After a brief hiatus following the closure of the Central Library, new classical CDs are back in the CBD courtesy of the new Arapaki, Manners Street branch. We have a small selection of recent releases available for shelf browsing there. More are on their way, including this head-to-head combination that we found:
The Cello Suites, Bach. Performed by Alban Gerhardt (on the cello).
“The elusive qualities of ‘transcendental beauty paired with an enchanting simplicity’ that Alban Gerhardt eloquently attributes to Bach’s Cello Suites in his booklet notes, might also be said to characterize his playing in this outstanding new recording” (amazon.com).
Cello Suites, Bach. Performed by Rachel Podger on the violin.
“Violinst Rachel Podger presents the first recording of Bach’s Cello Suites on violin. Bach had a habit of recycling his own compositions for different instruments and different uses. The examples are endless; concertos appearing as sinfonias in cantatas, or concertos for violins turned into harpsichord concertos. Podger, who has spent a fair bit of time coaching cellists, both modern and baroque alike, found herself playing along to demonstrate various points. ‘I started catching myself playing some of the movements I particularly loved while warming up, and realizing that it was actually possible to play them on the violin, and to find a special expressive vocabulary at the higher pitch.'” (amazon.com).
We have recently received new compilations of works from two French greats: Hector Berlioz and Claude Debussy. To accompany these, we found a selection of digitally remastered recordings of the great Maria Callas. We hope you enjoy them!
Les Trois Sonates: The Late Works, Debussy. Various performers.
“A century after his death on 25 March 1918, many Harmonia Mundi artists are eager to pay tribute to Claude Debussy, the magician of melody and timbre, the great ‘colourist’ and father of modern music. In the three chamber sonatas, here combined with the composer’s final pieces for solo piano, we attain the purity, the absolute concision, the distant and mysterious world that give these works a testamentary dimension.” (Cover)
Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d’été, Hector Berlioz. Performed by Les Siècles and François-Xavier Roth.
“A new aesthetic calls for new forms: such is the challenge the composer set for himself in the two works presented here. In Les Nuits d’été Berlioz pioneered, well before Mahler and Ravel, a song cycle for voice and orchestra. In Harold in Italy, scored for large orchestra and solo viola, he experimented with the symphonic genre. These period-instrument performances by Les Siècles, led by François-Xavier Roth, with violist Tabea Zimmermann, also feature Stéphane Degout in the vocal cycle, heard here in the composer’s own version for baritone. File under: out of the ordinary.” (Cover)
The New Sound of Maria Callas.
“Unforgettable arias sung by the most iconic diva of all time – for the first time remastered in high-definition sound from the original tapes, for an unprecedented sound quality that shines new light on the voice of Maria Callas.” (Cover)
This week’s new classical CDs include these three albums featuring vocals: A Sea Symphony, which features text from Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’, sung by Sarah Fox and Mark Stone; Howard Goodall’s treatment of the Passion; and a second compilation of Vivaldi arias by Cecilia Bartoli.
A Sea Symphony & The Lark Ascending, Vaughan Williams. Performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir.
“Vaughan Williams’s first symphony A Sea Symphony displays an epic self-confidence in handling large orchestral forces and setting words to music. Walt Whitman’s words had been set by Holst and Harty and inspired orchestral works by Delius. The American poet provided a rich vein of inspiration to Vaughan Williams. The romance The Lark Ascending, originally for violin and piano, was orchestrated in 1920 and has become one of the composer’s best-loved works” (cover).
Invictus: A Passion, Howard Goodall. Performed by Christ Church Cathedral Choir and others.
“Christ Church Cathedral Choir and Stephen Darlington join forces with Soloists from The Sixteen and a stellar group of instrumentalists on this premiere recording. Persecution of the innocent, malevolent authority exerting itself against ideas that threaten and challenge, the power of a peaceful, loving humility in the face of tyranny, the facing-down of fear; all hold profound universal resonance for people of many faiths and those of none. Such is the power of the Passion story and in his new work, Invictus: A Passion, multi-award-winning composer Howard Goodall has found a route directly to people’s hearts, telling the story afresh through his choice of thought-provoking texts combined with heart-rending yet inspiring music” (amazon.com).
Antonio Vivaldi. Performed by Cecilia Bartoli.
“In 1999, Cecilia Bartoli released her landmark Vivaldi Album and introduced Antonio Vivaldi’s forgotten opera works to the world. Now, almost two decades later, she returns to Vivaldi with a brand new album of arias from the baroque master’s finest operas” (cover).
Period instruments are the flavour of the month for January’s new classical CD additions; enjoy colours that Bach, Mozart and Debussy would have heard.
Sonatas & Partitas BWV 1001-1006, J. S. Bach. Performed by Giuliano Carmignola.
“With his interpretation of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo, Giuliano Carmignola, dubbed ‘a prince among Baroque violinists’ (Gramophone), adds the first period-instrument recording of these works to DG’s rich catalogue” (cover).
Sonatas for Fortepiano & Violin, Mozart. Performed by Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov.
“In this first volume of Mozart’s duos, Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov revive on period instruments the tradition of the ‘sonata for keyboard with violin accompaniment’. Born in the middle of the Age of Enlightenment, this rather unusual concept continued to thrive in the era of Viennese Classicism, even if, long before Beethoven, Mozart swiftly sealed its fate by instigating (or, in a sense, restoring) an increasingly lively conversation between the two instruments” (cover).
Jeux/Nocturnes, Debussy. Performed by Les Siècles and François-Xavier Roth.
“With the musicians of Les Siècles, we have the opportunity to discover on period instruments the original colours of [some of Debussy’s key works] as Jeux and the Nocturnes. After his sumptuous recording of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe, François-Xavier Roth adds a new and splendid achievement to his discography” (cover).
We have recently added some interesting compilations by solo performers, including Delphine Galou, an alto from France, and the ever-reliable Andrea Bocelli. Other offerings include:
Anima Sacra. Performed by Jakub Józef Orliński.
“Offering no fewer than eight world-premiere recordings on his debut solo album, Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński plumbs the depths of sacred Baroque music for a spiritual journey through largely unknown arias from oratorios and motets of the 18th century, breathing new life into music by lesser-known masters.” (Cover)
Piano Magic. Peformed by Lang Lang.
A compilation of some of Lang Lang’s previously-recorded successes. “All works are very well known and loved – including Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla Turca’, Liszt’s ‘Rakoczy March’ Chopin’s ‘Minute Walt’z and Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer’. The album also includes some of Lang Lang’s most streamed tracks to date; Bach’s ‘Air on the G-string’ (currently 11 million streams) and Liszt’s ‘La Campanella’ (4.5 million streams).” (amazon.com)
Sonatas Opus 109, 110, 111, Beethoven. Performed by Alexandre Tharaud.
This recording of Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas (30, 31 and 32) comes with a bonus 64-minute DVD. “This last group of sonatas had a three-fold purpose: didactic, spiritual and promotional. Beethoven had to keep on offering new works to different publishers in order to earn a living, but he was also motivated by the desire to exhort future pianists to aspire to ever greater heights, by writing for them music that exuded a lofty spirituality.” (Cover)
This week in new classical music we feature recordings from each end of the romantic period, and one more in the middle-ish. Happy listening!
Destination Rachmaninov – Departure, Rachmaninov. Performed by Daniil Trifonov and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
“Daniil Trifonov’s captivating, Romantic soul and limitless virtuosity are thrillingly displayed [in this] musical exploration of two of Rachmaninov’s piano concertos – the heart-rending Second and the cosmopolitan Fourth – supported by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the glorious Philadelphia Orchestra… ‘Rachmaninov mastered the musical languages of the composers he admired,’ explains Trifonov, ‘and with humour, reverence, brilliance and affecting sentiment, created his own very Russian syntheses. In that sense, his music is both a journey and a destination’.” (cover)
The Complete String Quartets 5, Beethoven. Performed by the Elias String Quartet.
“The penultimate performance in the Elias String Quartets complete presentation of Beethoven’s String Quartets at Wigmore Hall brings to life the joyous and optimistic String Quartet in A Op.18 No. 5, the varied yet subtle String Quartet in C Op. 59 No. 3 ‘Razumovsky’ and finally the visionary String Quartet in C sharp minor Op. 131. The five-starred reviewed series of live recordings continues to excite, with committed performance from the ensemble earning them high praise from audience and critics alike. The Elias String Quartet’s brilliant performance continues to bring a fresh energy and emotion to this exploration of the masterworks of Beethoven.” (amazon.com)
Symphony No. 6, Mahler. Performed by MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis, conductor.
“‘Without dispute Teodor Currentzis is today’s hottest & most sought after conductor – alongside his orchestra & choir MusicAeterna. The Greek-Russian conductor who has taken the classical music world by storm.’ (The Times) This is Currentzis’s first ever recording of Mahler. Mahler’s symphonies feature heavily in their tour programme, but this is the first time Currentzis has gone into the studio with this composer.” (amazon.com)
Our recent classical music CD additions include an interesting selection of vocal albums, including the conclusion of a long, epic survey of Bach cantatas (secular and sacred).
Aimer et Mourir: Danses et Mélodies, Ravel/Duparc. Performed by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with Magadlena Kožená.
“This second all-French programme [by Robin Ticciati and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin] sees Magdalena Kožená return to perform a selection of songs by Henri Duparc alongside orchestral music by his fellow countryman Maurice Ravel. The popular Suite No. 2 from Ravel’s epoch-making ballet Daphnis et Chloe showcases Ticciati’s flair for highlighting intricacies of detail and colour. In Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, Ticciati creates a well-paced, yet graceful, Impressionist swirl with clearly defined textures and shimmering orchestral colors. Duparc’s melodies sound particularly opulent in their orchestral scoring; the warm tones of Kožená’s ravishing voice provide a perfect match” (amazon.com).
Bach. Performed by Benjamin Appl and Concerto Köln.
Gramophone magazine’s “Young Artist of the Year” for 2016 returns with a new compilation of excerpts of cantatas and Passion settings. “[This] new album presents wonderful music by Johann Sebastian Bach from famous as well as less known cantatas but also from the St. Matthew Passion. It was recorded with the renowned Ensemble Concerto Köln, one of the leading ensembles for historically-informed performance practice” (amazon.com).
Secular Cantatas Vol. 10 ‘Cantatas of Contentment’, J. S. Bach. Performed by Bach Collegium Japan, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki.
The final volume in the secular cantata series. “When we finished the Bach Sacred Cantatas there was an emptiness with us all participants, which was – partly – alleviated by the fact that there were several records of secular Cantatas still to be recorded. And now we are at the bitter end of those as well, and there are no more Bach Cantatas to be recorded. After 23 years of a steady diet of Bach Cantatas, to be without them is brutal and cruel. All the better, then, that we have finished on a high point. Carolyn Sampson’s singing in the solo cantata BWV 204 beggars belief – it is as close to Heaven one can hope to come on this Earth. Big words, and yet too small for what she does. This is the crowning glory of a series that has transformed my life and given me so much more fulfillment that I could possibly have hoped for. Thank you, Masaaki and your faithful BCJ, for creating a musical treasure possible to be treasured by a grateful mankind” (Robert von Bahr, at amazon.com).
In this week’s new classical music CD arrivals there are three interesting new recordings from Deutsche Grammophon:
Johann Sebastian Bach. Performed by Víkingur Ólafsson.
“Thirty-five tracks and just one name – Johann Sebastian Bach. This exceptional album may be devoted to a single composer, but it contains an astonishing range and variety of music. ‘There isn’t just one Bach,’ explains Víkingur Ólafsson… All of these many facets [of Bach] can be heard in Ólafsson’s performances here…” (CD insert).
Nightfall. Performed by Alice Sara Ott.
A compilation of piano pieces by Debussy, Satie and Ravel, the trio of early 20th century French composers. “Nightfall is that magical hour when day and night face each other and the sky descends into twilight. For a brief moment, light and darkness are in harmony and merge together…” (Alice Sara Ott, cover).
Symphony No. 2, ‘The Age of Anxiety’, Leonard Bernstein. Performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker.
“…when Leonard Bernstein celebrated his 70th birthday, he invited Krystian Zimerman to perform his Symphony No. 2 with him for the first time. After a fabulous concert Bernstein asked the pianist, ‘Will you play this piece with me when I’m 100?’ So here we are, more than 30 years later – Bernstein live from Berlin!” (cover).
This week we’ve received a shipment of great new CDs, including some interesting composer-pairings curated by a couple of acclaimed instrumental soloists.
Messa a Quattro Voci et Salmi of 1650, Volume I and Volume II, Monteverdi (et. al.). Performed by The Sixteen.
“Monteverdi’s sacred vocal compositions introduced the expression of powerful and personal emotions to the world of church music. Whilst it took him a number of years to find fulfilment in his work, Monteverdi was a revered composer within his lifetime and his music is regarded as revolutionary, marking the change from the Renaissance style to that of the Baroque. [These discs comprise of] some of the finest works from Monteverdi’s years as director of music at St Mark’s in Venice, published posthumously…” (cover).
Transfigured Night, Haydn & Schoenberg. Performed by Alisa Weilerstein.
“Transfigured Night brings together two outstanding composers associated with Vienna: Joseph Haydn and Arnold Schoenberg. The former is often seen as the oldest representative of the First Viennese School, whereas the latter founded the Second Viennese School, using the classicism of his predecessors to explore new, atonal musical paths into the twentieth century. By combining Haydn’s two cello concertos (in C-major and D-major) and Schoenberg’s symphonic poem Verklärte Nacht in the 1943 edition for string orchestra this album sheds a new, fascinating light on both Viennese masters. The connection between the stylistically contrasting pieces on this album is further enhanced by the inspired playing of American cellist Alisa Weilerstein and the Trondheim Soloists. For Weilerstein, this album is not only a fascinating exploration of the rich Viennese musical heritage, but just as much a confrontation with the dark history of a city her grandparents had to flee in 1938.” (amazon.com).
Schubert, Szymanowski. Performed by Lucas Debargue.
“Lucas Debargue’s third recording presents sonatas by Franz Schubert and polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882 1937)… ‘Debargue is fantastically gifted: original, not tamed by any academicism, eccentric to the point of being mannered, but also thrilling as a result of his very personal tone.’ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.” (amazon.com)
This week we bring together some 21st century works and a couple of Baroque masters.
Circles: Piano Concertos, Bach, Glass. Performed by Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry.
A Far Cry is a Boston-based string orchestra that performs without a conductor; no mean feat! Together with pianist Simone Dinnerstein they perform two pieces composed 280 years apart, the Glass concerto, composed in 2017 for Dinnerstein, featuring here in its world premiere recording. The Bach concerto (BWV 1058) is a transcription (by the composer) of the violin concerto in A minor (BWV 1041).
The Händel Album. Performed by Artaserse and Philippe Jaroussky.
“This album, which focuses on arias from Handel’s more rarely-performed operas, is the first that Philippe Jaroussky has devoted entirely to the composer … Jaroussky brings his impeccable Handelian credentials to an entire album devoted to arias by the composer, who produced thirty-five operas for the London stage between 1711 and 1741… Jaroussky’s new album puts the emphasis on operas we are less likely to hear in the theatre or concert hall: Amadigi di Gaula; Arianna in Creta; Flavio, re di Longobardi; Giustino; Imeneo; Radamisto (represented by no fewer than four arias); Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra; Siroe, re di Persia and Tolomeo, re di Egitto” (Catalogue).
Doctor Atomic, John Adams. Performed by Gerald Finley and other soloists with the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Adams.
“In this first recording of John Adams’s 2005 opera, Doctor Atomic, the composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with a cast led by Gerald Finley, who originated the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars created the libretto, drawing from original sources to explore the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July 1945. ‘A magnificent accomplishment that easily takes its place alongside the other Adams-Sellars triumphs,’ exclaims the Los Angeles Times. ‘It contains music of unearthly splendor.'” (amazon.com).