Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Recordings 2008 Part I

Time for the annual round up of the baker's dozen of the best recordings of 2008. I cheat a bit, this is a list of mostly newly recorded or newly re-released recordings that I have heard this past 12 months. Some of them are not new for 2008 but I heard them for the first time this year and were a significant addition to my collection and thus recommended.

So in no particular order we have:

1) Foulds "A World Requiem" Chandos 5058 Soloists and Chorus, BBC SO Leon Botstein.

After laying unheard for some 80 years, A World Requiem was performed in November 2007. The recording of that event was soon released by Chandos. Intended to be performed annually to commemorate WWI, this pacifist leaning work begs comparison to Britten's "War Requiem". Wonderful performance, fascinating work. There is talk of performing it publicly again soon.

2) Ernö Von Dohnányi Violin Concerti # 1 and 2 Naxos 8-570833 Michael Ludwig Violin, Jo Ann Faletta Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Lyrical, dramatic, virtuosic works, # 2 written in 1949 is a bit darker and spicier harmonically.

3) Shakespeare's "The Tempest", Music by Arthur Sullivan and Jean Sibelius Reference Recordings 115 Michael Stern Kansas City SO.

Yes I am prejudiced and have an autographed copy. All that aside, this is a well done recording of some spectacular seldom heard music. The Sibelius is of his late years and is brooding, dark and powerful. The Sullivan is early (he was 19) but mature and colorful. Just so you don't think I am just highlighting a local favorite, Classics Today gave it their highest rating of 10/10 for performance and sound.

4) Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie St Louis SO 5186320 (available through the St Louis SO) Hans Vonk St Louis SO

Vonk got a bad rap in St Louis. The reticent and dour Dutchman wanted to make music, not fundraise. The Orchestra almost went bankrupt and Vonk died way to young of ALS. His recorded and musical legacy is just now getting the acclaim it deserves. This is a spectacular Turangalîla.

5) Mahler Symphony # 4 St Louis SO 5186323 Hans Vonk, Esther Heideman, soprano St Louis SO available as above.

Same comments apply here. A great performance, one of the best. Heideman is child-like without being cloying and sweet.

6) Arnold Philharmonic Concerto, Symphony # 6, Beckus the Dandipratt Overture, ETC. LPO 13 Vernon Handley London Philharmonic.

I heard Haitink perform the Philharmonic Concerto when it was new, written for the orchestra in 1976 for its American Tour. A section of the second movement, a fascinating duet for harp and snare drum, stuck with me for over 30 years. Recordings were none or elusive until I found this 2006 release. The passage I remember is just as harmonically and rhythmically interesting as I remembered. Now LSO has gone and released a Haitink recording of the work... gotta have that one too.

Look for #7-13 tomorrow!

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