Classical CD Highlights: May

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: May
Contemporary music takes center stage this month as works by Rorem, Berio, Glass, and Golijov make it onto disc for the first time. Plus, Mitsuko Uchida turns to Beethoven.

Rorem: Flute Concerto, Violin Concerto (Naxos 8.559278)
Sessions: String Quartet, String Quintet (Naxos 8.559261)
Berio: Sequenzas I-XIV (Naxos 8.557661-63)
Golijov: Ainadamar (Deutsche Grammophon B0006429)
Glass: Symphony No. 8 (Orange Mountain Music OMM0028)
Lieberson: Rilke Songs, The Six Realms, Horn Concerto (Bridge BCD 9178)

This month brings a large crop of interesting new and recent music, including several intriguing releases on the budget-priced Naxos label. One of them features the world premiere recording of Ned Rorem's Flute Concerto, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra's principal flutist, Jeffrey Khaner, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Jos_ Serebrier. The six-movement Flute Concerto, completed in May 2002, was the first in a series of Philadelphia Orchestra commissions for its principal players. Also on the CD is Rorem's Violin Concerto, performed by Philippe Quint, and the orchestral work Pilgrims. Roger Sessions was an important American composer and an influential teacher. His 1958 Quintet and his Canons (to the memory of Stravinsky) appear on Naxos in world premiere recordings, coupled with other chamber works in performances first released in 1993 on Koch.

Berio's Sequenzas are a series of pieces for voice or solo instrumentalists, written over a 34-year span, that push performers to the limit technically and artistically. This first set of the Sequenzas in a number of years includes Sequenza XIV for cello, heard here in its first recording. Osvaldo Golijov is one of the hottest composers on the scene these days. His opera Ainadamar, which premiered in 2003, now makes it way onto CD, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Robert Spano and a cast headed by Dawn Upshaw. These same forces will perform the opera at the Ojai Festival in California on June 9 and 11 at Chicago's Ravinia Festival on June 14. In still another world-premiere recording, Orange Mountain Music offers Philip Glass' Symphony No. 8, with Dennis Russell Davies leading the Bruckner Orchester Linz. After a series of symphonies featuring voices, the Eighth represents Glass' return to purely instrumental music. Bridge offers a disc with works by Peter Lieberson, including settings of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, sung by the composer's wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 30, 31, and 32 (Philips B0006379)
Debussy: Children's Corner Suite (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901893)
Grieg: Orchestral Music (Virgin Classics 3447222)
Wagner: Ring Excerpts (Deutsche Grammophon B0006417)
Halevy: La Juive (Opera D'Oro OPD 7022)

Mitsuko Uchida tends to focus on in-depth explorations of one or two major composers at a time. After delving into Mozart and Schubert in recent years, the pianist moves on to Beethoven with a recording of the monumental last three piano sonatas. Uchida's performances of these works in concert won strong reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Pianist Alain Planes performs Debussy in a new Harmonia Mundi release that includes the Children's Corner Suite, the Suite bergamasque, and other works.

Paavo J‹rvi won acclaim with his recording of Peer Gynt; he returns with another Grieg disc, this time featuring more of the Norwegian composer's orchestral music, including the Symphonic Dances and the charming Holberg Suite. J‹rvi conducts the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.

Opera fans can catch tenor Ben Heppner, considered one of today's top Wagnerians, in a disc of excerpts from the Ring. He is joined by the Dresden Staatskapelle under Peter Schneider. Opera D'Oro adds Halevy's La Juive (The Jewess) to its Grand Tier series of historic performances. This one features Richard Tucker who, as a Jew himself, had a special affinity for the piece. Tucker lobbied the Metropolitan Opera for years to revive the work. The company finally agreed but Tucker died before he could perform it in New York.

The Art of The Lindsays (ASV Resonance ASV 404)
The Genius of Pogorelich (Deutsche Grammophon B0006575)
Portrait: Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Deutsche Grammophon B0006398)
Portrait: Olga Borodina (Philips B0006399)
Christopher Parkening: Grace Like a River (EMI Classics ECL 56418)

After performing for 39 years—the last 20 with the same roster—Britain's Lindsay String Quartet, known simply as The Lindsays, announced that it would retire last year after a farewell tour. ASV, the quartet's label, looks back at The Lindsays' distinguished recording career with a five-CD set that includes major quartets by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Dvoršk, Borodin, Janšcek, Bart‹k, and Tippett. Several other major artists get the retrospective treatment this month. Deutsche Grammophon offers Ivo Pogorelich in both Chopin piano concertos as well as solo works by Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Scarlatti, Ravel, and Tchaikovsky. The "yellow label" also presents a looks back at performances by baritone Dmitri Hvrostovsky while Philips offers a collection of highlights by mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina.

Grace Like a River, the autobiography of guitarist Christopher Parkening, is due out later this year. To celebrate, EMI, which has been Parkening's label for 25 years, is releasing a companion album with a wide-ranging collection of music from Parkening's past recordings. The two-disc set features music that has had a special place in Parkening's repertoire throughout his career, including works by Bach and several popular Spanish favorites.

Bart‹k: Piano works (EMI Classics ECL 50869)
Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 29-31, 33, 34, 38 & 39 (EMI Classics ECL 50917)
Rossini: Overtures (EMI Classics ECL 50889)
Haydn: Die Sch‹pfung (EMI Classics ECL 50842)

Finally, bargain-hunters or collectors looking to build a basic library may want to check out EMI's Gemini series of budget-priced two-disc sets featuring standard works. The label adds 20 titles to the series this month, bringing the total to 115. Each digitally remastered set features performers from EMI's deep back catalog, including Itzhak Perlman, Michel B_roff, Andrei Gavrilov, James Conlon, Daniel Barenboim, Neville Marriner, Carlo Maria Giulini, Thomas Beecham, and Mariss Jansons.

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