Classical CD Highlights: September | Playbill

Classic Arts News Classical CD Highlights: September
Simon Rattle gives Pluto one last hurrah, a Wunderkind shines in his first major-label release and the Mozart year continues with a spate of opera recordings.

Holst: The Planets
(EMI Classics 3696902)
Salvatore Licitra — Forbidden Love
(Sony Classical 678852)

The International Astronomical Union obviously forgot to consult with Simon Rattle when it voted to strip Pluto of its status as a planet. Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic included Colin Matthews's music for the erstwhile ninth member of the solar system in their new disc featuring Holst's The Planets (which was written before Pluto's discovery). In addition to the iconic orchestral suite and Matthews's Pluto, the CD also contains contemporary, outer-space-inspired works — collectively referred to on the cover as Asteroids — by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Brett Dean, Matthias Pintscher and Kaija Saariaho.

Released amid a deluge of "fourth tenor" hype, Salvatore Licitra's first aria collection four years ago proved to be the work of a talented but unfinished artist. Licitra offers more artistry and less shouting on his new album, a disc of romantic Italian arias about — what else? — love and betrayal. Forbidden Love includes selections from Pagliacci, Cavelleria rusticana, Andrea Ch_nier, Mefistofele, Otello, Don Carlo, Luisa Miller and other operas.

Greenberg: Symphony No. 5,
String Quintet
(Sony Classical 81804)
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2
(Hyperion CDA 67550)
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius
(LSO Live LSO 0083)
Elgar: "Enigma" Variations,
Piano Works
(Naxos 8.570166)
Arnold: Symphony No. 6,
Orchestral Works
(London Philharmonic LPO-0013)

Composer Jay Greenberg may only be 14 years old, but he can already count some important musicians as admirers. Among them is the conductor Jos_ Serebrier, who leads the London Symphony Orchestra in Greenberg's Symphony No. 5. The boy wonder, who has already been profiled on 60 Minutes and in several publications, composes in an accessible style — think of it as very late Romantic. And while he is still seeing his own voice, his music is well-crafted and imaginatively scored. Greenberg's output to date — symphonies, orchestral works, chamber music and solo compositions — has impressed not only Serebrier but also his teachers at Juilliard, several notable critics and the Juilliard String Quartet, which performs his Quintet on this CD.

Speaking of Romantics, Marc-Andr_ Hamelin, known for resurrecting neglected 19th-century virtuoso showpieces, takes a successful plunge into the mainstream with a stirring account of Brahms's great Second Concerto. Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony accompany him. And Elgar is featured in a pair of new recordings. Colin Davis leads the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the epic oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, with vocal soloists Anne Sofie von Otter, David Randall and Alastair Miles. The composer's ever-popular "Enigma" Variations is performed in the composer's own piano transcription on a Naxos CD that also includes other Elgar keyboard music. Ashley Wass is the pianist.

Another English composer, Malcolm Arnold, is the subject of a survey by the London Philharmonic, led by Vernon Handley. Arnold was the orchestra's principal trumpet player until 1953, when he left to pursue composition. This CD includes works that the prolific composer dedicated to the LPO and its players.

Mozart: La clemenza di Tito (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901923)
Mozart: CosÐ fan tutte (Sony Classical 87761)
Mozart: Don Giovanni (Sony Classical 87758)
Mozart: Die Zauberfl‹te (Sony Classical 87760)
Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro (Sony Classical 87759)

The tributes to another prodigy continue unabated this month. Mozart's maligned final opera, La clemenza di Tito, gets loving treatment in a recording that is already racking up strong reviews. Conductor Ren_ Jacobs performs Mozart's opera seria in its entirety, including the often-truncated recitatives. His cast includes Sunhae Im, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Bernarda Fink and Mark Padmore.

There are some fine performances and big-name stars in a quartet of Sony opera reissues, timed for the ongoing Mozart bicentennial celebration. The label's budget-priced Masterworks Opera series adds CosÐ fan tutte with Leontyne Price, Tatiana Troyanos, Sherill Milnes and Erich Leinsdorf; Don Giovanni with Ruggero Raimondi, Jos_ van Dam, Kiri Te Kanawa, Teresa Berganza and Lorin Maazel; The Magic Flute with Ileana Cotrubas, van Dam and James Levine; and The Marriage of Figaro with Lucio Gallo, Marie McLaughlin, Karita Mattila and Zubin Mehta. The remastered SACD-CD hybrid sets do not include librettos, but those are available for download.

Verdi: La traviata (RCA Living Stereo 82623)
Puccini: Turandot (RCA Living Stereo 82624)

Sony Classical's sister label, RCA Victor, adds to its own acclaimed reissues series, Living Stereo. Four operatic warhorses join the lineup, among them Verdi's La traviata with Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill; and Puccini's Turandot with Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Bjoerling, Renata Tebaldi and Giorgio Tozzi.

Harbison: Chamber Music (Naxos 8.559188)
Adams: Violin Concerto; Corigliano: Red Violin Chaconne (Naxos 8.559288)

Naxos offers another chance to hear the wonderful mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who died tragically young in July. On a disc of chamber works by the American composer John Harbison, she sings North and South: Six Poems of Elizabeth Bishop in a performance recorded live in Chicago in 2004.

Naxos also offers an intriguing survey of American violin music performed by ChloêŠ Hanslip with conductor Leonard Slatkin and the Royal Philharmonic. The major work on the disc is John Adams's demanding Violin Concerto. Also featured are John Corigliano's Chaconne from his score for the film The Red Violin and works by Georges Enescu and Franz Waxman.

Schumann: Piano Quintet; String Quartets (Doremi DHR 5707)

Finally, fans of historical recordings may be interested in a 2-CD set of Schumann chamber works performed by the Juilliard Quartet. The recordings, made at the Library of Congress in the 1960s, include Leonard Bernstein's only appearance with the quartet as a chamber pianist.

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