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Best Classical Releases of 2012


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Initial post: Jul 3, 2012 12:25:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 12:39:57 PM PDT
WH says:
We've reached the halfway point in the year and so it seems a good moment to reflect on what have been the best releases of the year so far. Here's my list of the best 15 I've gathered--and it reflects my eclectic tastes. I look forward to seeing what others post (given the vast number of releases in CM):

1. James Ehnes / Andrew Armstrong, Bartok: Works for Violin and Piano: Sonatas and Rhapsodies (Chandos) Works for Violin & Piano 1
2. Marc-André Hamelin, Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3 (Hyperion) Haydn: Piano Sonatas Vol.3
3. Edward Gardner / BBC Symphony, Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works 2 [Piano Concerto, Symphony no. 4] (Chandos) Orchestral Works 2
4. Michael Tilson Thomas & SF Orchestra, John Adams: Harmonielehre (SFS) Adams: Harmonielehre - Short Ride in a Fast Machine
5. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1 (Chandos) Piano Sonatas 1
6. Alban Gerhardt / Cecile Licad, Fauré: Cello Sonatas (Hyperion) Faure: Cello Sonatas
7. John Storgård / Helsinki Philharmonic / Colin Currie / Truls Mørk, Rautavaara: Modificata / Towards the Horizon (Ondine) Rautavaara: Modificata - Incantations - Towards the Horizon
8. Jeremy Denk, Jeremy Denk Plays Ligeti & Beethoven (Nonesuch) Ligeti / Beethoven
9. Vasily Petrenko / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Shostakovich: Symphonies 2 & 15 (Naxos) Symphonies Nos. 2 & 15
10. Paul Hillier, Arvo Part: Creator Spiritus (Harmonia mundi)Arvo Pärt: Creator Spiritus
11. Alexander Melnikov / Teodor Currentzis / Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Shostakovich: Piano Concertos (Harmonia mundi)
12. Gerard Schwarz & Seattle Symphony, Richard Danielpour: Symphony no. 3 (Naxos, "American Classics")
13. Christopher Atzinger, Judith Lang Zaimont: Sonata / A Calendar Set (Naxos, "American Classics")
14. Marin Alsop, Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra / Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta (Naxos)
15. Schubert Ensemble, Dvorak: Piano Quintet in A major / Piano Quartet in E flat major (Chandos)

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 1:09:54 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:09 AM PST]

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 3:35:57 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Complete Piano Music of Saint-Saens - Geoffrey Burleson (Grand Piano, first 2 of projected 5 volumes_
Another vote for Volume 3 of Haydn's piano sonatas (2 CD set) by Marc-Andre Hamelin
Anything by Jeremy Denk is of interest.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 5:24:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2012 9:35:30 AM PDT
Among new releases for the first half of 2012, here is what I've most enjoyed:

1. Josquin des Prez--Missa Ave Maris Stella, Marian Motets--Weser-Renaissance: Missa Ave Maris Stella Marian Motets. A wonderful new addition to Josquin discography.
2. J. S. Bach: Nouveaux Brandebourgeois 7-Bande Montreal Baroque, led by Eric Milnes: Nouveaux Brandebourgeois 7-12--if you have found yourself wishing that Bach composed 6 more Brandenburg Concertos, this isn't quite the answer to your prayers, but it'll do. Musicologist Bruce Haynes has devised 6 concertos from cantata movements, etc., based on the supposition that Bach may have composed more Brandenburgs than we know about, and it works; especially when Montreal Baroque is arguably one of the finest period ensembles on the scene today (I prefer them to the Freiburger Barockorchester). Also, Milnes is my favorite Bach conductor today.
3. Debussy--Music for 2 Pianos, Four hands--Francois Chaplin, Philippe Cassard on Decca: 2 Pianos & 4 Mains--two superb French pianists get together to play Debussy--& it is very well recorded too.
4. The Complete Recordings of Moriz Rosenthal: The Complete Recordings.
5. Endbeginning--New York Polyphony: Endbeginning--America finally has a Hilliard Ensemble/ Orlando Consort-like group--comprised of four guys who can really sing. This hybrid SACD includes a Brumel mass, & shorter works--one a motet by Josquin, another a paraphrase of a work by Machaut by contemporary composer Jackson Hill.
5. De Leiden Choirbooks II--Leiden Choirbooks II--a very worthwhile series from the Egidius Kwartet & College. Start with Volume I, it's excellent.
6. Capella Pratensis--Requiems by Ockeghem & La Rue: Ockeghem/De La Rue: Requiem.
7. Claude Debussy--Complete Solo Piano Works--Philippe Cassard: l'oeuvre pour piano / The Piano Works--I wish Decca had bothered to remaster these early to mid-1990s recordings, but the sound is acceptable. Cassard's 1995 Etudes Bks. 1 & 2 are excellent, and in better sound than the rest of the set.
8. Handel Violin Sonatas: Handel: Violin Sonatas--period performances from Riccardo Minasi & Musica Antigua Roma.
(9. Bach Mass in B minor, Capella Amsterdam & the Orchestra of the 18th Century, led by Frans Bruggen: Bach: Mass in B minor--this wasn't released in 2012, but I just purchased the set, and am enjoying it a lot. Bruggen and the same forces have recently released a St. John Passion.)
10. Claude Debussy Complete Solo Piano Music--Walter Gieseking--EMI Hybrid SACD--new remasters of the classic mono Gieseking set. (I've also been enjoying pianist Jacques Fevrier's Debussy set, which I purchased from Amazon France in 2012, though it's not a 2012 release.) I'm obsessed with Debussy at the moment.

In the mail--Victoria: Sacred Works--box set from Ensemble Plus Ultra, led by Michael Noone.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 5:53:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2012 11:13:23 PM PDT
David M. says:
Favorites so far:

1. Reger: Violin Concerto (Becker-Bender, Hyperion)
2. Röntgen: Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 & 19 (Porcelijn, CPO)
3. Röntgen: Wind Serenades (CPO)
4. Casella: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 (Noseda, Chandos)
*5. Weinberg: Chamber Music for Woodwinds (CPO)

Most disappointed by:

Halvorsen: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4 (Järvi, Chandos)

All four entries in Chandos' Halvorsen cycle are mediocre. Given the paucity of alternate recordings (chiefly Norwegian radio recordings from the 1970s and 80s), this is especially a shame. Halvorsen's appealing, tuneful music would have been better served by a more idiomatic conductor, such as Ole Kristian Ruud or Bjarte Engeset.

*Edit: This spot should have gone to Haydn: Violin Concertos but for an oversight on my part.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 9:01:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 9:03:50 PM PDT
WH says:
Thanks for the recommendations. Piso, thanks for the heads up on the Saint-Saen.

MR, I appreciate the recommendations in the Early Music realm. I don't follow that area very carefully these days, and wait for reviews to tell what groups to explore (Gramophone helped me the other year to explore Stile Antico's recordings). I share the Debussy obsession: I'm pining after the Boulez Conducts Debussy and Ravel reissue from Deutsche Grammophon. The other year, I slowly purchased the entire Jean-Efflam Bavouzet series of the complete solo piano music of Debussy (and then his follow-up with the piano-and-orchestra Fantasie). And last year I picked up Valery Gergiev's version of La Mer, which is quite fine (though nothing I've heard tops the great Bernard Haitink and Concertgebouw performance on Philips). Another Debussy obsession is the Quatuor Ebene performance of the String Quartet. That and the Bavouzet have the most plays on my iPod--one indicator of how much I enjoy it.

David, I don't know the works of Reger or Rontgen or Casella or Weinberg--which is exactly what I was hoping this thread might help with, new works, new composers.

Keep the recs coming. Hasn't anyone else bought a new release?

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 9:37:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 9:41:26 PM PDT
David M. says:
I share your gratitude for the recommendations of forum-goers. As a follow-up on my last post, Reger, Röntgen, Casella, Weinberg, and Halvorsen are all very enjoyable composers, but none of them are well-known. I should have provided an introduction.

Max Reger: continuation of late Brahms, but more contrapuntal. Very influenced by Bach. The violin concerto is massive, but he wrote intimate works. The suites for solo viola are all-time masterpieces.

Julius Röntgen: a Dutch Brahmsian, more neo-classical than Reger (who's neo-Baroque), and more open to non-German influences. His chamber music is as good as anyone's. He knew form inside and out, and had an endless supply of good melodies.

Alfredo Casella: as neo-classical as it gets. The influence from Stravinsky is unmistakable. He wrote exciting, rhythmically propulsive music.

Mieczysław Weinberg: sounds a lot like Shostakovich. At the risk of being excommunicated from this board, I think Weinberg wrote better slow movements.

Johan Halvorsen: Norwegian romantic, sounds like Grieg at his most puckish.

All 5 composers ought to be more popular. Their obscurity is (mostly) due to extra-musical factors - Reger died young, Casella got mixed up in bad politics, Weinberg was stuck behind the Iron Curtain, Röntgen and Halvorsen were from out-of-the-way countries. Of the 5, perhaps only Reger and Weinberg would present difficulties for the average listener.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 11:29:23 PM PDT
WH says:
David, Thanks for the quick introduction. That helps. I had seen the names before but knew nothing of their music. I tend to read the big Gramophone Guide (the magazine more erratically) or the New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians to get overviews. But I really appreciate recommendations on specific recordings such as you gave. There's vast knowledge around here. I appreciate the expertise. We all have limited funds, and it can be frustrating when one buys a lesser quality performance or when one fails to recognize a hidden gem. All the best.

Posted on Jul 4, 2012 11:07:32 PM PDT
David M. says:
Left off my list because I mistakenly thought it had been mentioned:

Haydn: Violin Concertos (Carmignola)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2012 5:17:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2012 5:19:15 PM PDT
Dmitri says:
Shostakovich: Symphony No.15Cello Concertos 1 & 2

The above is one of the briskest readings of the 1st Shostakovich Cello Concerto and the 2nd also very good. Note the "Not Shy At All" horn obligato in the Cello Concerto No.1

More than Petrenko I still like Haitink's 15th (with no filler) better than P's 2nd and 15th.

Sorry for the run together of the two links. This is a very old computer that I am using. I should just be grateful that it works.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2012 6:02:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2012 6:02:58 PM PDT
WH says:
Dmitri, Thanks for the recommendations. I've particularly been looking to explore Shostakovich's cello concertos. It's one of the gaps in my collection of his works. By the way, in its March 2012 issue, BBC Magazine gave it 5-star rating and wrote:

"The performance of Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto is particularly distinguished. Dindo musters tremendous energy and rhythmic dynamism in the outer movements while a vocally-inflected lyricism is ever-present throughout the despairing threnody of the Moderato. His apporach to the cadenza is wonderfully fluid and he draws special attention to the inner details...Noseda once again demonstrates his consummate artistry as a concerto accompanist."

Sounds good.

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 6:14:37 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
The comple recordings of piano great Moriz Rosenthal, including Chopin's E-minor concerto from 1930, and several newly discovered rarities found on South American labels and not known to exist before.

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 9:45:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2012 9:49:43 PM PDT
Max O. says:
I've really enjoyed this Nielsen box so far: Nielsen: The Masterworks - Chamber & Instrumental Works, Vol. 2. Though it doesn't contain 2012 performances, it was released in May this year. It's a steal at $15 for six discs. I recently got in to classical music, so this is my introduction to Nielsen.

The string quartets + quintet of the first two discs, though mostly juvenilia, are inventive, pleasant, and rewarding and are given lively readings in great SACD sound. I like the piano music and violin music as well, particularly the solo violin works. Listening to the Chaccone for piano, I think I agree with the writer of the liner note that Nielsen was able to achieve what Reger couldn't with his "tonal mathematics"--an update of the classical style to a modern idiom. Also in the notes: the pianist recorded here (c. 1980 or something) played for the composer in his youth--cool! Still have to listen to the disc of wind chamber music...

David Mayer: What's a good place to start with Reger? I've found him difficult.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2012 11:04:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2012 11:19:22 PM PDT
David M. says:
Max O., depends on what you like.

If you love Bach: try Luigi Alberto Bianchi playing Reger's Suites for Solo Viola. It's a great performance of an all-time masterwork. It goes for $9 in the MP3 store.

If you like Bach and Brahms equally: try Marc-André Hamelin playing a selection of Reger's piano variations and humoresques. Virtuosic, emotional, intellectual, and witty.

If you're a full-blown romantic craving sweet, sweet melody: try Karl Böhm conducting Reger's Mozart Variations. The melody is Mozart's, but the gemütlich treatment shows Reger in the best light. This is sweet, easy, carefree music, a soundworld more commonly inhabited by Schubert.

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 11:01:37 AM PDT
WH says:
Max, Your post brings up an interesting issue, namely, where best to highlight great new reissues. The record companies are steadily putting out all manner of reissues, some of which are great to have back in print and some of which are an excuse to make money. (Given the state of the industry, I don't begrudge them that as much as I would have at an earlier time). In any case, I'm going to start another thread entitled: "Best Classical REISSUES of 2012." I've picked up a couple of reissues and will post them. All the best.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 6, 2012 12:37:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 6, 2012 12:38:18 PM PDT
MacDoom says:
WH: ALL of them are an excuse to make money. Though I prefer to call it 'attempt' instead of 'excuse'. I don't think one single record company is in the business to be a charity. Money is what they are about. We shouldn't mind that. If we consistently don't buy the unpalatable releases, they'll stop.

But we do. For some weird and unfathomable value of 'we'. So it will go on. I still don't blame them.

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 2:51:02 PM PDT
Something Almost Being Said: Music of Bach and Schubert
Simone Dinnerstein playing Bach's first two keyboard partitas (BWV 825 and 826) and Schubert's Impromptus, first set (D 899).

French Impressions
Violin and piano sonatas by Saint-Saens, Franck, and Ravel: Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk.

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 3:23:26 PM PDT
Try this one: Ligeti / Beethoven

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:19:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2012 5:09:14 AM PDT
Peter, many thanks for mentioning Jeremy Denk's new Ligeti/Beethoven release---which I've just ordered.

[Added in edit: This CD appears on WH's opening post of 15 releases of interest in 2012.]

I also found an NPR review and interview with Mr Denk:
http://www.npr.org/2012/05/23/153366344/jeremy-denk-playing-ligeti-with-a-dash-of-humor

The NPR article points out that "Learning to play the [Ligeti] etudes isn't the easiest endeavor. Denk spent four weeks sitting at his piano for seven hours a day, drinking pots of coffee and playing the etudes".

"I did nothing else," [Mr Denk] says. "The amount of fingering, the amount of mental focus - Ligeti's deliberately written things that are going to screw with your mind in one way or another. And you have to develop new mental muscles, because he's really fascinated with simultaneous different rhythmic groupings going on, so in a way, you have to divide your body and mind into two parts."

I've never heard the Ligeti works. The CD also includes Mr Denk's playing of Beethoven Op. 111.

Very best,
Angelo

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 8:46:04 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:13 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 9:03:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2012 5:10:14 AM PDT
March---and WH---my apologies for not seeing the Denk in your posts.

I ordered the Denk after I read his remark: "Ligeti's deliberately written things that are going to screw with your mind in one way or another".

March, what was it about this CD that didn't excite you? (Let me repeat what I said above: I've never heard the Ligeti works.)

[Added in edit: I misread March's post. He liked the Denk CD.]
Angelo

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 9:21:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2012 9:28:00 AM PDT
The good news: this CD is easily the finest Liszt recital I've heard since the Zocsis, Arrau, Brendel, & L. Berman Liszt recordings of the 1970s & 80s: Liszt: Harmonies du soir, and possibly even better. The bad news is that it's a 2011 release, which I am just now getting to in 2012. But what amazing Liszt playing!!!, Freire has just the right touch for this music (no pounding), that I had to mention it. The recording quality is one of the best I've ever heard from Decca.

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 9:52:04 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:14 AM PST]

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 10:10:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2012 10:15:39 AM PDT
spock2 says:
some picks.

dvorak: symphony no. 7 / flor (bis)
grieg: music for string orchestra / tognetti (bis)
schumann: violin sonatas / wallin, pontinen (bis)
vivaldi: sacred works for soprano and concerto / florilegium (channel)
vivaldi: La cetra - 12 concerti, op. 9 / podger (channel)
schubert: fantasie, rondo, sonata / widmann (ecm)
dvorak: string quintet / berlin philharmonic string quintet (pentatone)
beethoven, berg: violin concertos / faust, abbado (harmonia mundi)
tchaikovsky: violin concerto / ehnes, ashkenazy (onyx)
dvorak: cello concerto / Bailey (telarc)

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 10:12:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2012 10:13:27 AM PDT
WH says:
M.R., You're not the only one singing the praises of the Freire interpretation. It was one of the three finalists in Gramophone Magazine's award for best of 2011, namely, for "Best Instrumental." Great reviews across the board for it. Here's one from BBC Magazine (July 2011), which gave it a five-star review:

"This is immensely distinguished Liszt-playing...Freire seems utterly at one with the music, not only in terms of its innate poetry but also its astonishing diversity of texture and touch...Freire produces a really beautiful piano tone, too, conjuring an astonishing range of colours...Altogether an immaculate disc, enhanced by an excellently recorded balance."

Here's the link to other reviews over on Presto Classical: http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/r/Decca/4782728

The only bad news, as you noted, is that it's 2011. But great music is great music. All the best.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  21
Total posts:  101
Initial post:  Jul 3, 2012
Latest post:  Jan 28, 2013

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