Classical CD Highlights: May

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: May
The Chicago Symphony presents the first release on its new in-house label, the late great Slava can be heard again in some of his early recordings, and two Baroque specialists revive Handel rarities.

Mahler: Symphony No. 3
(CSO Resound 901071)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4
(EMI Classics 8472322)
Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder
(EMI Classics 7879726)
Strauss: Die ‹gyptische Helena
(Opera D'Oro OPD 7042)

The Chicago Symphony becomes the latest orchestra to get into the CD game with its new release of Mahler's monumental Third Symphony, recorded in performances last October. The recording, on the brand new CSO Resound label, features mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung; Bernard Haitink, the orchestra's current principal conductor, takes the podium.

The prolific team of Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic present another big Romantic work in their latest release — Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, also recorded in concert.

Nina Stemme, the Isolde to Plšcido Domingo's Tristan in the highly regarded 2005 recording of Tristan und Isolde, tackles an ambitious Strauss program in her first solo release for EMI. The soprano sings the Four Last Songs plus two other meaty selections — the final scenes from Salome and Capriccio. Antonio Pappano, who conducted the Tristan recording, is on the podium for this disc as well.

Strauss's neglected 1928 opera Die ‹gyptische Helena was a revelation to many when it was revived this season at the Metropolitan Opera, with the great Strauss interpreter Deborah Voigt as the Face that Launched a Thousand Ships. Opera D'Oro digs up a recording featuring a fine Straussian from an earlier era: Leonie Rysanek. The performance of the revised 1933 version of the opera was recorded live in 1956, with the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Joseph Keilberth.

Saint-SaêŠns: Cello Concerto No. 1; Schumann: Cello Concerto
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 9477 65059)
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Shostakovich:
Piano Concerto No. 1 (RCA Red Seal 700233)
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar" (RCA Red Seal 702163)
Weinberg: Violin Sonatas Nos. 3 and 4;
Shostakovich: Violin Sonata (H‹nssler Classic HNS 93190)
Balakirev: Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs
for Piano and Orchestra (Toccata Classics TOC 18)

Just before the recent death of Mstislav Rostropovich, Deutsche Grammophon released a two-CD box featuring the incomparable cellist in recordings from the early 1950s, some of which are available on CD for the first time. In addition to two staples of the cello repertory — the Saint-SaêŠns First and Schumann concertos — Slava plays shorter works by Glazunov, Chopin, Granados, Borodin, Prokofiev, Popper, Richard Strauss, Schumann, Handel and Paganini.

Rostropovich's great friend and teacher, Dmitri Shostakovich, is featured in several new releases. Siberian pianist Denis Matsuev, the 1998 winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, plays the first concertos of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich on a new disc from RCA, with Yuri Temirkanov conducting the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. Temirkanov and the same orchestra can be heard in another recent Shostakovich release, the searing "Babi Yar" Symphony (No. 13), with bass Sergei Aleksashkin. Pianist Jascha Nemtsov continues his exploration of music by Shostakovich and his Jewish friends with a disc of sonatas; the release includes Shostakovich's late contribution to the genre, his Op. 134, plus two works by Weinberg, a prominent member of the circle that included both Shostakovich and Rostropovich. Kolja Blacher is the violinist.

One more Russian disc: Toccata Classics presents an interesting rarity — the premiere recording of Balakirev's Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 4, a work written when the composer was just 17. The coupling — 30 Folksongs of the Russian People for piano duet — comes from the other end of Balakirev's career.

Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit, Miroirs, Jeux d'eau (Ondine OND 1095)
Debussy: Piano Works (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901947)
Haydn: Piano Sonatas (Hyperion CDA 67554)
Brahms: Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Waltzes, Op. 39 (Naxos 8.570290)
Mozart, Prokofiev: Piano Music (NaÇve V5080)
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 21
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 4775 7955)

For keyboard fans, there are several intriguing new releases. The American pianist Tzimon Barto takes on Ravel's fiendishly difficult Gaspard de la nuit, along with two other works in a new disc from Ondine. Alain Plšns completes his Debussy cycle with a two-disc set that includes the suite Pour le piano plus some early odds and ends. Marc-Andr_ Hamelin plays a cross-section of Haydn's masterful keyboard sonatas on a Hyperion set that offers two discs for the price of one. On a new Naxos disc, Jen‹ Jand‹ plays Brahms's Op. 79 Rhapsodies and the solo-piano version of the Op. 39 Waltzes, which were originally composed for piano duet.

A multi-disc set from NaÇve showcases the young French pianist Lise de la Salle (born in 1988): her program includes Mozart's Rondo in A minor, Sonata K. 284, and Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman" as well as Prokofiev's Toccata, Sonata No. 3, and six of the Ten Pieces for Piano from Romeo and Juliet. A bonus DVD that's part of the set offers a 26-minute film about de la Salle.

Maurizio Pollini takes on the dual role of soloist and conductor in a new disc with the Vienna Philharmonic featuring two popular Mozart concertos, No. 7 (K. 453) and No. 21 (K. 467).

Handel: Floridante (DG Archiv 028947765660)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
(Virgin Classics 6342825)
Bach: Goldberg Variations (arr. for string trio)
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 4776 3789)
Bach: Mass in B minor (Channel Classics CCS SA 25007)
Faure: Requiem (Mirare MIR 028)

Handel figures in a couple of interesting new recordings. Alan Curtis follows his successful recent release of Handel's Rodelinda with another opera, the little-known Floridante. The recording, based on a new edition of the 1721 work, features Joyce DiDonato, Roberta Invernizzi, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir, Vito Priante and Riccardo Novaro; Curtis directs Il Complesso Barocco from the harpsichord. Emmanuelle HaÇm continues her survey of Handel's early works with his first oratorio, te allegorical Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno ("The Triumph of Time and Truth"), composed in Italy 1707. The cast includes Natalie Dessay in the role of Beauty, with accomplished Handelians Ann Hallenberg, Sonia Prina and Pavol Breslik; HaÇm conducts her own ensemble, Le Concert d'Astr_e.

From Handel it's on to Bach. DG releases Dmitri Sitkovetsky's surprisingly effective string trio arrangement of the Goldberg Variations, performed by an all-star ensemble: violinist Julian Rachlin, violist Nabuko Imai, and cellist Mischa Maisky. The Netherlands Bach Society offers the latest in its ongoing series of major works, the B minor Mass; Jos van Veldhoven leads a fashionably small-scale performance, with the five solo singers also comprising the choir (with two other sets of five singers joining in at particular moments). Van Veldhoven was recently knighted in the Netherlands for his services to music; the following day, he and the Society left for a sold-out five-city tour of the U.S.

Another, ahem, mass-ive work is featured on the Mirare label: Swiss conductor Michel Corboz revisits Faur_'s Requiem with his Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne and the Sinfonia Varsovia. The work, heard here in the small-orchestra version of 1893, is coupled with several shorter choral items.

Schubert: Schwanengesang (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901931)
Schubert: Lieder (RCA Red Seal 777162)
Sibelius: Songs, Vol. 2 (Naxos 8.570020)

A few new discs should satisfy the cravings of lieder lovers. Schubert's masterful final song cycle can be heard in a performance by tenor Werner G‹ra and pianist Christoph Brewer on Harmonia Mundi. RCA has Christian Gerhaher singing a broad selection of Schubert songs, accompanied by pianist Gerold Huber. Naxos releases another volume in its survey of the little-known songs of Sibelius, with tenor Hannu Jurmu and pianist Jouni Somero.

Kurtšg: Instrumental Works (Stradivarius STV 57002)
Kernis: Instrumental Works (Black Box BBM CD 1107)

Finally, some contemporary music. The Hungarian composer Gy‹rgy Kurtšg has been writing his Games, a collection of miniatures for piano and piano duet, since the 1970s. He performs some of them on a Stradivarius disc that also includes various instrumental works for cimbalom, guitar and other instruments.

On Black Box, pianist Andrew Russo, cellist Felix Fan, guitarist David Tanenbaum and the Kashii String Quartet play an assortment of pieces by Aaron Jay Kernis with odd names: Top 100 Dance Hits, Before Sleep & Dreams, Superstar Etude #1 and Meditation (in memoriam for John Lennon).

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