23 December, 2023

Streaming Classical

Streaming Classical (23-6): Power Bass!

I have listened to so much good music that I’m way behind in my recommendations (even at the rate of maybe only 1 in 10, or 20 that I've heard).

Baroque Keyboard
Byrd is increasingly recorded. We have the Complete Keyboard Music well rendered by veteran harpsichordist Pieter-Jan Belder and nicely distributed among harpsichord and organ (Brilliant Classic). On the modern piano, we have the charismatic Kit Armstrong in an inspiring Byrd and Bull album (DG).

Recently, I heard live in SZ the Russian sensation Alexander Malofeev in a program that includes Georg Muffat’s Apparatus Musico-Organisticus. I was so curious that I actually listened to several versions of this magnum opus on Tidal. All are good but I give the nod to Tobias Lindner, also playing both organ and harpsichord (Organum). On more familiar ground of Bach, Bach and L’Italie is a good recital from harpichordist Justin Taylor (Alpha). But the one you have to listen to is Andras Schiff’s program on the Clavichord (ECM). The sonorities are very confusing - sometimes you swear you are listening to another instrument! Test your understanding of instruments as well as your system!

Baroque Chamber
I have a soft spot for violin and organ, and Nadja Zwiener’s 1723 (Ramee - a wonderful label) is well-nigh perfect! It’s amazing recorder great Michala Petri is still at it! On Corellimania (OUR Recording) she’s partnered by two stars of their own. Everyone knows I’m a fan of Biber’s Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas. Vox’s recent re-issues of old Suzanne Lautenbacher’s recordings show they are still competitive musically! I enjoyed the totally unknown late baroque Harp Quartets of Godecharle as played by Societe Lunaire (Ramee again). For a bigger and brasher recording, look no further than Water and Fire, with Handel’s blockbusters played by the aptly named B’Rock Orchestra under Dimitry Sinkovsky (Pentatone).

Bounty! Two Lower String player of note that gave me the greatest pleasure! Top pic shows Cellist Raphaela Gromes in an Offenbach program (Sony). I'm an Offenbach fan (RCA Fiedler's Gaite Parisienne is one of my fav albums), but few know he was an accomplished cello virtuoso, and this album is so comforting that I have listened to it many times. Album of the year (BTW, it won the Opus Klassik Chamber award!)! Not far behind is the Double bass recital from Mikyung Sung (Modus Vivendi). These two albums shall test your (and your system) understanding of bass tone. Forget about the utterly boring Gary Karr, who puts me to sleep! Another excellent threesome is the Trio Metral, whose Chausson and Ravel (La Dolce Vita) are wonderful. The refined (sometimes too much so as to be fuzzy, as in their Haydn) Chiaroscuro Quartet is lovely in Mozart’s Prussian Quartets (BIS). The Schumann Quartett curates an excellent program (with some rarely heard but fascinating pieces) on 1923 (Berlin Classics). For a wind ensemble, you cannot go wrong with the veteran Ma’alot (used to be on MDG). Start with their Beethoven (Avi Music).

I have followed Composer Julia Wolfe (Bang on a Can). The work that gave me most pleasure recently is LAD. The original is for Bagpipe, on Dark Full Ride (Cantaloupe). But Sean Shibe made a meal out of it on the guitar, on album softloud (Delphian), which then inspired violinist Rahki Singh, whose violin transcription is on Purnima (Cantaloupe again). I absolutely DIG this music! Highly dramatic and, dare I say, a challenge for the audiophile! Listen to all three! Is amplified music chamber music?

The best Beethoven piano concerto recording (no. 5) I have heard in quite a while came from Cliburn winner Yucnhan Lim (Decca/DG). The Korean Gwanjiu Orchestra and conductor Seokwong Hon are completely unknown to me, but do they deliver! It must have been an important date for Gwangjiu (historical massacre) for the programme to contain Isang Yun’s apocalyptic memorial tribute, which just took my breath away! One of the year’s best discs. In a lighter vein, I very much enjoyed the obscure Piccolo Concertos played by Francesco Viola (Naxos). Whenever I think of the piccolo, I think of Shosty, who used this instrument’s high tessitura to tighten his grip on us!

Maxim Emelyanychev and his Scottish Chamber Orchestra delivered great Mendelssohn, Schubert and Beethoven (Linn). I’m not a great fan of Linn recordings, but they are the exceptions. Similarly period-inclined, the Danish Chamber Orchestra Adam Fischer have been on a roll - first, very good Brahms and now Haydn (Naxos). What a wonderful conductor - I listen to everything he does, from Haydn to Mahler (with the Dusseldorf). An excellent orchestral Nielsen disc is that conducted by verteran Niklas Willen (Naxos). There have been a spate of Shostakovich recordings: No. 12 BBCPO Storgards (Chandos), No. 14 OPRF Mikko Franck (Alpha) - these two are very good; then Nelsons concluded his BSO cycle with 2 3 12 13 - the reviews are more ambiguous but I like this issue. All are vastly superior to the mediocre stuff Noseda continues to deliver (and only the British like). In case you yearn for something post-Shosty, I highly recommend Elisaveta Blumina and Thomas Sanderling’s album of Ystvolskaya, Silvestrov and Kancheli (Grand Piano)

You MUST listen to the stunning a capella works of Ensemble Zene’s Hungarica (Aparte). I challenge you audiophiles to play it! Goose Pimples! And then Ensemble Aedes and Les Siecles in Poulenc’s Litanies a La Vierge Noir and Stabat Mater (Aparte again).

Treasures abound. For all the hundreds of Beethoven Quartet cycles out there, still nothing can quite surpass the Budapest Quartet on their Library of Congress recordings (Bridge). Sound not perfect but quite serviceable (there are several volumes; have played them many times)! The great Yvonne Loriod (wife of Messiaen) finally gets her box of early recordings (origin 1956-63 Vega, now Decca France) - what a complete pianist!

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