Classical CD Highlights: November

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: November
Just months after its discovery, a Bach aria arrives on CD; Schubert's hundreds of songs are released in one very large box.

Bach: Alles Mit Gott; Arias and Chorus from Cantatas (Soli Deo Gloria SDG 114)
Arias for Senesino: Andreas Scholl (Decca B0005300)

This month brings two major Baroque releases. John Eliot Gardiner presents the world premiere recording of a Bach aria discovered in May. The piece, Alles mit Gott (BWV 1127), for soprano and strings, was composed in 1713 for the birthday of the duke of Saxony and was essentially forgotten for almost three centuries. It's the first authentic Bach vocal work to discovered since 1935. In this release, on Gardiner's own Soli Deo Gloria label, soprano Ellen Manahan Thomas sings, accompanied by Gardiner leading members of the English Baroque Soloists. Filling out the disc are extracts from seven Bach cantatas.

Castrati were the superstars of the 17th and 18th centuries, known for their dazzling, powerful voices. We will never—let's hope—know exactly what castrati sounded like, but the emergence of a crop of big-name countertenors in recent years has sparked renewed interest in the music written for these remarkable singers. Among the greatest of the castrati was the singer known as Senesino, who inspired Handel to write an extraordinary array of operatic roles, including Giulio Cesare. On a new Decca CD, star countertenor Andreas Scholl sings a selection of Handel arias as works by Albinoni, Scarlatti, and others that were composed for Senesino. Scholl is accompanied by the Accademia Bizantina under the direction of Ottavio Dantone.

Beethoven: Violin Concerto, Romances (EMI 3 36403 2)
Beethoven: "Rasumovsky" Quartets (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907423)
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4 (Satirino SR 051)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Volume 1 (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901902)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 16-26 (Decca B0005299)
Mozart: Complete Piano Sonatas (NaÇve E 8905)

Beethoven lovers have an abundance of new discs to choose from. Two Russian titans, virtuoso Maxim Vengerov and the man he considers his mentor, conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, join forces in a new recording of Beethoven's magnificent Violin Concerto. The CD, Vengerov's first release since signing a seven-year recording deal with EMI, also includes the composer's two Romances for Violin and Orchestra. The Tokyo String Quartet, now with a revamped lineup, revisits three of Beethoven's great middle quartets—the Op. 59 set commissioned by Count Razumovsky—in a two-disc set on Harmonia Mundi.

Pianist Barry Douglas has devoted an increasing amount of time lately to conducting the Camerata Ireland, a chamber orchestra he founded in 1999. In a new release, he appears with the orchestra as both pianist and conductor in Beethoven's Second and Fourth concertos. This is the first disc in a projected cycle of all five Beethoven piano concertos. Acclaimed British pianist Paul Lewis takes on Beethoven's tempestuous middle sonatas in the first volume of a complete cycle on Harmonia Mundi. Korean pianist Kun-Woo Paik also starts in the middle, performing Beethoven's Sonatas 16 through 26 on Volume I of what is expected to be a three-volume set of all 32 sonatas. This Decca disc is the first American release for Paik, who has drawn praise for his recordings in Europe. Speaking of Sonata cycles, Paul Badura-Skoda's pioneering period-instrument Mozart cycle is now available in a specially priced six-disc set from NaÇve.

Britten: Orchestral Song Cycles (EMI 5 58049 2)
Tippett: Piano Sonatas 1-3 (Naxos 8.557611)

English tenor Ian Bostridge and the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle performed Britten's three orchestral song cycles—Les Illuminations, Nocturne, and the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings—at this year's Salzburg Easter Festival to critical acclaim. A short time later, they recorded these sublime works for EMI. Bostridge should be a natural in this music; Britten wrote these cycles for his lover, Peter Pears, and Bostridge—who considers himself a Britten specialist—has the same kind of nimble, reedy voice that Pears had. A new Naxos disc highlights works by another 20th-century Brit, Michael Tippett. This latest disc to emerge in Tippett's centennial year features the accomplished pianist Peter Donohoe performing three sonatas spanning 40 years and a range of compositional styles.

Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasilieras (Naxos 8.557460-62)
Gould: Fall River Legend (Naxos 8.559242)
Bernstein: Serenade, Facsimile, Divertimento (Naxos 8559245)

Naxos also has three new releases of music from this side of the Atlantic, including two recordings by the Nashville Symphony under the late Kenneth Schermerhorn, who brought the orchestra to new prominence before his death earlier this year. In a two CD-set, Schermerhorn and the NSO play the complete Bachianas Brasilieras, Villa-Lobos's sprawling homage to Bach. Soprano Rosana Lamosa is the soloist in the most famous work in the set, No. 5. Morton Gould's Fall River Legend, which tells the story of the Lizzie Borden murders, is one of the composer's best-known works. It's usually heard as a concert suite, but here it's presented in its entirety, with a narrator relating the grisly tale. Gould's rarely played Jekyll and Hyde Variations round out the disc. Marin Alsop directs three orchestral works by her mentor, Leonard Bernstein, including the Serenade After Plato's Symposium, a quasi-violin concerto. Philippe Quint is the soloist.

Amy Beach: Songs (Bridge BCD 9182)
Schubert: Complete Songs (Hyperion CDS 44201)

Finally, a couple of intriguing releases for fans of art songs. The enterprising Bridge label presents a selection of songs by Amy Marcy Cheney Beach, whose finely crafted Romantic music has been undergoing a revival. And Hyperion has compiled its monumental complete Schubert lieder edition into one mid-priced set containing 40 discs, 812 tracks, and a 448-page book with notes and texts. The performers include Felicity Lott, Janet Baker, Elly Ameling, Arlene Auger, Thomas Hampson, Margaret Price, Lucia Popp, Peter Schreier, Edith Mathis, and many, many others.

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