New Classical CDs

For our last spotlight for 2016 we highlight some contemplative church music, gender-bending arias, and some “evocative” 21st century instrumental music.

ClassicalrecentDecb1Kanon Pokajanen, Arvo Pärt. Performed by Cappella Amsterdam.
“The Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance), premiered in March 1998, is Arvo Pärt’s most monumental composition. Its prolonged genesis, a meticulous process of assimilation of the text in Church Slavonic, the austerity and subtlety of its style embody the same sincerity, the same spiritual and contemplative radiance as icon painting. A dialogue with the sacred in which time stands still.” (Cover)

ClassicalrecentDecb2Oh, Boy!. Performed by Marianne Crebassa.
“‘One of the most important voices of our time,’ is how the young French mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa is described by Marc Minkowski, the distinguished conductor for her debut album, Oh, Boy! Comprising arias for young male characters who are sung by a woman – the so-called ‘trouser roles’ – it offers an alluring programme of Mozart, Chabrier, Gluck, Gounod, Hahn, Massenet, Meyerbeer, Offenbach and Thomas. Crebassa – praised by Le Monde for her ‘incredibly beautiful timbre and transcendent presence’ – shows why she has already made an impact at the Paris Opéra, La Scala, Milan, the Berlin Staatsoper and the Salzburg Festival…” (

ClassicalrecentDecb3Orphée, Jóhann Jóhannsson.
The first new studio album in a while from experimental/orchestral composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. “Jóhannsson’s genre-blending score represents all facets of his previous works from intimate string quartet pieces, to large string orchestra works, featuring electronics, drones, organ, piano, choir, as well as enigmatic shortwave broadcasts to create an evocative & immersive sound.” (

Piano music for December

A little piano music this week, featuring the greats Daniel Barenboim and Murray Perahia!

ClassicalrecentDeca1The French Suites, J. S. Bach. Performed by Murray Perahia.
“One of the world’s best-loved artists, and a longtime proponent of Bach on the modern piano, Murray Perahia has been hailed as one of the composer’s ‘most rewarding interpreters both live and on disc’ and as a musician who ‘invariably strikes an ideal balance, playing with a beautiful sound, crystalline articulation, judicious use of pedal and an essential buoyant pulse’ (New York Times). For his debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon, Perahia turns to the six French Suites – works that are at once delicate, profound, tender and joyful, and all suffused with the rhythmic vitality of the dance.” (Cover)

ClassicalrecentDeca2On My New Piano. Performed by Daniel Barenboim.
“Daniel Barenboim’s first solo recording on the remarkable new concert grand he developed in collaboration with instrument maker Chris Maene. Barenboim has selected works by keyboard masters from different periods to display its special colours, transparency and tonal possibilities: ‘I’ve fallen in love with my new piano,’ he exclaims, ‘and want to spend as much time with it as possible.'” (Cover)

ClassicalrecentDeca3Béla Bartok. Performed by Cédric Tigerghien.
“This second album in Cédric Tiberghien’s highly praised survey reveals the radicalism of Bartók’s piano-writing to be just as evident in the early Bagatelles as it is in the lexicon of style and technique which is the fifth book of Mikrokosmos.” (

New Classical Additions

This time, a mini-cornucopia (if there is such a thing) of varied treasures, from 1567 to 2016.

ClassicalrecentNovb1Missa Papae Marcelli, Motets, Palestrina. Performed by the Sistine Chapel Choir.
“This new recording by the Vatican’s resident choir, made under studio conditions in the Sistine Chapel, is devoted to Palestrina. It features three world premiere recordings, including the original (and long inaccessible) 1567 edition of Palestrina’s most famous work, the ‘Pope Marcellus’ mass. Hearing his works sung in the hallowed venue for which he composed them makes clear why Palestrina was called the ‘Saviour of Church Music’.” (cover)

ClassicalrecentNovb2The Tchaikovsky Project. Volume 1: Pathétique, Romeo & Juliet. Performed by the Czech Philharmonic.
“With this album, pre-eminent Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic launch their extensive Tchaikovsky Project – a multi-year journey to shed new light on the great master’s symphonies and major orchestral works. Benefitting from extensive preparation time, the best possible recording conditions and the conductor’s lifelong dedication to Tchaikovsky’s music, the interpretations of Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic are bound to set a new standard.” (cover)

ClassicalrecentNovb3Danse Macabre. Performed by Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.
“The supernatural meets technical wizardry in this spectacularly recorded program of rare and familiar music to celebrate Halloween. Kent Nagano conducts some of the best-loved classics of the macabre alongside rarities such as Balakirev’s tone poem Tamara and Charles Ives’s Hallowe’en.” (cover)

ClassicalrecentNovb4Island Songs, Olafur Arnalds.
New to the World rather than the Classical collection (on account of being a bit hard to pigeon-hole!), but a lovely post-classical album by BAFTA-winning composer (for the soundtrack to Broadchurch) Olafur Arnalds. A 7-week recording project in which the composer travelled around his home country of Iceland, performing with an array of musicians and other performers, ranging from poet Einar Georg Einarsson, through the South Iceland Chamber Choir to Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir, singer from Of Monsters and Men. The result is spectacularly beautiful, as always.

New Classical CDs

This week we highlight three new recordings of symphonies, two from the newly-established Münchner Philharmoniker label.

ClassicalrecentNova1Symphony No. 6, Tchaikovsky, and Polovtsian Dances, Borodin. Performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
“On this SACD release from Channel Classics, [Ivan Fischer and Budapest Festival Orchestra] perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6, which was premiered just nine days before the composer’s death. The truly Russian mood that we associate with Tchaikovsky is also felt in the music of Borodin. His opera Prince Igor remained incomplete when he died, however the well-known Polovtsian Dances, recorded here, became a standard of the orchestral repertoire.” (

ClassicalrecentNova2Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”, Mahler. Performed by the Münchner Philharmoniker.
“Although he rarely offered direct insight into any specific meaning behind his music, Mahler’s symphonies are characterised by the sense of a composer openly expressing his emotions regarding the great struggle of ‘life’. His epic Second Symphony, often referred to as the ‘Resurrection’ Symphony, culminates in a spectacular final movement, complete with chorus, as the music passes though darkness to a place of redemption and elation.” (Cover).

ClassicalrecentNova3Symphony No. 4 “Romantic”, Bruckner. Performed by the Münchner Philharmoniker.
“The Fourth Symphony is the only one of his symphonies to which Anton Bruckner assigned a title. By the use of the term ‘Romantic’, he was referring to a medieval world, similar to the settings of many of Wagner’s operas. He pictures nature, forests, flowing water in rivers and birdsong, with chivalrous knights on horseback.” (Cover).

Nouveaux CDs de Musique Classique

This week, a French flavour!

ClassicalrecentOctb1Leçons de Ténèbres, Couperin. Performed by La Nuova Musica.
“Music for Holy Week. François Couperin served as harpsichordist to Louis XIV and was famed for reforming elegant chamber music of the French court in the more impassioned Italian style of the time. For his Leçons de Ténèbres, a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, ‘Couperin le Grand’ fused devotional expression with a dramatic performing style embodied here by sopranos Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts. Two trio sonatas and a Stabat Mater by Sébastien de Brossard round out this luminous programme.” (cover)

ClassicalrecentOctb2Roméo et Juliette, Berlioz. Performed by the BBC Singers and Symphony Orchestra.
“…the BBC SO and its Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by offering as you have never heard them: the third symphony, Roméo et Juliette, and excerpts from his largest opera, Les Troyens; a ‘magical revelation… that wrought shivers’ (Bachtrack), in which ‘one could feel the instant rightness of the sonorous imagery Berlioz devises’ (The Sunday Times). The London Symphony Orchestra also recently produced a recording of this work: listen to both and compare!

ClassicalrecentOctb3A Fauré Recital, Volume 1: Après un Rêve. Performed by Louis Lortie.
“This album, the first in the series, travels through Fauré’s various creative periods, from easily appealing early pieces such as the Pavane and the mélodie ‘Après un rêve’ to the late and unjustly neglected Préludes, a masterpiece of condensed harmonic and melodic audacity.” (

Four new classical CDs

This week, in Steve Reich’s 80th year, we introduce a recording of two of his recent works (plus some older classics).

ClassicalrecentOcta1Double Sextet / Radio Rewrite, Steve Reich. Performed by Ensemble Signal.
“Following their internationally acclaimed recording of Steve Reich’s 1974-1976 masterpiece Music for 18 Musicians, Ensemble Signal and Brad Lubman present two recent pieces by the composer: Double Sextet from 2007 and Radio Rewrite from 2012 – strong, tuneful, energetic, tightly made works” (Cover).

ClassicalrecentOcta2Piano Concertos K. 413, 414, 415, Mozart. Performed by Kristian Bezuidenhout and the Freiburger Barockorchester .
“In January 1783 Mozart advertised in the Wiener Zeitung, ‘the publication of three new, recently completed piano concertos’, which could even be played with quartet accompaniment – thus enabling him to reach a wider public. In similar vein, he told his father that they were ‘very brilliant and pleasing to the ear… Here and there only connoisseurs will derive satisfaction from them – yet in such a way that the non-connoisseur will also be pleased, without knowing why.’ It’s a fair bet that these dazzling performances by Kristian Bezuidenhout and the Freiburger Barockorchester will meet with the same unanimous approval!” (Cover).

ClassicalrecentOcta3Homages. Performed by Benjamin Grosvenor.
“In this new recording Benjmain [Grosvenor] explores works by great composers paying tribute to their predecessors. Amongst these works, Mendelssohn looks back to the Prelude & Fugue form made so popular by Bach; and Franck does likewise (adding a Chorale as a central section to his work). Busoni takes Bach’s great solo violin Chaconne, presenting it in a bold and imaginative transcription for piano; Chopin breathes new life in to the traditional Barcarolle of Venetian gondoliers, followed ten years later by Lizst’s tribute to Italian folksong, Venezia e Napoli” (

ClassicalrecentOcta4Concertos & Cantata, Ihr Völker Hört, Telemann. Performed by Florilegium.
“In 2016, Florilegium celebrates 25 years of performances and recordings. The group made their concert début in July of 1991 and are now one of Britain’s leading period ensembles. This program of Telemann concertos offers listeners the same enthusiasm and excitement for baroque and classical music that have defined Florilegium since the beginning. The recording also features the Cantata Ihr Völker Hört with mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson. To commemorate the group’s 25th Anniversary, Channel Classics has included a bonus compilation disc featuring a selection of spectacular recordings from Floreligium’s catalog” (

Coming soon: Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, symphonies by Bruckner and Mahler produced under Münchner Philharmoniker’s new label, and a compilation of arias from some of Rossini’s trouser roles sung by countertenor Franco Fagioli.

New Classical Picks

This week we introduce new drama to the collection, some more literal, some figurative.

ClassicalrecentSep16b1Shakespeare Songs. Performed by Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano.
“In a pairing of true vocal scholars, renowned tenor Ian Bostridge and eminent conductor-pianist Antonio Pappano unite to celebrate the Bard’s 400th anniversary year, offering a diverse selection of some of the best known and most attractive musical settings of Shakespeare texts composed in the four centuries since his death. From the music of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, with delicate lute accompaniment, to the modern genius of Stravinsky’s cycle for voice and chamber ensemble, each song is remarkable for the sensitivity with which the composer has approached the subtle nuances of the words, their shades of meanings and their delicacy of metrical rhythm” (cover).

ClassicalrecentSep16b2Transcendental Etudes, Liszt. Performed by Kirill Gerstein.
“Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes are a quintessential distillation of the mid-19th century romantic project: they’re like sounding images of romanticism’s nervous system, its otherworldly experiences, and its transcendence” (cover). The programme notes include an interview with the pianist, giving further insight into the nuances of the compositions and their performance challenges. (According to he describes the work as “one of the most towering mountain peaks of the piano literature”.)

ClassicalrecentSep16b3Verismo. Performed by Anna Netrebko.
Performed by Netrebko with the orchestra and choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, with Antonio Pappano (again! This time as conductor). This is a compilation of post-Romantic Italian opera arias performed in the verismo tradition, focusing on real-life characters rather than the mythical. Puccini provides the lion’s share of the disc, which also features composers such as Cilea, Giordano, and Leoncavallo.

Coming soon: an influx of French music (well, two new discs!); Couperin, Leçons de Ténèbres and Faure, Après un rêve.