Classical CD Highlights: January

Classic Arts News   Classical CD Highlights: January
With his 250th birthday coming up on January 27, Mozart dominates this month's new releases and reissues. Here's a sample, plus some other noteworthy discs.

Mozart: Opera and Concert Arias (Virgin Classics 32631)
Mozart: Great Opera Moments I (Deutsche Grammophon B005733)
Mozart: Great Opera Moments II (Deutsche Grammophon B005734)
Mozart: CosÐ fan tutte (EMI 36789)
Complete Mozart Edition 4: Piano Concertos (Philips B0005689)
Mozart: Violin Sonatas (Deutsche Grammophon B0005736)

During his brief lifetime, Mozart achieved some his greatest fame as an opera composer. The up-and-coming Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca appears on her first recital disc for Virgin Classics, singing a program of Mozart opera and concert arias that includes both well-known numbers and rarities. Mozart's hometown orchestra, the Camerata Salzburg, backs her, with Louis Langr_e, the music director of New York's Mostly Mozart Festival, conducts. Deutsche Grammophon offers two discs of Mozart opera highlights with big-name stars, including Ren_e Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, and Plšcido Domingo. EMI offers a new incarnation of a classic recording of Mozart's beloved CosÐ fan tutte, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Nan Merriman in key roles and Herbert von Karajan at the helm of the Philharmonia Orchestra. The recording has long been considered one of Karajan's best from his pre-Berlin Philharmonic days.

Mozart poured some of his greatest inspiration into his keyboard works. As part of its complete Mozart Edition, Philips reaches into its archives and cobbles together a bargain-priced 12-CD set featuring all 27 piano concertos plus some odds and ends for keyboard and orchestra. The soloists are Ingrid Haebler, Alfred Brendel, Imogen Cooper, and Katia and Marielle Labeque, Seymon Bychkov, and Ton Koopman. Among the ensembles backing them up are the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Another DG reissue, at mid-price, features Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim in several of Mozart's Violin Sonatas.

Handel: Delirio (Virgin Classics 32624)
Mahler: Symphony No. 4; Berg: Seven Early Songs (Deutsche Grammophon B005759)
Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (Hanssler 93.124)
Schubert: Symphony No. 9 (EMI 39382)

Two of today's hottest singers are represented by a pair of new releases. Soprano Natalie Dessay, who has enjoyed a series of international successes in recent months, sings Handel arias on a new Virgin disc, with backing from conductor Emmanuelle HaÇm, a rising early-music star. More from Ren_e Fleming: the American soprano superstar can be heard in the final movement of Mahler's Fourth with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado in a critically acclaimed performance taped last year. Fleming also performs Berg's Seven Early Songs on the same disc. Speaking of Mahler, Michael Gielen, renowned for his interpretations of this composer's sprawling scores, tackles Deryck Cooke's completion of the Tenth Symphony on a new Hanssler disc. Simon Rattle, who has recently been exploring big 20th-century works with the Berlin Philharmonic, returns to the heart of the repertory with a recording of Schubert's Great C-major Symphony on EMI.

1955 Goldberg Variations: Birth of a Legend (Sony SK 74651)
Bach: Concertos (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901876)
Bach: Cello Suites (Virgin Classics 45650)

The year just ended marked the 50th anniversary of Glenn Gould's famous 1955 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Sony marks the occasion with a disc featuring the Goldbergs plus several outtakes and several Bach Sinfonias that Gould recorded during the Goldberg sessions but never released. The commemorative edition also includes a 165-page booklet featuring a Gould's annotations and several articles and essays, including one by Gould scholar Michael Stegemann. There's more Bach on a new Harmonia Mundi disc. The talented members of the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin, a period instrument ensemble, take turns as soloists in a collection of concertos featuring violin, harpsichord, and recorder. Truls Mêªrk's fine 2003 recording of Bach's sublime Cello Suites reappears in a mid-priced, two-disc set.

Haydn: Cello Concertos (Hanssler 98.477)
Dvoršk: Cello Concerto, Dumky Trio

A couple of other recordings this month might interest cello fans. The young German cellist Peter Bruns, who plays an instrument once owned by Pablo Casals, serves a soloist and conductor in Haydn's C-major and D-major concertos. Bruns also offers an unusual filler: a set of variations on a Haydn theme by the Siberian-born composer Edison Denisov. Dvoršk's evergreen Cello Concerto appears on a Harmonia Mundi release with Jean-Guihen Queyras and the composer's countrymen, the Prague Philharmonia and Jir‹ Belohlšvek. Queyras is also joined by violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov for Dvoršk's enchanting Dumky Trio.

Beethoven: The Piano Concertos (Decca B0005681)
Brahms: Piano Works (Decca B0005679)

Decca offers a tribute to the great pianist Radu Lupu. A four-CD set, part of the label's Radu Lupu Edition, includes performances of all five Beethoven Piano Concertos plus the Moonlight and Path_tique sonatas, as well as several other works. An all-Brahms disc features Lupu's performances of the early F-minor Piano Sonata and a number of late piano miniatures.

Diamond: Songs (Albany TROY 817)
Rautavaara: Symphony No. 1 (Ondine ODE 1064)
Feldman: String Quartet (Naxos 8.559190)
British Tuba Concertos (Naxos 8.557754)

Moving into the 20th century, the innovative Albany label offers a selection of rarely heard songs by the American composer David Diamond, who died last June. The very worthwhile music of the contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara is represented by a new Ondine disc, featuring the young Mikko Franck leading the First Symphony, the Adagio Celeste, and the Book of Visions. On Naxos, the Group for Contemporary Music performs a Morton Feldman string quartet. Feldman was known for long, intricate works that crawl ahead very quietly; this one lasts 78 minutes. The same label also offers an unusual collection of British tuba concertos. Vaughan Williams' somewhat well-known essay in this offbeat genre is coupled with works by Edward Gregson, Roger Steptoe, and John Golland.

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