Not in any particular order, just off the top of my head (all CD's for me as well) -
1. Francesco Tristano (piano) - BachCage album (DGG)
2. M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco - 24 Caprichos de Goya for solo guitar - Zoran Dukic (Naxos, 2 cd set)
3. Rossini - Mose in Egitto, complete opera - under Maestro Fogliani (Naxos, 2 cd set)
4. Album: "Fandango" - Music by Pujol, Boccherini, Haydn, Houghton - Karin Schaupp, guitar with Flinders Quartet (ABC Classics)
5. Bernstein - Sym. #1 "Jeremiah," Sym. #2 "Age of Anxiety," Chichester Psalms - under the baton of the composer (DGG)
That's all for now, I'll be back later with 5 more...
Well... I'll not even make any pretense toward limiting myself toward 10 purchases... I'll merely cite those that have made the greatest impact upon me.
The focus of my purchases this year has still been centered upon the Baroque... although I have made any number of purchases from other eras. Within my efforts to delve deeper into the Baroque, this has been a Handel year for me. Among the most important purchases I made this year I cannot downplay just how many involved Handel's music:
This recital of Handel arias by Bejun Mehta absolutely stunned me. In essentially a single fell swoop Mehta has entered into the company of the finest countertenors and Baroque singers. A "must have" disc for any admirer of Baroque opera or just brilliant vocalists.
With The Messiah, Solomon, and Saul already in my collection, I had a decent contept of Handel's choral works... or so I thought. Picking up a number of other performances of his choral works I found myself in the possession of one masterwork of vocal music after another! The Sixteen with Harry Christophers absolutely bring this oeuvre to life.
But then there is this body of Handel's work that has been the greatest revelation to me. Here I am speaking of his Italian Cantatas. Written in his twenties while employed by various Italian courts, Handel was at this point in time the greatest composer in Europe. The elegance, sensuality, and transparency of these works send chills up my back. I cannot recommend the Sixteen recording, those on Gloss, or Natalie Dessay's enthusiastically enough. For those who wonder how some of us can suggest that Handel rates not far beneath Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, you need to listen to some of this music.
Handel's Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music were among the first classical works I owned. Over the years, I grew bored with them and felt they represented much of what was worst about Handel's English oeuvre. Jordi Savall shakes the dust and the pious reverence to the point of boredom off these works and absolutely brings them to life to the point that when this disc first arrived I ended up playing it 4 or 5 times before placing it on my shelves.
What Savall could do for Handel, he could surely do for Bach... right? Right indeed! Savall brings the Brandenburgs to life by refusing to ever forget the dance rhythms that many of Bach's movements were based upon. This is Baroque rock n roll. The Musical Offering had long left me unimpressed as being too dry and abstract... but clearly it was the stiff recording I had. Savall again brought such life to this oeuvre that I have listened again and again.
What Savall did for me with Bach and Handel, Gergiev did with the Nutcracker. This is Tchaikovski's holiday favorite played with such fervor and fire that I found myself thinking, "Damn! This ain't no child's play here!"
Gardiner brought Brahms to life in a similar manner for me... or rather I should say that he cut through the notorious density and fog of Brahms symphonies ( all four of them) and brought a clarity and transparence to these works that has brought them to life for me more than anyone before. The choral performances are brilliant as well.
If Handel was the composer of the year for me, Philippe Jaroussky was the performer of the year, with me picking up not only the above couple of discs but at least half-a-dozen others as well. Jaroussky's velvet countertenor has brought any number of nearly forgotten Baroque composers back to life. Perhaps the greatest discovery for me was that of J.C. Bach. I must admit that I actually purchased this along with Jaroussky's recordings of Vivaldi's arias having misread the label and thinking I was getting a collection of arias by Bach Sr. (Johann Sebastian). Whatever initial disappointment there was immediately dissipated into sheer joy... and the nagging question: "Why haven't I heard this guy's vocal work before?" I'm guessing we will be hearing more in the future.
I began my excursions deeper into the Baroque this year with further exploration of Vivaldi. I find myself continually puzzled by those who sing the praises of Monteverdi based upon L'Orfeo and the Vespers, more obscure figures such as Biber and Zelenka, or Scarlatti jr. on account of a couple hundred sonatas, while dismissing Vivaldi without ever having really explored his vocal music. Vivaldi's oeuvre is currently undergoing the same sort of rediscovery as Handel's underwent over the last few decades. Any number of operas and choral works have been rediscovered are are being given their first real quality recordings. The opera, Ercole sul Termodonte was recorded with something akin to a "dream cast" and its release greatly anticipated. It did not fail to meet the anticipation. An absolutely thrilling recording. At the same time, Naive released a bargain priced 3 disc set of highlights from three other operas by Vivaldi. The splendours here to be found are hard to believe.
Perhaps the last truly stunning Baroque purchase this year... in terms of totally leading me to a reevaluation of a given composer. Alessandro Scarlatti prior to this disc was largely but a name. I knew he was reportedly the composer of hundreds of cantatas and operas, but like many others I thought of him, if at all, as most importantly the father of Domenico Scarlatti. This... and subsequent recordings of Scarlatti's cantatas and opera arias has led me to suspect that Scarlatti pere may just have been the greater composer after all.
Berlioz has long been another of those composers that were but a name to me. Of course I had the Symphonie Fantastique... but other than that... nothing. Upon first hearing this disc I was floored. I couldn't believe I hadn't heard this music earlier... especially as a great admirer of lieder and melodies and orchestral songs. This was one of the first great symphonic song cycles... and one of the best. I immediately picked up two more recordings (Veronique Gens and Jessye Norman).
I never thought I would need or want another Song of the Earth. I already had the Klemperer recording with Christa Ludwig and Fritz Wunderlich, the heartbreaking recording by Kathleen Ferrier with Bruno Walter, and the Herreweghe recording of the more intimate Schoenberg orchestration for chamber orchestra. What more could I want? Except a live recording masterfully recorded with Fritz Wunderlich and Dietrich Fischer Dieskau both at the height of their powers. The recording conveys the tension sensed by the enraptured audience who realizes something truly spectacular is occurring right before them.
While I have always found Schoenberg problematic... knotty... lumpen... Berg and Webern have never left me so perplexed. This is the first recording with the reconstruction of Berg's original vocal finale... the finale eventually hidden by the composer for fear of comparison with vocal finale to Schoenberg's string quartet and more so for fear of recognition of the tragic love that inspired the work.. a love that need to remain hidden. An absolutely marvelous recording.
Those is no "perfect" recording of the Ring. Solti's is bold and dramatic but employs a number of brilliant singers beyond their prime. Karajan's is more subtle... even chamber-like... employing many new singers... some of who are not great Wagnerians. The older recordings by the 3 Ks: Keilberth, Knappertsbusch, and Krauss all capture the voices of the greatest Wagnerian singers of the century at their peaks and live... but at the cost of sound quality... especially of the orchestras. I picked up this set for some $35. A great buy for what... for all its flaws... is a brilliant document of brilliant singers and brilliant music.
I could not turn down the bargain of these inexpensive recordings of Shostakovitch by Vassily Petrenko. After reading several glowing reviews I figured I could not lose. These are indeed thrilling recordings... worthy of comparison with almost any of the "big name" conductors/orchestras. A perfect introduction to Shostakovitch's Symphonies.
One can find a great many marvelous recordings on the budget label Brilliant just as on Naxos. In this instance Elly Amelling and Gerard Souzay offer the greatest performances of the whole of Faure's melodies (songs) available. Both are brilliant singers known for this repertoire and the music itself... Faure's songs... are among the finest in the French canon and should be explored by anyone who only knows Faure for his deservedly famous Requiem.
I will put some thought into this and make a better list, but provisionally
The Ten Best
1. Fauré: Piano Quintets - Domus
2. Rebel: Les Élemens; Gluck: Alessandro; Telemann: Sonata - Goebel
3. Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert
4. Ravel: Piano Works - Rogé
5. Pergolesi: Stabat Mater - Abbado
6. Purcell: Dido & Aeneas, King Arthur, Odes, etc. - Pinnock
7. Penderecki: St. Luke Passion - Wit
8. Janácek: Missa Glagolitica, Tagebuch eines Verschollenen - Kubelik
9. Rachmaninov: Symphonies, etc. - Ashkenazy
10. Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty, The Seasons, 6 Pieces - Pletnev
10 (tie). Janácek: Piano Works - Firkusny
10 (tie). Liszt: Sonata in B minor, etc. - Zimerman
However, I cannot be satisfied without naming a few "honorable mentions":
- Horowitz Plays Scarlatti
- Rodrigo: Concertos for Guitar & Harp - Romeros, Marriner
- Chopin: Polonaises - Pollini
- Scharwenka: Piano Concerto #4; Sauer: Piano Concerto #1 - Hough
- Glass: Uakti
- Boulez: Répons, Dialogue de l'ombre double
- Kodaly: Hary Janos Suite, etc. - Fricsay
- Bach: Violin Concertos, etc. - Grumiaux
- Charpentier: Te Deum - Les Arts Florissants
- Chopin: Ballades - Pollini
- Liszt: Les Années pèlerinage - Kempff
- Chopin: Preludes - Pogorelich
- Chopin: Scherzi - Pogorelich
- The Golden Age of the Romantic Piano Concerto (box set)
...Continuing from my interrupted earlier list, I only got to 5, so -
6. Monteverdi: Vespers of 1610 & works by Allegri, Palestrina, Schutz - Pro Cantione Antiqua & ors. under Heinz Hennig (alto, 2 discs)
7. Dvorak: PIano Trios "Dumky" & F minor - Rosamunde Trio, Prague (alto label)
Next two is a tie -
8a. Schoenberg: Verklarte Nacht, Op. 4 - English Chamber Orch. / Daniel Barenboim (on EMI 2 disc set + other Schoenberg works)
8b. Schoenberg: Pierrot LUnaire, song cycle in 21 parts - Christine Schaeffer, vocals / Ens. Intercontemporain / Pierre Boulez (DGG, with Ode to Napoleon)
& another tie -
9a. Elgar: String Quartet; Piano Quintet - Maggini Quartet with pianist Peter Donohoe (Naxos)
9b. Bernard Herrmann: Echoes for String Quartet - Fine Arts Quartet (on Naxos album - Four American Quartets)
10. Liszt: from The Years of Pilgrimage - Stephanie McCallum, piano (ABC CLassics)
- Album: Sonatas for violin with Ruggiero Ricci - J.S. Bach, Bartok, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Prokofiev (Decca Eloquence, 2 cd's)
- Album: Andre Rieu - You'll Never Walk Alone - Songs of Hope & Inspiration - Johann Strauss Orch. / Rieu (Polydor / Universal) - This is a special album for Aussies, written as those devastating bushfires raged in Victoria in 2009, Mr. Rieu wrote and dedicated a piece on this album esp. for them, called "Yours Forever," he has a number of Aussie connections, strong ties with this country, he holds us fondly in his heart.
- J. Strauss Jnr. - Jabuka or The Apple Harvest (Operetta in 3 acts) - company under baton of Prof. Christian Pollack (Naxos, 2 cd's)
- Sister Marie Keyrouz, SBC - Chants Sacres de l'Orient - tradition Melchite (Harmonia Mundi white label)
- Rossini - The Barber of Seville (highlights) - company under baton of Silvio Varviso (Decca Eloquence)
- Album: Martha Argerich & S. Bishop Kovacevich - Bartok, Mozart, Debussy (Decca) - Same as for Vaneyes, superb album.
- Australian Guitar Music - recital by Aleksandr Tsiboulski - music of Sculthorpe, Dean, HOughton, Edwards (Naxos)
...I can go on, this has been a strong year for discoveries and rediscovery.
Notable concerts also made me appreciate some composers 10 fold more. Eg. J.S. Bach, Xenakis, Brett Dean, guitar music, Schoenberg, Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler, & many more...a very fruitful year indeed...& very good to share this all here...
Last edited by Sid James; Dec-08-2011 at 10:45.
Reason: spelling fixed...
Any post in which Marie Keyrouz gets appreciation deserves to be liked.
Yes, I also got one of that melchite album for a work colleague, she loved it, like me she's into the classical but had never heard of this amazing musician! Not only great vocal range but such expressiveness and emotional intensity...