Classical CD Highlights: September

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: September
Several labels head back to basics with Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, while two opera superstars team up for an album of duets.

Bach: Two- and Three-Part
Inventions, Partita
(Decca 289 475 9081)
Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier
(Hyperion CDS 44291)

While school kids get back to the three Rs this month, the record companies are busying themselves with the three Bs. A number of significant September releases feature music by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

Young violinist Janine Jansen, fresh off an acclaimed recording of the Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos, plays Bach on a new Decca release. It's not the usual Bach for a violinist: she's joined by violist Maxim Rysanov for a transcription of the 15 Two-Part Inventions and by Rysanov and cellist Torleif Thed_en for the 15 Three-Part Inventions. She goes solo for the Partita No. 2 in D minor, which includes the famous Chaconne. The release of this CD coincides with Jansen's October 3 debut with the New York Philharmonic.

Pianist Angela Hewitt is in the midst of a tour that will bring her interpretation of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier to audiences in 25 countries. To mark the occasion, Hyperion has reissued Hewitt's recording of "The 48" in a boxed set containing four CDs at mid-price.

Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies
(Hyperion CDS 44301)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
(Deutsche Grammophon
289 477 7132)
Beethoven: Violin Concerto,
"Kreutzer" Sonata
(Deutsche Grammophon
289 477 6596)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 5
(ECM New Series 289 4766 1863)

Also on Hyperion, Charles Mackerras leads performances of all nine Beethoven symphonies, recorded live at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra plays the first eight symphonies; the Philharmonia Orchestra takes over for the Ninth. The vocal soloists are Janice Watson, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Stuart Skelton and Detlef Roth.

Another Ninth Symphony comes from the Cleveland Orchestra and its music director, Franz Welser-M‹st on Deutsche Grammophon. Recorded in January in Severance Hall, the performance features soloists Measha Brueggergosman, Kelley O'Connor, Frank Lopardo and Ren_ Pape.

Also from DG comes Vadim Repin's first recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, part of an all-star, all-Beethoven disc. The Vienna Philharmonic accompanies Repin and Riccardo Muti conducts. Filling out the disc is a performance of the "Kreutzer" Sonata, with Repin joined by Martha Argerich.

The great Andršs Schiff's journey through the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas reaches a fifth installment. The two discs from ECM contain the three Op. 31 sonatas — including the "Tempest," No. 2 in the set — and the "Waldstein" Sonata. The "Andante favori" rounds out the disc.

Brahms: Symphony No. 1, Haydn Variations
(PentaTone Classics PTC 5186307)
Brahms: Symphony No. 4, Hungarian Dances (Naxos 8.570233)
Brahms: Piano Variations (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907392)
Brahms: Liebeslieder Walzer (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901945)

The Dutch label PentaTone brings us the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's first recording since 2001, a performance of Brahms's First Symphony and the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn. Marek Janowski, who holds the orchestra's endowed guest conductor chair, conducts. The CD is the first release in a projected three-disc Brahms cycle.

Meanwhile, Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic complete their Brahms symphony cycle on Naxos with the Fourth. Orchestrations of seven Hungarian Dances fill out the disc.

Two releases from Harmonia Mundi offer Brahms's keyboard works. Olga Kern plays three sets of piano variations — the Op. 21 Variations on a Hungarian Folksong; the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel; Op. 24; and the two books of Paganini Variations, Op. 35.

Brahms's two sets of charming "Love Song" Waltzes are played by the piano duet of Christoph Berner and Camillo Radicke; the vocal parts are sung by Marlis Petersen, Stella Doufexis, Werner G‹ra and Konrad Jarnot.

Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villaz‹n: Duets
(Deutsche Grammophon 289 4776 6636)

Two of opera's brightest and best-looking stars join forces for a new album of duets on DG. The disc contains selections from some of the best-known operas, including La Bohme and Rom_o et Juliette. Its release comes as Netrebko prepares to sing Juliette at the Metropolitan Opera in September, October and December; Villaz‹n is scheduled to join her for the December performances.

Corigliano: Red Violin Concerto, Violin Sonata
(Sony Classical 1SK688060)
Rorem: Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto (Naxos 8.559315)
Stockhausen: Stimmung (Harmonia Mundi HMU 807408)
Wolf-Ferrari: Complete Wind Concertos (CPO 777157)

From the contemporary music world come several interesting releases. Star violinist Joshua Bell and American composer John Corigliano, who teamed up to work on the music for the movie The Red Violin, have collaborated again on a concerto extracted from that film score. Bell is the soloist on a Sony Classical recording of the concerto, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Alsop, its incoming music director. The disc also includes a performance of Corigliano's early Violin Sonata, a work composed for his father, who was the New York Philharmonic's longtime concertmaster. Pianist Jeremy Denk accompanies Bell in the Sonata.

Two large-scale works by another American, Ned Rorem, appear in world premiere recordings on a disc from Naxos. The Piano Concerto No. 2, from 1951, is played by Simon Mulligan; Wen-Sinn Yang is the soloist is the soloist in the Cello Concerto, which dates from 2002. Both soloists are backed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Jos_ Serebrier.

Karlheinz Stockhausen experimented with new compositional techniques and deconstructed the speech and song in his 1968 choral work, Stimmung. Despite its avant-garde gestation, the work is considered one of the composer's most accessible scores. It appears on a Harmonia Mundi release in a new version prepared by renowned vocal conductor Paul Hillier, who first encountered the work when he sang it as part of an ensemble led by the composer. Hillier leads his Theatre of Voices in this performance.

From off the beaten path comes a CPO disc of wind concertos by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. Though best-known as a composer of comic operas — especially the early 20th century one-act The Secret of Susannah (the big secret is that she smokes!) — Wolf-Ferrari did write a good bit of instrumental music. His Idillio-Concertino for Oboe and Small Orchestra, which appears on this CD, occasionally finds its way onto concert programs. The disc also includes the Suite-Concertino for Bassoon and Small Orchestra and the Concertino for English Horn, Strings, and Two Horns. The "small orchestra" is the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto and it's led by Zsolt Hamar.

Byrd: Second Service, Consort Anthems
(Harmonia Mundi HMU 907440)
Ludi Musici: The Spirit of the Dance, 1450-1650 (Alia Vox AV 9853)

Finally, two new issues of interest to early-music fans. The Magdalen College Choir and the ensemble Fretwork can be heard in their second collaboration, an exploration of Anglican liturgical music by William Byrd. Bill Ives directs. And a new Alia Vox compilation contains dance tracks from several best-selling discs by viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall, one of early music's biggest stars.

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