Classical CD Highlights: September

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: September
This month's releases include discs marking a pair of anniversaries and a collection of Baroque arias sung by one of opera's biggest stars.

John Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls (Nonesuch 79816)
In time for the third anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Nonesuch Records has released the first recording of John Adams' haunting commemorative piece, On the Transmigration of Souls. This 25-minute work, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to mark the first anniversary of the attacks, layers orchestral instruments, live voices, and pre-recorded sounds to create a gut-wrenching evocation of the chaos, horror, and profound sadness that engulfed New York and the nation on that terrible day. Recorded live, the mid-priced disc features the New York Philharmonic, the New York Choral Artists, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with Lorin Maazel conducting.

Genesis Suite (Naxos 8.559442)
Vienna Choir Boys: A Jewish Celebration in Song (Naxos 8.559419)

September marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jewish settlers in North America. The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music series, distributed by Naxos, celebrates the occasion with a new reconstruction of the fascinating Genesis Suite. The suite, a pageant for orchestra, chorus, and narrators, is the work of seven composers, most of whom were part of the prominent community of European _migr_ musicians living in Los Angeles during World War II. Based on key biblical narratives, Genesis features movements by Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, Ernst Toch, Alexander Tansman, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Nathaniel Shilkret. It was performed just once, in 1945, before much of the music was lost in a fire. The Milken Archive, which has been releasing an invaluable trove of American Jewish music through Naxos, reconstructed the score from original manuscripts for this recording, which is conducted by Gerard Schwarz.

A second Milken Archive release this month, A Jewish Celebration in Song, features the world-famous Vienna Choir Boys‹singing in Hebrew! The disc includes works by two contemporary American choirmasters, Sholom Kalib and Abraham Kaplan, and serves as a prelude to the Vienna Boys' upcoming American tour, which begins in October and stretches through December.

Ren_e Fleming: Handel (Decca 289 475 547)
One of America's most beloved sopranos, Ren_e Fleming, joins the burgeoning Handel revival with a mid-September release on Decca featuring arias from, among other operas, Rinaldo, Samson, Orlando, Giulio Cesare, Agrippina, Rodelinda, and Serse‹ including the famous "Ombra mai fu." Fleming, the latest in a series of high-profile singers to tackle the Baroque master on disc this year, is accompanied by the period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and conductor Harry Bicket. Fleming's disc is warm-up for her appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in a new production of Rodelinda that opens in December.

Marc-Andr_ Hamelin: Ives and Barber Piano Sonatas (Hyperion CDA67469)
George Crumb Edition, Vol. 8 (Bridge 9155)

Fans of American music will find several worthwhile new releases this month. Canadian piano virtuoso Marc-Andre Hamelin, a champion of adventurous repertory, offers his second recording of Charles Ives' Concord Sonata on the British label Hyperion, just in time to feed the growing hunger for Ives' music spawned this year by commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the composer's death. Hamelin couples the Ives with a pillar of American piano music, Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata, a blistering work premiered by Vladimir Horowitz that has been gaining favor both on disc and on recital programs.

Bridge Records continues its critically acclaimed survey of the complete works of George Crumb. Volume 8 in the series features a new recording of Makrokosmos I and II, sets of piano pieces that require the performer to play both the keyboard and the inside of the instrument while also contributing whistles and other sung and spoken sounds. The recording, supervised by the composer, also includes "Otherworldy Resonances," a 2002 work for duo pianists.

Ivan Fischer: Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 (Channel Classics CD 21698)
Ian Bostridge and Leif Ove Andsnes: Winterreise (EMI CDC 57790)
Havard Gimse: Sibelius Piano Music, Vol. 5 (Naxos 8.555853)

Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra have migrated to the Channel Classics label, where they debut with a sparkling account of Rachmaninoff's sprawling Symphony No. 2. Tenor Ian Bostridge, who earlier this year offered a selection of Schubert lieder accompanied by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, teams up with Andsnes again for the composer's landmark song cycle Die Winterreise. On Naxos, pianist Havard Gimse continues his survey of Sibelius's piano music with a disc of little-known but delightful miniatures.

Chicago Symphony: Brahms Fourth Symphony (EMI 7243 5 62883 2 4)
Arthur Schnabel: Beethoven Piano Sonatas (EMI 7243 5 62881 2 6)
David Oistrakh: Prokofiev Violin Concertos (EMI 7243 5 62889 2 8)
Jacqueline DuPre: Elgar Cello Concerto (EMI 7243 5 62887 2)

On the historical reissue front, EMI continues to mine its archives for its Great Recordings of the Century series. This month the label serves up a stately Brahms Fourth Symphony with Carlo Maria Giulini and the Chicago Symphony, a selection of Beethoven Piano Sonatas in performances by inimitable Arthur Schnabel, the two Prokofiev violin concertos with David Oistrakh as soloist, and Jacqueline DuPre's immortal account of the Elgar Cello Concerto.

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