Classical CD Highlights: August

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: August
Three major singers tackle songs by Wolf, Strauss, and Schubert; the Mozart and Shostakovich discs keep coming.

Wolf: Lieder
(EMI 0946 3 42256 2 5)
Strauss: Four Last Songs, Tod und Verkl‹rung
(Telarc 08940806616)
Schubert: Die Winterreise
(Onyx Classics ONYX 4010)
Britten, Gershwin: Cabaret Songs
(Meridian Records MER 84167)

Some of today's finest voices can be heard this month in new recordings of important works from the lieder canon.

Tenor Ian Bostridge, who drew critical praise for his recent recitals of songs by Wolf, sings some of that composer's Moricke, Goethe and Eichendorff settings on a new EMI disc. Antonio Pappano, who accompanied Bostridge in his Wolf performances on stage, is also his pianist on this CD.

When illness forced Ren_e Fleming to pull out of the Festival del Sole in northern California in July, soprano Christine Brewer ably stepped in to sing Strauss's valedictory Four Last Songs. Brewer sings the same song cycle on a Telarc release, accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and conductor Donald Runnicles. The disc, which has a decidedly morbid theme, also includes the "Prelude and Liebestod" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and Strauss's Tod und Verkl‹rung.

The lyric soprano Christine Sch‹fer migrates to the Onyx Classics label, where she offers her first solo recording in more than five years: an account of Schubert's masterful song cycle Die Winterreise; Eric Schneider is the pianist. The Meridian label returns with a selection of reissues, among them a program of cabaret songs performed by mezzo Sarah Walker and pianist Roger Vignoles. The disc features several items by Britten and Gershwin, as well as tunes by Ives, Noel Coward and others.

Bart‹k: Mikrokosmos (Naxos 8.557821)
Bart‹k: Piano Concerto No. 3, Orchestral Works
(Arte Nova ANO 277600)
Bart‹k: Orchestral Works (Philips 289 475 7684-6)

Three releases showcase the art of B_la Bart‹k. On Naxos, Jen‹ Jand‹ plays all six books of Bart‹k's Mikrokosmos, a series of 153 short piano works — arranged in ascending order of difficulty — that explore all the styles and sources that influenced the composer. Arte Nova offers a budget-priced CD that contains some of Bart‹k's greatest orchestral works, including the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the Piano Concerto No. 3. Russell Sherman is the soloist in the concerto; the SWR Symphony Orchestra performs with conductors Michael Gielen, Zoltšn Pesk‹ and Hanns-Martin Schneidt. Ivšn Fischer's acclaimed Bart‹k recordings are back in a three-disc Philips set that includes the exotically scored ballets The Wooden Prince and The Miraculous Mandarin, the popular Concerto for Orchestra and the rarely-recorded tone poem Kossuth.

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 14 (EMI 0946 3 56830 2 8)
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" (RCO Live RCO06002)
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 1
(Sony Classical Great Performances 82876868442)
Shostakovich: Complete Works for Cello (Nimbus NIM 5764)
Shostakovich: Cello Sonata (Urtext URT 123)
Shostakovich: The Fall of Berlin, The Unforgettable Year 1919
(Naxos 8.570238)

Shostakovich and Mozart discs continue to pour into the record stores as the labels try to capitalize on the composers' milestone birthdays. Fans of the two greats can choose from a big selection of new recordings.

Just in time for Shostakovich's centennial (September 25), Mariss Jansons completes his symphony cycle with a disc containing the propagandistic Third ("The First of May") and the 14th, the composer's next-to-last work in the genre. Larissa Gogolevskaya and Sergei Aleksashkin are the solo singers; they are joined by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. If that's not enough Jansons for you, he also leads an account of the "Leningrad" Symphony, No. 7, recorded in concert with the Royal Concertgebouw, on that orchestra's own label.

Shostakovich on cello: Sony's newly resurrected Great Performances series brings us a truly historic document — the premiere recording of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, performed by Mstislav Rostropovich with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy. Raphael Wallfisch plays both cello concertos plus the Cello Sonata and an arrangement of the Viola Sonata on a two-CD set from Nimbus. On Urtext, Carlos Prieto also plays the Cello Sonata, plus his own arrangement of the Viola Sonata.

And Naxos re-releases a pair of rare film scores: The Fall of Berlin, which gets its premiere recording, and a suite from The Unforgettable Year 1919, which is heard on disc complete for the first time. Adriano conducts the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

Mozart: Fantasias and Rondos (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907387)
Mozart: Piano Trios K. 502, 542 and 564 (Hyperion CDA 67556)
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet, "Kegelstatt" Trio (NaÇve V5059)
Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 28, 33, 35, etc.
(Sony Classical Great Performances 82876787652)
The Mozart Album (Deutsche Grammophon 289 477 6297)
Mozart: Die Zauberfl‹te (EMI 0946 3 58607 2 6)
Transfigured Mozart (H‹nssler Classic HNS 98231)

So much Mozart, so little time. For the Viennese master's 250th birthday, fortepianist Richard Egarr presents a recital of Fantasias and Rondos — some of Mozart's more improvisatory and spontaneous music.

One chamber ensemble after another has rediscovered Mozart's piano trios this year. The latest is The Florestan Trio, which plays K. 502, 542 and 564 on a new Hyperion disc. Clarinetist Wolfgang Meyer and the period-instrument Quatuor MosaÇques perform the sublime Clarinet Quintet and the "Kegelstatt" Trio on a NaÇve CD.

George Szell's energetic and elegant Mozart is showcased in a Sony reissue that features Symphonies Nos. 28, 33, and 35, the evergreen Eine kleine Nachtmusik serenade and the Figaro overture.

A compilation of excerpts from current DG Mozart releases brings together some top-flight singers, among them Anna Netrebko (whose tracks were specially recorded for the disc), Thomas Quasthoff, Bryn Terfel and Ren_ Pape, in a program of opera and concert arias. EMI kicks off a new mid-priced series of opera reissues with 20 releases, including a Wolfgang Sawallisch-led Magic Flute with Anneliese Rothenberger, Edda Moser, Peter Schreier, Walter Berry, Kurt Moll and Theo Adam.

On Transfigured Mozart, pianist Petronel Malan plays a selection of seven composers' transcriptions and fantasies on Mozart themes. The composers represented on this disc range from Hummel, a Mozart pupil, to the 20th-century virtuoso Ignaz Friedman. Also included are works by Glinka, Thalberg, Alkan, Raff and Reger.

Brahms: Four-Hand Piano Music, Vol. 16 (Naxos 8.55848)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 23 (Naxos 8.557856)

Speaking of transcriptions, Naxos presents a couple of opportunities to hear familiar music in unfamiliar guises. Brahms arranged much of his orchestral and chamber music for piano four hands, and Naxos has been recording all of it. But on the newest entry in the series, the music isn't by Brahms at all. Instead, the disc features Brahms's arrangements of works by Schumann, Schubert and Joseph Joachim. The main offering is a four-hand reworking of Schumann's Op. 47 Piano Quartet. Brahms version is especially effective in this piece, which is dominated by its keyboard part. The same label presents pianist Konstantin Scherbakov in Liszt's powerful transcriptions of Beethoven's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies.

Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (Philips 289 475 7552-8)
Beethoven, Bruch: Violin Concertos (Pentatone Classics PTC5186120)
Herbert von KarajanThe First Recordings
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 477 6237)

The legendary Arthur Grumiaux, one of the last century's most refined and sophisticated artists, is heard in two releases featuring remastered recordings of essential repertory. On a two-CD set from Philips, he plays Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin plus two sonatas for violin and harpsichord. Pentatone Classics offers a disc that pairs Grumiaux's performances of the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the Bruch G minor Concerto. Colin Davis conducts the Beethoven and Heinz Wallberg leads the Bruch.

Also from the reissue department, Herbie rides again in a six-disc set from Deutsche Grammophon. Titled Herbert von KarajanThe First Recordings, the box includes Beethoven's Seventh, Tchaikovsky's Sixth, Brahms's First, Dvoršk's Ninth, Mozart's 35th, 40th and 41st, and various overtures, preludes and tone poems, all culled from the yellow label's archives.

Chšvez: String Quartets Nos. 1-3 (Urtext URT 109)
Rzewski: Four Pieces; Adams: Phrygian Gates (Stradivarius STV 33735)

To conclude, a couple of recordings of more contemporary music. The Cuarteto Latinoamericano, an authoritative exponent of music by composers from the Americas, presents a program of string quartets by Carlos Chšvez which were recently published through the efforts of the composer's daughter. On the Stradivarius label, the Italian pianist Emanuele Arciulu plays music by two Americans: John Adams and the composer-virtuoso Frederic Rzewski.

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