|Founder: Len Mullenger||
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett
Recordings Of The Year 2008
Reviewers are not restricted to discs they had reviewed, but the choices must have been reviewed on MWI in the last 12 months.
Click on cover image to read the full review.
Part 2: Reviewers M-Z (Part 1)
Rob Maynard Maurice RAVEL L’Éventail de Jeanne César FRANCK Symphony Sergei PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky Netherlands Radio PO/Leopold Stokowski rec. 1970 MEDICI ARTS MM026-2
Recorded at a live broadcast concert, 88 years old Stokowski inspires his Dutch orchestra with imaginative and sometimes quirky personal interpretations as well as, typically, a little extra orchestra colour. First rate sound enhances the hugely enjoyable experience.
The Best of the Bolshoi Ballet Galina Ulanova, Nikolai Fadeyechev, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden O & Bournemouth SO/ Yuri Faier and Gennady Rozhdestvensky rec. 1956 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 073 4425
The visiting Soviet ballet company wowed London audiences with an unprecedented combination of colour, vigour, athleticism and sensitivity. Giselle is a beautifully done showcase for Ulanova – but the varied divertissements deservedly bring the house down.
Johann Sebastian BACH Transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski Philadelphia O/Leopold Stokowski rec. 1927-1939 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111297
Mark Obert-Thorn’s typically skilled remasterings bring these classic accounts to new life and show why Stokowski was the USA’s best known classical musician of the 1920s and 1930s. Stokie’s imaginative recreations of Bach’s music brought – and will here continue to bring – the composer to new audiences.
Sergei RACHMANINOFF Piano concerto “5” (Symphony 2, arr. Alexander Warenberg) Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy (piano) Janáček PO/Theodor Kuchar rec. 2007 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 8900
Pure indulgence! Alexander Warenberg has rearranged the second symphony’s glorious melodies to create a brand new Rachmaninoff piano concerto that is surprisingly familiar on first hearing. His skilful work is brought to idiomatic life in Schmitt-Leonardy’s committed performance.
In Memory of Arturo Toscanini Symphony of the Air/Bruno Walter, Charles Munch, Pierre Monteux rec. 1954/7 MUSIC & ARTS CD-1201
Toscanini’s memorial concert brought together Walter, Munch and Monteux to conduct the renamed NBS Symphony Orchestra in works closely associated with the late maestro. This fascinating recording shows how those titans modified, to greater or lesser extents, their own styles to suit the requirements of the special occasion.
Dan Morgan Kalevi AHO Symphony 12 Taina Piira (soprano) Aki Alamikkotervo (tenor) Lahti SO, Lapland CO/John Storgårds rec. 2007 BIS BISSACD1676
This is the latest – and probably the most exciting – instalment in BIS’s ongoing Aho cycle. It’s a powerful, life-enhancing piece, rooted deep in Finland’s mythical past. Singing and playing are beyond reproach, the Super Audio recording spectacular in every way.
Fiesta Simón Bolívar Youth O/Gustavo Dudamel rec. 2008 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 7457
Energetic music-making from this gifted young band. The programme is big on rhythm and high on decibels, the atmosphere of this Caracas concert very well captured by the DG engineers. Anyone who remembers this orchestra’s display at the 2007 Proms will know what to expect; newcomers are in for a real treat. Feel-good rating: 10/10.
Charles IVES Romanzo di Central Park Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano) Magnus Johnston (violin) rec. 2007 HYPERION CDA67644
This is a revelatory disc, casting new light on Ives’s œuvre for voice and piano. Finley and Drake have chosen their programme well, offering a wide range of moods and styles. It’s all gloriously sung and, as always, Hyperion’s recording is first rate. A must-buy for all Ivesians.
Gustav MAHLER Symphony 5 Tonhalle O Zurich/David Zinman rec. 2007 SONY-BMG 88697 31450 2
It was a toss-up between David Zinman’s Mahler 4 and 5, but the latter has to be my final choice. The freshness and transparency that characterise this maestro’s Mahler pay dividends in this most complex of symphonies. Detail, phrasing and overall structure are most impressive. A deeply satisfying Fifth that demands to be heard.
Igor STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring, Apollon Musagète Netherlands RPO/Jaap van Zweden rec. 2006 EXTON OVCL00330
A slow-burner, this. On first hearing Jaap van Zweden’s Rite may seem too polite, but subsequent auditions reveal an intelligent and well-structured reading of this ground-breaking score. If anything the substantial filler, Apollon Musagète, is even finer, with plenty of musical insights along the way. The recordings, like the performances, are very well judged. A demonstration disc in every way.
Margarida Mota-Bull Franz SCHUBERT Sakontala (reconstructed by Karl Aage Rasmussen) Simone Nold, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius rec. 2006 CARUS 83.218
To have an opera such as Sakontala reconstructed is to be applauded and to have this historic performance recorded live for posterity is a most welcome endeavour. I simply adored this CD. I loved the music, the singing and the performance in general. As the world premiere recording of an unknown, nearly forgotten work for the stage by Schubert, it certainly deserves to be a recording of the year.
Bel Canto Spectacular Juan Diego Flórez (tenor) Comunitat Valenciana O/Daniel Oren rec. 2007 DECCA 4780315
The title of the disc is unimaginative and the photographs on the pages of the CD booklet unnaturally staged but one must forgive Flórez for this. His singing is flawlessly unique with a sparkling diamond-like quality. He is as dazzling in his solo arias as he is when collaborating with the other star singers. If one loves bel canto this CD cannot go unnoticed.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Concertos for two and three pianos Alexei Lubimov, Ronald Brautigam (fortepianos), Haydn Sinfonietta Wien/Manfred Huss rec. 2006 BIS BISSACD1618
Lovingly performed on period instruments; beautifully recorded, enthusiastic and full of energy. A real treat for Mozart lovers and "haters" alike!
Romantic Arias Jonas Kaufmann (tenor) Prague PO/Marco Armiliato rec. 2007 DECCA 4759966
A wonderfully expressive, smooth and warm tenor's voice and a delicately romantic performance. A new lyric tenor from Germany with a clear diction that will clearly prove wrong the idea that German is a harsh language, unsuitable for singing.
Anne Ozorio Leoš JANÁCEK From The House Of The Dead Mahler CO/Pierre Boulez rec. 2007 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 0734426
Don’t expect picturesque folksiness : this reveals the true originality and modernity of Janáček’s genius, which we are only now starting to fully appreciate. This is a definitive performance, visionary, powerful, and so intelligently filmed that the experience is enhanced. It does for Janáček what Boulez and Chéreau did for Wagner’s Ring. Unmissable, a classic for future decades.
Benajmin BRITTEN Billy Budd Ian Bostridge, London SO/Daniel Harding rec. 2007 VIRGIN CLASSICS 5190392
Britten wasn’t one to express his innermost values lightly, but this performance shows how he revealed himself in his music. It makes a case for Billy Budd as symphony, the orchestra as protagonist. Unsettling, but all the more challenging for that. Britten isn’t “comfortable” !
Gustav MAHLER Symphony 10 Vienna PO/Daniel Harding rec. 2007 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777347
Performing versions of Mahler’s 10th are tricky because they are open-ended. No one knows for sure what the composer might have done. Performances therefore involve a lot more informed judgement based on extensive knowledge of the composer’s mind and methods. Stick to the Adagio if you want certainity, but this is probing and perceptive, provocative food for thought.
Leoš JANÁCEK The Excursions of Mr Broucek BBC Singers, BBC SO/Jirí Belohlávek rec. 2007 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777387
Not a picture postcard, but another “new” approach to Janáček. It’s sharp and vivid, for Běhlolávek understands what makes this music bristle. A native speaker, he shows how language and speech rhythms are central to the idiom.
Tim Perry Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Complete Works for Solo Piano Vol. 6 Sonatas 21-25 Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano) rec. 2007 BIS BISSACD1573
Ronald Brautigam's unfolding Beethoven cycle continues to scintillate, sparkle and fire the imagination. Volume 6 may just be the best instalment so far, and includes a Waldstein of unrivalled bravura and an explosive Appassionata.
Joseph HAYDN Symphonies 70, 73 & 75 Heidelberger Sinfoniker/Thomas Fey rec. 2007 HANSSLER CLASSIC CD98.517
Thomas Fey is a fabulous exponent of the Haydn’s symphonies. The features that have made the previous volumes in this series so exciting are all here: the clipped, incisive articulation; the fleet tempi; the stylish phrasing; the committed playing of the Heidelberger Sinfoniker; and above all the high octane risk-taking.
Johannes BRAHMS Violin Sonatas Ilia Korol, Natalia Grigorieva rec. 2006 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72194
These historically informed performances of Brahms' violin sonatas are as good as any to have appeared in recent years from any performance tradition, offering thoughtful music making from equal partners rather than mere virtuoso display.
Edward ELGAR Violin Concerto, Serenade for Strings James Ehnes, Philharmonia O/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2007 ONYX 4025
With Sir Andrew Davis at the helm of a fired up Philharmonia, James Ehnes delivers a beautiful performance of the Elgar concerto in the Heifetz tradition. Not as emotional as some, but certainly the most impressive navigation of the score to have appeared in years.
Ross EDWARDS Symphonies 1 and 4 Adelaide SO & Ch/Richard Mills rec. 2002 ABC CLASSICS 4766161
A fine pairing of symphonies from Australia's holy minimalist. This disc deserves to find a wide audience.
David Oistrakh – The Complete EMI Recordings rec. 1953-71 EMI CLASSICS 2147122
The re-issue of the year! Need I say more?
Glyn Pursglove Gaultier d’ EPINAL Remembrance Ensemble Syntagma rec. 2006 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72190
A CD as historically fascinating as it is extraordinarily beautiful and moving. It explores – with undogmatic sensitivity – the music of Gaultier d’Épinal and his contemporaries. The results are seductively persuasive.
Amore Garth Knox (viola d’amore), Agnès Vesterman (cello) rec. 2006
From Tobias Hume to Roland Moser, via Marin Marais and Attilio Ariosti, Garth Knox’s exploration of the musical resources of the viola d’amore is both instructive and utterly delightful. The recorded sound is a joy in itself.
George Frederic HANDEL Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno Roberta Invernizzi, Kate Aldrich, Academia Montis Regalis/Alessandro de Marchi rec. 2007 HYPERION CDA67681/2
One of the finest works written by the young Handel during his stay in Italy, full of music of the utmost beauty, maturity and inventiveness. It gets a balanced, assured and radiantly sympathetic performance, avoiding the histrionics of some rival recordings.
Canticum Canticorum Les Voix Baroques/Stephen Stubbs rec. 2007 ATMA ACD22503
An excellent Canadian ensemble present a sampling – thoughtfully ordered and beautifully sung – of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and twentieth century settings from the Song of Songs. Each listening reveals new points of interest, both in the programming and in the music.
Antonio VIVALDI La Verità in Cimento (highlights) Nathalie Stutzmann, Philippe Jaroussky, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi rec. 2000 NAÏVE OP30452
A glorious selection of highlights, full of astonishing singing and playing, from Vivaldi’s opera of 1720. The vocal cast is well-nigh ideal, and Jean-Christophe Spinosi’s very theatrical reading of the score is forcefully articulated by orchestra (try the opening Sinfonia!) and singers alike.
John Quinn Sir Edward ELGAR The Dream of Gerontius Alice Coote, Paul Groves, Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone) Hallé Ch & O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2008 HALLÉ CDHLD7520
In a year which has brought several exceptional discs, this long-awaited set is my Recording of the Year. There are three impressive soloists and the choirs and orchestra are superb. Sir Mark Elder brings everything together in a performance of great sweep and perception. This Gerontius is a most impressive achievement.
Johannes BRAHMS Symphony 1, Begräbnisgesang, Schiksalslied Felix MENDELSSOHN Mitten wir im Leben sind Monteverdi Ch, Révolutionnaire et Romantique O/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. live 2007 SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG702
Gardner’s new Brahms cycle opens impressively with a fresh, vital reading of the First Symphony, which is also fully respectful of the best of Brahmsian tradition. It’s an important and envigorating addition to the discography of this symphony and the choral items are full of interest too.
Joseph HAYDN The Creation Sandrine Piau, Mark Padmore, Miah Persson, Chetham’s Chamber Ch, Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh rec. 2006 ARCHIV 477 7361
This is Creation on a Grand Scale, superbly performed in period style. Paul McCreesh shapes the music and impels it along with evident affection and enthusiasm. This is a performance that had me smiling and marvelling anew at Haydn’s invention.
Gustav MAHLER Symphony 9 Berliner Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle rec. live 2007 EMI CLASSICS 5012282
Did I need in my collection yet another recording of Mahler’s Ninth, and a second by Rattle? Tony Duggan’s enthusiastic review convinced me I did – and he was right. Rattle conducts with his usual attention to detail and also with sweep and vision. This superbly played version ranks with the very finest recordings of Mahler’s greatest symphonic achievement.
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony 5, Dona Nobis Pacem London PO, BBC SO/Ralph Vaughan Williams SOMM SOMMCD071
In the fiftieth anniversary year of RVW’s death it needed something special to edge out the superb disc of Vaughan Williams choral music by Laudibus but the claims of the composer conducting his own music are even stronger. This just beats Britten’s live recording of Albert Herring as my Historical issue of the year. RVW leads a lovely performance of the Fifth symphony and Dona Nobis Pacem is bitingly dramatic
Kenneth LEIGHTON Sequence for All Saints, Morning Canticles, The World’s Desire Wells Cathedral Ch, Wells Cathedral School Chapel Ch/Matthew Owens rec. 2007 HYPERION CDA67641
This disc serves Leighton’s music in a quite exemplary fashion. The chosen pieces make a strong impression. That is due not just to the high quality of the music but also to the tremendous performances led by Matthew Owens. Hyperion and the Wells musicians have done Kenneth Leighton proud.
Donald Satz Johann Sebastian BACH Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I Jill Crossland (piano) rec. 2003 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD113
Exceptionally fresh interpretations with a compelling variety of texture and dynamics. In superb sound, Crossland's recording stands tall in the company of Glenn Gould, Rosalyn Tureck and Eric Fellner.
Johann Sebastian BACH Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, Partitas 2 & 6 Roger Woodward (piano) rec. 2007 CELESTIAL HARMONIES 13280-2
Woodward, a champion of contemporary music, does himself proud in this selection of Bach solo keyboard works. Highlighting Bach's counterpoint and dialogue, Woodward offers an irresistible conversational flow with the most demonstrative upper voices I have heard in many years.
Paul JUON Piano Quartets Oliver Triendl (piano) Daniel Gaede (violin) Hariolf Schlichtig (viola) Peter Bruns (cello) rec. 2006 CPO 7772782
The obscure Russian composer Paul Juon is my discovery of the year, and this splendidly performed and engineered recording represents an excellent avenue to become familiar with his music. Late-romantic in style, Juon's memorable themes and expert architecture are informed with harmonic adventure and variety that should appeal to all lovers of early 20th century chamber music.
Christopher Thomas I have included DVD’s in my “Recordings of the Year” before but this is first time I have felt compelled to include two.
New Music for Brass Band Foden’s Richardson Band/ Bramwell Tovey rec. 2008 NMC D142
The release of a CD dedicated entirely to non contest stage contemporary brass band music is a rare thing indeed. The fact that it should appear on a label as significant as NMC is rarer still. If you are a fan of brass band music you can’t afford to be without it, but even if you are not, give it a go. You might just be very surprised.
O Thou Transcendent - The Life of Ralph Vaughan Williams A film by Tony Palmer TPDVD106
In the year that we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the death of VW, there have been no more significant events than the release of Tony Palmer’s magnificent testament to the life and music of a truly great and often gravely misunderstood composer. Poignant, frank and at times deeply moving (I don’t mind admitting that the close up footage of Boult’s face whilst conducting the Romanza from the Fifth Symphony reduced me to tears) along with the immensely valuable contributions from Ursula Vaughan Williams add up to a film that is a genuine masterpiece of the genre.
Christian Lindberg The Total Musician BIS BISDVD1678
Now turning his hand with equal success to conducting and composing, this BIS DVD to some degree celebrates Lindberg’s contribution to the label itself but also charts Lindberg’s career in the form of two separate films. It’s an absorbing watch and has the added bonus of the re-release of filmed 1992 performances of four works closely associated with Lindberg, the Sandström Motorbike Concerto, Berio’s Sequenza V, Kagel’s Atem and John Cage’s Solo.
Simon Thompson Richard WAGNER Tannhäuser Spas Wenkoff, Gwyneth Jones, Bernd Weikl, Bayreuth Festival Ch & O/Colin Davis rec. 1978 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 073 4446
I said at the time that this is the greatest Wagner experience that DVD has to offer, and I’ve seen nothing since to change my mind. Singing is uniformly excellent, conducting is taut and architectural, while the production is insightful and revelatory. You won’t regret buying this disc.
Johan van Veen Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH Complete Works for vocal ensemble and basso continuo Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam/Harry van der Kamp rec. 2003 SONY 82876705432
Most compositions on these discs - which are of excellent quality - are recorded here for the first time. It is hardly imaginable that the interpretation by the Gesualdo Consort can be surpassed. It is one of the finest vocal ensembles around, and the concentration, intensity and expression of its performances, supported by a perfect intonation, are highly impressive.
Dieterich BUXTEHUDE Sonatas Op. 1 & Op. 2 L'Estravagante rec. 2006/7 ARTS 47731/2-8
These sonatas reflect the high technical standard of instrumental playing in North-Germany in Buxtehude's time. These are the first recordings of the Italian ensemble L'Estravagante, and they are impressive and highly expressive; one of the best recordings of this repertoire available.
Francesco Bartolomeo CONTI David, azione sacra per musica Birgitte Christensen, Simone Kermes, Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis rec. 2003 VIRGIN CLASSICS 3788772
Conti's oratorio David is a splendid piece of music, which fully deserves to be part of the standard repertoire. It is performed here in a top-notch interpretation, with a fine cast of singers giving stylish and expressive performances, and an orchestra playing with panache.
Philipp Heinrich ERLEBACH Die Liebe Gottes ist ausgegossen Dorothee Mields, Margaret C. Hunter, Les Amis de Philippe/Ludger Rémy rec. 2007 CPO 7773462
The quality of these seven sacred works by Erlebach is such that this production is an important and exciting addition to the catalogue. The performance is first class: the scoring with just four voices is certainly justifiable for historical and stylistic reasons and the four singers here are an ideal match. The instrumental ensemble plays its parts with great expression and good understanding of the texts.
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Keyboard Music Martha Folts (harpsichord) rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.570717
Martha Folds presents keyboard pieces from several manuscripts in an interpretation based on the performing principles laid down by Frescobaldi. Her playing is captivating and expressive and she uses a splendid historical instrument. Music, instrument and performer are a winning combination here. It has resulted in a quite spectacular recording, which should not be missed.
Pierre Danican PHILIDOR Suittes pour hautbois L'Asemblee des Honnestes Curieux rec. 2007 ZIG ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT080203
This disc is an ear-opener for everyone who thinks French music of the baroque era is merely to please the ear. I can't describe the interpretation in other terms than brilliant and exciting. The use of these particular instruments, the tuning and the way the then common ornamentation has been applied all contribute to the splendour of the performances on this disc.
Raymond Walker Gaetano DONIZETTI La Fille du Régiment Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez, Royal Opera Ch & O/Bruno Campanella rec. live 2007 VIRGIN CLASSICS 5190029
Laurent Pelly’s production from France is cleverly witty and successfully projects the character of Marie into the limelight whenever she is on stage. Dessay has a stunning voice of excellent timbre and versatility, and a fine stage presence with hypnotic eyes that locks one into every action.
Patrick Waller Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Symphonies 38-41 Scottish CO/Sir Charles Mackerras rec. 2007 LINN CKD308
This is my recording of the year. Mackerras has recorded these works before but here surpasses himself with some joyous music making. Fabulous playing from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and sound from Linn, two for the price of one – just what are you waiting for?
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Così fan tutte Janice Watson, Christopher Maltman, Toby Spence, Lesley Garrett, Sir Thomas Allen, Age of Enlightenment O/Sir Charles Mackerras rec. 2007 CHANDOS CHAN3152
This may seem a bit repetitive but the music making here has the same quality as in the symphonies and Cosi is one of my favourite operas. Here it is sung in English and the OAE, chorus and cast are excellent. This is a considerable bargain too.
Nikolai MYASKOVSKY Complete symphonies and orchestral works
Evgeny Svetlanov rec. 1965-1994 WARNER CLASSICS 2564 69689-8
The lack of proper documentation has been well-documented on the MusicWeb bulletin board but, if you don’t know this music, don’t let that put you off. In practice there is no other way of hearing this composer’s complete canon and it’s unmissable. Svetlanov’s commitment shines throughout.
Paul MORAVEC Chamber Symphony, Autumn Song, Cool Fire Musicians of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.559393
Only 45 minutes but this contains some of the most interesting contemporary music around played with panache.
John FOULDS A World Requiem Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Gerald Finlay,
BBC SO & Ch/Leon Botstein rec. 2007 CHANDOS CHSA5058
Just in case you thought I was fixated on the letter “M” and budget issues this one is an “F” which is at full price but worth every penny. The revival of this important work after more than 80 years on Remembrance Sunday 2007 was well-justified by the commitment of the performers. It was wonderfully captured by the engineers and the set is beautifully presented too.
Johann Sebastian BACH Brandenburg Concertos European Brandenburg Ensemble/Trevor Pinnock rec. 2006/7 AVIE AV2119
Trevor Pinnock’s remake of these evergreen works is a sheer delight.
Alexander ZEMLINSKY Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, Cello Sonata,
Clarinet Trio Othmar Muller (cello); Ernst Ottensamer (clarinet); Christopher Hinterhuber (piano) rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.570540
The quality of the playing and the sound is a sheer delight on this enjoyable and bargain-priced disc of recently discovered chamber music.
Giles SWAYNE Convocation Laudibus, National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Mike Brewer rec. 2004/5 DELPHIAN DCD34033
This has been the most distinctive and memorable disc I have heard this year. It in turn challenges, inspires, questions and exuberates. I have played it and recommended to to more people than anything else I've reviewed recently.
Brian Wilson The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Music: Volume 1 Peter Phillips (director) rec. 1988-2005 GIMELL CDGIM209
Just about any of the Hyperion recordings of medieval and renaissance music that I’ve reviewed could easily have featured as my first choice, but they are just pipped at the post by Gimell’s 2 double-CD sets of Tudor Church Music. Forced to choose, I’ve gone for the Elizabethan set by a very short margin. Each volume represents two-and-a-half hours of heavenly sound.
The Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto Volume 3 - The Golden Age La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin) rec. 2008 AVIE AV2154
My choice from the baroque period is equally fraught – so many excellent recordings to choose from. I predicted in my review that this would become one of my choices of the year and so it proves. The only possible object of criticism is the cumbersome title.
Antonin DVORAK Symphonic Variations, Symphony 9 Baltimore SO/Marin Alsop NAXOS 8.570714
I haven’t had anything outstanding to review from the classical period but my romantic choice has to be Marin Alsop’s Dvorák with her new charges, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It’s even better than the excellent recordings which she made with the Bournemouth Symphony.
Edmund RUBBRA Song of the Soul, Four Mediæval Latin Lyrics, Inscape, Veni, creator Spiritus, Advent Cantata Stephen Varcoe (baritone) ASMF Ch, City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox rec. 1999
In choosing this disc, I’m signalling the importance of all Richard Hickox’s recordings of this neglected composer, including the complete symphonies. Chandos have deleted the parent CD but its contents are available for download in very good sound from their onlone shop – even if you never download anything else, go for this.
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU The Complete Keyboard Music Vol. 1 Stephen Gutman (piano) rec. 2006 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0050
My pleasant surprise of the year: I normally hate piano performances of harpsichord music. I’m really pleased to have made this the exception to my rule and look forward to Volume 2.
Wild about Liszt Recitals and TV appearances Earl Wild (piano) rec. 1986 IVORY CLASSICS 77777
Yes, poor navigation and ease of use for these 1986 recitals on DVD but these are otherwise scintillating, once-in-a-lifetime Lisztian performances from one of the Monarchs of the keyboard. Engaging additions in the way of TV appearances complete an outstanding collection.
Legendary Piano Recordings - the Complete Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Pugno, and Diémer recordings and other G & T rarities rec. 1903-19 MARSTON 520542
A magnificent example of the use to which technology can be put, when it’s carried out with integrity and at the service of the music. These are some of the most formative piano recordings of history and Marston has pitch-corrected what we’ve always considered endemic wow. Amazing!
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO Chatterton, Pagliacci Teatro alla Scala Ch & O/Ruggiero Leoncavallo rec. 1907/8 MARSTON 520162
Another Marston – because they’re so valuable and so good. This is an incredible rarity; Leoncavallo conducting his own Chatterton in 1908. No single collector has all the surviving sides but we have the entire thing now on CD. Prayer-answering is this company’s metier.
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony 5, Dona Nobis Pacem London PO, BBC SO/Ralph Vaughan Williams SOMM SOMMCD071
I’m in total agreement with John Quinn who reviewed this – it’s a ‘priceless document’ indeed. It fits in with my selection as a whole this year, which is largely of the ‘Composer Plays and Conducts’ variety. VW lovers will relish the expressive warmth of the Fifth – and the excellent sound of both works.
Leslie Wright Benjamin BRITTEN Cello Sonata György LIGETI Cello Sonata Johannes BRAHMS Cello Sonata Jakob Koranyi (cello) Peter Friis Johansson (piano) rec. 2006 CAPRICE CAP21767
An auspicious debut by Koranyi who is as adept in performing the modernist Britten and Ligeti as the romantic Brahms. His sound is rich and big and yet he trims it down to the barest pianissimo when called for. Fabulous performances.
Frank MARTIN Cello Concerto, Ballade, 8 Preludes Christian Poltéra (cello) Kathryn Stott (piano) Malmö SO/Tuomas Ollila-Hannikainen rec. 2006/7 BIS BISCD1637
This is a very welcome addition to the Martin discography that should help establish his Cello Concerto as one of the major works of the genre. The other two works are also worthy of much greater exposure. All receive exemplary performances.
Carl NIELSEN Symphonies 2 & 3 Inger Dam-Jensen (soprano) Poul Elming (tenor), Danish Ntl SO/Michael Schønwandt rec. 1999 NAXOS 8.570738
Schønwandt and his Danish forces have the measure of both symphonies and beat out the competition in both. This is a real bargain and the best way to have these symphonies at a very affordable cost.
Leoš JANÁČEK String Quartets 1 & 2, Violin Sonata Dante Quartet, Ferenc Rados (piano) rec. 2006 MERIDIAN CDE84560
The first things one notices when listening to these performances are the idiomatic playing and interpretation of these works. The performances are the most worthy I’ve heard by a non-Czech ensemble.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN String Quartet 10 Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet 5 Atrium Quartet rec. 2008 ZIG-ZAG TÉRRITOIRES ZZT080702
This disc is especially welcome for those who do not possess complete sets of the Beethoven and Shostakovich quartets. Competition in these works is fierce, but the Atrium Quartet need not fear comparison with the best of it.
George Frideric HANDEL Dettingen Te Deum, Organ Concerto 14, Zadok the Priest Richard Marlow (organ) Trinity College, Cambridge Ch, Academy of Ancient Music/Stephen Layton rec. 2007 HYPERION CDA67678
Layton and his superb choir and orchestra, perform the Te Deum with all the commitment and excitement imaginable. The big choruses are thrilling and the quieter sections are also beautiful. Overall a very satisfying program.
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