Friday, December 31, 2010

A Bit of Fun

I thought I would end the year with a bit of fun. This is a graphic video representing the world's airline traffic in a 24 hour period. Note the sun rising over Australia and Asia, sweeping over Europe then to the Americas.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

We Three Pugs 2010

We Three Pugs 2010

As she predictably does every year at this time, HM Puggles, Queen Of Pugs, Supreme Ruler of Alaska, etc, etc. wishes to share her favorite Christmas carol:

We Three Pugs
(to the tune of We Three Kings)

We three Pugs of Orient are
Snuffling low we can not go far
Bellies dragging, tails a'wagging
Hounding the Milk Bone Jar

Oh! Oh!

We love treats and we love hugs
We love all 'cause we are pugs
Licking, sneezing, snoring, wheezing
Guide us to the warmest rugs!

Merry Christmas
Happy New Year
From Puggingham Palace
D and P

Monday, December 06, 2010

2010 Best Recordings of the Year

The time for my list of my 10-13 favorite recordings of the year is upon us.

Traditionally, one of the year's last posts on Puggingham Palace is a "baker's dozen" list of the best recordings of the year, in my humble opinion of course. Since it is my game, I set some loose rules; the recordings are mostly new releases for the past year but can also be older recordings that I heard for the first time or dug out of my collection.

2010 seemed to be a better year than 2009 for new releases. I had trouble making a list of 10 last year but the 13 I have chosen this year came easier. This was also a year of big box releases; reissues in large bargain sets of an artist's career recordings. You will see a couple of these in my list.

So as usual, in no particular order here are my top Baker's Dozen for 2010

1) Mahler Symphony # 10 Carpenter Edition. David Zinman, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra RCA 88697768962. So new it is not available in the US until Dec 7 but I got my copy from the UK (cheaper too). A new recording of the 10th is always welcome; when it is an excellent new recording of the Carpenter edition it is even more welcome. This edition is emerging as the only viable alternative to the Cooke edition.

2) Bernstein Symphony Edition Sony 768365. 60 bargain priced discs with almost all of Bernstein’s original Columbia recordings of symphonies. His complete Mahler, Beethoven, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Brahms cycles are included along with some Shostakovich, Schubert, Mozart and the indispensable Haydn.

3) Richard Strauss Great Scenes. Christine Brewer, Donald Runnicles, Atlanta SO Telarc 31755. So I plug people I know, it is my list and I can do as I please. Besides, this is one of the best Strauss recordings in a long time.

4) Dvorak Symphonic Poems: Noonday Witch, Golden Spinning Wheel, Water Goblin, The Wood Dove. Sir Charles Mackerras Czech Phil. Supraphon 4012, Mackerras (who died this year in July) may have been born in New York of Australian parents and brought up in Sydney, but he had an uncanny knack for Czech music. These live performances are simply the only way to hear this wonderful music. Has there ever been a more atmospheric beginning of the “Golden Spinning Wheel”?

5) "Transformations" Yuja Wang, piano. Deutsche Grammophon 001410802. Scintillating and bravura performances of Stravinsky, D. Scarlatti, Brahms and Ravel. I’ll take Wang’s musical, mature and brilliant performances over "Bang Bang" any day.

6) Weinberg Symphony # 1 and 7.Thord Svedlund, Gothenberg SO, Chandos 5078. I for one am thrilled to see new recordings of one of the Soviet Union's most important yet neglected composers. This is a continuation of the symphony series began a few years ago and, with 22 some symphonies, we have a ways to go. Good performances, usual quality Chandos sound.

7) Weinberg Cello Sonatas. Dmitry Yablonsky cello, Hsin-Ni Liu, piano. Naxos 8.570333. 2 Sonatas for Cello and Piano and 2 for solo cello from this prolific composer. Wonderful works, well played. This has been a good year for Mieczyslaw Weinberg (also spelled sometimes as Moisey Vainberg).

8) "Sacrificium" Cecilia Bartoli, Mezzo Soprano. Decca 001341202 (Deluxe CD with Book) Catalog # 001388602 for CD without book. Released late in 2009 (again my list so I can bend the rules), this unique album explores the world of the Castrati from the 17th and 18th centuries. 2 discs, a huge book with everything you ever wanted to know about Castrati (for the uninitiated, they were boys castrated at or before puberty to preserve a high voice. They had the range of a soprano but the power of a male voice) with too many artsy photos of Bartoli’s head on the torsos of male statues.

A ton of florid music, with probably more recorded notes per minute than any other disc in history. Well done and worth taking off the shelf now and then to explore this lost (thankfully) art. Available without the book but really it is worth the extra $10 for some fascinating reading.

9) Avner Dorman Concerto for Mandolin, Concerto for Piccolo, Concerto Grosso, Concerto in A for Piano. Various soloists, Metropolis Ensemble, Andrew Cyr. Naxos 8.559620. Where else can you find exciting, jazzy and brilliant contemporary concerti for mandolin and piccolo? The Concerto Grosso and early Piano Concerto make fine disc mates. Can I suggest a Ukulele Concerto?

10) Hendrik Andriessen Orchestral Works. Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Edo De Waart, Jean Fournet, Willem van Otterloo, Jaap Van Zweden, Albert van Raalte Conductors (recording dates 1947-2005). Etcetera 1307. A new to me 2007 release of orchestral works by Dutch composer Hendrik Andriessen. Neo-classical (think Martinu, Hindemith, etc) in style, but never dry. Especially notable are the powerful “Ricercare” and the 4 compact symphonies. Hendrik should be heard more often; as with Egon Wellez he is more often talked about than actually performed. The discs may be hard to come by, Amazon usually has it and can be bought as a download as well.

11) Roussel Symphony # 4 Concert for Small Orchestra, Rhapsodie Flammade, Petite Suite, Sinfonietta. Stéphane Denève, Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Naxos 8.72135. Best cycle of the 4 symphonies of this much neglected master of neo-classic 20th century music.

12) Levine Conducts Mahler Symphonies 1, 3-7, 9 and 10. (London SO 1 and 6, Chicago SO 3, 4 and 7, Philadelphia Orchestra 5, 9 and 10) RCA. Reissues of great recordings long hard to get. Re-mastered sound is excellent. One of the best 3rds ever benefiting from Levine’s years of opera performances. I have been trying to back away from so much Mahler, but when this became available at a bargain price, I had to have it. Sadly, Levine never finished the cycle for RCA, thus the 2nd and 8th are missing. Been a real bitch to get a hold of this album for some reason. Only Amazon seems to have it in the US as of this date.

13) Icon: Alicia De Larrocha. Music of Soler, Granados, Albeniz, Turina, De Falla and Montsalvatge. Alicia De Larrocha (with Victoria De Los Angeles, Soprano) EMI 29486. I don't own this set, I have so much of it on other releases, but here is all of De Larrocha's EMI recordings, some of her best really, in an 8 CD bargain priced box. No one, but no one did this repertoire better.