Classical CD Highlights: October

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: October
This month features a feast of Handel, double helpings of Haydn, Vivaldi and Bruckner, and a reappraisal of a favorite Mozart opera.

Handel: Messiah (LSO Live LSO 0607)
Handel: Alexander's Feast (Dorian DSL 20604)
Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
(Harmonia Mundi HMU 907431)
Schubert: Sonatas for Violin and Piano
(Harmonia Mundi HMU 907445)

This month, audiences in New York and Chicago can catch Colin Davis leading the London Symphony Orchestra as part of tour marking his 80th birthday, which fell on September 25. You can also catch Davis leading the LSO on the latest release from the orchestra's own lable — a two-disc set containing Handel's ever-popular Messiah. Recorded live in 2006, the performances features soprano Susan Gritton, contralto Sara Mingardo, tenor Mark Padmore and bass Alastair Miles.

The resurrected Dorian label has more Handel: Daniel Abraham leads the Maryland-based Bach Sinfonia and the Handel Choir of Baltimore in Alexander's Feast. (Dorian is billing the two-CD set as the first recording of this work by an American period-instrument ensemble.) The album is filed out by a performance of the Bach aria "Alles mit Gott," which was discovered in 2005.

Speaking of Bach, harpsichordist Richard Egarr makes his way through the first volume of the 48 preludes and fugues that make up The Well-Tempered Clavier. Egarr uses a reproduction of a 1638 instrument, tuned according to a recently rediscovered temperament that some researchers believe was Bach's own.

Egarr also appears on another new recording, serving as fortepianist alongside Violinist Andrew Manze in performances of Schubert's sonatas for violin and piano.

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 5
(Decca 28947587644)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 26
(Naxos 8.570230)
Unheard Mozart (Divine Art DDA 25051)

Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays two piano concertos by Saint-Saëns — the Second and the Fifth — plus Franck's Symphonic Variations on a new CD from Decca. L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and conductor Charles Dutoit accompany him.

Two other piano discs this month present some unusual repertory. Volume 26 of Naxos's survey of Liszt's keyboard works includes his Dante Symphony in the composer's own two-piano arrangement. On a release from England's Divine Art label, Anthony Goldstone performs his own realizations of nine incomplete works by Mozart, including a pair of sonatas.

Mozart: Don Giovanni (Harmonia Mundi HMC 801964)
Entre Nous: Celebrating Offenbach (Opera Rara ORR243)
Simon Keenlyside: Tales of Opera (Sony Classical 13067)

After recording acclaimed versions of La clemenza di Tito, Le nozze di Figaro, and CosÐ fan tutte, celebrated early music conductor Ren_ Jacobs turns his attention to Don Giovanni, presenting Mozart's and Da Ponte's antihero not as a scoundrel but as young rebel and taboo-breaker. The recording was made shortly after a run of performances at the 2006 Innsbruck Festival. The cast includes Johannes Weisser as Don Giovanni, Lorenzo Regazzo as Leporello, Alexandrina Pendatchanska as Donna Elvira, Olga Paschnyk as Donna Anna, Kenneth Tarver as Don Ottavio, Sunhae Im as Zerlina, Nikolay Borchev as Masetto and Alessandro Guerzoni as the Commendatore. Jacobs conducts the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

Moving from Mozart to the composer once called "the Mozart of the Champ-Elys_es," Opera Rara offers a two-disc set of highlights from some of Jacques Offenbach's more obscure operas. The collection includes selections from Genevive de Brabant, Vert-Vert, and Le Roi Carotte (yes, that's King Carrot). Singers include Jennifer Larmore, Yvonne Kenny, Laura Claycomb and Mark Wilde. David Parry conducts the London Philharmonic.

The British baritone Simon Keenlyside chooses sings a selection of famous and obscure arias in his debut solo recording, titled Tales of Opera. The famous selections include excerpts from The Barber of Seville, Don Carlo, Pagliacci, and Tannh‹user. The not-so-famous ones come from Thomas's Hamlet, Cilea's L'Arlesiana and Massenet's H_rodiade. Ulf Schirmer conducts the Munich Radio Orchestra.

Haydn: String Quartets (Channel Classics CCS SA 25907)
Haydn: Piano Trios (Dorian DOR 90164)

The Amsterdam String Quartet, a period-instrument instrument ensemble focusing on works from the Golden Age of quartet-writing — roughly from the mid-1700s to the mid-1880s — makes its debut on the Dutch label Channel Classics with an all-Haydn CD. The disc includes some of the composer's finest works in the genre: Op. 20, No. 3; Op. 74, No. 1; and Op. 76, No. 1.

Dorian reissues several back-catalog items, among them a collection of four Haydn Piano Trios — Hob. XV:12, 25, 27, and 28 — performed by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.

Vivaldi: Concerti per Violino II (Naïve OP 30427)
Vivaldi: Double Concertos (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901975)
An Italian Sojourn (Cedille CDR 90000 099)

The newest installment in Naïve's ongoing Vivaldi Edition is a volume of six violin concertos played by Anton Steck; the ensemble Modo Antiqua, under Federico Maria Sardelli, serves as the backup band. The Akademie f‹r Alte Musik Berlin also offers Vivaldi on a disc featuring concerti grossi and concertos for one or two solo instruments, among them a violin concerto from L'estro armonico.

On Cedille Records, the period-instrument ensemble Trio Settecento (violinist Rachel Barton Pine, cellist John Mark Rozendaal and harpsichordist David Schrader) plays Baroque works from Italy, written by Castello, Stradella, Marini, Locatelli, Corelli, Tartini, Handel and Veracini. The disc is the first in a planned series that will take the trio on "journeys" through Germany, France and Britain.

Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (RCO Live RCO 07003)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 (CSO Resound CSOR 901704)
Bruckner: Mass in E minor, Motets (Hyperion CDA 67629)

Last November, Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra held a gala concert to mark the 50th anniversary of Bernard Haitink's debut with the ensemble. The concert featured the performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 4 that is now available on the orchestra's RCO Live label. Christine Sch‹fer is the soprano soloist in the fourth movement.

The Chicago Symphony's second release on its own label also features Haitink, last year named the CSO's principal conductor, this time conducing Bruckner's Seventh. He recorded the symphony with the orchestra in live performances.

On Hyperion, Stephen Layton leads performances of Bruckner's motets for unaccompanied choir and his monumental E minor Mass.

Martinu: The Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol. 1
(Hyperion CDA 67671)
Bloch: Violin Concerto, Baal Shem, Suite hebraïque
(Naxos 8.570531)

Finally, music by a pair of 20th-century composers. Conductor Christopher Hogwood's debut recording on Hyperion is the first in a four-volume survey of Bohuslav Martinu's complete works for violin and orchestra. The disc includes the Concerto for Flute, Violin and Chamber Orchestra; the Duo Concertante for Two Violins and Orchestra; and the Concerto in D for Two Violins and Orchestra. The violinists are Bohuslav Matousek, R_gis Paquier, and Jennifer Koh; Janne Thomson is the flute soloist; Hogwood leads the Czech Philharmonic.

Ernest Bloch's neglected Violin Concerto, a handsome and melodic work, gets a new performance from Zina Schiff and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under José Serebrier. Two Jewish-inspired Bloch works, Baal Shem and the Suite hebraïque, round out the disc.

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