Classical CD Highlights: July

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: July
 
Philippe Herreweghe turns 60 and his fans get three new releases; neglected works by J.S. Bach and Richard Strauss get persuasive new recordings; Stephen Hartke makes opera out of soup bowls.


Sch‹tz: Opus ultimum
(Harmonia Mundi HMC 901895)
Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3
(Harmonia Mundi HMC 901972)
Philippe Herreweghe by Himself:
Retrospective 1981-2007

(Harmonia Mundi
HMX 2908226.28)
Lully: Th_s_e (CPO 7772402)
Monteverdi: L'Orfeo (NaÇve OP30439)

Early music star Philippe Herreweghe celebrates his 60th birthday this year, and his record label, Harmonia Mundi, marks the occasion with three releases featuring the Belgian conductor.

In the 1660s, composer Heinrich Sch‹tz, then 65, began an ambitious setting of all 176 verses of Psalm 119, a piece he expected to be his swansong. After a decade's work, Sch‹tz had composed 11 motets for double choir, but it would be 300 years before the score would be performed. Herreweghe conducts Sch‹tz's Opus ultimum (often referred to as the Schwanengesang) on a two-disc set, with the Collegium Vocale Gent doing the singing and the Concerto Palatino playing along.

On another release, Herreweghe brings his period-instrument approach to music of the Romantic era, conducting the Orchestre des Champs-Elys_es in Schumann's First Symphony ("Spring") and his Third (the "Rheinish").

Also available is a commemorative set, Philippe Herreweghe by Himself, that includes two CDs and one DVD. The audio discs feature 28 tracks selected by the conductor from his discography, with music that ranges from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The DVD contains a 56-minute film that follows Herreweghe as he rehearses a variety of music at the Saintes Festival.

There's some new old opera this month, arriving from the Hub of the Universe: the Boston Early Music Festival and Chorus present the world premiere recording of Jean-Baptiste Lully's tragedy Th_s_e. Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs provide the leadership; the cast includes tenor Howard Crook, sopranos Laura Pudwell and Ellen Hargis and bass Harry van der Kamp.

2007 marks the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, the earliest opera still performed regularly today. NaÇve has issued a new recording directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini, a specialist in Monteverdi's music and the author of a biography of the composer. The cast includes Furio Zanasi in the title role, with Monica Piccinini, Anna Simboli, Sara Mingardo, Sergio Foresti, Antonio Abete,and Luca Dordolo. Europeans can purchase the recording this month; the two-CD set, which also includes a special limited-edition book, goes on sale in the United States this fall.


Bach: Missae Breves (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901939)
Bach: The Six Cello Suites (Hyperion CDA 67541)
Bach: Goldberg Variations (Telarc CD-80692)

Moving ahead to the High Baroque, we find three releases of music by Bach. Cantus C‹lln and Konrad Jungh‹nel make a fine case for Bach's neglected Lutheran Masses, a set of four relatively brief works (they include only the Kyrie and Gloria). In the past some musicians looked down on these scores because all of the movements are recycled from Bach's cantatas, but the composer thought enough of this music to recast it.

The British cellist Steven Isserlis tackles Bach's landmark Cello Suites in a two-CD set, while Simone Dinnerstein, a young American pianist who recently signed a recording deal with Telarc, plays the Goldberg Variations on her first disc for the label.


Strauss: Josephs Legende (Channel Classics CCS SA 24507)
Rossini: Piano Music, Vol. 8 (Channel Classics CCS SA 24907)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 3, 8 and 15 (Hyperion CDA 67605)
Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from the Lugano Festival 2006
(EMI Classics 38924128)
Schoenberg: String Quartet No. 4;
Verkl‹rte Nacht (Praga PRD 250234)

On Channel Classics, Ivšn Fischer leads his Budapest festival Orchestra in a rarely heard score by Richard Strauss, the ballet Josephs Legende. Based on the biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers, the opulent 1914 ballet is based on an idea by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and was written for Sergei Diaghilev's famed Ballet Russes. It was a flop at its premiere, but its music points the way toward some of Strauss's later operatic triumphs.

On the same label, Paolo Giacometti completes his survey, begun in 1998, of the rarely heard piano music of Rossini. Angela Hewitt, meanwhile, continues her cycle of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas with a disc containing the "Path_tique," the "Pastoral" and the early Op. 2, No. 3.

On EMI, pianist Martha Argerich and a few of her friends present the fourth installment of their Live from the Lugano Festival series, which showcases young musicians. This year's release, a three-disc set featuring performances from the 2006 edition of the Swiss festival, includes chamber music by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Taneyev, Debussy, Schnittke, and Gulda. Argerich is joined by pianists Nicholas Angelich, Gabriela Montero and Sergio Tiempo; cellist Gautier Capu‹on; and violinist Renaud Capu‹on.

The acclaimed Czech ensemble the Prazšk Quartet and guests play music of Schoenberg on a new Praga disc. The 12-tone Fourth Quartet is paired with the early sextet Verkl‹rte Nacht.


Hartke: The Greater Good (Naxos 8.669014-15)
Classic American Love Songs (Naxos 8.559314)

American composer Stephen Hartke's first opera, The Greater Good, or, The Passion of Boule de Suif (based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant), premiered at Glimmerglass Opera in 2006. It's now available on a two-disc set from Naxos. The witty score includes a dinner scene where cast members' spoons clank melodically against tuned soup bowls.

Also on Naxos, soprano Carole Farley and pianist John Constable perform the first recordings of three unknown songs by Kurt Weill, part of a program that also includes love songs by Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Arthur Schwartz.


Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Concerto in F
(Sony Classical 678768)
Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2, Polonaises, Fantaisie-Impromptu,
Scherzo No. 1 (Sony Classical 678769)
Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1; Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
(Sony Classical 700812)
Nordic Songs (EMI Classics 88673)
Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 99 and 101 (EMI Classics 88666)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5; Scythian Suite (EMI Classics 88675)

In the budget-priced reissue department, this month sees five more titles in the Great Performances series, which has continued over the years despite changes of ownership from Columbia to Sony to Sony-BMG. July's discs include Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris played and conducted by Leonard Bernstein, plus the Concerto in F with Andr_ Previn at the keyboard; Vladimir Horowitz playing Chopin; and David Oistrakh performing concertos by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.

EMI adds 10 discs to its varied Encore series of re-releases. They include a program of songs by Nielsen, Grieg, Sibelius, and others sung by Barbara Hendricks; Haydn's 99th and 101st Symphonies played by the English Chamber Orchestra under Jeffrey Tate; and Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony and Scythian Suite with Simon Rattle leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

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