Recordings Of The Year 2011
This is the ninth year that Musicweb International has asked its reviewing team to nominate their recordings (or music books) of the year. Reviewers are not restricted to discs they had reviewed, but the choices must have been reviewed on MWI in the last 12 months (December 2010-November 2011).
144 selections have come in from 27 members of the team, the choices as always reflecting a great diversity of music: all periods and style of music are well represented. The nominated recordings remarkably come from 76 different labels - so much for the death of classical music.
Even more remarkable is the fact that the 144 nominations are for 141 different recordings - yes, only three were chosen twice:
• Hyperion's recording of Frank Martin's opera Der Sturm
• Nelson Friere's Liszt recital on Decca
• the complete viol consort music of William Byrd on Linn
Indeed, until the last two reviewer's choices came in, there were no multiple nominations at all. This is in contrast to previous years where typically upwards of ten recordings have been chosen by two and even three reviewers.
For the third year running, Naxos secured most nominations - nine - but the widespread distribution of labels this year makes that number much less than usual. This year would appear to be the year of the video - no fewer than 25 of the nominations are DVD or Bluray, by far the highest proportion in the lifetime of these awards. Accordingly, the Label of the Year is the video-only label Arthaus with seven nominations from far fewer reviewed releases than Naxos.
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL CD OF THE YEAR
Havergal BRIAN Symphony 1 The Gothic Susan Gritton (soprano) Bach Ch, Brighton Festival Chorus, Huddersfield Choral Soc, London Symphony Ch, BBC National Ch & O Wales; BBC Concert O/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67971/2
While the Martin/Hyperion recording would seem to have seem to have the credentials for this award, it is not simply a numbers game. The most significant event of the musical calendar, in the UK at least, surely had to be Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony at the Proms on July 17. Hyperion's recording of the performance was only officially released this week, but Musicweb was fortunate to have an advance copy for review.
CLASSICAL EDITOR Rob Barnett's CD OF THE YEAR
Jean SIBELIUS The Sibelius Edition - Vol. 13: Miscellaneous Works rec. 2005-2010 BIS BISCD1936-38
Not so much a nomination for this volume, but rather the whole collection. Launched in 2007 and completed this year the BIS Sibelius Edition is a staggering achievement laying bare across 68 CDs and 13 boxes the entire Sibelius output. There is simply nowhere else to go if you have any sympathy with the music of the Finnish master. 80 hours, 30 minutes and one second of music, great, provocative, lustrous, good, so-so and mundane – all in well-informed performances, splendidly recorded and thoroughly documented. Journeys of discovery await you. I see the whole set can be had for £375.
THE REVIEWING TEAM
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL FOUNDER Len Mullenger
I has been suffering from distorted hearing this year that takes all the pleasure out of listening to CDs. Oddly, live performances do not suffer the same distortion which particularly affects horns, piano, upper strings and soprano voice. Consequently no Recordings of the Year have been chosen by me this year. I have been told by the ENT specialist that it is tinnitus however I have been suffering a similar problem with my eyes which seems to be do with medication. Changes in medication improve my eyes and appear to improve my hearing so I am hopeful this problem can be resolved and I can continue to enjoy listening to classical recordings.
CLASSICAL EDITOR Rob Barnett
Life’s too short – so the expression runs. At any other point in time has mankind had accessible to it as much music as now? Has the gap between the amount of music we can select from and the amount of life available to us been so wide? MWI is here to help you in your choices – to guide your hand to this CD and that download. Each of us is limited to six so I am sorry to have had to leave out the Arnold cello Concerto (Naxos), the Rozycki Piano Concerto (Acte Prealable), the Nystroem Sinfonia del Mare (BIS), the Rachmaninov concertos with Lill (Nimbus), Mackerras’s Suk Asrael (Supraphon), Elder’s Bax Spring Fire (Halle), Postnikova’s Tchaikovsky (Newton) and Beermann’s Schumann symphonies (CPO). Ultimately you must decide for yourself not least because each one of us experiences music through the diffusion and focus of our own preferences and judgements: degustibus non est disputandum. Here are my recommendations from a vast array of music heard over the last 12 months where once again we have striven to bridge the chasm between the written word and the experience of listening to music.
Bernard HERRMANN Film Classics National PO, London PO/Bernard Herrmann rec. 1970-75 ELOQUENCE 480 3784
This double CD set takes the listener back to the heady days of the early 1970s and treats the superlative cinema music of Bernard Herrmann to Decca Phase 4 honours. As a recording ‘philosophy’ Phase 4 caused dismay, even horror in some classical quarters but for film music it came along at just the right point in time. Larger than life orchestral effects blossom and coruscate set alight by Herrmann’s fertile imaginative fancy. If you like the aural equivalent of glorious technicolor waste not a moment and order this inexpensive fantasy celebration from a twentieth century master of the orchestra who happened to work in film.
Arthur BLISS, Henry WALFORD DAVIES & York BOWEN Violin sonatas Rupert Luck (violin) Matthew Rickard (piano) rec. 2010 EM RECORDS EMRCD001
This label is not short of well-placed confidence and acumen when it comes to sifting repertoire and choosing gifted musicians. An extension of the English Music Festival steered by Em Marshall-Luck, EM Records launched with this disc of three British sonatas: the vehemently heroic Walford Davies, the pastoral ecstasy of the Bliss and the stormily Tchaikovskian Bowen. Where will they turn next?
Frank MARTIN Der Sturm Robert Holl, Christine Buffle, James Gilchrist, Netherlands Radio PO & Ch/Thierry Fischer rec. 2008 HYPERION CDA67821/3
Frank Martin’s characterful opera on The Tempest is brought stylishly to disc by Hyperion. Rather like Chandos they consistently strike the right note. This opera is full of unworldly and even unnerving invention and supernatural intimations (sax and harpsichord!) and is well recorded and documented. Who better to launch this opera into the catalogue and onto listeners’ MP3s and CD players everywhere. Immerse yourself in a new 20th century opera this Christmas.
Edvard GRIEG Peer Gynt Suite 1 Jean SIBELIUS Lemminkäinen Suite Philadelphia O/Eugene Ormandy rec. 1947-51 PRISTINE PASC 299
A remarkable 1950s mono reading of Sibelius’s four tone poems. Do not neglect the other two Pristine Ormandy Sibelius CDs. You think Ormandy’s 1979 Philadelphia digital recording was good? Try this! You’ll lament that CBS did not record more while the flame burned this fiercely. The Grieg suite is no less passionate – I cannot recall Morning having been played with such full-on drive and emotional engagement. Very special music-making.
William MATHIAS Piano Concertos 1 & 2 Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasy Mark Bebbington (piano) Ulster O/George Vass rec. 2011 SOMM SOMMCD 246
Over the last four years Somm have risen several steps up the league table of classical labels. This disc is a provocative example of their work with a number of pianists. Defying convention Somm and the finely gifted and valiant Mark Bebbington track their way through early RVW and 1950s Mathias. All the pieces here are world premieres. I am pleased to see Somm working with rising star George Vass and the very same Ulster Orchestra that proved itself early on with its Bax and Harty discs for Chandos in the early 1980s. The feathery Celtic poetry of Mathias contrasted with the surging Brahmsian thunder of 1890s RVW.
Alexander GLAZUNOV Complete Concertos Rachel Barton-Pine (violin) Alexander Romanovsky (piano) Wen-Sinn Yang (cello) Marc Chisson (saxophone) Alexey Serov (horn) Russian Ntl O/Jose Serebrier rec. 2010 WARNER CLASSICS 2564 679465
After a knockout cycle of the nine Glazunov symphonies Serebrier, the RSNO and a handful of elite soloists collaborated with Warner in recording the complete concertos. Glazunov’s music can be stubbornly leaden in the wrong hands. However, when the planets are aligned - as they are here – base metal is transformed to gold. The alchemical reaction in Serebrier’s case delivers just that well judged blend of Russian sentimentality and Slav passion. The invention is very much to the point – works that are often moving and always concise.
Astor PIAZZOLLA Las estaciones porteñas Astoria FUGA LIBERA FUG603
For the second year in a row, Piazzolla's Four Seasons feature in my selection. Last year, it was performed by a piano trio, this year a more traditional ensemble with accordion. Which is better? I can't say - they are both so good that trying to pick one over the other is pointless.
Vincent d’INDY Orchestral Works - Vol. 4: Poème des rivages, Symphonie italienne Iceland SO/Rumon Gamba rec. 2010 CHANDOS CHAN10660
Chandos has a number of Orchestral Music series underway - I doubt any are better than this. I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping there is a Volume 5 (and 6 and 7 ...).
Gustav MAHLER Symphonies 1-7 Lucerne Festival O/Claudio Abbado rec. 2003-9 EUROARTS 2058574
Two of the individual releases from this budget boxset - symphonies 1 & 3 - were my first dip into the world of Blu-ray. The picture quality is quite extraordinary, to the point where you can almost make out the maker's name engraved into the French horns. However, sharpness of picture would count for nothing if these weren't absolutely outstanding performances.
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE Scandinavian cantatas Theatre of Voices, The TOV Band/Paul Hillier rec. 2010 DACAPO 6.220534
An eye-opener for me. Johan van Veen, in his review, found fault with certain aspects, and I certainly wouldn't attempt to argue with his far greater knowledge. However, perhaps in this case, ignorance is bliss, as I found immense pleasure in this.
Note by Note - The making of Steinway L1037 Directed by Ben Niles. Interviews with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Hélène Grimaud, Lang Lang & Harry Connick Jnr. rec. 2007 DOCURAMA FILMS NNVG146510
This illuminating and inspirational documentary tells the story of the production of one Steinway grand piano through the words of the people who made it, and the performers who might one day use it. The only downside is that it only seems to be available on a Region 1 disc, and many people outside the US won't be able to watch it.
Any special disc must fulfill 3 criteria; Musical/technical excellence, High quality engineering/production; the sense of the revelatory whether introducing the listener to new music or revealing hidden facets of old favourites. I have stuck to discs I have directly reviewed for the simple reason that these are the recordings I given my most considered attention. One performance nearly made the list - Adele Anthony's superlative playing of the Sibelius Concerto, remarkable technique and spellbinding artistry. In the order in which I reviewed them during the year:
Havergal BRIAN Orchestral Music Vol. 1 BBC Scottish SO/Garry Walker rec. 2009 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0110
Music encompassing just about all of Brian's remarkable composing life including the stunning Burlesque Variations. Garry Walker proving to be an inspiring guide and the BBC Scottish SO pulling out the stops.
Earl WILD Piano music Xiayin Wang (piano) rec. 2010 CHANDOS CHAN10626
Extraordinarily empathetic playing from pianist Xiayin Wang - out wilding Wild and playing the ferociously hard Gershwin arrangements with devil may care ease. A wonderfully inspiring disc.
Kenneth LEIGHTON Et Resurrexit, Fantasies on Hymn Tunes, Missa de Gloria Greg Morris (organ) rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572601
Overdue exposure for the marvellous music of Leighton. Organist Greg Morris an assured and exciting guide to this inspired music. Superb Naxos engineering catches the Blackburn Cathedral organ in full throated glory.
Capricho Latino Rachel Barton-Pine (violin) rec. 2009/11 ÇEDILLE RECORDS CDR90000124
The ever-wonderful Rachel Barton-Pine producing a disc of typically brilliant unusual programming played with her remarkable technical ease and musical insight. A performer of exceptional intelligence and ability.
Modest MUSSORGSKY Piano music Anthony Goldstone (piano) rec. 2011 DIVINE ART DDA25100
The second year in a row an Anthony Goldstone disc has made my list. As with Barton-Pine a performer of huge technical gifts but allied to an inquisitive questing musical mind. Brilliant performances of the familiar and unfamiliar.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH New Babylon Basel Sinfonietta/Mark Fitz-Gerald rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572824-25
To my mind one of Naxos' finest ever discs. Superb music making allied to a seriously impressive scholarly reconstruction of a very important score. Topped off with ideal engineering and as interesting a booklet as you will currently read. Petrenko might be taking the Shostakovich headlines just now but this is ultimately the more important release.
So many high quality recordings to choose from this year. Very near misses: Ittai Shapira's Concierto Latino, played by Shapira himself, on Champs Hill (CHRCD 020); Ginastera's two Cello Concertos, performed by Mark Kosower, on Naxos (8.572372); Haskell Small's Lullaby of War, a true 'American Classic' on Naxos (8.559649); either or both of Hyperion's latest instalments (3&4) of Christopher Herrick's account of Buxtehude's complete organ works (CDA67855, CDA67876); Penderecki's String Quartets on DUX (0770), featuring the DAFÔ Quartet; Scheidemann's organ Magnificats, performed by Karin Nelson, on an Intim Musik double-disc (IMCD 116), and Pieter Bustijn's Suittes pour le Clavessin, played by Alessandro Simonetto on Brilliant Classics (94187).
Aaron Jay KERNIS Goblin Market, Invisible Mosaic II The New Professionals/Rebecca Miller rec. 2008 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD186
Not quite a faultless recording technically, but intoxicating, outrageous and unforgettable: Kernis's Goblin Market is one of the great musical works of art for theatre of the 20th century. Sample: "Laughed every goblin when they spied her peeping" - a truly awesome, epicurean crescendo of sensual poetry and orgiastic sounds - surely one of the most spellbinding passages in all music.
Sven-David SANDSTRÖM Nordic Sounds Swedish Radio Choir/Peter Dijkstra rec. 2009 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA29910
The expressiveness and imagination of Sandström's virtuosic but instantly accessible choral music, of which these works are typical, is outstanding. Beautifully performed by the Swedish Radio Choir. Sound quality on this SACD is superlative, even in normal stereo, and sends a message to the many labels that cut too many corners.
Carson COOMAN Chamber music for strings rec. 2010 MSR CLASSICS MS1387
Hearing this music, all of which Cooman wrote in his 20s - together with more than 800 other published works - the listener can only begin to wonder what Cooman will have achieved musically in another twenty years. Sound quality is almost as good as it gets. All the performers, most of whom are leading Slovakian musicians, sound at their best. Outstanding in every regard.
Claude LE JEUNE Dix Pseaumes de David Ludus Modalis/Bruno Boterf rec. 2010 RAMEE RAM1005
These innovative Calvinist/Huguenot settings of the psalms were written for four vocal parts in a rich, serious, sonorous style moving between polyphony and homophony. Beautifully crafted, texturally full-bodied and deeply expressive from beginning to end. The seven voices of Ludus Modalis are magically blended and balanced, and their French pronunciation is delightfully authentic and very clean of articulation. Their varied choice of tempi and rhythms may well be the result of divine instruction.
Sonatas and Scenes Danish Works for Solo Cello John Ehde (cello) rec. 2009-10 CDKLASSISK CDK1061
An outstanding disc on every level, from Swedish cellist John Ehde's breathtaking virtuosity to the phenomenally inventive music of the five featured Danish composers; from the superb quality of the recording to the hi-fi booklet.
Charles DESMAZURES Pièces de Simphonie Vespres d'Arnadí/Dani Espasa rec. 2008 MUSIÈPOCA MEPCD001
Beautifully designed debut disc for new Catalan label Musièpoca. The music is exhilarating, superbly recorded and performed with consummate musicianship by Vespres d'Arnadí, whose members are drawn from the likes of Les Talens Lyriques, Le Concert des Nations and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. Their choices of instruments - mainly violins, flutes and oboes, tastefully augmented with an array of period continuo, percussion etc - are not just authentic but inspired, allowing them to imbue Desmazures' music with vivid colour and striking texture.
As ever I’m torn between numerous choices, and my double A-list would also include the Schubert Piano Duets with Paul Lewis and Stephen Osborne on Hyperion CDA67665 and that label’s must-have re-release of Lambert’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament (CDH55388), Andrew Litton’s Stravinsky Petrouchka and Rite of Spring on BIS-SACD-1474, Edward Gardner’s Chandos Lutoslawski (CHAN 10688) or James Ehnes’ Bartók concertos (CHAN 10690), Heinz Holliger’s lovely Bach concertos on ECM 2229, ARS Produktion’s colourful Franz Schreker Der ferne Klang (ARS 38 080), Joanna MacGregor’s lovely Art of Fugue on Warner Classics... Who was it said Classical Music is dead?
Johann Sebastian BACH Keyboard Concertos 1-5 Ramin Bahrami (piano) Gewandhaus O/Riccardo Chailly rec. 2009 DECCA 478 2956
This is the kind of recording which just makes me glad to be alive, and gets my vote on that count alone. The Bahrami/Chailly chemistry works at every level, from fun-loving boisterousness to the most touching of sensitivity. Bach gives us everything, and these musicians give him their all.
Jan Dismas ZELENKA Officium defunctorium, Requiem Collegium 1704 & Vocale/Václav Luks rec. 2010 ACCENT ACC24244
Once in a while a recording comes along which nudges your world into a different orbit, and this is the one which did it for me in 2011. This is a superb performance and a magnificent recording of some remarkable and constantly surprising music.
Minimal Piano Collection, Volume X-XX Jeroen van Veen (pianos) rec. 2007-10 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9171
Contemporary music crusader Jeroen van Veen shows us how wide a spectrum of expression and dynamism can be found in the catch-all word ‘minimalism’. This is a Pandora’s box which will infect your appetite for things new and exciting, showing us that there is more to the minimal than New York grids and West Coast fog.
Ottorino RESPIGHI Fontane di Roma, Pini di Roma, Feste Romane São Paolo SO/John Neschling rec. 2008 BIS BISSACD1720
Respighi’s glorious ‘Roman Trilogy’ scores are given a very special atmosphere in this spectacular recording, in which we are invited to live the experience instead of being mere passive listeners. Every moment takes on an utterly convincing character, from the most magical to Respighi’s most cheesy – this is simply irresistible.
Harrison BIRTWISTLE Night’s Black Bird, The Shadow of Night, The Cry of Anubis Owen Slade (tuba) Hallé O/Ryan Wigglesworth rec. 2010 NMC D156
Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s work can be forbidding, but it always sounds ‘right’, and in this case transport us to dark realms which will long stick around in your consciousness, and may lurk in your unconscious forever. Tremendous performances and recording make this release stand out from this years’ contemporary crowd.
Johann Sebastian BACH Goldberg Variations (arr. Dmitry Sitkovetsky) Leopold String Trio rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67826
Something of a surprise chamber music find, this version of the Goldberg Variations opens up new dynamic perspectives. The Leopold Trio’s performance is a genuine tour de force, and with Hyperion’s recording a delight from start to finish this is a disc which crackles with energy and real emotion.
Manfred TROJAHN String Quartets 3 & 4, Fragments for Antigone, Song to Insomnia III Henschel Qt rec. 2009 NEOS RECORDS 11017
Contemporary German born composer Manfred Trojahn has his own unique sound-world. These works for string quartet are challenging contemporary scores yet they are rewarding and are certainly within the compass of the average listener. Scrupulously prepared as always the Henschel Quartet demonstrate an impeccable unity to their expressive playing. Here the Henschel give the scores their world premiere recordings. I cannot speak highly enough of these outstanding accounts.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concertos 1 & 2 Arabella Steinbacher (violin) Bavarian RSO/Andris Nelsons rec. 2006 ORFEO C687061A
Arabella Steinbacher’s expressive playing is irresistible, delivering strong and forthright interpretations that feel much in accord with Shostakovich’s unique sound-world. With the elite Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Andris Nelsons’s firm control of tempo, pacing and dynamics is highly successful. This impressive and beautifully recorded release deserves considerable praise.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (soundtrack) Igor STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring Gabriel YARED Original music Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle Film O/Jeff Atmajian rec. 2003/9 NAÏVE V5223
This disc contains the soundtrack to the 2009 Jan Kounen film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. I loved the film and the music from start to finish. However, the main attraction is the stunning 2003 Berlin performance of the complete The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps)from Sir Simon Rattle and the great Berlin Philharmonic. This exciting account is now my first choice version of Stravinsky’s masterwork. I don’t believe this superb performance is available anywhere else on CD.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Symphony 9 Tilla Briem, Elisabeth Höngen, Peter Anders, Rudolph Watzke, Bruno Kittel Ch, Berlin PO/Wilhelm Furtwängler rec. 1942 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC250
Furtwängler’s 1942 Berlin performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor ‘Choral’, has gained legendary status. It is said to be an example of Furtwängler’s rebellious response to the stresses of working with the Berlin Philharmonic as cultural propagandists for Hitler’s Third Reich. Whether this is a true reflection of the situation or not this is certainly a heartfelt account of astonishing tension from Furtwängler’s tortured soul. Recorded in the Alte Philharmonie in Berlin just under two years later the concert hall was raised to the ground by allied bombing. Restoration engineer Andrew Rose has done wonders with the sound quality which is much improved. A truly great performance of real historical significance.
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) A London Symphony, Oboe concerto Stéphane Rancourt (oboe) Hallé O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2010 HALLÉ CDHLL7529
Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony much loved by Sir Mark Elder has become something of a specialisation for him. Sir Mark proves an inspirational guide in the symphony and the Hallé respond to his direction with enthusiasm and assurance. I attended the actual concert at the Bridgewater Hall and found it a gloriously convincing depiction of a pulsating and multi-faceted metropolis. The pastoral nature of Vaughan Williams’s engaging three movement Oboe Concerto seems tailor-made for principal oboe Stéphane Rancourt who plays magnificently supported by the glowing Hallé strings.
Gustav MAHLER Symphony 1 Pittsburgh SO/Manfred Honeck rec. 2008 EXTON EXCL-00026
Something wonderful is happening at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under the stewardship of Austrian born conductor Manfred Honeck. As part of the 2011 Berlin Musikfest I attended a concert in September at the Berlin Philharmonie on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for the Pittsburgh orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.5. It was a musical tour de force with awe-inspiring playing from a truly magnificent orchestra. I enjoyed every minute of this 2008 performance that was recorded live at the Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh. Everything was entirely convincing and the overall effect was remarkable.
Frank MARTIN Der Sturm Robert Holl, Christine Buffle, James Gilchrist, Netherlands Radio PO & Ch/Thierry Fischer rec. 2008 HYPERION CDA67821/3
This magnificent – and long awaited – performance of Frank Martin's opera fills a great gap in this composer's discography. Everyone involved in this unique enterprise deserves full praise and gratitude for his/her wholehearted commitment to one of Martin's greatest scores.
Francis ROUTH The Well Tempered Pianist Charles Matthews (piano) rec. 2009/10 REDCLIFFE RECORDINGS RR021
Francis Routh's music is far too little known indeed and deserves wider exposure, which some rare recordings clearly show. This superbly committed and beautifully played set of Preludes is thus most welcome and should be heard by anyone willing to investigate some lesser-known byways of contemporary British music.
Jukka TIENSUU Vie, Missa, False Memories I-III Kari Kriikku (clarinet) Helsinki PO/John Storgårds rec. 2009/10 ONDINE ODE11662
Until fairly recently Tiensuu's music was regarded as complex and rather avant-garde. His most recent works, however, as the ones recorded here show a greater stylistic freedom and a new compositional trend in his music making characterised by a real enjoyment of the orchestra's full register.
Gabriel PIERNÉ Piano music Laurent Wagschal (piano) rec. 2009 TIMPANI 1C1178
Pierné's mature piano works as recorded here amply demonstrate the real status of this often underrated composer. The performances and recordings are excellent and serve the music in the best possible way.
Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA Kaivos Tampere PO/Hannu Lintu rec. 2010 ONDINE ODE11742
Rautavaara's first opera Kaivos is a compact, though powerful work that communicates in the most direct way through its strongly expressive music and tight dramaturgy. Kaivos may well be Rautavaara's finest opera.
Régis CAMPO Les Heures Maléfiques, Ombra Felice, String quartet 2, The Life and Soul of His Imagined Landscape Quatuor Diotima rec. 2009 RADIO FRANCE SIGNATURE SIG11070
Régis Campo is probably one of the most endearing composers of his generation and his music, though far from being lightweight, does not always take itself all-too-seriously as the four strongly contrasted works in this fine release clearly demonstrate.
The last two years my opera selections have included many quality recordings of works from the primo ottocento, the Italian bel canto period of the first half of the nineteenth century, the focus being very much on the works of the three great masters of the period, Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. That glut of quality performances seems to have dried up with many offerings marred by avante garde, often way out, productions that seem the rage on the European mainland and at composer Festivals. Although in 4:3 presentation, earlier recordings are emerging on DVD that really will stand the test of time.
Gioachino ROSSINI Petite Messe Solennelle Leipzig Gewandhaus Ch & O/Riccardo Chailly rec. 2008 EUROARTS 2057428
In making this a DVD of the month, I suggested that the performance it receives under Chailly elevates this rarely heard work not only to stand alongside the composer’s better-known Stabat Mater, but also the great Mass by his fellow Italian opera composer, Verdi.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Die Entführung aus dem Serail Eva Mei, Rainer Trost, Patrizia Ciofi, Ch & O Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta rec. 2002 ARTHAUS MUSIK 107109
With its high picture and sound quality this well cast and elegantly staged production from Florence, recorded in 2002, becomes a first choice for me in this opera.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Così fan tutte Margaret Marshall, Anne Murray, Kathleen Battle, Vienna State Opera Ch, Vienna PO/Riccardo Muti rec. 1983 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101219
Albeit in old style 4:3 format, this1983 Salzburg Festival traditional production of Così fan tutte, with its elegant costumes and set alongside quality singing realises the intention of Da Ponte’s story and Mozart’s music as few other more modern ones do.
Lauro ROSSI Cleopatra Dimitra Theodossiou, Alessandro Liberatore, Marchigiana PO/David Crescenzi rec. 2008 NAXOS 2.110279
Not a composer we hear much about today. Even if in this opera he was overshadowed by Verdi’s Aida, Pier Luigi Pizzi’s set, alongside a reasonably sung and acted performance, gives a rare chance to see and hear what has been long neglected.
Giuseppe VERDI Simon Boccanegra Placido Domingo, Marina Poplavskaya, Joseph Calleja, Ch & O Royal Opera House/Antonio Pappano rec. 2010 EMI 9178255
Forget that Verdi wrote the title role for a baritone and enjoy Domingo’s penetrating acted assumption of the role in 2010 from Covent Garden and despite the minor compromises this involves.
Sospiri Cecilia Bartoli DECCA 478 2558
An interesting collection of Cecilia Bartoli’s diverse recorded repertoire over the last sixteen years.
Every year there are a number of discs that fail to be included in the final list with a hairbreadth. This time I would have liked to find room for Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s classic operetta recital as well as the lovely Elisabeth Schumann box in the ICON series. Magdalena Kozena’s Lettere Amorose was another that I reluctantly excluded. Maria Forsström’s delightful Kaleidoscope should also be mentioned and the Arthaus Traviata with Maazel was another favourite that dropped down on the finishing line.
Giacomo PUCCINI La rondine Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, London SO/Antonio Pappano rec. 1996 EMI CLASSICS 6407482
Last year a DVD with Gheorghiu and Alagna in La rondine was one of my Recordings of the Year. Only a couple of months later EMI reissued their 15-year-old studio recording and much as I admired the DVD I felt even more attached to this oldie. Ideally one should have both.
Franz SCHUBERT Schwanengesang Thomas Oliemans (baritone) Malcolm Martineau (piano) rec. 2010 ETCETERA KTC1420
Thomas Oliemans here presents a Schwanengesang with a difference. Between the Rellstab and the Heine songs he inserts four songs to texts by Schulze. This works excellently and Oliemans readings of the cycle is worthy to stand beside any of the established favourite versions.
Edvard GRIEG Violin Sonata 1 Béla BARTÓK Sonata for solo violin Richard STRAUSS Violin Sonata Vilde Frang (violin) Michail Lifits (piano) rec. 2010 EMI CLASSICS 9476392
The young Norwegian Vilde Frang is among the most thrilling new violinists and with this rather unusual coupling she has produced a real winner. The Grieg sonata compares favourably even with my old favourite Henning Kraggerud’s, and both the Bartok and Strauss works are excellently played.
Franz SCHUBERT Winterreise Natalie Stutzmann (contralto) Inger Södergren (piano) rec. 2003 SAPHIR LVC1153
I wasn’t familiar with Natalie Stutzmann’s Winterreise and was truly amazed by her reading. Her dark contralto voice may be an acquired taste but it is her way of colouring the texts that made me listen to both lyrics and music with new ears. This is now my preferred version.
Johannes Möller - Guitar recital rec. 2010 NAXOS 8.572715
When I reviewed Johannes Möller’s debut recital some years ago I felt that he was already very advanced. With the new disc he establishes himself among the front-runners. What characterises his playing is that his formidable technique never becomes an end in itself. He is a true musician.
Franz SCHUBERT Die Schöne Müllerin Daniel Behle (tenor) Sveinung Bjelland (piano) rec. 2009 CAPRICCIO 5044
Jan Kobow’s Müllerin has been my favourite for some years, but here is a version that challenges his hegemony. They have a lot in common, though Kobow is accompanied by a fortepiano. A bonus is also the inclusion of the rarely heard Auf dem Strom with excellent horn playing by Ab Koster.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Symphonies 2 & 8 Royal PO/Hermann Scherchen rec. 1954 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC198
Here’s proof that recordings nearly 60 years old can still perform the vital interpretive function of bringing the works to us fresh. Scherchen’s performances have the transparency of texture and rhythmic force we nowadays associate with period instruments. They also have an inspiring sense of focus and conviction.
Benjamin BRITTEN Phaedra, A Charm of Lullabies, Lachrymae, Two Portraits, Sinfonietta Sarah Connolly (mezzo), Maxim Rysanov (viola) BBC SO/Edward Gardner rec. 2010 CHANDOS CHAN10671
Gardner, Connolly and Rysanov all have a gripping understanding of both the explicit and latent drama in all these pieces, as well as the ability to present them naturally and thus not over playing the drama. The result is a vivid witness of Britten’s depiction of fragile but also loving humanity.
Richard WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg Prelude Edward ELGAR Cello Concerto Johannes BRAHMS Symphony 1 Alisa Weilerstein (cello) Berlin PO/Daniel Barenboim rec. 2010 EUROARTS 2058064
This provides a fascinatingly different Barenboim in Elgar and Brahms than in his earlier recordings. Weilerstein’s cello has more emphasis on the lyrical Elgar, less on the dramatic than Du Pré. Barenboim’s Brahms Symphony 1 is now more classically controlled but its emotional range is well detailed and very satisfying.
George Frideric HANDEL Water Music, Rodrigo Overture and dances Les Musiciens du Louvre, Grenoble/Marc Minkowski rec. 2010 NAÏVE V5234
Minkowski dusts away the cobwebs of respectability of the Water music and shows us its brass scoring as bracing, open air music. Here are period instruments which can’t be mistaken for modern ones and yet have an affinity with jazz. With confident, celebratory playing you appreciate the piece’s original sparkle.
Franz Joseph HAYDN Piano Trios Trio Goya rec. 2008 CHANDOS CHACONNE CHAN0771
How well the incapability of period instruments is exploited here. You can be more forceful than with modern instruments without going over the top. These performances pack considerable punch and spice within their urbane frame and have great vivacity as a result. Music doesn’t have to be all smoothness to be cultivated.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Horn Concertos Alessio Allegrini (horn) Orchestra Mozart/Claudio Abbado rec. 2005-7 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8083
I’m just bowled over by the quality of Allegrini’s playing. Among its chief attributes are joyful rounded tone, smoothness of phrasing and generally benign but sometimes, as appropriate, more circumspect flowing line. From Orchestra Mozart Abbado secures a nimbly deft articulation to provide an elegant backcloth. Every moment is a pleasure.
After some time away from reviewing I returned to the fray about half-way through the year. And as it happens, three issues stand out in my mind from this half-yearly batch so I’ll just stay with those.
Claude DEBUSSY Piano Music - Vol. 5 Noriko Ogawa (piano) rec. 2000 BIS BISCD1405
Noriko Ogawa’s fifth volume of Debussy piano music completes her survey. By a small margin hers would now be my favourite of modern cycles – ahead of Bavouzet and, as a whole, ahead of older cycles too, Gieseking’s Preludes and some single pieces notwithstanding. Volume 5 brings ravishingly beautiful performances of the earlier works.
Charles Villiers STANFORD Piano Trio 1, Legend, Irish Fantasies, Piano Quartet 2 Gould Piano Trio, David Adams (viola) rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572452
Not a cycle as such, but all of Stanford’s chamber music for more than one stringed instrument and piano has now been recorded. The première recording of the unpublished Second Piano Quartet reveals a major work and the new version of Piano Trio no.1 is at least the equal of its predecessor by the Pirasti Trio. The three beautiful pieces for violin and piano are premières too.
Anton BRUCKNER Symphonies 4 & 7 Basle SO/Mario Venzago rec. 2010 CPO 777 615-2
From cycles ending to a cycle beginning. I stuck my neck out by suggesting Venzago’s Bruckner may become as iconic for the 2020s as Wand’s was for the 1990s. A lot of big challenges will have to be met before that can come about, but whatever happens, this pairing of 4 and 7 will remain an inspiration, a breath of pure mountain air.
There have been outstanding reissues this year including, in Liszt’s centenary year, Leonard Bernstein’s outstanding reading of Liszt’s Faust Symphony; and all RCA’s ground-breaking Classic Film Score albums originally released in the 1970s (see my Raksin choice below but I could equally have included the albums devoted to scores by Max Steiner, Korngold, Tiomkin, Rózsa and Herrmann). If I was allowed another choice, it would have been another new Chandos Delius album – of the Violin, Cello and Double Concertos performed by Tasmin Little and Paul Watkins with the BBC SO conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
Sir Arnold BAX Piano Quintet Frank BRIDGE Piano Quintet Ashley Wass (piano)Tippett Qt rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572474
Exceptional performances of two outstanding British chamber works. The Bax work is epic in scope, tumultuous and wild; lyrical and nostalgic. Bridge’s early lyrical yet occasionally turbulent Quintet includes some gorgeous melodies.
Frederick DELIUS Appalachia, The Song of the High Hills BBC SO & Ch/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2010 CHANDOS CHSA5088
Two Delius masterpieces. The sublime Song of the High Hills is not only vivid sonic nature painting, its mystical climax, as the mountain’s summit is reached, touches the very soul. Appalachia is another heartfelt, lyrical work based on the black farm labourers’ songs Delius heard when he was living in Florida
John FOULDS Keltic Overture and other light orchestral works BBC Concert O/Ronald Corp rec. 2010 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7252
One of two very welcome 2011 Dutton releases devoted to the lighter works of neglected British composer, John Foulds. Ronald Corp delivers vivid committed performances of music comparable to the best of Eric Coates, Edward German, Haydn Wood.
Denis LEVAILLANT La Petite Danseuse de Degas l’Opéra national de Paris O & ballet/Koen Kessels EUROARTS 108 026
A wonderful new ballet inspired by Degas’s famous sculpture of a young dance student. Every aspect of this production impresses. Levaillant’s music is an arresting mix of styles ranging from the baroque to modernism and jazzy figures via Late Romanticism and Impressionism.
Mario PILATI Orchestral Works Moscow SO/Adriano rec.02007/8 INEDITA PI2757
Delightful, undemanding little gems by a largely forgotten Italian composer; music that is elegant and witty. Conducted with unrestrained enthusiasm by Adriano, champion of worthwhile but little-known music.
David RAKSIN Film Scores New PO/David Raksin rec. 1975 SONY RCA RED SEAL 88967 812682
One of my favourite albums in RCA’s celebrated Classic Film Scores series once again available in refurbished sound. This collection brims with glorious Hollywood Golden Age scores and comprises music from Laura, Forever Amber and The Bad and the Beautiful.
Johannes BRAHMS Cello sonata 2 Franz SCHUBERT Arpeggione sonata Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Cello sonata 3 Thomas Carroll (cello) Llyr Williams (piano) rec. 2009/10 ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100016
It could seem that nothing new can be said about such standard repertoire, but Carroll and Williams put so much life and enthusiasm into each note that the listening is a source of constant enjoyment, as if the sonatas were newly born and heard for the first time. Excellent partnership, clear and beautiful cello sound, excellent recording quality – a winner!
Come Away, Death Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo) Sergej Osadchuk (piano) rec. 2009 2L 2L064SACD
An interesting structural concept that works very well; a rich mixture of known and unknown music of very different styles but highest quality, performed with consummated artistry and devotion; the dark velvety voice of Marianne Beate Kielland, so powerful yet always beautiful; a most memorable performance of Songs and Dances of Death; the stunning recording quality: all this leads to a profound listening experience. I think I still am under its spell from the first listening.
Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade, The Tale of Tsar Saltan Suite Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz rec. 2010 NAXOS 8.572693
Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade is a colorful and powerful score, and many conductors have done it well, but this one goes over and beyond. Each phrase grabs you. The orchestra is technically and emotionally superb. This is a real sonic feast for the ears – spectacular, explosive, electrifying! The pairing is equally vivid and expressive. This is a proof that the great names of the past still can be beaten!
The recording that would be my Record of the Year is one I can't nominate here, since it hasn't been reviewed on this site in the last twelves months, but more so because of its genre. What is considered "classical music" can vary greatly among listeners. Sure, we all agree on Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but what makes, say, Gershwin classical and not Count Basie? For me, "classic" and "classical" can go together, and this year saw the release of the holy grail of Grateful Dead recordings, the complete Europe '72 concert tour. 22 concerts, 71 hours, on 73 discs, this is a complete, note-for-note record of the biggest tour the Grateful Dead did outside the United States, and at one of their most creative periods. So you know what I'll be listening to for the next good while!
Nevertheless, I've been fortunate to review several memorable discs this year that I can nominate, and the following are recordings that I will treasure for a long time.
Charles IVES A Concord Symphony (orch. Henry Brant) Aaron COPLAND Organ Symphony Paul Jacobs (organ) San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas rec. 2010 SFS MEDIA SFS 82193600382
The Ives Concord Symphony, orchestrated from Ives' Concord Sonata for piano, is a brilliant rendition of one of the great keyboard works of the 20th century. The sound and performance on this recording are exemplary, and this orchestration makes one discover the Concord Sonata in a totally new manner.
Gustav MAHLER Des Knaben Wunderhorn Thomas Hampson (baritone) Wiener Virtuosen/Ernst Ottensamer rec. 2010 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 9289
Thomas Hampson's recording of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs, with a chamber orchestra, brings out the intimate nature of the music. Hampson's voice is nearly perfect, and, in my review, I pointed out that "Hampson _owns_ Mahler’s songs."
William BYRD Complete Consort Music Phantasm rec. 2010 LINN CKD372
Phantasm's recording of William Byrd's consort music may be the best recording of a viol consort I have ever heard. The viol is one of my favorite instruments, and I melt when I hear a good, cohesive viol consort. The excellent music, wonderful performances, and near-perfect sound make this a must-have disc for fans of this type of music.
Johann Sebastian BACH Motets Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe rec. 2011 PHI LPH002
Philip Herreweghe's second recording of Bach's motets is delicate and graceful, and the sound is exemplary. As I wrote in my review, "if you want a recording of Bach’s motets, this is the one to get."
Johann Sebastian BACH French Suites, Overture in the French style, Italian Concerto András Schiff (piano) rec. 2010 EUROARTS 2058134
András Schiff gives a riveting performance of all six of Bach's French Suites, playing with emotion and subtlety. As an encore, he plays the French Overture and Italian Concerto, for more than two hours of piano mastery. The video is tastefully shot and the sound is excellent.
Richard WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg excerpts César FRANCK Symphony Gabriel FAURÉ Pelléas et Mélisande suite Boston SO/Charles Munch rec. 1959-61 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5015
Three cheers for ICA Classics's unearthing of this historic telecast, as well as many others from the same source. Charles Munch - le beau Charles to Boston audiences - knew Franck's highly charged scores inside out and offers countless revelations in these superb and very valuable accounts.
César FRANCK Symphony, Le chasseur maudit Vienna State Opera O/Artur Rodzinski rec. 1954 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR81
Only the fact that the 1950s and 1960s saw the setting down of virtually all the classic accounts that we have of the Franck symphony can explain why this one has been shamefully overlooked. Rodzinsky has been forgotten for too long and one hopes that more reissues like this one will begin to restore his reputation.
Ludwig MINKUS Don Quixote Peter de Jong, Karel de Rooij, Dutch National Ballet Holland Symfonia/Kevin Rhodes rec. 2010 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101561
Full of Spanish high jinks, Minkus's glittering score offers dancers wonderful opportunities to show off their best moves. The Dutch company may not be the best known in this repertoire, but its enthusiasm and commitment - plus some very imaginative casting - ensure that the audience goes home with a smile on its collective face.
Ludwig MINKUS La Bayadère Altynai Asylmuratova, Irek Mukhamedov, Darcey Bussell, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House O/John Lanchbery rec. 1991 ARTHAUS MUSIK 107257
La Bayadere's Kingdom of the Shades scene is a Petipa classic, but Minkus's score rises to the occasion too. A romantic triangle a la Aida offers an usually strong – if melodramatic - storyline for those whose experience of ballet is limited to Tchaikovsky. Asylmuratova, Mukhamedov and Bussell act movingly and dance authoritatively.
Umberto GIORDANO Fedora Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo, Teatro alla Scala Ch & O/Gianandrea Gavazzeni rec. 1993 ARTHAUS MUSIK 107143
This production started something of a revival of interest in Giordano's second best known score. The principals' and the conductor's obvious empathy and affection serve to demonstrate that there is much more to it than the ubiquitous Amor ti vieta and create a genuinely theatrical occasion that, nearly twenty years later, is well worth revisiting.
Richard STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben Franz SCHUBERT Symphony 8 BBC Northern SO/Kurt Sanderling rec. 1975/8 BBC LEGENDS BBCL42622
This 1970s recording is a fine memorial to Kurt Sanderling who died earlier this year. Eschewing the bombastic, his Heldenleben demands the listener's close attention by its scrupulous adherence to the score’s finer – and subtler - details. Coupled with an equally distinguished Unfinished, it shows the BBC players in the best possible light.
On the cutting-room floor this year is the Blu-ray Audio version of Antoni Wit’s exhilarating Mahler 8, sidelined only because of technical issues with the multi-channel layer. No such qualms about the Dutch Ballet’s high-kicking Don Quichotte – although a reader has alerted me to ‘motion blur’ in some playback systems – and Lorin Maazel’s epic Wagnerfest, Ring without words. Other Blu-rays reveal a number of mastering/authoring problems, unpardonable in an expensive product whose USP is top-notch sound and picture quality. Among the CDs and DVDs that didn’t quite make the final cut are: Volume 3 in Kirsten Johnson’s disarming and delightful Amy Beach series; Jordi Masó’s magical Mompou; Claudio Abbado, Magdalena Koená and the fabled Lucerne orchestra in Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder/Fourth Symphony; and a live Shostakovich Five from Leonard Bernstein and the LSO (1966).
American Music for Percussion - Vol. 1 New England Conservatory Percussion Ens/Frank Epstein and Gunther Schuller rec. 2004-8 NAXOS 8.559683
What a pleasant surprise this turned out to be. I certainly didn’t expect music of such consistent quality and imagination. Even more impressive is the fine musicianship of these New Englanders, whose playing is very well captured by the recording team. Another niche-filler from Naxos.
Mili BALAKIREV Piano Sonata No. 2 & other piano pieces Danny Driver (piano) rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67806
Pianist Danny Driver is my ‘find’ of the year. This Balakirev disc manages to do two things: it showcases inexplicably neglected miniatures and demonstrates what a good artistic partnership can achieve. Sensitive, intuitive musicianship and an exemplary recording make for a most rewarding listen. More, please.
Vasily KALINNIKOV Symphonies 1 & 2 Malaysian PO/Kees Bakels rec. 2000 BIS BISCD1155
This CD has it all – astonishing music, beautifully wrought playing and top-notch sound. Listening to these elegant, soulful symphonies it’s hard to understand why Kalinnikov isn’t better known. Hats off to BIS for making it all happen, and to Kees Bakels and his band for showing us how it’s done.
Rued LANGGAARD Music of the Spheres, The Time of the End, From the Abyss Danish Ntl SO & Ch/Thomas Dausgaard rec. 2009/10 DACAPO 6.220535
Rued Langgaard is another of my recent discoveries; indeed, this Dacapo release will surely help to bring this dotty Dane to a much wider audience. These intriguing works are sometimes quixotic, even infuriating, Dausgaard and his orchestra revealing just how original these works really are. Try them if you dare!
OrganOrgan Historical Finnish organ works Ville Urponen (organ) rec. 2008 ALBA ABCD298
Despite its odd title, this collection is a veritable treasure trove of little-known music from Finland. It’s beautifully played by Ville Urponen on a ‘generous, sweet-toned Kangasala’ and atmospherically recorded by Mika Koivusalo, the man behind those pace-setting organ discs from Fuga. Most refreshing.
Sergey PROKOFIEV Romeo and Juliet Tamara Rojo, Carlos Acosta, Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Boris Gruzin rec. 2007 DECCA 0743336
This Blu-ray is sensational in every way, from the impassioned presence of the two principals – Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo – to the sumptuous sets and red-blooded playing from the pit. No technical nasties that I can detect, the razor-sharp picture and dynamic sound making this a truly immersive theatrical experience.
Leonid DESYATNIKOV Return, Du côté de chez Swan, Variations on the Obtaining of a Dwelling, Wie der Alte Leiermann ..., The Leaden Echo rec. 1995-2010 QUARTZ MUSIC QTZ2087
The first western disc of Desyatnikov's music includes Du cote de chez Swan, a work for two pianos that splices and reorders Saint-Saens's The Sawn to moving and profound effect.
Béla BARTÓK Sonata for solo violin Johann Sebastian BACH Partita No. 2 Ruth Palmer (violin) rec. 2008 HIDDEN ACOUSTICS NI6133
Ruth Palmer's disc is a terrific recording of two masterworks of the solo violin repertoire, packaged in a way that looks beyond the conventions of the classical market.
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky at the BBC Proms Mikhail GLINKA Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture, Three Dances from A Life for the Tsar Pytor Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY The Nutcracker – Act 2 BBC SO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky rec. 1981 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5027
Rozhdestvensky, master of Russian ballet, in glorious performances of Russian classics from the 1981 Proms.
While back in 2010, I had many recordings of the year and was forced to make “tough” choices as to what works I was going to select; this year, I found it was actually difficult to come up with works that I thought were worthy of the title of recordings of the year 2011. So, after a bit of rummaging through CDs, DVDs and the lot that I purchased, was given or reviewed during the course of the year, I came up with the three listed below and I do believe them worthy of appearing as selections for 2011.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Die Entführung aus dem Serail Eva Mei, Rainer Trost, Patrizia Ciofi, Ch & O Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta rec. 2002 ARTHAUS MUSIC 107109
I love almost anything that Mozart wrote but this opera (or better, Singspiel) is a particular favourite of mine. This DVD was a wonderful surprise. The production is vivid, colourful and gorgeous to look at; the singers are excellent, the reading of Mozart’s music would probably have pleased even himself and the spoken role of Salim is exceptionally delivered. A beautiful, little gem!
Margaret Ruthven LANG Love is everywhere - Selected songs Vol. 1 Donald George (tenor) Lucy Mauro (piano) rec. 2009 DELOS DE3407
I had the pleasure of reviewing this one. Again, as with the Mozart DVD, it was a wonderful surprise. Lang was nearly forgotten, largely due to herself, as she destroyed many of her works but she was a fascinating woman composer who lived nearly 105 years! It was a delightful, refreshing experience to listen to her music and to talk to the performers who had the brilliant idea of making this CD. Initiatives such as these, deserve to be acknowledged in any possible manner. To me, the revelation of the year!
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Fidelio Nina Stemme, Jonas Kaufmann, Arnold Schoenberg Ch, Mahler CO, Lucerne Festival O/Claudio Abbado rec. 2010 DECCA 4782551
Nowadays, full recordings of opera are not very common. Tough economic times, perhaps? Or commercialism that relies solely on big names’ recitals? Whatever the reason, there are not enough of them. Well, this recording of Fidelio is simply outstanding. I dare say that it is possibly one of the best that I have ever heard, and if a big name is needed, then Jonas Kaufmann does deliver a true star performance.
Gustav MAHLER Symphony 9 Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim rec. 2009 UNITEL/CMAJOR 703708
This is one of the finest Mahler 9s I have ever heard (or seen, for that matter). Barenboim recorded a swift, urgent account of this symphony for Warner Classics a few years ago, live in concert with the same orchestra. The interpretation here is very much the same, but timings are slightly quicker, the orchestral playing is even tighter and more refined, and the emotional still deeper. Those for whom resignation is the key note of this symphony will baulk at this live concert recording, but its passion and intensity are unique.
Gustav MAHLER The Complete Symphonies London PO/Klaus Tennstedt rec. 1977-93 EMI CLASSICS 0944932
It is wonderful to have Tennstedt's EMI Mahler recordings with his LPO grouped together in this new box. His studio cycle has been available more or less continuously since it was recorded, but this box triumphs over the previous issues. The earliest recordings have been remastered - the second in particular sounds much better than its earlier incarnation, with fuller sounding strings and a less exaggerated dynamic range - and Tennstedt's live LPO Mahler recordings for EMI have been included. While the live fifth usually gets all the attention - and it is a wonderful, intense performance - for me Tennstedt's harrowing live 1991 sixth is worth the price of the whole box. It is darker than the widely praised 1984 Proms recording that was released on the LPO label recently. Indeed it is not only Tennstedt's best Mahler 6. It is also, in my view, one of the very best ever recorded.
Franz LISZT Harmonies du soir Nelson Freire (piano) rec. 2011 DECCA 478 2728
Peerless pianism from one of the today's true masters.
Richard STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben Antonín DVORÁK Symphony 9 Royal PO, BBC SO/Rudolf Kempe rec. 1974/5 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5009
This year has seen the emergence of ICA Classics as a major independent label with access to some fascinating archive material. This DVD is one of their very best. Kempe was an expert Straussian and his live Heldenleben is, all told, as good as his famous Dresden account, making up in spontaneity anything it lacks in polish. The Dvorak 9 is a revelation - the most impetuous, red blooded performance since Dorati's famous Concertgebouw recording for Philips.
Miklos ROZSA Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Julius Caesar National PO, Royal PO/Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann (Caesar) rec. 1974-77 DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3790
It is wonderful to have these recordings back in the catalogue. I have been trying to get these Ben Hur tracks for years, and was overjoyed when they appeared on this Australian Eloquence twofer. If only the overture had been recorded too!
Circumstances have restricted my reviewing of CDs this year – and, indeed, the amount of time I have been able to give to listening to recorded music at all. So my choices are made from a narrower range of possibilities than in previous years. Still, these are very much recordings of value, recordings which reward a great many listenings. There is no significance in the order in which they are listed.
Espana Antigua - Spanish Secular Music 1200-1700 Montserrat Figueras (soprano) Hespèrion XX/Jordi Savall VIRGIN CLASSICS 6488012
Of recent years Jordi Savall’s lavishly produced and documented CDS have been very much concept-driven (and none the worse for that). This reissue of some of his earlier recordings (made between 1977 and 1983) takes the listener on a colourful and lengthy (there are 8 CDs) across the Spanish musical landscape from the early thirteenth century to the end of the seventeenth century. At every turn there are things to admire and relish; there’s an abundance of colour and instrumental textures, there’s music of love divine and secular, of the dance and the cathedral. And rarely (if ever) a dull moment.
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Harpsichord and Virginals Vol. 3 Richard Lester (harpsichord) NIMBUS NI5870
Richard Lester’s series of the keyboard music of Frescobaldi has been a consistent joy. I could have chosen any of the volumes, since they are all characterised by playing both scholarly and expressive. I chose this one because of the particular pleasure of Lester’s reading of Frescobaldi’s Toccata Decima.
Alessandro STRIGGIO Mass in 40 parts Thomas TALLIS Spem in alium I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth rec. 2010 DECCA 478 2734
This is one of those recordings for which the adjective revelatory doesn’t seem altogether over the top. Alessandro Striggio’s long-lost 40-part Mass gets a world premiere recording and proves to be a fascinatingly written work full of contrasting textures and subtle effects, its complex passages complemented by ones marked by an equally effective restraint. I Fagiolini, directed by Robert Hollingworth are exemplary and the recorded sound is glorious.
Béla BARTÓK Piano Concertos 1-3 András Schiff (piano) Budapest Festival O/Iván Fischer rec. 1996 WARNER APEX 2564 674378
Another reissue – and at a bargain price. Schiff’s Bartok concerti, with Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra date from 1996, but the sound quality is fine and the work of all concerned is superb. There is passion and vigour, but also high intelligence and clarity of mind throughout. I can’t honestly think that I have heard better performances of these fascinating works.
Franz LISZT Harmonies du soir Nelson Freire (piano) rec. 2011 DECCA 478 2728
Nelson Freire is a masterly interpreter of Liszt and this recital, recorded in January of 2011, finds at the top of his game. There’s virtuosity galore and a precision and delicacy of touch too. The judgement of rhythm and the unexaggerated use of pianistic colour is thoroughly persuasive and convincing. This is quite simply outstanding.
William BYRD Complete Consort Music Phantasm rec. 2010 LINN CKD372 Phantasm seem to operate at a consistently high level and this recording finds them at their considerable best. They are powerful advocates for Byrd’s music for viols and in the subtlety of their instrumental interplay and the evident sensibility of all that they do they remind us (if we need a reminder) of one of the great beauties of English music, the compositions for consort of viols. Beautiful recorded sound, too.
This has been a rich year and I could easily have chosen a dozen Recordings of the Year. In the end I decided to restrict myself to CDs that I’ve reviewed myself. This meant leaving out, for example, Sir Charles Mackerras’s wonderful live version of Suk’s Asrael Symphony and the remarkable forty-part Mass by Striggio. Distinguished discs that didn’t quite make the cut included Abbado’s Fidelio and ‘In the Beginning’, the fine debut disc from Merton College Choir. The recording industry still seems to defy Norman Lebrecht’s gloomy predictions of a few years ago and let’s hope that will continue to be the case in 2012. These half dozen discs have given me exceptional pleasure and I hope readers, if they acquire them, will enjoy them as much.
Hector BERLIOZ Grande Messe des Morts Robert Murray (tenor) Gabrieli Players & Consort, Chetham’s School of Music Symphonic Brass Ens, Wroclaw Philharmonic Ch & O/Paul McCreesh rec. 2010 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD280
Unquestionably, this is my Recording of the Year. Paul McCreesh assembles Anglo-Polish forces similar to those specified by the composer and cleverly mixes period and modern instruments. Superb singing and playing and an authoritative interpretation are captured in magnificent sound. This is a recording which, at last, does full justice to Berlioz’s masterpiece on CD.
Diva, Divo Joyce DiDonato (mezzo) Ch & O l’Opéra National de Lyon/Kazushi Ono rec. 2010 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6419860
A delectable recital from this wonderful singer. The programme concept is imaginative – Joyce DiDonato sets out, in her words, to “bend the genders” - and the execution is superb. I described this richly entertaining disc as “simply sensational” in my original review and I haven’t changed my mind. Pure pleasure from start to finish.
Gustav MAHLER Symphony 2 Kate Royal (soprano) Magdalena Koená (mezzo); Berlin Radio Ch, Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2010 EMI CLASSICS 6473632
Sir Simon Rattle’s 1986 CBSO recording was one of his first great successes and the symphony is a work that means a great deal to him. Twenty-four years on he revisits it on CD in a thrilling version taken from live performances. Rattle’s vision of the symphony is as compelling and dedicated as ever. Superbly played by the Berliner Philharmoniker, this is a highlight of the two-year Mahler anniversary celebrations.
Johann Sebastian BACH St. John Passion Bernarda Fink (alto) Mark Padmore (tenor) Peter Harvey (bass) Monteverdi Ch, English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. 2003 SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG712
This live performance has real electricity. It benefits from a superb, highly involving Evangelist in Mark Padmore. The other soloists are distinguished while the Monteverdi Choir’s singing and the playing of the English Baroque Soloists is expert. As always, Gardiner’s direction of Bach is perceptive. A dramatic and richly rewarding account of the St. John.
Johann Ludwig BACH Trauermusik RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin/Hans-Christoph Rademann rec. 2010 HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902080
This is my discovery of the year. This is an impressive and ambitious funeral piece by a distant cousin of J S Bach, which is really worth hearing. The music is conceived on a grand scale. The performance, directed by Hans-Christoph Rademann, could scarcely be bettered and Harmonia Mundi’s presentation is sumptuous.
Cantiones Sacrae 1575 Works by Thomas Tallis & William Byrd Alamire/David Skinner rec. 2009/10 OBSIDIAN OBSIDCD706
Surprisingly, this is the first time an ensemble has made a complete recording of the famous joint enterprise by Tallis and Byrd, presenting all thirty-four pieces in the original order of publication. Listening was an enthralling experience. The music is glorious and David Skinner and his flawless consort of singers perform it perfectly. The wonderful acoustic of the chapel at Arundel Castle makes its own important contribution to a very distinguished release.
Back to Melody Works for string quartet by Kilar, Malecki & Czarnecki Opium Qt rec. 2009 CD ACCORD ACD163-2
The Polish answer to the Pavel Haas Quartet (see below), OPiUM have assembled tuneful, enjoyable new music that rewards closer listening too. Anybody who thinks that "appealing/melodic" and "expertly crafted" are now mutually exclusive should hear Czarnecki's tiny String Quartet No 2 (1997), which is both.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas 30-32 Penelope Crawford (fortepiano) rec. 2010 MUSICA OMNIA MO0308
Crawford's pianism and spiritual tone are (this is not said lightly) nearly as compelling as Gilels, Pollini, and Richter, and her instrument - a Conrad Graf fortepiano from 1835 - is breathtaking. The variation movements are more striking than ever when you hear how Beethoven crafted the music to fit the instrument. An extraordinary surprise.
Havergal BRIAN Symphony 1 The Gothic Susan Gritton (soprano) Bach Ch, Brighton Festival Chorus, Huddersfield Choral Soc, London Symphony Ch, BBC National Ch & O Wales; BBC Concert O/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67971/2
My own copy has yet to arrive, and my own review will be appearing in early 2012, but I was standing in the Albert Hall arena for this concert and have heard broadcasts several times since. There is simply no musical accomplishment this year to rival the Proms Gothic; if it's not the MusicWeb 2011 Recording of the Year I shall re-nominate it in 2012.
Antonín DVORÁK String Quartets 12 & 13 Pavel Haas Qt rec. 2010 SUPRAPHON SU 4038-2
I feel shy about parroting Gramophone's Album of the Year pick, but this has been on my list since March. We often talk of ensembles with great spontaneity and liveliness, or ensembles with a rich, luxurious sound; the Pavel Haas Quartet is that rare group that has both. The Thirteenth Quartet here sounds as big and bold as a symphony.
Pablo SARASATE Music for violin & orchestra - Vol. 3 Tianwa Yang (violin) Navarra SO/Ernest Martínez Izquierdo rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572275
Tianwa Yang's best album yet, which is really saying something, given she is a 22-year-old prodigy whose technical perfection is surpassed by her technicolor sound and emotional fire. The Mozart fantasy is a bit dull (Sarasate's fault) but from 'Navarra' to album's end, the music and playing are so electric there were probably sparks flying off the violin.
For me, the best recordings I’ve come across this year have all been DVDs. Is that an indication of the way the classical market has changed in the last few years?
Benjamin BRITTEN Billy Budd John Mark Ainsley (tenor) Jacques Imbrailo (baritone) Glyndebourne Ch, London PO/Mark Elder rec. 2010 OPUS ARTE OA1051D
I said in June that this was the best opera DVD of the year so far. I’m now certain that Glyndebourne’s Billy Budd is the best opera DVD of the whole year. Outstanding in every way.
Arnold SCHOENBERG Moses und Aron Dale Duesing (baritone) Andreas Conrad (tenor) Chorwerk Ruhr Bochum SO/Michael Boder rec. 2009 EUROARTS 2058178
Very different but just as thrilling, this visually and musically splendid Moses is an ideal way into the work for first-timers, as well as a fascinating alternative for those who know the work.
Richard STRAUSS Elektra Iréne Theorin (soprano) Waltraud Meier (soprano) René Pape (bass) Wiener Staatsopernchor, Vienna PO/Daniele Gatti rec. 2010 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101559
The finest Salzburg opera offering we’ve had for a while. Singing of stunning assuredness operates inside a hellish vision of a claustrophobic nightmare. Great to watch as well as to listen to.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN The Complete Symphonies & documentaries about each symphony Vienna PO/Christian Thielemann rec. 2008-10 UNITEL/C MAJOR 705308
Christian Thielemann and the crack players of the Vienna Philharmonic argue that perhaps there is still life the old school of Beethoven interpretation, and they (mostly) succeed convincingly.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis Elina Garanca (mezzo) Sächischer Staatsopernchor Dresden, Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann rec. 2010 UNITEL/CLASSICA 705408
Worthy to set alongside the symphonies, this is a splendid interpretation of Beethoven’s great choral masterpiece, as monumental as the anniversary it celebrates.
The Grand Organ of Canterbury Cathedral John Robinson (organ) rec. 2010 PRIORY PRDVD6
A fantastic example of what a music DVD should be: makes full use of the surround facilities to produce excellent sound quality and unfussy pictures to boot. The extra films are another treat.
Johan van Veen
Lamenatrium Atalante/Erin Headley rec. 2010 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6152
The repertoire reflects the sense of experiment and invention which is a feature of Italian music of the early 17th-century. The performances of the recently-founded ensemble of Erin Headley are just as exciting as the music. The two singers, Nadine Balbeisi and Theodora Baka, deliver impressive performances.
Alessandro MELANI Motetti Concerto Italiani/Rinaldo Alessandrini rec. 2006 NAÏVE OP30431
Alessandro Melani is an almost unknown quantity. Recent recordings of his music show that he was a truly great composer. His qualities are amply displayed in these wonderful and expressive performances by Concerto Italiano. The Litanie per la beata Vergine are the highlight of this disc.
Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI Chamber Music Ensemble Cordia rec. 2005 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94007
There is a growing interest in the music of Giovanni Benedetto Platti which has resulted in several recordings. This disc by the Ensemble Cordia is one of the best. Alfredo Bernardini and Alberto Grazzi rank among the best interpreters in the early music scene, and they deliver authoritative performances of Platti's music. In the other members of the ensemble they have congenial partners. If you want to get acquainted with Platti's music this disc is the best possible way to start.
Heinrich SCHÜTZ Musicalische Exequien Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier rec. 1999/2010 RICERCAR RIC311
The Musicalische Exequien is one of Schütz most impressive works which has received many performances and has frequently been recorded. This interpretation by Vox Luminis has to be considered one of the best. It is full of expression, and has the solemn atmosphere it requires. The delivery is perfect, which is essential in any music by Schütz. The rest of the programme is fitting and given equally good performances.
North German Organ Music Vol. 1 Martin Rost (organ) rec. 2010 MDG 32016242
The Stellwagen organ in Stralsund is one of Germany's most impressive and valuable historical organs. It is perfectly suited for the music of the North German organ school. Martin Rost plays a varied programme with pieces by its main representatives. His performances are of the highest order, and have been perfectly recorded. For organ aficionados this disc is indispensable.
Georg Philipp TELEMANN Kapitänsmusik 1738 Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max rec. 2007 CPO 7773862
One of a number of Kapitänsmusiken Telemann composed as director of music in Hamburg. This piece is one of the most dramatic, connected to the political situation at the time it was written. Its special character is perfectly explored by soloists, choir and orchestra. The various roles in the serenata are sensitively and convincingly portrayed. Many arias are technically demanding and the soloists leave nothing to be desired. This work has to be considered one of Telemann's masterpieces.
The Download Roundups have escalated so much this year – now twice a month – that all my choices are taken from them. Though I can trawl the back catalogue, I’ve limited my six choices to recent releases and reissues. The selection has necessitated the omission of such fine recordings as John Wilson’s resurrection of the MGM Musicals at the Proms and for EMI, the BIS survey of Schumann’s Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra, John Neschling’s recording of Respighi’s Roman Trilogy (BIS) and Mozart Symphonies from Jukka-Pekka Saraste on a budget-price 2-CD set from Virgin Classics which I reviewed on CD.
Josquin des PRÉS Missa De beata virgine, Credo, Missa Ave maris stella Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips GIMELL CDGIM044
Alexander Agricola’s Missa in myne Zyn (Ricercar), Alamire’s Tallis and Byrd’s Cantiones sacræ and their Taverner (both Obsidian) or I Fagiolini in 40-part music by Striggio and Tallis (Decca) yield to The Tallis Scholars’ new recording of Josquin, Missa de beata virgine and Missa ave maris stella, the latest in a superb series.
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA Missa De Beata Maria Virgine, Missa Surge propera Westminster Cathedral Ch/Martin Baker rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67891
In the quatercentenary of Victoria’s death, The Sixteen released an anthology of his Marian music (Coro). This and several Hyperion Helios reissues at budget price give way in favour of the new Westminster Cathedral recording on Hyperion CDA67891 which also stands as proxy for all their recordings of this composer which I listed in the November 2011/1 Roundup.
Johann Sebastian BACH Cantatas - Vol. 48 Hana Blaiková, Robin Blaze, Satoshi Mizukoshi, Peter Kooij, Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2010 BIS BISSACD1881
Masaaki Suzuki’s entire traversal of the works of J S Bach is well worth having. Cantatas: Volume 48 is no exception. If you’re looking to download this or any other BIS recording, eclassical.com is the place to go for price and quality.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra Tasmin Little (violin) Tim Hugh (cello) Ch& O Opera North/Howard Shelley (piano) CHANDOS CHAN10695(4)
There have been some excellent Beethoven recordings this year: Emmanuel Krivine’s revelatory survey of the symphonies on period instruments (Naïve) and Riccardo Chailly’s equally fine set (Decca) but I choose his Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra from Howard Shelley and Opera North.
Jean SIBELIUS Complete Symphonies, Karelia, Lemminkäinen & Violin Concerto Leonidas Kavakos (violin) Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä BIS (from Amazon)
My bargain of bargains has to be the complete Sibelius Symphonies, Lemminkaïnen and Violin Concerto in first-class performances with Osmo Vänskä at the helm; the downloads come at decent bit-rates.
English Music Royal PO/Sir Thomas Beecham rec. 1946-57 EMI CLASSICS 9099152
No recording of English Music overshadows the 6-CD reissue of Beecham’s (mainly) Delius with German, Bantock, Bax and Berners. Even fine new performances of Delius – Appalachia and the Violin and Double Concertos, both from Chandos - must take back seat.
I don’t deliberately steer clear of new recordings. In fact the majority of things I review are hot off the press. But it’s just that there is such a wealth of historic material around that this is the kind of thing that lodges most passionately in my thoughts, and memories, of a year’s reviewing. Does that sound apologetic, or defensive? Well, then, let’s put it this way: I love historic stuff.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Violin Sonata 9 Gabriel FAURÉ Violin Sonata 1 Albert Sammons (violin) William Murdoch, Edie Miller (piano) rec. 1926/37 PRISTINE AUDIO PACM072
This December 1926 recording of the Kreutzer Sonata by Albert Sammons and William Murdoch has been released before, on LP, but this excellent transfer is worthy of one of the great performances of the work on disc. It’s coupled with a remarkable rarity, a 1937 private, and yellow labelled HMV of Faure’s Op.13 Sonata played by Sammons with the little known Edie Miller. Its commercial release is a remarkable coup and reinforces Sammons’s affinities with French music via his breathtaking but unsentimental lyricism.
Arthur Catterall Vol. 4 - Violin sonatas by Beethoven, Mozart & Brahms William Murdoch, Hamilton Harty (piano) rec. 1923 HISTORIC RECORDINGS HRMP00117
One of Sammons’s leading contemporaries was Arthur Catterall, another discographic pioneer. His late acoustic sonatas here reveal his disciplined classicist strengths in their very highest form. This well transferred disc includes the first ever recordings of two of the works—the Brahms and Mozart sonatas. None of these recordings has ever been reissued until now.
The Art of Gregor Piatigorsky rec. 1924-55 WEST HILL RADIO ARCHIVES WHRA6032
This was the most important instrumental box set to come my way, without question. Six CDs and a DVD contain a plethora of performances by Piatigorsky, many heard here for the first time. Why were the studio performances never released? No idea, but thank goodness this increasingly important label has undertaken such a magnificent retrieval act.
Percy Grainger - The complete 78rpm solo recordings rec. 1908-45 APR 7501
What to say? Grainger’s complete solo piano recordings on 78 - inimitable, teasing, irresistible. True, there are frequent re-recordings of the expected favourites, but that’s no great concern when the performances are so full of life. Some major sonata undertakings are here too, so in all it's an indispensible set.
My choice of the discs I reviewed this year was as difficult as last year's and I could have included Shostakovich Cello Concertos with Raphael Wallfisch on Nimbus, Ivana Gavric's debut piano recital on Champs Hill, and Janácek’s orchestral music with Serebrier on Reference Recordings if I hadn't been limited to six. As it is, the six below are some of my current favorites.
Benjamin BRITTEN Gloriana - Symphonic Suite, Cello Symphony, Four Sea Interludes Paul Watkins (cello) BBC Philharmonic/Edward Gardner rec. 2010 CHANDOS CHAN10658
For both performance and sound I find these among the best accounts of this music on record. I was especially moved by Paul Watkins' and Gardner's interpretation of the Cello Symphony which treats the work as a symphony and not a cello concerto.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Trios 1 & 2, Seven Blok Romances Susan Gritton (soprano) Florestan Trio rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67834
This is especially valuable for Susan Gritton's superb rendition of the Blok cycle, but the two trios also receive vital performances.
Béla BARTÓK Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, Out of Doors, Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Andante with Five Variations Claude DEBUSSY En blanc et noir Martha Argerich, Stephen Kovacevich (pianos) Willy Goudswaard, Michael de Roo (percussion) ( rec. 1969/77 DECCA 478 2467
This reissue contains what is still for me the most exciting performance of Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percusssion, with the rest of the program including Debussy's En Blanc et noir also highly recommendable.
Luigi CHERUBINI Requiem Kammerchor Stuttgart, Hofkapelle Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius rec. 2010 CARUS 83.227
Utilizing period instruments the Kammerchor Stuttgart and Hofkapelle Stuttgart under Frieder Bernius provide a beautiful and at times powerful account of a work too rarely recorded. This even with the odd inclusion of a Gregorian Tractus inserted between the second and third movements.
Johannes BRAHMS Clarinet Trio & Sonatas Karl Leister (clarinet) Ferenc Bognár (piano) Wolfgang Boettcher (cello) rec. 1997 NIMBUS NI5600
Karl Leister and fellow artists in wonderfully mellow and idiomatic renditions of these autumnal masterpieces of late Brahms. There may be more vivid accounts elsewhere, but none that is more satisfying than these.
Benjamin BRITTEN The Prince of the Pagodas Béla BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin London Sinf/Oliver Knussen, London PO & Ch/Franz Welser-Möst rec. 1989/92 EMI CLASSICS 9498292
An invaluable reissue of one of Britten's most colorful scores in what may rightly be considered a definitive performance. At the reduced price this two-CD set is a real bargain even if the accompanying Miraculous Mandarin has received better recordings elsewhere.