Classical CD Highlights: December

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: December
A new Nutcracker Suite and a Christmas-themed choral work by Christopher Rouse usher in the holiday season, while new box sets tempt Maria Callas and Glenn Gould fanatics.

Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite; Prokofiev; Dukas (EMI 7541814)
Rouse: Karolju; Lutoslawski; Rodrigo (RCA Red Seal 11561)
Mahler: Symphony No. 3 (RCA Red Seal 12918)

It wouldn't be the holidays without The Nutcracker. On a new EMI release, Yuri Temirkanov conducts the popular suite from Tchaikovsky's ballet along with two other fantasy-inspired works: Prokofiev's Lieutenent Kij_ Suite and Dukas The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Russia's St. Petersburg Philharmonic does the playing.

Conductor David Zinman leads another holiday release, this one featuring the world premiere recording of American Christopher Rouse's Karolju, a grand work inspired by centuries of Christmas carols and by Orff's Carmina Burana. Also on the disc are two other Christmas works by 20th-century masters: Lutoslawski's Polish Christmas Carols and Rodrigo's Retablo de Navidad. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorus perform.

Also new from Zinman, but having nothing to do with Christmas, is a recording of Mahler's Third Symphony, the latest installment in the conductor's Mahler cycle with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. Birgit Remmert is the contralto soloist.

Callas: Complete Studio Recordings
(EMI 5062432)
"Glenn Gould: The Young Maverick"
(CBC PSCD20315)
"Glenn Gould: The Radio Artist"
(CBC PSCD20306)

Two controversial artists are featured in special retrospectives. For the Maria Callas fan who can't get enough of the legendary diva, EMI re-issues all of the soprano's studio recordings in a special limited edition. Packaged for collectors in a wooden box, the set contains 70(!) CDs, art prints, a guidebook, photos of Callas, documents that detail her tumultuous career, extensive notes, and a CD-ROM with all of the opera libretti.

The unorthodox career of Glenn Gould, who would have been 75 this year (and whose untimely death came 25 years ago) can be traced through a pair of box sets from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "Glenn Gould: The Young Maverick" features the pianist in early recordings of composers who became central to his repertory. The six-CD set contains two discs of Bach, three of Beethoven, and one of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. The second set, a five-disc box called "Glenn Gould: The Radio Artist," contains the radio documentaries that Gould produced for the CBC. The documentaries, which Gould described as "oral tone poems," include portraits of Leopold Stokowski and Pablo Casals.

"Laurent Korcia: Doubles Jeux" (NaÇve V5066)
"Jan Vogler: My Tunes" (Sony Classical 705595)
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2; Ravel: Piano Concerto in G
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 4776 5936)

A couple of young artists mix genres to produce albums featuring very personal selections of music. In Doubles Jeux, a concert recording made in Paris in 2006, violinist Laurent Korcia, accompanied by an assortment of musicians, runs the gamut from Debussy (the Violin Sonata) to Bart‹k (four of the Duos for Two Violins) to Wieniawski to Massenet to Django Reinhardt and St_phane Grappelli.

Cellist Jan Vogler veers between happiness and melancholy reflection in his disc, "My Tunes." He performs works for cello and orchestra (some of them arranged) by Elgar, Bloch, Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Bach, Henry Mancini, and others. Accompanying is the Dresdner Kapellsolisten and Helmut Branny.

Another young artist sticks with a more traditional program. Pianist Yundi Li plays Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 and Ravel's G major Concerto in a new Deutsche Grammophon release. He's backed by the Berlin Philharmonic and Seiji Ozawa.

Bach: Cantatas BWV 82a, 199 (Channel Classics CCS SA 23807)
Bach: Tombeau de Sa Majest_ la Reine de Pologne (Mirare MIR 030)
Bach: Cantatas BWV 47, 59, 152
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 4776 5912)

Three new releases feature Bach cantatas. The sacred cantatas BWV 82a (Ich habe genug) and BWV 199 (Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut) are performed by the period-instrument ensemble Florilegium under its artistic director, Ashley Solomon, with soprano Johanette Zomer. Solomon is also the flute soloist in a performance of the Orchestra Suite No. 2, which rounds out the disc.

A disc titled "Ode of Mourning for the Queen of Poland" — Bach's own inscription on his Cantata BWV 198 — includes that work plus the Mass, BWV 234. Phillippe Pierlot leads vocal soloists plus his ensemble, the Ricercar Consort, which specializes in German Baroque music.

Baritone Thomas Quasthoff and soprano Dorothea Röschmann sing three "dialogue" conatatas — BWV 47, 59, and 152 — on a Deutsche Grammophon release. Rainer Kussmaul leads the Berlin Baroque Soloists.

Respighi: Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions,
Rossiniana (Naxos 8.557711)
Busoni: Complete Music for Two Pianos (EMI 7498238)
Vivaldi: Concerti for Strings (Dorian XCD 90255)

Ottorino Respighi is most famous for his "Roman trilogy" — The Pines and Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals. A new Naxos disc features three of his less well-known orchestral works: Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions and Rossiniana. JoAnn Falletta leads the Buffalo Philharmonic.

EMI offers a tour de force in the form of Busoni's complete music for two pianos. The centerpiece of the disc is a performance of the towering Fantasia Contrappuntistica. Also included are transcriptions of Mozart (the Magic Flute Overture and other works), Bach, and Busoni's own music in other genres. Daniell Revenaugh and Lawrence Leighton Smith perform.

A more familiar Italian composer, Vivaldi, can be heard on a new disc containing favorite string concertos from the collection L'estro armonico alongside some lesser-known works. Bernard Labadie leads the Québécois ensemble Les Violons du Roy.

Bart‹k: Bluebeard's Castle (Naxos 8.660928)
Bloch: Piano Quintets (Hyperion CDA 67638)

Bart‹k's one-act operatic masterpiece, Bluebeard's Castle, is available in a new issue from the budget label Naxos. Bass Gustšv Belšcek is Bluebeard, mezzo-soprano Andrea Melšth is his wife Judith, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is led by Marin Alsop.

Bloch's two Piano Quintet's are the main works on a new Hyperion release featuring the Goldner Quartet and pianist Piers Lane. The CD also contains several shorter works for strings.

Another Hyperion release, a two-disc set, surveys piano music by Michael Tippett. Stephen Osbourne plays the four Piano Sonatas, the Piano Concerto, and the Fantasia on a Theme of Handel. Osbourne is joined in the concerto and the fantasy by the BBC Scottish Symphony under Martyn Brabbins.

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