24 June, 2011

CD recommendations: Classical

Recommendation: Classical
CDs from the Library

New Issues
Since I already have more CDs than I can consume in more than a life time, I don't buy many new CDs, but every year I buy the newest set of EMI Lugano. Martha Argerich plays some of the pieces but mostly the performances are from her motivated friends, and what a trove of treasury! This year's offerings are among the strongest ever.

Lola Bobesco is much under-rated and neglected. Grab this Bach concerti LP or CD (Talent) while you can. Sound and playing all first-class.

Along with his violin works, the Brandenburg Concertos are are my favorite Bach works. This version with Orchestra Mozart (DG) is not perfect but still very good. I have never quite taken to Abbado before, but his work now with Lucerne and Orchestra Mozart are wonderful. Available in CD or DVD.

Piano Recordings
This being Chopin's Centennial, the library is flooded by various Chopin recordings. Some of the most classy ones are by the under-rated Bella Davidovich, now re-issued by Brilliant Classics. No "spontaneous" or "impulsive" pulling and pushing for no reason, but well structured and everything sound inevitable. Great Chopin.

Not to be forgotten is the immaculate Orfeo recording of some of Beethoven's variations by Bruno Leonardo Gelber, a pianist whom I have always admired.

BBC Legend is highly reliable as a source of historic live performances. Two Gilels issues are of course wonderful. Gilels' Beethoven recordings rank among the greatest ever made. This live account of the Waldstein attains lofty heights. The other lesser known pieces are gems too. The 1984 Scarlatti and Debussy are even in marvelous sound.

I have not heard a better recorded or played version of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony than Haitink's (Decca). The instruments are virtually 3 dimensional. Recorded by Colin Morfoot. Now available mid-priced coupled with the 9th.
Ashkenazy is a warm Sibelian, and this earlier account of Finlandia with the PO (later version with BSO) is a strong performance worthy of putting along side Barbirolli. Perfectly recorded by Kenneth Wilkinson. Now available only in budget 2CD sets.

Wonderful Prokofiev playing from the Russian duo. Krainev has previously appeared in HK under the auspices of the Chopin Society. What a marvelous musician! As usual, the Teldec recording is clear as day. Now available only in budget 2fers (Apex).

I actually prefer Shchedrin's arrangement of Carmen suite to Bizet's own. The Rozdhestventsky version is now on Melodiya, ugly cover and somewhat brittle sound, both inferior to the original LP! But the performance of the Bloshoi is wonderful and the coupling is a gem!

The spirited period instrument style suits Handel's music to a T. Wonderfully natural recording from Naxos. Top recommendation for this repertoire.

More Violin and Chamber
For me, the Smetana trio is the perfect ensemble for a difficult genre. Their perfect balance is at turns intimate and symphonic. A version of the great Tchaikovsky that offers more than any other version (Supraphon).

The Reger is is THE find of the year. I have heard some of these solo Reger violin works (Dorian) before, but none captured my heart like this one. Thanks to the HK library! I wish there are more recordings by this young violinist.

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