10 January, 2011

CD Recommendations (3)

CD Recommendations (3)

It's been frustrating that due to family affairs I have not attended even a single concert in almost 3 months. Hopefully that should be rectified soon.

Fortunately there is still home listening. And some CDs I recently borrowed from the library have been exceptional.

Foremost have been 2 Mahler recordings issued by the superb RCO Live label. These Dutch recordings are always superbly recorded in DSD, by the same Polyhymnia team responsible for Pentatone etc. Even if you cannot play the SACD layer, the CD layer sounds superbly natural. Jansons' Mahler 5 is absolutely splendidly controlled, yet exciting, that is, until the last movement, which seemed willful and anti-climatic. Nonetheless, it's better than his Mahler 1 on the same label, a much blander reading. Spontaneity also characterized Haitink's Mahler 4. People who have heard this great conductor live knows his studio recordings are much more cautious. On both, the playing of the RCO is beyond imagination, I think unparalleled (even taking the VPO into account).

We all criticize record companies, yet sometimes they surprise us. Ravel cannot possibly sell very well, yet EMI recently recorded some familiar staples with their new artist, Yannick Nezet-Segun, a rising star familiar from other labels such as Pentatone. The playing of the Rotterdam PO, of which he is now music director, is exemplary. The interpretation is fresh and the sound is excellent. If you don't have much Ravel, grab this one. Bravo, EMI, for showing support for their artists (other examples include Argerich's Lugano series and their popular budget Debut series).

On a lighter note, I think current baroque music playing overall is simply divine. Even HIP, gone are the austerity, replaced by warmth and flair. This is much evident in Vivaldi playing, of which this Naive CD (part of their generally excellent Vivaldi edition) of "Il Ballo" is a superb example. Sonically spectacular too.

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