Under seasonal and other pressures, recaps of our selections for the last several shows have been delayed. For the benefit of all who have been holding their breath (hi, Mom!), here's the skinny on the tracks we played.
Riccardo Muti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO Resound 2018)
- Mascagni, Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana
- Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut
Orchestral poetry of supreme refinement.
American Romantics, American String Quartet plays music of Antonin Dvorak, Robert Sirota, and Samuel Barber (American String Quartet 2018)
- IV Evening: Manhattan from Sirota, String Quartet No. 2, American Pilgrimage
The city's hopping. Great stuff.
David Lang, Mystery Sonatas (Cantaloupe Music 2018)
Augustin Hadelich, violin
- After sorrow
- Before glory
Following baroque precedent (#BiberRosary Sonatas), a contemporary master sets a lone fiddler on labyrinthine paths to self-discovery. As rewarding as it is demanding, for the listener, too.
Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain (Avie 2018)
Apollo's Fire, Jeanette Sorrell
- Christmas Eve Reel – Christmas in America – Old Christmas
- The Parting Glass (Amand Powell, Russ Hauck, vocals
'Tis the gift to be simple. Bluegrass flair served up with a patina of artless antiquity. Lovely stuff.
The Wexford Carols, Catriona O'Leary (Heresy 2014)
- Now to conclude our Christmas mirth
A solo for Rhiannon Giddens, sounded with crystalline dignity over instrumentals that sometimes hover and sometimes stir the pulse.
Saariaho x Koh, Jennifer Koh (Cedille 2018)
- Tocar (w/ Nicolas Hodges, piano)
Synchronous, complementary, largely independent explorations of mood and texture, subtly haunting.
Brahms: Hungarian Dances, Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker, Fabio Bidini (Delos 2018)
- Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor – Allegro molto
Doubtless the best-known and best-loved of all gypsy-style by performers who perhaps soft-pedal the bravura but strike a fine balance between headlong passion and lordly restraint.
Yuja Wang, The Berlin Recital (Deutsche Grammophon 2018)
Ligeti, Etudes pour piano
- No. 3: Touches bloquées
- No. 9: Vertige
- No. 1 – Désordre
Intriguing miniatures from one of the classical world's most glamorous and least predictable rock stars.
Tim Brady: Music for Large Ensemble (Starkland 2018?)
from Eight Songs about: Symphony #7 (2016-17)
- Song #1
- Song #2
Eight songs in this case = one new symphony built on the history of another, in this case Shostakovich's epic Seventh, the "Leningrad." Wow.
Rachmaninov: The Bells, Symphonic Dances
Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks' Mariss Jansons, conductor
From The Bells
- 2. Lento (Tatyana Pavolvskaya, soprano)
- 4. Lento lugubre (Alexey Markov, baritone)
Intimations of immortality, sounded with paradoxically rhapsodic restraint. Jansons rules.
Songs of Orpheus, Karim Sulayman, Apollo's Fire, Jeanette Sorrell
- D'India, Piangono al pianger mio
Early music dispatched from the heart, free of academic affections, in tones of cultured sweetness.
Liszt & Chopin – Cantique d'Amour, Sung-Won Yang, Enrico Pace (Decca 2018)
- Liszt, Cantique d'Amour
Romantic soulfulness takes wing in a performance of disarming intimacy.
Anton Rubinstein, Piano Concerto No. 4, Caprice russe – Anna Shelest, Neeme Järvi, The Orchestra Now
- Caprice russe
A series of the complete music for piano and orchestra by a neglected Russian master gets off to a rousing start.
Franz Schubert, Die Nacht (ECM New Series, 2018)
Anja Lechner (cello), Pablo Márquez (guitar)
- Burgmüller, Nocturne No. 1
- Nacht und Träume
- Romanze aus Rosamunde
Novel arrangements of top-drawer Schubert songs—cello for voice, guitar for keyboard—refresh the ear. (The lovely interludes by Schubert's contemporary Friedrich Burgmüller were actually written for exactly this instrumental configuration.)
Till Fellner in Concert (ECM New Series, 2018)
from Liszt, Années de pèlerinage, Première année, Suisse
- Au lac de Wallenstadt
- Les cloches de Genève
Fellner's chops are well up to Liszt's virtuoso demands, but it's his lucid poetic sensibility that sets the tone.
Brahms Cello Sonatas (Centaur 2018)
The Fischer Duo
Two Songs for Alto, Viola (or Cello) and Piano, op. 91
Abigail Fischer, mezzo-soprano
- Gestillte Sehnsucht
- Geistliches Wiegenlied
Fine readings of a masterly miniature diptych, remarkable for the mezzo's amber timbre and poetic immediacy, enlivened by a now rare, flickering vibrato, and the extra richness and resonance of the string part (intended for the more recessive viola).
A te, o cara - Stephen Costello sings bel canto (Delos 2018)
Constantine Orbelian (conductor), Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra
- A te, o cara (Bellini, I puritani)
- Quanto è bella (Donizetti, Don Pasquale)
- Ah, mes amis (Donizetti, La fille du régiment)
A rising American much prized at the Met, Covent Garden, and the Opéra, Costello lights into the romantic repertoire with lusty macho swagger. Greater tenderness is the rule in this repertoire, but given due attention to line, clean ornaments, and easy, ringing high notes, this approach wins the day.
Vivaldi, Il Giustino (Naïve 2018)
Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone (conductor)
- Vedrò con mio diletto (Silke Gäng)
- Il piacer della vendetta (Emiliano Gonzalez Toro)
- Or che cinto ho il crin d'alloro (Arianna Vendettelli)
Three splendid, highly dissimilar teasers from the latest operatic release (vol. 58 if you can believe it) in Naïve's landmark Vivaldi Edition. Gonzalez Toro dispatches fioriture with a fluency few tenors even try for. Silken singing from Gäng and Vendettelli, plus brilliant brass flourishes in the final selection. (Thanks to Susan Orlando, producer of the series, for her canny choices.)
Nordic Affect, He(a)r (Sono Luminus 2018)
- Point of Departure
From Iceland, a granitic one-movement quartet by Hildur Guðnadóttir,
fiercely rendered by her compatriots of Nordic Affect, an all-women's quartet consisting of three string players and a harpsichordist who all also sing and write. Gripping but static, perhaps.
Roger Doyle: The Heresy Ostraca (Heresy 2018)
- To Know Again
What does a radio dream of at night? Distant, rather monotonous signals stitched together by static.
Víkingur Ólafsson: Johann Sebastian Bach (Deutsche Grammophon 2018)
Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 847 (Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, No. 2)
"Wiederstehe doch der Sünde," BWV 54
- Aria (transcribed by Víkingur Ólafsson)
Robotic here, there hazy: a newcomer from Iceland tries on styles for size.
Seong-Jin Cho, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 2, Sonatas (Deutsche Grammophon 2018)
- Allegro, from Piano Sonata No. 3
- Romanze from Piano Concerto No. 20
Mozart without tears, without a smile. Clean, lucid playing, but I want more. "Mannered," Paul said, but there's wasn't enough personality for that.
Mel Mercier, Testament (Heresy 2018)
- The Merchant of Venice, Carolyn Goodwin (clarinets), Eamonn Cagney (percussion), Mel Mercier (percussion, harmonium, drums)
- The Shadow of a Gunman, Mark O'Halloran (spoken word), Dmiitris Varelopoulos (Greek island lute), Mel Mercier (percussion, harmonium, drones, sound effects)
- The Winter's Tale, Outi Pulkkinen (Finnish jouhikko/vox), Carolyn Goodwin (clarniets). Mel Mercier (percussion)
Incidental music for the stage distilled into tiny sprays of theatrical perfumes. Atmospheric, but where's the drama?
Philip Glass, Three Pieces in the Shape of a Square (Bridge 2018)
Craig Morris, trumpet
- Piece in the Shape of a Square
The living Morris in tandem with Morris on tape. Not nearly as prismatic as Glass for a more colorful instrumental spectrum, not by a mile.
Puccini in Love, Roberto Alagna, Aleksandra Kurzak, Sinfonia Varsovia, Riccardo Frizza (Sony Classical 2018)
- Manon Lescaut, Tu, tu, amore, tu ?
The tenor Roberto Alagna has shown considerable staying power at the top of the operatic heap. Here he delivers the goods in what ought to be a surefire program in tandem with the third Mrs. Alagna. But unlike the second Mrs. Alagna—the Romanian superstar Angela Gheorghiu—Alexandra Kurzak has neither the tempestuous personality nor the unique vocal profile to make much of an impression. Her fresh tone conveys a hint of Manon Lescaut's flighty character but none of her sensuality, animal magnetism, or ruthless ego.
French Cello Concertos (Sonya Classical 2018)
Hee-Young Lim, cello; London Symphonyt Orchestra; Scott Yoo, conductor
Milhaud, Cello Concerto No. 1, op. 136
A piquant gem presupposing reserves of Gallic je ne sais quoi not on offer here.