Classical CD Highlights: November

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: November
Decca issues a special tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti, the Tokyo String Quartet continues its Beethoven cycle, and several releases celebrate the music of William Bolcom.

Pavarotti Forever (Decca 289 475 9349)
Monteverdi: L'Orfeo (NaÇve OP30439)

Decca marks the passing of Luciano Pavarotti with a two-disc greatest hits package that features the opera megastar in popular arias, scared songs, and Neapolitan tunes. Among the 25 tracks are duets with Andrea Bocelli, Cecilia Bartoli and Frank Sinatra, who teams up with Pavarotti for his signature song, "My Way." At the same time that it releases Pavarotti Forever, Decca is also reissuing all 12 of the tenor's studio albums.

The work that began it all, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo — premiered in 1607, it's the oldest opera still performed regularly — appears in a special 400th anniversary album that includes two CDs and a limited-edition 172-page hardcover book. Furio Zanasi takes the title role; other singers include Monica Piccinini, Anna Simboli, Sara Mingardo, Sergio Foresti, Antonio Abete and Luca Dordolo. Monteverdi specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini conducts the Concerto Italiano.

Sibelius, Lindberg: Violin Concertos
(Sony Classical 1SK712936)
Chen/He: The Butterfly Lovers Concerto;
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
(Canary Classics CC04)
Dvoršk: Cello Concerto,
Symphonic Variations
(Channel Classics CCS SA 25807)

Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili's Sony debut disc contains violin concertos by two Finnish composers. The Sibelius was recorded live in Helsinki in May; Magnus Lindberg's concerto, written for Batiashvili, was recorded in the composer's presence. The work was hailed last year when it premiered at New York's Mostly Mozart Festival.

A release on Gil Shaham's own label showcases The Butterfly Lovers Concerto, a work by two contemporary Chinese composers, Gang Chen and Zhanhao He. The piece is based on a famous folk tale from Chinese opera. The violinist is accompanied, in this work and the Tchaikovsky Concerto, by Lan Shui and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Dvoršk's ever-popular Cello Concerto gets a new reading by cellist Pieter Wispelwey, conductor Ivšn Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The stirring Symphonic Variations fills out the Channel Classics disc.

Mahler: Symphony No. 5
(Deutsche Grammophon
289 477 6545)
Mahler: Adagio from Symphony No. 10;
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 14
(ECM New Series 000968002)

Conducting Wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel, the 26-year-old music director-designate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, leads the young musicians of Venezuela's Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in Mahler's Fifth Symphony on Deutsche Grammophon. Dudamel and his youth orchestra embark on a North American tour this month, with stops in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. Dudamel makes his New York Philharmonic debut in concerts on November 29 and 30 and December 1 and 4.

On an ECM New Series release, Gidon Kremer presents a pared-down version, for string ensemble, of the Adagio from Mahler's Tenth. Kremer also conducts his Kremerata Baltica in Shostakovich's penultimate symphony, No. 14. Yulia Korpacheva is the soprano soloist and Fedor Kuznetsov is the bass.

Beethoven: String Quartets, Op. 18 (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907436)
Beethoven: Late Quartets (Philips Originals 289 475 8685)
Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 9 (Hyperion CDA 67611)

The Tokyo String Quartet continues its Beethoven cycle with the master's first six essays in the genre, the Op. 18 set. The album, a two-disc set priced like a single disc, follows the Tokyo's acclaimed recording of the "Rasumovsky" Quartets.

Philips releases, at a budget price, the Quartetto Italiano's performances of the composer's late quartets. The three-CD set completes the reissue on Philips Originals of the Italiano's entire Beethoven cycle, considered one of the finer ones.

The London Haydn Quartet plays the Op. 9 quartets of guess-who on a new Hyperion release. The set, another two-for-one issue, marks the ensemble's label debut.

A work often played by string quartets, Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, is performed in its orchestral version by Jordi Savall and his Le Concert des Nations. The recording, made in the Spanish church that was the site of the work's first performance, includes biblical quotation in Latin interspersed between the movements.

Surprise: Cabaret Songs by Bolcom, Satie & Schoenberg
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 477 1326)
Bolcom: Complete Works for Cello (Naxos 8.559348)
"Michael Sheppard Plays Rodgers, Barber,
Crumb, Corigliano, Gershwin/Wild and Bolcom"
(Harmonia Mundi HMU 907475)

It's a big month for contemporary American composer William Bolcom. Three new releases feature works by the Grammy and Pulitzer winner. In her debut CD, the versatile 29-year-old Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman sings a collection of newly orchestrated songs by Bolcom plus works by Satie and Schoenberg's Brettl-Lieder. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor David Robinson accompany her.

Naxos's ever-expanding American Classics series adds its fifth Bolcom disc, this one containing all of the music featuring the cello. The works include the Cello Suite in C minor and the Cello Sonata. Norman Fischer — a former member of the Concord String Quartet, is the cellist, Jeanne Kierman plays piano, and Andrea Moore adds timpani.

Harmonia Mundi unveils three recordings by young American Piano Association fellowship winners, among them Michael Sheppard, who plays an assortment of works by his countrymen.

Hersh: The Vanishing Pavilions
(Musical Concepts/Vanguard Classics MC 124)
Rorem: Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto (Naxos 8.559315)
R‹zsa: Music for Violin and Piano (Naxos 8.570190)
R‹zsa: Violin Concerto, Sinfonia Concertante (Naxos 8.570350)
Glass: Book of Longing (Orange Mountain Music OMM0043)
Nancarrow: Quartets and Studies (Wergo WER 6696)

Bolcom is not the only contemporary American composer appearing on disc this month. Michael Hersh's enormous The Vanishing Pavilions — a 50-movement work for solo piano! — debuts on two Vanguard CDs. The piece, which Hersh premiered in Philadelphia a year ago, is based on fragments of poems by British poet and translator Christopher Middleton.

The irrepressible Ned Rorem, who turned 84 in October, is represented on a new disc from Naxos that features cellist Wen-Sinn Yang in the Cello Concerto and pianist Simon Mulligan in the Second Piano Concerto. Jos_ Serebrier conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Hollywood composer Mikl‹s R‹zsa, best known for such scores as Ben-Hur, wrote a fair amount of worthwhile concert music. Two releases on Naxos mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Philip Glass's own label offers the premiere of his Book of Longing, an extended song cycle based on the poetry and imagery of Leonard Cohen. The two-disc set includes a booklet with Cohen's artwork.

The eccentric Conlon Nancarrow, known mostly for his intricate and propulsive works for player piano, also wrote for conventional ensembles. The Arditti Quartet tackles some of his quartets and the composer's string arrangements of some of his player piano pieces on a new Wergo CD.

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Decca L'Oiseau Lyre 289 475 9098)

Finally, a noteworthy reissue. Decca's L'Oiseau-Lyre imprint, once famous for its extensive catalog of Baroque music, is back with reissues of some of its best-known discs, including Christopher Hogwood's rendition of Vivaldi's most famous set of violin concertos. Originally released in the early 1980s, the recording features Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music and a different soloist in each concerto: Christopher Hirons ("Spring"); John Holloway ("Summer"); Alison Bury ("Autumn"); and Catherine Mackintosh ("Winter").

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