarily make significant music, and serious words frequently cloak hokum . . . I’m all for common sounds as valid materials [but] one has to have control, so that his common sounds will mean something. . . I feel that anyone who brackets me with Cage is bracketing actual music with metaphysical theories, and what I think is a serious effort with exhibitionism." [Letter to Ben Johnston, 1952, reproduced in Innova Enclosure 3]

Who is right – the "pro" camp or the "anti"? You tell me. The only opinions I can voice with any certainty are that Cage was not really a crackpot – even if he did give that impression to his detractors – and in all probability he caused the expenditure of as much hot air as all the other Twentieth Century composers put together.

For instance, during the late 1960s, when I was a university student, Cage was a hot topic for many an informal debate over a pint or six of a Saturday night in the pub. It’s true, I s



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