Composers – X/Y/Z

girl-penguinXenakis, Iannis

XENAKIS: A Colone. Knephas. Medea. Nuits. Serment / New London Chamber Choir; Critical Band; James Wood, conductor / Hyperion 66980

5-fish

Much of Xenakis’ music leaves me cold—he tends to be intellectually clever but not moving—yet these specific works are very interesting and, I feel, the best of his output.

Ysäye, Eugen

YSAŸE: Sonata for Solo Cello: I. Agité; II. Intermezzo; III. In Modo di Recitativo; IV. Finale con Brio / Wesley Baldwin, cellist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

YSAŸE: Sonatas for Solo Violin Nos. 1-6 / Tianwa Yang, violinist / Naxos 8.572995

6-fish

The great Belgian violin virtuoso Eugéne Ysaÿe was also an interesting composer, his works for solo string instruments being his greatest achievements. Baldwin plays the solo cello sonata as well as anyone I’ve heard, and for me Yang’s recordings of the violin sonatas are absolutely monumental.

Zarębski, Juliusz

ZARȨBSKi: Piano Quintet in G min., Op. 34 / Jonathan Plowright, pianist; Szymanowski Quartet / Hyperion 67905 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Zarębski was not really a major composer, but this particular work, dedicated to Franz Liszt, is really a masterpiece, vital and dramatic.

Zeleński, Wladyslaw

ZELENSKI: Piano Quartet in C min., Op. 61 / Jonathan Plowright, pianist; Szymanowski Quartet / Hyperion 67905 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

The Zelenski quartet is not quite as interesting as the Zarębski quintet, but these musicians also make it sound excellent.

Zeller, Carl

ZELLER: Der Vogelhändler / Elena Puszta, soprano (Electress Marie); Dagmar Schellenberger, soprano (Adelaide); Bernhard Bechtold, tenor (Adam, a bird seller); Rupert Bergmann, bass-baritone (Baron Weps); Maximilian Mayer, tenor (Count Stanislaus); Wolfgang Dosch, tenor (Professor Süffle); Gerhart Ernst, baritone (Professor Würmchen); Martina Fender, soprano (Postmistress Christel); Raimund Stangl, tenor (Mayor Schneck); Mörbisch Festival Orchestra & Chorus; Gerrit Preißnitz, conductor / Oehms Classics OC 461

5-fish

A marvelous performance of Zeller’s charming operetta, though sadly missing the mechanical bird-chirping in the tenor aria!

Zemlinsky, Alexander

ZEMLINSKY: 5 Songs. 7 Songs. 6 Songs to Poems by Maeterlinck. 2 Cabaret Songs. Walt-Songs on Tuscan Folk Lyrics / Hermine Haselböck, soprano; Florian Henschel, pianist / Bridge 9244

6-fish

Zemlinsky was an interesting song composer, and although there is a larger collection of his output on a Deutche Grammophon release, this album is sung and played much more excitingly.

Zimmermann, Bernd Alois

ZIMMERMANN: Cello Concerto en forme de pas de trois / Heinrich Schiff, cellist; SWF Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

An astonishing and deeply interesting modern cello concerto that deserves greater exposure, played superbly by Schiff and conducted brilliantly by Gielen.

ZIMMERMANN: Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (Ballet noir) / Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

A surprisingly tonal piece (for the most part) by Zimmermann with multiple quotes from others’ music, including Berlioz and Wagner. A real fun piece!

ZIMMERMANN: Die Soldaten / Zoltan Kelemen, bass (Wesener); Edith Gabry, soprano (Marie); Helga Jenckel, mezzo (Charlotte); Maura Moreira, contralto (Wesener’s mother); Claudio Nicolai, baritone (Stolzius); Elisabeth Schärtel, contralto (Stolzius’ mother); Liane Synek, mezzo (Countess de la Roche); Willi Brokmeyer, tenor (The young Count); Anton de Ridder, tenor (Desportes); Erich Winkelmann, bass (Count of Spannheim)’; Albert Weikenmeier, tenor (Pirzel); Heiner Horn, baritone (Eisenhardt); Gerd Nienstedt, baritone (Haudy); Camillo Meghor, baritone (Mary); Norman Paige, tenor (Young Officer); Hubert Möhler, tenor (Young Officer); Karl-Josef Goergen, Wolfgang Sebastian Meyer, organists; Gürzenich-Orchester Koln; Michael Gielen, conductor / Wergo 6698 or available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

Zimmermann’s atonal but fascinating and relentlessly driving opera, a modern counterpart to Berg’s Wozzeck, has never achieved the repertoire status of the earlier work, in part because it is much more difficult to sing and conduct, but it is a moving experience nevertheless. This, its first recording, was unfortunately made in mono sound despite its 1968 date, which detracts a bit from its audio quality, but Michael Gielen’s conducting is typically taut, detailed and exciting, and the singers are almost uniformly excellent.

ZIMMERMANN: Stille und Umkehr (Orchestral sketches) / Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester des Hessischen Rundfunks; Hans Zender, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

One of Zimmermann’s last works, from 1970, in a gentler and more relaxed vein than his earlier pieces…almost pastoral in fact!

Zwilich, Ellen Taaffe

ZWILICH: Celebration. Prologue and Variations. Symphony No. 1: I.  II. III. / Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; John Nelson, conductor / New World 336 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

6-fish

ZWILICH: Concerto for Clarinet & Chamber Orchestra: I. II. Elegy: September 11. III. / David Schifrin, clarinetist; Ani Kavafian, violinist; Fred Sherry, cellist; Ad hoc chamber ensemble; Ransom Wilson, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

6-fish

ZWILICH: Concerto for Trumpet & Five Players / Philip Smith, trumpeter; Mindy Kaufman, flautist/piccolo; Steve Freeman, clarinetist/bass clarinet; Christopher Lamb, percussionist; Jon Deak, contrabassist; Harriet Wingreen, pianist; Zubin Mehta, conductor / Concerto Grosso 1985: I. Maestoso; II. Presto; III. Largo; IV. Presto; V. Maestoso. Symbolon / New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Zubin Mehta, conductor / Double Quartet for Strings: I. Allegro moderato; II. Lento; III. Allegro vivo; IV. Adagio / New York Philharmonic Members; Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, conductor / New World 372 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles and movement numbers above

5-fish

ZWILICH: Flute Concerto / Doriot Anthony Dwyer, flautist; London Symphony Orchestra; James Sedares, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

ZWILICH: Piano Concerto / Marc-André Hamelin, pianist; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Günther Herbig, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

ZWILICH: Septet for Piano Trio & String Quartet / The Newbury Trio; Amphion Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

ZWILICH: Symphony No. 2, “Cello Symphony” / Louisville Orchestra; Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

ZWILICH: Symphony No. 3 / Louisville Orchestra; James Sedares, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

ZWILICH: Violin Concerto / Pamela Frank, violinist; Saarbrücken Symphony Orchestra; Michael Stern, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

For me, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, like Nancy Van de Vate, is one of the greatest of living composers. She has the advantage of being better known in her home country, and her works have been performed by major artists such as Zubin Mehta, Marc-André Hamelin, Pamela Frank, the Amphion Quartet and David Schifrin. The downside is that they don’t get performed very often. Unlike Van de Vate, Zwilich doesn’t own her own record company, so not very many of her compositions have been commercially recorded. Nonetheless, the selections listed above are all very fine works and the performances are, happily, first-rate.

Zych, Przemyslaw

ZYCH: Alicja w Krainie Czarów (Alice in Wonderland), Ballet / Opera Orchestra of Szczecin Castle; Jerzy Wołosiuk, conductor / Dux 1249-50 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

6-fish

I know absolutely nothing about Przemysław Zych other than this one work, but it is one of the most utterly delightful modern tonal works I’ve ever heard. A real masterpiece, barely known by the majority of classical listeners.

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Composers – W

girl-penguinWagner, Richard

WAGNER: Albumblatt für Ernst Benedikt Kietz, “Lied ohne Worte.” Albumblatt für Frau Betty Schott. Ankunft bei den schwarzen Schwänen. Eine Sonate für das Album von Frau M.W. Elegie in A-flat. Fantasia if f-sharp min., Op. 3 (WWV 22). In das Album der Fürstin M. Notenbrief für Mathilde Wesendonck. Piano Sonata in B-flat, Op. 1 (WWV 21). Piano Sonata in A, “Große Sonate” Op. 4 (WWV 26). Piano Sonata in A – Alternate finale. Polonaise in D, WWV 23a. Polonaise for piano four hands in D, WWV 23b. Schluß zum Vorspiel from Tristan und Isolde. Züricher Vielliebchen-Walzer / Pier Paolo Vincenzi, pianist / Brilliant Classics 94450 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WAGNER: Les deux Grenadiers. Lied des Mephistopheles: No. 4, Es war einmal ein König; No. 5, Was machst du mir. Mignonne. Der Tannenbaum. Tout n’est qu’images fugitives / Thomas Hampson, baritone; Geoffrey Parsons, pianist / part of EMI 55047 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

5-fish

Wagner was such a giant of the opera house that many people tend to forget—or not know—that he wrote a great deal of other music, although sometimes his ideas were truncated or he put the work aside unfinished because he had an epic opera to work on. Nonetheless, these piano pieces and songs, mostly excellent, are a window into his musical mind and are not to be ignored.

WAGNER: Ein Faust Overture / BBC Symphony Orchestra / Der Fliegende Holländer Overture. Lohengrin: Act I Prelude; Act III Prelude. Die Meistersinger: Act I Prelude; Act III Prelude. Parsifal: Act I Prelude; “Good Friday Spell” Music. Der Ring des Nibelungen: Die Walküre: Act I, Scene 3.*+ Act III: Ride of the Valkyries. Siegfried: Forest Murmurs. Götterdämmerung: Prologue: Dawn, Zu neuen Taten, Siegfried’s Rhine Journey;*+ Siegfried’s Death & Funeral March; Immolation Scene.*Tannhäuser: Overture & Venusburg Music. Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod / *Helen Traubel, soprano; +Lauritz Melchior, tenor; NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking individual titles above

4-fish to 6-fish

Although I also like much of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s Wagner as well, I really LOVE these specific Toscanini performances. He really achieved repose, superb legato, unparalleled textural clarity and forward momentum within his basically slow tempi in these performances, and the February 1941 concert performances also included the outstanding singing of soprano Helen Traubel and tenor Lauritz Melchior. An extra dimension can also be heard in the Act I Lohengrin and Meistersinger Preludes and the Tannhäuser Overture & Venusburg Music, as these are his April 1954 performances recorded in true stereo.

WAGNER: Die Feen [The Fairies]: Overture / London Symphony Orchestra; Albert Coates, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

Although this 1927 recording has dated sound, no one in my estimation conducts this early operatic overture by Wagner as well as Coates.

WAGNER: Der Fliegende Holländer / George London, bass-baritone (Holländer); Josef Greindl, bass (Daland); Leonie Rysanek, soprano (Senta); Fritz Uhl, tenor (Erik); Res Fischer, contralto (Mary); Georg Paskuda, tenor (Steersman); Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra; Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor / Orfeo d’Or C936 1821 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WAGNER: Der Fliegende Holländer / Simon Estes, bass-baritone (Holländer); Matti Salminen, bass (Daland); Lisbeth Balslev, soprano (Senta); Robert Schunk, tenor (Erik); Anny Schlemm, contralto (Mary); Graham Clark, tenor (Steersman); Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra; Woldemar Nelsson, conductor / Philips 942702 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Two recordings of the opera Wagner considered the first of his great ones, both live from Bayreuth: the first in mono from 1959, the second in digital stereo from 1985. George London’s voice is a shade steadier than Simon Estes’, but Estes is a subtler and more interesting character. Lisbeth Balslev is the most exciting Senta on records, but young Rysanek provides a better balance between drama and dreaminess. Graham Clark and Matti Salminen are better in their roles than Georg Paskuda and Josef Griendl, but Fritz Uhl sings with less effort than Robert Schunk as Erik. I recommend both, however, because they are different interpretations that complement each other.

WAGNER: Huldingungsmarsch. Kaisermarsch. Rienzi: Overture. Symphony No. 1. Symphony No. 2 (unfinished) / Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, conductor / Chandos 5097, available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

Another interesting album, this time of Wagner’s orchestral works (plus the Rienzi Overture), conducted superbly by Neeme Järvi.

WAGNER: Das Liebesmahl der Apostel, WWV 69 (1843) / Ambrosian Male Chorus; Symphonica of London; Wyn Morris, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

One of Wagner’s most unusual yet (in my view) original and moving works is this long (33 minute) orchestral synthesis with chorus (in the last third of the piece) paying tribute to the Feast of the Pentecost by the original apostles of Jesus. There are several seminal ideas in this music that were later brought to fruition in his music dramas. The vastly underrated Wyn Morris conducts it beautifully.

WAGNER: Lohengrin / Franz Crass, bass (Heinrich der Vogler); Sándor Kónya, tenor (Lohengrin); Elisabeth Grümmer, soprano (Elsa von Brabant); Ernest Blanc, baritone (Telramund); Rita Gorr, contralto (Ortrud); Eberhard Wächter, baritone (Herald); Harald Neukirch, tenor (Brabantian); Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra; Lovro von Matačić, conductor / Orfeo d’Or C691 063 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Yes, this 1959 live performance from Bayreuth is in mono, but it has the “Bayreuth sound” and the singing and conducting are so uniformly great that you hold your breath waiting for someone to weaken—yet they never do. One of the greatest opera recordings of all time.

WAGNER: Lohengrin / Kurt Moll, bass (Heinrich der Vogler); Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor (Lohengrin); Cheryl Studer, soprano (Elsa von Brabant); Hartmut Welker, baritone (Telramund); Waltraud Meier, contralto (Ortrud); Andreas Schmidt, baritone (Herald); Hartmut Welker, baritone (Brabantian); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Claudio Abbado, conductor / Deutsche Grammophon 4458692 or available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Although a studio recording, this is the finest stereo or digital Lohengrin I’ve ever heard, though Waltraud Meier is not quite as large-voiced or menacing as Rita Gorr in the Bayreuth performance listed above.

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg: Act I; Act II; Act III / Henk Noort, tenor (Walther); Kerstin Thorborg, contralto (Magdalene); Maria Reining, soprano (Eva); Richard Sallaba, tenor (David); Herbert Alsen, bass (Veit Pogner); Hermann Wiedeman, baritone (Beckmesser); Hans Hermann Nissen, bass-bar. (Sachs); Georg Maikl, tenor (Vogelgesang); Rolf Telasco, bass (Nachtigall); Carl Bissuti, bass (Schwarz/Nachtwächter); Anton Dermota, tenor (Balthasar Zorn); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming at the Internet Archive by clicking on act titles above

4-fish

Although suffering from dry, boxy sound—it was recorded on long reels of paper tape by a device called the Selenophone—this performance has a certain magical beauty about it, and a good dramatic feel, that escapes many a recording of this great comic opera.

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg / Ben Heppner, tenor (Walther); Cornelia Kallisch, contralto (Magdalene); Cheryl Studer, soprano (Eva); Deon van der Walt, tenor (David); Kurt Moll, bass (Veit Pogner); Siegfried Lorenz, baritone (Beckmesser); Bernd Weikl, bass-bar. (Sachs); Michael Schade, tenor (Vogelgesang); Hans Wilbrink, bass (Nachtigall); René Pape, bass (Nachtwächter); Ulrich Reiss, tenor (Balthasar Zorn); Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, bar. (Kothner); Bavarian Opera Orchestra & Chorus; Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor / EMI Classics 09195 or available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

Although Alan Blyth, in the Gramophone, carped about what he felt was a sterile and cold interpretation, I hear this recording quite differently. For me, it is stunningly gorgeous and both sung and conducted with a good sense of what the opera is about, certainly far better than the vastly overrated Kubelik recording (everyone tries to sound involved, but somehow miss the mark), the late Solti performance and, in the role of Walther, superior to the 1956 Rudolf Kempe recording despite Kempe’s outstanding leadership.

WAGNER: Parsifal / Matthias Hölle, bass (Gurnemanz); Waltraud Meier, mezzo (Kundry/Alto voice); José van Dam, baritone (Amfortas); Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor (Parsifal); John Tomlinson, bass (Titurel); Marianne Rørholm, soprano (Squire 1); Annette Kuttenbaum, contralto (Squire 2); Helmut Pampuch, tenor (Squire 3); Peter Maus, tenor (Squire 4); Günter von Kannen, baritone (Klingsor); Edith Wiens, soprano (Flower Maiden 1); Constance Hauman, soprano (Flower Maiden 2); Daniela Bechly, soprano (Flower Maiden 3); Hilde Liedland, mezzo-soprano (Flower Maiden 4); Pamela Coburn, soprano (Flower Maiden 5); Sally Burgess, mezzo-soprano (Flower Maiden 6); Kurt Schreibmayer, tenor (Knight 1); Cornelius Hauptmann, bass (Knight 2); Chorus of Deutschen Staatsoper, Berlin; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim, conductor / Teldec 4675177

6-fish

For me, this is the very greatest recording of this opera, despite Barenboim’s slowing down to an excruciatingly slow tempo for the death of Amfortas. The cast is superb, and Barenboim brings out details in the score that others miss, even Knappertsbusch of sainted memory.

WAGNER: Rienzi / John Mitchinson, tenor (Cola Rienzi); Lois McDonald, soprano (Irene); Michael Langdon, bass (Steffano Colonna); Lorna Haywood, soprano (Adriano Colonna); Raimund Herincx, bass-baritone (Paolo Orsini); David Ward, bass (Raimondo); Elizabeth Gale, soprano (Messenger); Adrian de Peyer, tenor (Baroncelli); Paul Hudson, baritone (Cecco del Vecchio); Brian Cookson, tenor (Herald); BBC Northern Singers & Orchestra; Edward Downes, conductor / Opera Depot OD 10915 or available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Wagner rejected this early “Grand Opera” in his later years, and it is often said that a complete performance (as is given here) is a monster too heavy to be absorbed, but except for the VERY overlong ballet scenes (one lasting 33 minutes!), I tend to disagree. It is both a beautiful and a dramatic work, Wagnerian in style for the most part. The singing on this live performance is equally outstanding, with the little-remembered but superb British tenor John Mitchinson tackling the title role, Raimund Herincx singing Paolo Orsini, Michael Langdon as Steffano Colonna and the even less well-known soprano Lois McDonald as Irene. Edward Downes’ conducting, as usual, combines fine drama with elegance of line, and thankfully it is in stereo.

WAGNER: Der Ring des Nibelungen

Das Rheingold / Stella Andreva, soprano (Woglinde); Irra Petina, soprano (Wellgunde); Doris Doe, contralto (Flosshilde/Erda); Dorothee Manski, soprano (Freia); Eduard Habich, baritone (Alberich); Friedrich Schorr, baritone (Wotan); Karin Branzell, contralto (Fricka); Karl Laufkötter, tenor (Mime); Norman Cordon, bass (Fasolt); Emanuel List, bass (Fafner); René Maison, tenor (Loge); Julius Huehn, baritone (Donner); Metropolitan Opera Orchestra ; Artur Bodanzky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

Das Rheingold / Dorothea Siebert, soprano (Woglinde); Claudia Hellmann, sop (Wellgunde); Ursula Böse, contralto (Flosshilde); Frans Andersson, baritone (Alberich); Hans Hotter, bass-baritone (Wotan); Rita Gorr, mezzo-soprano (Fricka); Elisabeth Grümmer, soprano (Freia); Sandor Kónya, tenor (Froh); Fritz Uhl, tenor (Loge); Erik Sædén, bass (Donner); Theo Adam, bass (Fasolt); Josef Greindl, bass (Fafner); Gerhard Stolze, tenor (Mime); Maria von Ilosvay, mezzo-soprano (Erda); Bayreuth Festival Orchestra; Hans Knappertsbusch, conductor / Walhall Eternity 246 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Das Rheingold / Dorothea Siebert, soprano (Woglinde); Helga Dernesch, soprano (Wellgunde); Ruth Hesse, contralto (Flosshilde); Anja Silja, soprano (Freia); Gustav Neidlinger, baritone (Alberich); Theo Adam, bass-baritone (Wotan); Annalies Burmeister, mezzo (Fricka); Erwin Wohlfahrt, tenor (Mime); Martti Talvela, bass (Fasolt); Kurt Böhme, bass (Fafner); Wolfgang Windgassen, tenor (Loge); Gerd Nienstedt, baritone (Donner); Vera Soukupova, contralto (Erda); Bayreuth Festival Orchestra; Karl Böhm, conductor / Decca 1820702 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Three recordings of Das Rheingold, but bear with me and I’ll explain why I think all three are indispensable. The 1937 Metropolitan Opera broadcast features the warm, beautifully-sung Wotan of Friedrich Schorr, René Maison’s sarcastically jolly Loge, and Eduard Habich—an old-timer who had sung at Bayreuth in the early 20th century—as the most subtle and underhanded of all Alberichs. The 1958 Bayreuth performance conducted by Knappertsbusch is, for me, the best all-round performance of this opera despite the very fine mono sound (just look at the cast: Gorr, young Hotter, young Theo Adam, Grümmer, Kónya, Uhl and Sæden), and the 1966 Bayreuth performance conducted by Böhm is, for me, the very finest of all stereo recordings, despite Theo Adam sounding a bit wobbly by this time. Windgassen is a great Loge, we get Erwin Wohlfahrt and Gustav Neidlinger as Mime and Alberich, and young Anja Silja was in fabulous voice (for once!) as Freia. For my own personal Ring, I prefer Joseph Keilberth’s performances of the later three operas (see below), but his Rheingold was a mess, poorly played by the orchestra and featuring a loud metallic sound for the scene in Nibelheim that is extremely annoying. Whenever I want to hear a full Ring, I alternate between the Knappertsbusch and Böhm performances for Rheingold.

Die Walküre / Günther Treptow, tenor (Siegmund); Hilde Konetzni, soprano (Sieglinde); Ludwig Weber, bass (Hunding); Ferdinand Frantz, baritone (Wotan); Elisabeth Höngen, mezzo (Fricka); Kirsten Flagstad, soprano (Brünnhilde); Walburga Wegener, soprano (Gerhilde); Ilona Steingrüber, soprano (Helmwige); Karen Marie Crkall, soprano (Ortlinde); Margherita Kenney, mezzo (Siegrune); Dagmar Schmedes, contralto (Waltraute); Margret Weth-Falke, mezzo (Rossweise); Sieglinde Wagner, mezzo (Grimgerde); Teatro alla Scala, Milan Orchestra; Wilhelm Furtwängler, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Die Walküre / Ramon Vinay, tenor (Siegmund); Gré Brouwenstijn, soprano (Sieglinde); Josef Greindl, bass (Hunding); Hans Hotter, bass-baritone (Wotan); Georgine von Milinkovic, mez (Fricka/Grimgerde); Astrid Varnay, soprano (Brünnhilde); Hertha Wilfert, soprano (Gerhilde); Hilde Scheppan, soprano (Helmwige); Gerda Lammers, soprano (Ortlinde); Jean Watson, mezzo (Siegrune); Elisabeth Schärtel, contralto (Waltraute); Maria Graf, contralto (Rossweise); Bayreuth Festival Orchestra; Joseph Keilberth, conductor / Testament SBT4 1391 or available for free streaming on YouTube in individual acts

6-fish

My two favorite Walküres, and both have strengths and weaknesses. Hilde Konetzni has a less attractive voice or dramatic interpretation of Sieglinde than Brouwenstijn, but Ramon Vinay is one of the greatest Siegmunds on record. Varnay is in superb voice as Brünnhilde, but Flagstad surpasses her. Both are tautly conducted and tremendously exciting. Just get both.

Siegfried / Paul Kuen, tenor (Mime); Wolfgang Windgassen, tenor (Siegfried); Hans Hotter, bass-baritone (Wanderer/Wotan); Ilse Höllweg, soprano (Waldvögel); Maria von Ilosvay, contralto (Erda); Gustav Neidlinger, baritone (Alberich); Josef Greindl, bass (Fafner); Astrid Varnay, soprano (Brünnhilde); Bayreuth Festival Orchestra; Joseph Keilberth, conductor / Testament SBT4 1392 or available for free streaming on YouTube in individual acts

6-fish

Siegfried / Gerhard Stolze, tenor (Mime); Ticho Parly, tenor (Siegfried); Josef Greindl, bass (Wanderer/Wotan); Erika Koth, soprano (Waldvögel); Marga Höffgen, contralto (Erda); Gustav Neidlinger, baritone (Alberich); Peter Meven, bass (Fafner); Berit Lindholm, soprano (Brünnhilde); Bayreuth Festival Orchestra; Lorin Maazel, conductor / Opera Depot OD 10700-3, available HERE

4-fish

Although the Maazel performance was recorded 13 years after the Keilberth, the first was professionally taped in stereo while the second seems to come from a homemade Presto machine from a bad shortwave broadcast, thus it is the Maazel that I value as the “historic” recording while the Keilberth is my stereo preference. Many vocal buffs detest Ticho Parly, but in this performance his voice rings out heroically from start to finish. Lindholm is an outstanding Brünnhilde, Greindl does pretty well as Wotan/the Wanderer, and Gerhard Stolze is by far the most interesting Mime ever recorded.

Götterdämmerung / Doris Doe, mezzo (First Norn/Flosshilde); Irra Petina, soprano (Second Norn); Dorothee Manski, mezzo (Third Norn); Marjorie Lawrence, soprano (Brünnhilde); Lauritz Melchior, tenor (Siegfried); Kathryn Meisle, mezzo-soprano (Waltraute); Friedrich Schorr, baritone (Gunther); Dorothee Manski, soprano (Gutrune); Eduard Habich, baritone (Alberich); Ludwig Weber, bass (Hagen); Max Altglass, tenor (Vassal); Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Artur Bodanzky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

3-and-a-half-fish

The sound is very rough to say the least, but the performance is tremendously exciting and for the most part well-sung. I would, however, urge you to splice in all of Brünnhilde’s scenes as sung by the great Frida Leider and Kerstin Thorborg as Waltraute, with Wilhelm Furtwängler and Sir Thomas Beecham alternating as conductors.

Götterdämmerung / Maria von Ilosvay, soprano (1st Norn/Wellgunde); Georgine von Milinkovič, soprano (2nd Norn); Mina Bolotine, contralto (3rd Norn); Astrid Varnay, soprano (Brünnhilde); Wolfgang Windgassen, tenor (Siegfried); Gré Brouwenstijn, soprano (Gutrune); Josef Greindl, bass (Hagen); Hermann Uhde, baritone (Gunther); Gustav Neidlinger, baritone (Alberich); Elisabeth Schärtel, contralto (Waltraute); Maria Graf, soprano (Flosshilde); Jutta Vulpius, mezzo (Woglinde); Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus; Joseph Keilberth, conductor / Testament SBT4 1433 or available for free streaming on YouTube in individual acts

6-fish

And this, of course, is my preferred stereo Götterdämmerung. Everyone is in great voice, and Keilberth conducts as if his life depended on it.

WAGNER: Tannhäuser (abridged) / Sigismund Pilinszky, tenor (Tannhäuser); Ruth Jost-Arden, mezzo (Venus); Ivar Andresen, bass (Landgraf Hermann); Herbert Janssen, baritone (Wolfram); Maria Müller, soprano (Elisabeth); Geza Belti-Pilinszky, tenor (Walther); Georg von Tschurtschenthaler, baritone (Biterolf); Joachim Sattler, tenor (Heinrich der Schreiber); Carl Stralendorf, bass (Reinmar von Zweter); Erna Berger, soprano (A young shepherd); Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra; Karl Elmendorff, conductor / Naxos 8.110094-95 or available for free streaming on YouTube in individual acts

4-fish

This is the 1930 Bayreuth production of Tannhäuser, rehearsed and conducted in the theater by Toscanini but, due to contractural reasons, conducted by Elmendorff for the recording. The composer’s son Siegfried made the abridgements of acts 2 and 3 in order to fit it onto less 78s for the album, and he did a good job for the most part. Pilinszky is a rather nasal Tannhäuser, but he sings powerfully and musically (ironically, his understudy for this role that year was Lauritz Melchior!). Müller is a youthful, bright-voiced Elisabeth, Ivar Andresen a powerfully-voiced Landgraf, Janssen was in good voice here as Wolfram, and Ruth Jost-Arden, a Toscanini protégé, was in my view one of the most sumptuous-sounding Venuses of all time. The sound is a little scrappy but the combination of Elmendorff’s brisk tempi and Toscanini’s transparency of orchestral sound makes the performance really come alive.

WAGNER: Tannhäuser / Hans Sotin, bass (Herman, Landgraf); Helga Dernesch, soprano (Elisabeth); René Kollo, tenor (Tannhäuser); Victor Braun, baritone (Wolfram); Werner Hollweg, tenor (Walther); Kurt Equiluz, tenor (Heinrich der Schreiber); Manfred Jungwirth, baritone (Biterolf); Norman Bailey, bass (Reinmar von Zweiter); Christa Ludwig, contralto (Venus); Vienna Boys’ Choir; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Georg Solti, conductor / Decca 470810 or available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Everything clicked on this 1970 studio recording of Tannhäuser, certainly one of Georg Solti’s finest achievements. Everyone is in fresh voice, everyone sounds involved, and the whole thing takes off in a spectacular way. I’m not sure this performance will ever be surpassed.

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde (slightly abridged) / Kirsten Flagstad, soprano (Isolde); Lauritz Melchior, tenor (Tristan); Sabine Kalter, contralto (Brangäne); Herbert Janssen, baritone (Kurwenal); Emanuel List, bass (King Marke); Frank Sale, tenor (Melot); Roy Devereux, tenor (Young Sailor); Octave Düa, soprano (Shepherd); Royal Opera, Covent Garden Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Fritz Reiner, conductor / Naxos 8.11068-70 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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But for the abridgements in the score, common at the time but still frustrating, this Tristan is the go-to version for the sumptuous singing of the three big principals, Flagstad, Melchior and Kalter, the little-known but sumptuous-sounding mezzo in the role of Brangäne. The one downer in the cast is Emanuel List, whose tight, thin, dry-sounding bass does not do justice to King Marke’s music. And, of course, the sound is historic mono.

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde / Helena Braun, soprano (Isolde); Margarete Klöse, contralto (Brangäne); Fritz Richard Bender, tenor (Seaman); Gunther Treptow, tenor (Tristan); Paul Schöffler, baritone (Kurwenal); Peter Albrecht, tenor (Melot); Ferdinand Frantz, bass-baritone (King Marke); Paul Küen, tenor (Shepherd); Bavarian State Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Hans Knappertsbusch, conductor / Andromeda 9011or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

This 1950 broadcast from the Munich Opera is unusual in several respects. Firstly, tenor Gunther Treptow, whose voice usually sounded bright but not full, sounds unbelievably splendid here as Tristan. Secondly, this is the only Hans Knappertsbusch performance I’ve ever seen that did not take place in Bayreuth. And thirdly, Knappertsbusch eschews his normally leisurely style to conduct the opera as if his britches were on fire. Everyone’s in great voice, and the whole performance has the smell of the theater about it. Had Flagstad and Melchior been the soprano and tenor, it would surely surpass the 1936 recording.

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde: Act I; Acts II & III / Poul Elming, tenor (Young Sailor/Steersman); Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor (Tristan); Waltraud Meier, soprano (Isolde); Uta Priew, mezzo-soprano (Brangäne); Falk Struckmann, baritone (Kurwenal); Matthias Hölle, bass (King Marke); Poul Elming, tenor (Melot/Steersman); Sandor Solyom-Nagy, tenor (A steersman); Peter Maus, tenor (A shepherd); Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking act titles above

5-fish

The best of the stereo or digital recordings of this opera. There is also an alternative studio recording in which Marjana Lipovšek is a superior Brangäne and Matti Salminen is King Marke on Teldec.

WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder / Martha Mödl, soprano; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Joseph Keilberth, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder: I. Der Engel; II. Stehe Still; III. Im Treibhaus; IV. Schmerzen; V. Traume / Anne Schwanewilms, soprano; Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; Cornelius Meister, conductor / available for streaming on YouTube by clicking song titles above

5-fish

Two complementary yet contrasting performances of Wagner’s very fine song cycle. Martha Mödl’s voice has a drop of acid in the tone, but her sound is steady and her interpretations are deep and penetrating; Anne Schwanewilms is not quite as intense, but her voice is rich, beautiful and creamy. Both are recommended.

Wallen, Errollyn

WALLEN: Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals? / Patricia Rozario, soprano; David Le Page, Kirsty Steines, violinists; David Aspin, violist; Joseph Spooner, cellist; Philip Headlam, conductor / Dervish for Cello & Piano / Matthew Sharp, cellist; Dominic Harlan, pianist / The Girl in My Alphabet / Douglas Finch, Errrollyn Wallen, toy pianists / Horseplay for Ensemble / The Continuum Ensemble; Philip Headlam, conductor / In Our Lifetime for Baritone & Tape / Mike Henry, baritone / Louis’ Loops for Toy Piano / Margaret Leng Tan, toy pianist / Woogie Boogie / Rachel Barton Pine, violinist; Matthew Hagle, pianist / Avie 0006 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

WALLEN: Cello Concerto.* Photography (A Jelly Bean Extravaganza) / *Matthew Sharp, cellist; Ensemble X; Nicholas Kok, conductor / Hunger / The Continuum Ensemble; Philip Headlam, conductor / In Earth / Errollyn Wallen, vocal; Tim Harries, bass guitarist; Quartet X / NMC 221 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

6-fish

In a world where Kaja Saariaho is celebrated internationally as “the” female composer of the day, Belize-born Errollyn Wallen’s much more substantial music is generally marginalized. This is wholly unfair, as these superb works will show. Her music is creative, well-structured yet whimsical and inviting, none of which Saariaho’s music is.

Walton, William

WALTON: Anon in Love / Peter Pears, tenor; Julian Bream, guitarist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A wonderful but oft-neglected song by Walton, performed superbly by Pears and Bream.

WALTON: Façade / Dame Edith Sitwell, Peter Pears, speakers; English Opera Group Ensemble; Anthony Collins, conductor / part of Alto 1026, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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The downside of this recording is that it is in mono and has very tubby sound, which dulls the impact of the orchestra somewhat. The upside is that you have Peter Pears and Edith Sitwell herself reading the poems, and the effect is utterly delightful.

WALTON: Façade / Carole Boyd, Zeb Soames, speakers; ad hoc ensemble, John Wilson, conductor / Orchid Classics 100067 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

6-fish

In my view, this is the best of the modern stereo recordings of this whimsical work.

WALTON: Partita for Orchestra. Sonata for String Orchestra. Viola Concerto / James Ehnes, violist; BBC Symphony Orchestra; Edward Gardner, conductor / Chandos 5210

5-fish

A superb album of sometimes-neglected works by Walton, well conducted by Gardner. Janes Ehnes is fantastic in the viola concerto, too!

WALTON: Portsmouth Point / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Adrian Boult, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WALTON: Scapino (A Comedy Overture). Siesta / Northern Sinfonia of England; Richard Hickox, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

5-fish

Three of Walton’s most delightful orchestral works, excellently performed by Boult and Hickox respectively.

Warlock, Peter

WARLOCK: Songs: As Ever I Saw; Captain Stratton’s Fancy; Chop Cherry; Come, My Celia; Consider; A Cornish Christmas Carol; Corpus Christi; Fair and True; The First Mercy; Flow not fast, ye fountains; The Fox; The Frostbound Wood; Milkmaids; My Own Country; O eyes, o mortal stars; Oh Good Ale; Passing By; The Passionate Shepherd; Piggesnie; Pretty Ring Time; Rest, Sweet Nymphs; Sigh No More; Six Nursery Jingles; Sleep; Sweet and Kind; Sweet and Twenty; Take, O take those lips away; There is a garden in her face; Yarmouth Fair.   Capriol Suite (3 versions). Corpus Christi (3 versions).  The Curlew. Serenade for Strings / Billy Neely, boy soprano; Nancy Evans, Amy Wood, Flora Nielsen, contraltos; Parry Jones, Peter Pears, René Soames, tenors; Roy Henderson, Peter Dawson, John Armstrong, John Goss, Dennis Noble, baritones; Gerald Moore, Eric Griffin, Nikita Magaloff,  pianists; Aeolian String Quartet; International String Quartet; Diana Poulton, lutenist; Josef Szigeti, violinist; Anthony Bernard, Constant Lambert, John Barbirolli, conductors / Divine Art 27811, available for free streaming on YouTube in individual selections

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Despite the fact that these are all vintage mono recordings, this is clearly the finest and most idiomatic collection of the music of the wide-ranging but enigmatic British composer Philip Heseltine, who went by the name of Peter Warlock, and who committed suicide for still-unknown reasons at the height of his popularity in Great Britain. I would give this set six fish easily if the sound were a bit clearer on some of the tracks.

Warshaw, Dalit Hadass

WARSHAW: Desert Call / Wendy Warner, cellist / The “Dreidl” Variations. Nizk’orah for 2 Theremins & Piano / Dalit Hadass Warshaw, pianist/thereminist / Fable for String Quartet. Transformations / The Momentus Quartet; Warshaw, thereminist / Kiddush ha-Levanah / Re’ut ben Ze’ev, soprano; Warshaw, pianist / Albany 1238 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking individual titles above

6-fish

Here is yet another woman composer who gets little or no exposure, yet whose music is remarkably moving and original.

Weber, Carl Maria von

WEBER: Abu Hassan / Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano (Fatime); Erich Witte, tenor (Abu Hassan); Michael Bohnen, bass (Omar); Berlin Radio Symphony Chorus & Orchestra; Leopold Ludwig, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

I think this is Weber’s wittiest and most delightful comic opera, and this December 1944 recording is so good in nearly every respect that it has never been equaled.

WEBER: Clarinet Concerti Nos. 1 & 2 / Benny Goodman, clarinetist; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Jean Martinon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in individual movements

5-fish

I really love these recordings, in part because I saw Goodman in person playing one of the concerti (I forget which one now) back in 1967 and was utterly enchanted by it.

WEBER: Euryanthe: Overture / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / Aria, “Betörte, die an meine Liebe glaubt/ Inge Borkh, soprano; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra; Carlo Maria Guilini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

4-and-a-half-fish

I don’t particularly like Euryanthe as a complete opera, but the two excerpts listed above are very fine.

WEBER: Der Freischütz / Peter Schreier, tenor (Max); Gunther Lieb, baritone (Kilian); Theo Adam, bass (Kaspar); Siegfried Vogel, baritone (Kuno); Gundula Janowitz, soprano (Agathe); Edith Mathis, soprano (Annchen); Bernd Weikl, baritone (Prince Ottokar); Franz Crass, bass (A Hermit); Rundfunkchor Leipzig; Staatskapelle Dresden; Carlos Kleiber, conductor / Deutsche Grammophon 457736 or available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

True, Peter Schreier’s small tenor voice would not have made an ideal Max in the opera house, but a recording is not a theater and he really sings exceptionally well, and everyone else is superb in his or her roles. On top of that, Kleiber conducts as if he and the orchestra were on fire.

WEBER: Invitation to the Dance / Alfred Cortot, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

No one yet has surpassed Cortot’s 1926 recording of this famous piece.

WEBER: Invitation to the Dance (orch. Berlioz) / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Toscanini made two recordings of this piece, but the 1937 BBC Symphony version is too fast and sounds a bit rushed while this one has lightness and charm.

WEBER: Oberon / Gary Lakes, tenor (Oberon); Ben Heppner, tenor (Huon); Deborah Voigt, soprano (Rezia); Delores Ziegler, mezzo (Fatime); Dwayne Croft, baritone (Scherasmin); Victoria Livengood, mezzo (Puck); Ludwig Boettger, speaker (Narrator); Cologne State Opera Chorus; Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra; James Conlon, conductor / EMI Classics 54739 (available from Arkivmusic)

5-fish

Most people, myself included, find this “fantastic” opera by Weber to be sadly uneven in quality, but there is certainly enough good music in it to make a 70-minute CD. It may also be hard to believe that this was the recording debut of two singers destined for stardom, soprano Deborah Voigt and Canadian tenor Ben Heppner.

WEBER: Piano Concerto No. 2 in E-flat: I. Allegro maestoso; II. Adagio; III. Rondo: Presto / Ludwig Hoffmann, pianist; SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

Weber’s piano concerti sound strangely like instrumental excerpts from his operas, yet this one has its own charm and delights precisely because it sounds so operatic.

Webern, Anton

WEBERN: Cantata No. 1, Op. 29 / Claire Booth, soprano; Simon Joly Chorale; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / 4 Songs, Op. 12. 5 Songs from Der siebente Ring, Op. 3. 5 Songs on Poems by Stefan George, Op. 4. 3 Songs from Viae inviae, Op. 23. 3 Songs on Poems by Hildegard Jone / Tony Arnold, soprano; Jacob Greenberg, pianist / String Quartet. 6 Bagatelles for String Quartet / Rolf Schulte, Tai Murray, violinists; David Fulmer, violist; Fred Sherry, cellist / Naxos 8.557516 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

WEBERN: 5 Pieces for Orchestra / Columbia Symphony Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

WEBERN: Quartet for Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Violin & Piano: I. Sehr mäβig; II. Sehr schwungvoll / J. Clyde Williams, tenor saxophonist; Earl Thomas, clarinetist; Francis Chaplin, violinist; Jacques Louis Monod, pianist; René Leibowitz, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

WEBERN: Variations for Piano / Glenn Gould, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

The astringent serial music of Anton Webern is scarcely popular, even today, and I admit that some of it escapes me even when I can follow it. I heard Pierre Boulez conduct the 5 Pieces for Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic in the mid-1970s and found them cold, but I really do like Robert Craft’s performance of them much better. I also like the vocal music quite a bit, as well as the tenor saxophone quartet.

Weill, Kurt

WEILL: Threepenny Opera / Roy Brocksmith, tenor (Ballad Singer); C.K. Alexander, baritone (Peachum); Elizabeth Wilson, mezzo (Mrs. Peachum); Raul Julia, baritone (Macheath); David Sabin, baritone (Tiger Brown); Caroline Kava, soprano (Polly Peachum); Ellen Greene, mezzo (Pirate Jenny); Blair Brown, soprano (Lucy Brown); Stanley Silverman, conductor / Sony 51520, reissued by Arkivmusic (also available for streaming in small bits on YouTube)

5-fish

I have to be honest: I really don’t much like most of Kurt Weill’s music. I find him to have been essentially a classically-trained pop song writer, and the songs have an abrasive form and oftimes abrasive harmonic base. I think The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is a really disgusting story peopled by disgusting characters.

Threepenny Opera is also peopled by what you would call the vermin of society—a murderer, whores, phony beggars and a completely corrupt police chief—but it has a sort of black humor about it that appeals to my whimsical side. “The Ballad of Immoral Earnings” may be a bit gross, but it pretty much sums up (I believe) where our society was headed and, worse yet, what it has become, an era where having sex with multiple partners, birthing children without marriage, indulging in orgies and having abortions without conscience are not only commonplace but lauded as the right way to live, and in this respect Weill and his librettist, Berthold Brecht (a truly weird human being) were decades ahead of their time. So yes, I can call this art if one realizes that it does not by itself try to normalize decadence but, rather, explains it as the last resort of gutter dwellers in the slums of most big cities worldwide.

Weinberg, Mieczysław

WEINBERG: Aria. Capriccio. String Quartets Nos. 1-17 (Complete) / Quatuor Danel / CPO 777913

6-fish

WEINBERG: Cello Concerto: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3 / Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist; USSR State Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra; Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking sections above

5-fish

WEINBERG: Cello Sonata No. 2: I. Moderato; II. Andante; III. Allegro / Andrew Yee, cellist; Jeanne Golan, pianist / part of Calliope 1747 (see Szymanowski String Quartets), available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

WEINBERG: Children’s Notebook, Books 1-3. 21 Easy Pieces. 2 Fugues for Ludmila Berlinskaya. Lullaby. 2 Mazurkas. Partita. Piano Sonata, Op. 49b. Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-6. Piano Sonatina / Allison Brewster Franzetti, pianist; Grand Piano GP698-701 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

WEINBERG: Fantasia for Cello & Orchestra / Claës Gunnarsson, cellist; Göteborg Symphoniker; Thord Svedlund, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Piano Quintet in F min., Op. 18 / ARC Ensemble / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes. Symphony No. 6 / St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor / Naxos 8.572779; Rhapsody available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 3, Op. 49 / Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra; Thor Svedlund, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 / National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Gabriel Chmura, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 7: I. Adagio sostenuto; II. Allegro; III. Andante; IV. Adagio sostenuto; V. Allegro / The Moscow Chamber Orchestra; Rudolf Barshai, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 8, “Polish Flowers” / Rafal Bartmiński, tenor; Magdalena Dobrowolska, soprano; Ewa Marciniek, contralto; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus; Antoni Wit, conductor / Naxos 8. 572873

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 13; Serenade for Orchestra / Siberian State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor / Naxos 8.573879; Symphony available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title above; Serenade available for streaming in small bits

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphonies Nos. 14 & 16 / Gabriel Chmura, conductor / available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 17, “Memory”: I. Allegro sostenuto; II. Allegro molto; III. Allegro moderato; IV. Andante / Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

6-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 18, “War – There is no word more cruel.” Trumpet Concerto / Andrew Ballo, trumpeter; St. Petersburg Chamber Choir & State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor / Naxos 8.573190

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 19, “Bright May” / St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Symphony No. 20, Op. 150 / Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra; Thor Svedlund, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

WEINBERG: Violin Concerto: I. Allegro molto; II. Allegretto; III. Adagio; IV. Allegro risoluto / Leonid Kogan, violinist; Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra; Kiril Kondrashin, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title names above

5-fish

WEINBERG: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-6 / Grigory Kalinovsky, violinist; Tatiana Goncharova, pianist / Naxos 8.572320-21 or available for free streaming on YouTube starting HERE

6-fish

Mieczyslaw Weinberg (his last name was pronounced, and often spelled, Vainberg) was a Polish-Jewish composer who showed great promise by the late 1930s, but who had to flee Poland after the Nazi invasion of 1939. He went to the Soviet Union, where he spent the rest of his life and became a close friend of Dmitri Shostakovich. Thanks to Shostakovich’s connections, his Cello Concerto was premiered by no less than Mstislav Rostropovich and his Violin Concerto by Leonid Kogan, but by and large his music was ignored. In the late 1960s-early ‘70s he wrote some delightful background music for a Soviet cartoon series on Winnie-the-Pooh, some of which can be seen and heard on YouTube as well, but he pretty much kept his serious music to himself, continuing to write into the 1990s. Sadly, it has only been after his death in 1996 that his music has finally come into its own.

He clearly had his own voice, in fact several voices and a variety of styles. His symphonies are unusual in that they do not follow strict symphonic form but, rather, sound like large musical fantasias for orchestra and often for chorus and/or soloists. All of the performances listed above are first-rate and thus a good representation of his output.

Wilder, Alec

WILDER: Bull Fiddles in a China Shop. Her Old Man Was Suspicious. Dance Man Buys a Farm. His First Long Pants. The House Detective Registers. Kindergarten Flower Pageant. The Neurotic Goldfish. It’s Silk, Feel It! Remember Me to Youth. Sea Fugue Mama. Seldom the Sun. Walking Home in Spring / Alec Wilder Octet / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

4-and-a-half-fish

WILDER: 5 Love Songs. Horn Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2.* John Barrows. Suite for Horn & Piano/ Charles Tibbetts, French hornist; Penelope Cecchini, *Wolfgang Heinzel,  pianists / Albany 1398 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

WILDER: Jazz Suite for Four Horns.* Suite for Clarinet, Horn & Piano.+ Suites Nos. 1 & 2 for Horn, Tuba & Piano / Charles Tibbetts, French hornist; *William Hoyt, Ricardo Almeida, David Kappy, hornists; *Henning Backhaus, guitar/bass/drums;  +Maurita Murphy Marx, clarinetist; Michael Forbes, tubist; Vincent Fuh, pianist/*harpsichordist / Albany 1520 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

Alec Wilder walked a tightrope between composing whimsical yet complex jazz-classical octets with silly, Raymond Scott-like titles and more serious pieces for his close friend, French horn player John Barrows, a founding member of the New York Woodwind Quintet. Somewhere in between was his Jazz Suite for four horns, harpsichord and rhythm section. During the period in which Mitch Miller was the pop music A&R man for Columbia records, he insisted on recording and issuing a performance of the last movement from the latter, played by jazz pianist Stan Freeman on harpsichord and French hornists Barrows, Jimmy Buffington, Ray Alongo and Gunther Schuller (Sal Salvador played the guitar and Terry Snyder was the drummer). It bombed, as did most recordings of Wilder’s music, which was considered too highbrow for pop music audiences and too lowbrow for classical listeners. But musicians LOVED his music, and no less a personage than Frank Sinatra actually led a recording session for Columbia in the late 1940s of Wilder’s music, which sold a little better but only because it had Sinatra’s name on it. He also wrote the hit tune I’ll Be Around for the Mills Brothers, While We’re Young for Peggy Lee and Where Do You Go? for Sinatra. Wilder died a disillusioned and disappointed man in 1980.

Wolf-Ferrari, Ermanno

WOLF-FERRARI: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 26 / Guila Bustabo, violinist; Munich Philharmonic Orchestra; Rudolf Kempe, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, mostly remembered for his second-rate verismo opera The Secret of Susanna (her secret is that she smokes cigarettes), wrote this excellent violin concerto for the brilliant but shamed American-born violinist Guila Bustabo, and her performance is definitive.

Wolf, Hugo

WOLF: Italienisches Liederbuch (complete) / Michaela Selinger, mezzo; Wolfgang Holzmair, bar; Georg Beckmann, pno / part of Bridge 9378 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

WOLF: Italienisches Liederbuch (complete) / Janet Baker, mezzo; John Shirley-Quirk, bar; Steuart Bedford, pno / ICA Classics 5078 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

Two outstanding recordings of this wonderful song cycle, both highly recommended—yet the interpretations in both are slightly different. You need both.

WOLF: Italianische Serenade / Budapest String Quartet / part of Biddulph S0319

4-fish

Once easily available on a 3-LP set issued by Columbia/Odyssey, it is now only available as part of a multi-CD set from Biddulph, but no one plays it better.

WOLF: Michaelangelo Lieder: Wohl denk ich oft an mein vergangnes Leben; Alles endet, was entstehet; Fühlt meine Seele das ersehnte Licht / Alexander Kipnis, bass; Coenraad V. Bos, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

Kipnis was a rarity in his time, a well-established opera singer with a beautiful voice who was also an outstanding lieder singer. No one has yet surpassed these recordings.

WOLF: Mörike Lieder: Abschied; Begegnung; Bei einer Trauung; Der Feuerreiter; Der Gensene an die Hoffnung; In der Frühe; Lebe wohl; Nimmersatte Liebe; Selbtgeständnis; Storchenbotschaft; Um Mitternacht; Der Tambour; Verborgenheit; Zur Warnung / Siegfried Lorenz, baritone; Norman Shetler, pianist / Brilliant Classics 94705 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking individual titles above

5-fish

Surprisingly excellent performances from a baritone who is not a household name.

WOLF: Spanisches Liederbuch / Anne Sofie von Otter, mez; Geoffrey Parsons, pno / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Despite many competitors, this is the performance that moves me the most.

WOLF: Various lieder: Anakreons Grab; Fussreise; In der Fruhe; Nun wandre, Maria / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Gerald Moore, pianist / Auch kleine Dinge; Ganymed; Herr, was trägt der Boden hier? / John McCormack, tenor; Edwin Schneider, pianist / In dem Schatten meiner locken / Elisabeth Schumann, soprano; Ernest Lush, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking individual titles above

5-fish

WOLF: Verschweigene Liebe / Leo Slezak, tenor; Heinrich Schacker, pianist / available free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

These historic recordings are clearly among the best ever recorded.

Wolfgang, Gernot

WOLFGANG: Flurry / Judith Farmer, bassoonist; Nic Gerpe, pianist / New England Travelogue / Eclipse Quartet; Judith Pearce Martin, pianist / Passing Through. Trilogy* / Jennifer Johnson, oboist; Judith Farmer, bassoonist; *Robert Thies, pianist / String Theory / New Hollywood String Quartet / Albany 1624 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

5-fish

Gernot Wolfgang is a classical composer who often combines those forms with jazz in a delightful and personal manner. I love his music and think you will, too.

Wolpe, Stefan

WOLPE: The Angel. Songs of the Jewish Pioneers: I. Ra’inu; II. Saleinu; III. Tel Aviv; IV. Holem Tza’adi / Rebecca Jo Loeb, mezzo-soprano; Ursula Oppens, pianist / Lazy Andy Ant / Patrick Mason, baritone (Narrator); Zac Garcia, baritone (Andy); Wendy Buzby, mezzo-soprano (The Judge); Mathew Whitmore, bass (Anteater); Quattro Mani (Alice Rynak & Susan Grace) / O Captain, My Captain! To a Theater New / Matt Boehler, bass-baritone; Ursula Oppens, pianist / Suite for Martha Krueger: I. Women; II. Remembrance; III. The Tides of Man / Quattro Mani / Bridge 9308 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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WOLPE: String Quartet / Momenta Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

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WOLPE: Duo for 2 Violins. Piece in 2 Parts for Violin Alone. Second Piece for Violin Alone. 2 Studies for 2 Violin & Piano. Sonata for Violin & Piano. Second Sonata for Violin & Piano / Movses Pogossian, *Varty Manouelian, violinists; Susan Grace,  pianist / Bridge 9452 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Stefan Wolpe wrote in two styles, one somewhat accessible to the average listener (as in Lazy Andy Ant and the Whitman songs) and the other rather astringent harmonically, but at his best he was very interesting. The works listed above are my favorites of his output.

Composers – U

girl-penguinUllmann, Viktor

ULLMANN: Abendphantasie. 2 Hölderlin Lieder: Der Frühling. Sonnenuntergang / Mitsuko Shirai, mezzo-soprano: Hartmut Höll, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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ULLMANN: 5 Liebeslieder: 1. Wo Hast du All die Schönheit hergenommen; 2. Am Klavier; 3. Sturmlied; 4. Wenn je ein Schönes mir zu bilden gluckte; 5. O Schöne Hand, Kelch, dessen Duft Musik / Christine Schäfer, soprano; Axel Bauni, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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ULLMANN: Liederbuch des Hafis: 1. Vorausbestimmung; 2. Betrunken; 3. Unwiderstehliche Schönheit; 4. Lob des Weines / Yaron Windmüller, baritone; Axel Bauni, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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ULLMANN: Der Kaiser von Atlantis / Pierre-Yves Pruvot, baritone (Kaiser Overall); Wassyl Slipak, bass-baritone (Death/Loudspeaker); Anna Wall, mezzo-soprano (Drummer); Natalie Pérez, soprano (Bublkopf); Sébastien Obrecht, tenor (Harlequin/Soldier); Orchestre Musique des Lumières; Facundo Agudin, conductor / IBS Classical 53218 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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ULLMANN: Overture: Don Quixote tanzt Fandango. Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 / Prague Symphony Orchestra; Tomáš Hanus, conductor / Centaur 3356

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ULLMANN: Piano Concerto: I. Allegro con fuoco; II. Andante tranquillo; III. Allegro; IV. Allegro Molto / Moritz Ernst, pianist; Dortmunder Philharmoniker; Gabriel Feltz, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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ULLMANN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-7. Variations and Double Fugue / Christoph Sirodeau, pianist / Bis SACD-2116

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ULLMANN: Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets / Erika Pluhar, narrator; Dzech Philharmonic Orchestra; Gerd Albrecht, conductor / Orfeo C366951A or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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In my opinion, Viktor Ullmann was the most original, and thus the greatest, of those composers who were killed in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. His music has a very distinctive profile which is discernible to the ear but not at all easy to describe in words. His most famous work, of course, is the satiric opera The Emperor of Atlantis, written about Hitler and the Germans while he was a prisoner, and it still has the power to grip an audience—particularly those familiar with life in such totalitarian hellholes as Iran, Somalia, Cuba and Venezuela. I prefer this recording to the “all star” version on Decca with Walter Berry, Michael Kraus, Franz Mazura and conductor Lothar Zagrosek because it is much livelier and sounds less like a hothouse flower. The other recordings recommended above are all superb examples of his art.

Ulman, Barbara

ULMAN: All in Green Went My Love Riding. The Centipede. Evening Dress. Fir on the Oquossoc Shore, Singing. January Morning. Joy, Praise, Hope. maggie and millie and molly and may. Nearer to the Heart’s Desire. one winter afternoon. Prayer for This House. Reverie & Rondo for Clarinet & Piano. Weeping Mountains / Melissa Hughes, Rachel Oliver, sopranos; Michael Alberts, tenor; Loren Fields, French hornist; Gail Russ, English hornist; Martin Sobelman, clarinetist; Composer’s Choir (Daniel Shaw, director); Deb Sawyer, Emily Manzo, Cheryl Casola, Barbara Ulman, pianists / CD Baby 5637986207; all but the Reverie & Rondo available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Barbara Ulman is one of the few composers I’ve had the privilege to interview via email. What I remembered most about her was her incredible modesty—she really doesn’t realize just how fine and original a composer she is—plus her fanatical attention to detail. She kept sending me changes to her interview answers three or four times, the last one after my deadline. But I also have to thank her for introducing me to Zamzar, the online service that converts many different files to more conventional and usable files for free. She is clearly one of the most underrated composers of her time.

Underhill, Owen

UNDERHILL: Cello Concerto, “The Curio Box” / Ariel Barnes, cellist; Turning Point Ensemble; Owen Underhill, conductor / Orlando 0037

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Just one work by this composer, the only one I’ve heard, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Well worth seeking out!

Composers – T

girl-penguin

Taffanel, Paul

TAFFANEL: Quintet for Winds / New York Woodwind Quintet / available for free streaming at Internet Archive

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Paul Taffanel was the late 19th century’s greatest flute virtuoso who left us a few rare recordings from the early 20th century. He also wrote this one great piece. I still maintain that this recording of it by the New York Woodwind Quintet is the best ever made.

Tailleferre, Germaine

TAILLEFERRE: Ballade for Piano & Orchestra / Florian Uhlig, pianist; Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken; Pablo Gonzalez, conductor / part of SWR Music 19027, also available for free streaming on YouTube

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TAILLEFERRE: 6 Chansons Françaises / Jane Bathori, mezzo-soprano; Germaine Tailleferre, pianist / available for free streaming at Internet Archive

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Germaine Tailleferre, the only female member of Les Six, was a fairly good composer. These are, for me, her two finest pieces.

Taneyev, Sergei

TANEYEV: String Quartets Nos. 2 & 6 / The California String Quartet / Centaur CRC 3589, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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An outstanding recording of two unjustly neglected works by an unjustly neglected composer.

Tansman, Alexandre

TANSMAN: Bric a Brac – Ballet en 3 Tableaux. Sextuor: Ballet-Bouffe / Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Wojciech Michniewski, conductor / CPO 777987-2

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TANSMAN: Novelettes: Blues / Walter Gieseking, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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TANSMAN: Piano Sonata No. 2, “Transatlantique”: I. Fox-trot, Allegro; II. Spiritual & Blues; III. Charleston: Molto vivo / Daniel Blumenthal, pianist / Part of Etcetera 2021 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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Russian-born Alexandre Tansman moved to Paris in the 1920s and became one of the more popular of “French” composers of the 1920s through the ‘40s. His entertaining music is very jazz-based in places, particularly in the Blues from Novelettes (played with surprisingly good slow-drag phrasing by Gieseking) and the Piano Sonatina No. 2.

Tarkiainen, Outi

TARKIAINEN: Baudelaire Songs. Into the Woodland Silence */ Tuuli Lindeberg, soprano; Emil Holstrom, pianist; *Lauri Sallinen, clarinetist; *Markus Hohti, cellist / …Ja Alkoivat Laulaa (…And They Began to Sing) / Veli Kojala, accordionist / Sans Paroles / Lauri Sallinen, clarinetist / Thy Words, Submerged in Stone / Markus Hohti, cellist / Trois Poemes / Kamus String Quartet / Until the Stone Splits / Maria Puusaari, violinist / Alba 415 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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In my humble opinion, Outi Tarkiainen is a great musical genius. I find her music far more substantial and better constructed than that of the vastly overrated Kaja Saariaho, and these works are superb examples of her discursive musical mind.

Tchaikovsky, Piotr Ilich

TCHAIKOVSKY: Can It Be Day? Not a Word, My Friend / Rosalind Plowright, mezzo-soprano; Philip Mountford, pianist / Disenchantment. The Nightingale / Feodor Chaliapin, bass; unidentified pianist / Pilgrim’s Song / Feodor Chaliapin, bass; Alexander Schmidt, violinist; Orch., Rosario Bourdon, conductor / Don Juan’s Serenade / Nicolai Gedda, tenor; Erik Werba, pianist / None But a Lonely Heart / Rosa Ponselle, mezzo-soprano; Igor Chicagov, pianist / Pourquoi? / Enrico Caruso, tenor; Victor Orch.; Josef Pasternack, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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TCHAIKOVSKY: 6 French Songs, Op. 65: I. Où va-tu, soufflé d’aurore; II. Déception; III. J’aime dans le rayon; IV. Qu’importe que l’hiver; V. Les larmes; VI. Rondel / Irina Arkhipova, mezzo-soprano; Igor Guselnikov, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Tchaikovsky didn’t write nearly as many songs as his predecessor, Mussorgsky, but we tend to think he wrote more because some of the ones he did write are so famous. The recordings above are my absolute favorites, and if one is surprised to see the non-Slavic names of Caruso, Ponselle and Plowright among my favorite singers, I don’t really much care. They gave their all in these songs and projected the words and the feelings of the music better than most others.

TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture / Cleveland Orchestra; Artur Rodziński, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Claudio Abbado, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Two great recordings of this warhorse made about a half-century apart. Despite the dated sound, however, Rodziński’s 1940 recording actually has better textural clarity than Abbado’s.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin / Renée Fleming, soprano (Tatiana); Elena Zaremba, mezzo-soprano (Olga); Svetlana Volkova, mezzo (Mme. Larina); Ramón Vargas, tenor (Lemsky); Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone (Eugene Onegin); Keith Miller, bass (Captain); Sergei Aleksashkin, bass (Prince Gremin); Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor / Decca 0743248, DVD

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A rare DVD opera recommendation from me. There are a few quirky things in this production, but not so many that they offend or confuse the viewer, and the vocal-musico-dramatic performance is beyond reproach. Renée Fleming is, curiously, often bland in standard operatic repertoire, but in Handel, Russian opera and some French roles she is stupendous. I wasn’t as huge a fan of Hvorstovsky as other critics were, but in this specific role (and Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra on CD) he really did give 110%. In addition, this was conducted by Valery Gergiev back when he really was Valery Gergiev.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Fantasy Overture from “The Tempest.” Fantasy Overture, “Romeo and Juliet.” Voyevoda Overture / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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Toscanini didn’t conduct as much Tchaikovsky as one might like, but these are among his greatest performances.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy. Hamlet: Fantasy Overture / State Academic Symphony Orchestra; Yevgeny Svetlanov, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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Svetlanov was even more fiery in Tchaikovsky than Toscanini—a real fire-eater—and these performances are among his finest.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred Symphony / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko, conductor / Naxos 8.570568, also available for free streaming in individual movements on YouTube

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No question about it, this is the greatest Manfred I’ve ever heard.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Marche Slav / London Symphony Orchestra; Leopold Stokowski, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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This piece might almost have been written for Stokowski.

TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker / National Philharmonic Orchestra; Richard Bonynge, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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I’ve heard a ton of complete Nutcracker recordings, including Ansermet, Rodziński, Robert Irving and a bunch of modern Russian conductors, but this one is absolutely the best, combining exciting, well-inflected phrasing in every piece with perfectly danceable tempi.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Vladimir Horowitz, pianist; NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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I generally dislike Vladimir Horowitz in just about everything, and I really hated this combination’s studio recording of this concerto for RCA Victor, but this 1943 live performance is perfection in every sense (except, of course, for the less-than-ideal sonics).

TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 2: I. Allegro brillante; II. Andante non troppo; III. Allegro con fuoco / Shura Cherkassky, pianist; RIAS Sinfonie-Orchester; Ferenc Fricsay, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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Shura Cherkassky was the world’s leading champion of this oft-ignored concerto, and recorded it several times. This is my favorite of his several versions.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) / Vladimir Atlantov, tenor (Herman); Vladimir Valaitis, baritone (Count Tomsky); Andrei Fedoseyev, baritone (Prince Yeletsky); Tama Milashkina, soprano (Lisa); Elena Obraztsouva, contralto (Countess); Galina Borisova, mezzo (Pauline); Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and Chorus; Mark Ermler, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The best recording of this opera ever. It will have you on the edge of your seat.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48: I. Pezzo in forma di sonatina; II. Walzer: Moderato; III. Elegie: Larghetto elegaico; IV. Finale (Tema Russo) / Moscow Soloists; Yuri Bashmet, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

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Not one of Tchaikovsky’s flashier compositions, but one of his best-constructed pieces, and this is my favorite recording of it.

TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartet No. 2: I. Adagio; Moderato assai; II. Scherzo: Allegro giusto; III. Andante ma non tanto; IV. Finale: Allegro con moto / Budapest String Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title names above

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Despite the dated 1929 sound, this performance by the early Budapest String Quartet (back when they still had Hungarians in it!) has more feeling in it than any other I’ve ever heard.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake (Complete Ballet) / Teatro alla Scala Orchestra, Milan; James Tuggle, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Forget the visual aspect of this video: it’s a fairly mediocre performance. The musical treatment of the score is absolutely fantastic!

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 1, “Winter Dreams”: I. Allegro tranquillo; II-IV Movements / Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; Fabien Sevitzky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on links above

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TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Vladimir Jurowski, conductor / LPO 0109 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 / State Academic Symphony Orchestra; Evgeny Svetlanov, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5: I. Andante – Allegro con anima; II. Andante cantábile; III. Valse: Allegro moderato; IV. Finale: Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace / New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra; Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

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TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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You could, if you wish, shortcut this list and just buy the six numbered symphonies recorded by Igor Markevitch: they’re quite good and, as a series, very uniform in quality. But I actually prefer the list above, despite the fact that numbers 1, 5 and 6 are in mono sound, because the performances are more varied in approach and, in general, more intense than Markevitch’s. Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is that of Fabien Sevitzky, Serge Koussevitzky’s very talented nephew. He did not produce as silken a sound with the Indianapolis Symphony as his uncle did with the Boston Symphony, but he was a better musician, producing taut, exciting performances with a keen ear to the music’s structure.

I agonized between Toscanini’s 1942 recording of the Sixth Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which is taken at a slightly more relaxed pace and has gorgeous sound quality, but in the end I felt that his 1947 remake with the NBC Symphony sounded somehow more “Russian” and had more bite to it. Svetlanov’s 1967 recording of the Fourth is, of course, a legendary performance, and I found Jurowski’s new recordings of the Second and Third to be much more dynamic and exciting than Markevitch’s. So there.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto: I. Allegro moderato; II. Canzonetta: Andante; III. Finale: Allegro vivaccisimo / Bronislaw Huberman, violinist; Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, conductor / Music & Arts 1122 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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Huberman left us two recordings of this concerto, the first a studio version from 1929 conducted by Steinberg and this live performance from 1946 conducted by Ormandy. I like both, but the 1946 performance has cleaner and more dramatically inflected playing by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and of course the sound is far superior. Huberman plays both performances virtually the same in terms of phrasing and style.

Telemann, Georg Philipp

TELEMANN: Orchestral Suites (6) / Pratum Integrum Orchestra / Caro Mitis 22010 or available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

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TELEMANN: Tafelmusik, Production 3 / Cologne Musica Antiqua; Reinhard Goebel, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Telemann was a good composer but, to my ears, not always interesting. The works listed above are the ones I enjoy the most.

Thomas, Ambroise

THOMAS: Le Caïd: Enfant chéri des dames [Air du Tambour-Major] / Pol Plançon, bass; Victor Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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THOMAS: Hamlet: O vin, discaccia la tristezze / Titta Ruffo, baritone; Victor Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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THOMAS: Hamlet: Sa main depuis hier [Mad Scene] / Eidé Norena, soprano; Piero Coppola, conductor; unidentified orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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THOMAS: Mignon / Risë Stevens, contralto (Mignon); James Melton, tenor (Wilhelm Meister); Mimi Benzell, soprano (Philine); Ezio Pinza, bass (Lothario); Lucielle Browning, mezzo (Frédéric); Donald Dame, tenor (Laërte); John Gurney, baritone (Jarno); Osie Hawkins, baritone (Antonio); Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus; Wilfred Pelletier, conductor / Sony Classical 7961922 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

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Thomas was another minor composer whose opera Mignon was his greatest achievement. Although there have been other, more modern recordings of this opera, none have the overall pizzazz or feeling for the music of this old Metropolitan Opera broadcast, one of the greatest preserved from the Old Met. The recorded excerpts from Le Caïd and Hamlet (a weak opera with only two notable arias) listed above are even older historic recordings, but no one in the modern era has ever surpassed them.

Thomas, Augusta Read

THOMAS: Angel Tears & Earth Prayers / Allen Harrington, saxophonist; Lottie Enns-Braun, organist / Chi for String Quartet / Spektral Quartet / Dappled Things / Notre Dame University Glee Club / Eurythmy Etudes for Piano / Lynn Raley, pianist / Klee Musings for Piano Trio / Civitas Ensemble / Qi for Percussion Quartet on Two Marimbas / Third Coast Percussion / Ritual Incantations (Cello Concerto No. 2) / David Finckel, cellist; Taipei Symphony Orchestra; Felix Chiu-Sen Chen, conductor / Venus Enchanted / Scott Kluksdahl, cellist / Nimbus Alliance 6355, also available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

Augusta Read Thomas is an interesting American composer whose music has been issued somewhat extensively on the British Nimbus Alliance label. I’ve heard three CDs of her music, but the one above is, for me, the best and most consistently interesting.

Thomson, Virgil

THOMSON: Concerto for Cello & Orchestra / Yehuda Hanani, cellist; RTE National Symphony Orchestra; William Eddins, conductor / part of Naxos 8.559344 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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THOMSON: The Mother of Us All / Dorothy Dow, soprano (Susan B. Anthony); Belva Kibler, mezzo (Anne); Hazel Gravell, mezzo (Gertrude S.); Robert Grooters, baritone (Virgil T.); Bertram Rowe, baritone (Daniel Webster); William Horne, tenor (Jo the Loiterer); Carlton Sunday, baritone (Chris the Citizen); Ruth Krug, soprano (Indiana Elliot); Carolyn Blakeslee, mezzo (Angel More); Teresa Stich-Randall, soprano (Henrietta M.); Jacques LaRochelle, tenor (Henry B.); Alfred Kunz, bass (Thaddeus Stevens ); Nancy Reid, mezzo (Lillian Russell); William Elliott Savage (Indiana’s Brother); George C. Hunter, baritone (Negro Man); Columbia University Orchestra; Otto Luening, conductor / Opera Depot OD 11106-2

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THOMSON: The Plow That Broke the Plains / Symphony of the Air; Leopold Stokowski, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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THOMSON: The River / American Recording Society Orchestra; Dean Dixon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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THOMSON: Tiger! Tiger! / Troy Valjean Rucker, baritone; Victoria Devany, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Music critic, columnist and composer Virgil Thomson didn’t write as much music as he might have because of his other duties. His style vacillated between an American sort of Stravinskyism (The Mother of Us All) and a much more popular sort of late-Romantic Americana (the other works). His other well-known opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, I find confused and unpalatable, but The Mother of Us All is a gem, and this rather dry-sounding recording of the world premiere from 1947 is still the best recording of it.

Tippett, Michael

TIPPETT: A Child of Our Time / Ute Selbig, soprano; Nora Gubisch, contralto; Jerry Hadley, tenor; Robert Holl, bass; Chorus of Saxon State Opera, Dresden; Dresden State Orchestra; Sir Colin Davis, conductor / Hänssler Classic 7052 or available for free streaming on YouTube starting HERE

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Michael Tippett, who I actually met at the Aspen Music Festival in 1979, was a fair composer who wrote one work of real genius. This is it. Despite the starry names of Jessye Norman and Janet Baker on Davis’ studio recording for Philips, I actually prefer this live performance.

Tosti, F. Paolo

TOSTI: Addio. L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra. ‘A Vucchella. Luna d’estate. Ideale. Pour un baiser. La mia canzone / Enrico Caruso, tenor; Victor Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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TOSTI: Aprile. Ideale. Si tu le volais. L’ultima canzone / Rosa Ponselle, soprano; various accompaniments / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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TOSTI: Au temps du grand Roi / Victor Maurel, baritone; unknown pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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TOSTI: Marcehiare / Tito Schipa, tenor; Victor Orchestra; Rosario Bourdon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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TOSTI: Occhi di fata. La Serenata / Beniamino Gigli, tenor w/orchestras / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Francesco Paolo Tosti, the great song writer born in Italy, actually spent much of his life in England where his music delighted Queen Victoria. Although not on the highest level of art, his music was very well crafted and attractive. By and large, the older singers sang it better than today’s sticks-in-the-mud.

Turina, Joaquin

TURINA: Danzas Gitanas / Katarzyna Musiał, pianist / part of Meridian 84621 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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TURINA: La Oración del Torero / Leopold Stokowski & his Symphony Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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TURINA: Piano Quartet in A min. / Trio Arbós; Rocio Gómez, violist / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

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TURINA: Poeme en forma de Canciones / Ailyn Pérez, soprano; Iain Burnside, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Turina was an interesting composer who wrote a few really great pieces. These are my favorite versions of them.

Tymoczko, Dmitri

TYMOCZKO: Another Fantastic Voyage / Daniel Schlosberg, pianist; Illinois Modern Ensemble / Dreams May Come. Kachunk. Katrina Stomp. Sweet Nothings / Thomas Bergeron, trumpeter; Alejandro Aviles, alto saxist; Geoff Vidal, tenor saxist; Ken Thomson, bass clarinetist; Daniel Kelly, pianist; Michael O’Brien, bassist; David Skidmore, drummer / Earthquake. Loop & Swing / Bergeron, Vidal, O’Brien, Skidmore; Jon Irbagon, alto saxist; Rane Moore, bass clarinetist; William Stevens, pianist; James Johnston, synthesizer / The Eggman Variations / Corigliano Quartet; John Blacklow, pianist / Sayonara / Bergeron, Aviles,Vidal, Thomson, O’Brien, Skidmore; Vladimir Katz, pianist / This Picture Seems to Move. Typecase Treasury / The Amernet String Quartet / Bridge 9383 or available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

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TYMOCZKO: I Cannot Follow / Flexible Music / Rube Goldberg Variations / John Blacklow, pianist; Atlantic Brass Quintet / S Sensation Something / Matthew Bengtson, pianist; Amernet String Quartet / Bridge 9492 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

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I find Dmitri Tymoczko’s music unique and compelling in its odd way. He seems to me to combine angular modern classical forms and occasionally jazz or rock music in a highly creative manner.

Composers – Se/Sz

Sgirl-penguineabourne, Peter

SEABOURNE: “Accept These Few Roses” for String Quartet / Coull Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SEABOURNE: Child’s Play for Wind Quintet. Storyteller: Chamber Concerto No. 3 for Bass & 8 Players / Fabio di Casola, clarinetist; Kaspar Zehnder, flautist; Jaime Gonzalez, oboist; Monika Schneider, bassoonist; Sebastian Schindler, hornist; Kamilla Schatz, violinist; Matthias Schrantz, cellist; Ivan Nestic, bassist; Ava Artounian, pianist; Kaspar Zehnder, flautist/conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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SEABOURNE: Double Concerto for Horn & Orchestra / Ondřej Vrabec, hornist/conductor; Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SEABOURNE: On the Blue Shore of Silence for Cello & Piano: I.; II.; III.; IV. / Orsolya Vági, cellist; Sayaka Kubota, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement numbers above

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SEABOURNE: Piano Concerto No. 2 / Kristina Stepasjuková, pianist; Academy Orchestra of the Czech Republic; Ondřej Vrabec, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SEABOURNE: Pietà for Viola & Piano / Henrietta Hill, violist; Alessandro Viale, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SEABOURNE: 16 Scenes Before a Crucifixion / Alessandro Viale, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

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SEABOURNE: String Quintet: I.; II.; III & IV / Mainzer Virtuosi of the Casalmaggiore Festival / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement number above

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SEABOURNE: Symphony of Roses / Symphony Orchestra Biel-Solothurn; Kaspar Zehnder, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SEABOURNE: Threads for Solo Violin, mvmts 2, 3 & 5 / Alberto Bologni, violinist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SEABOURNE: This is a Song for You Alone (Violin Concerto): I. Appassionato; II. Dolce – Semplice / Irina Borissova, violinist; Mainzer Virtuosi; Dmitry Khakhalin, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

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SEABOURNE: Tu Sospiri? For Chamber Orchestra / Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie; Daniel Raiskin, conductor / available for free streaming HERE

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SEABOURNE: Violin Concerto / Fenella Humphreys, violinist; Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss Orch.; Lavard Skou Larsen, conductor / available for free streaming by clicking on movement links HERE

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As I noted in my three reviews of Peter Seabourne’s music, he has a very original and discursive style based in part on the music of Bartók but using entirely original themes and motifs. Some of his music is harmonically astringent, some quite lyrical; much of it is fairly complex in construction while other pieces (particularly his piano works) are made up of simpler building blocks. The bottom line is that each and every piece listed above is worth investigating, because unlike so many modern composers, Seabourne, along with Kalevi Aho and a few others, manages to vary his compositional style enough to continue holding your interest as you move from work to work. Seabourne is also generous enough to make much of his music available for free streaming online himself, believing that promulgation breeds interest and, in turn, further performances, but sadly he is still far less known than his extraordinary talent deserves.

Segerstam, Leif

SEGERSTAM: Concertino-Fantasia for Violin, Piano & Small Orchestra. Piano Concerto No. 1. Orchestral Diary Sheet No. 34 / *Hannele Segerstam, violinist; +Rainer Keuschnig, pianist; ORF Symphony Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Kontrapunkt 32184

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SEGERSTAM: Concerto Serioso for Violin & Orchestra.* Divertimento. Patria. Sketches from Pandora. Three Moments of Parting for Violin & Piano*+ / *Hannele Segerstam, violinist; +Ralf Gothoni, pianist; Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Bis CD-84

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SEGERSTAM: Moments of Peace III. So It Feels (Piano Concerto No. 3). Symphony No. 13 / Rainer Keuschnig, pianist; Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Bis CD-184

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SEGERSTAM: String Quartet No. 6. A Nnnnnoooowww for Wind Quintet. Rituals in La for 2 Pianos / Segerstam Quartet; Helsinki Wind Quintet; Leif Segerstam, Lasse Werner, pianist / Bis CD-20

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SEGERSTAM: String Quartet No. 7. Six Songs of Experience / Segerstam Quartet; Taru Valjakka, soprano; Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Bis CD-38

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SEGERSTAM: Symphonies Nos. 11 & 14* / *Mikael Samuelson, baritone; Finnish & *Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Bis CD-483

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SEGERSTAM: Symphonies Nos. 81, 162, 181 / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Ondine 1172

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Those who have read my article on Leif Segerstam in the 1970s will be aware of how wonderful and interesting the above works are. Segerstam’s unusually fluid, “melting-clock” style of composition isn’t for everyone, but once you get used to it and into what he is doing, I think you’ll be captivated.

Seiber, Mátyás

SEIBER: Andantino Pastorale for Clarinet & Piano. Divertimento. Introduction & Allegro for Clarinet, Cello & Piano. More Nonsense.* 3 Morgenstern Lieder.* The Owl and the Pussycat.*Serenade for Wind Sextet / *Sarah Maria Sun, soprano; various instrumental performers / Avi 8553602

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Magnificent performances of the offbeat music of Mátyás Seiber, the unfortunately little-known Hungarian composer who also loved jazz and sometimes incorporated it into his works.

SEIBER-DANKWORTH: Improvisations for Jazz Band & Symphony Orchestra / The Johnny Dankworth Band; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Hugh Rignold, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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One of the finest Third Stream works ever composed, brilliantly played by both the jazz band and symphony orchestra.

Shostakovich, Dmitri

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Golden Age (Complete Ballet) / Royal Scottish National Orchestra; José Serebrier, conductor / Naxos 8.570217-18

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Shostakovich’s 1930 ballet about a Soviet soccer team visiting a Western city where their efforts are undermined by hostile administrators, decadent artists and corrupt officials has dated badly except for the music, which is fascinating and, for Shostakovich, unusually happy and sunny. A few of the numbers in the complete score are mere transition music, meant to bridge scenes onstage, but I personally recommend the full ballet because the suites leave out some wonderful music. Serebrier’s performance is both energetic and musically taut, bringing out the best in the score.

SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerti Nos. 1 & 2 / Yefim Bronfman, pianist; Los Angeles Philharmonic Orch.; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor / Piano Quintet / Bronfman, pianist; Juilliard String Quartet / Sony Classical 60677 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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My general complaint with much of Shostakovich’s music is that it is whiny and self-indulgent, but these two piano concerti are among his happiest and most engaging works. Brilliant performances all round!

SHOSTAKOVICH: 24 Preludes & Fugues / Craig Sheppard, pianist / Roméo 7315-16, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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One of Shostakovich’s finest achievements, superbly played by the underrated American pianist Craig Sheppard.

SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartets Nos. 1-15 (Complete). Piano Quintet.* 2 Pieces for String Octet+ / Borodin String Quartet; *Sviatoslav Richter, pianist; +Prokofiev String Quartet / Melodiya 1001077; most also available for free streaming on YouTube

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This has long been considered the touchstone recording of these works, which are possibly Shostakovich’s finest achievement as a composer.

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1: I. Allegretto; II. Allegro; III. Lento; IV. Lento – Allegro molto / NBC Symphony Orch.; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual movement titles above

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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5 / Cleveland Orchestra; Artur Rodziński, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad” / NBC Symphony Orch.; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 / Prague Symphony Orchestra; Václac Smetaček, conductor / Orchestral Concert 14

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These are my four favorite Shostakovich symphonies and my favorite recordings of them. The Toscanini No. 7 has long been a controversial performance and recording, but except for slightly faster tempi in the last movement, no one follows Shostakovich’s score better than he—emotional but lacking the sentimentality that Shostakovich himself preferred (but I don’t).

SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Concerto No. 1: I. Nocturne; II. Scherzo; III. Passacaglia-Cadenza; IV. Burleska / David Oistrakh, violinist; New York Philharmonic Orch.; Dmitri Mitropoulos, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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An absolutely stupendous performance in every respect. Don’t let the mono sound put you off.

Shulman, Alan

SHULMAN: A Laurentian Overture / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Guido Cantelli, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SHULMAN: Mood in Question / Artie Shaw, clarinetist; New Music Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SHULMAN: Rendezvous for Clarinet & Strings / Benny Goodman, clarinetist; Stuyvesant String Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SHULMAN: Theme and Variations / Emmanuel Vardi, violist; NBC Symphony Orch.; Frank Black, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Alan Shulman, one of the “jazzniks” in Toscanini’s NBC Symphony, wrote a few pieces that were quite interesting. These are my favorite performances.

Sibelius, Jean

SIBELIUS: The Bard / London Philharmonic Orch.; Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: En Saga / New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orch.; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Festivo / Royal Philharmonic Orch.; Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Finlandia / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Lemminkäinen’s Return / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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These short pieces are among Sibelius’ most popular, and they still hold up today, particularly in these performances.

SIBELIUS: Kullervo: Dramatic Symphony, Op. 7 / Randi Stene, mezzo; Peter Mattei, baritone; Estonian National Male Choir; Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra; Paavo Järvi, conductor / Virgin Classics 3913632 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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A remarkable work, often overlooked in Sibelius’ oeuvre, played and sung beautifully in this performance.

SIBELIUS: The Oceanides / Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra; Andrew Davis, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Songs / Gerald Finley, baritone; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Edward Gardner, conductor / Chandos CHSA 5178 or available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Canadian baritone Gerald Finley does a superb job on this collection of Sibelius songs with orchestral accompaniments, excellently conducted by Gardner.

SIBELIUS: The Swan of Tuonela / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Herbert von Karajan, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Symphonies Nos. 1-3 & 5. Pohjola’s Daughter. Tapiola / London Symphony Orchestra; Robert Kajanus, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The great conductor Robert Kajanus, a personal friend of the composer, was the first to record all of his symphonies, but only the ones listed above are available for free on YouTube, along with his superb versions of Pohjola’s Daughter and Tapiola.

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 4 / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Toscanini brings out the tragic quality of this symphony better than anyone else I’ve ever heard.

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 6 / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 7 / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Beecham’s recordings of the last two Sibelius symphonies are among his finest recordings.

SIBELIUS: The Tempest; Pelléas et Mélisande / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SIBELIUS: Valse Triste / Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Stokowski recorded Valse Triste several times, but this one is my favorite.

SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto / Guila Bustabo, violinist; Berlin State Opera Orchestra; Fritz Zaun, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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As good as Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is in this concerto—and she is outstanding—she doesn’t hold a candle to Guila Bustabo in intensity, despite the dated 1940 sound.

Smetana, Bedřich

SMETANA: The Bartered Bride: Overture / Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SMETANA: The Bartered Bride: Komm, mein Sohnchen / Fritz Wunderlich, tenor; Gottlob Frick, bass; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Rudolf Kempe, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Smetana’s folk opera The Bartered Bride combines a few good arias and scenes with rather inferior “folk”-type music, but these are two of the best and most distinctive excerpts from it.

SMETANA: Bohemian Fantasy / Fritz Kreisler, violinist; George Falkenstein, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SMETANA: From My Homeland / Bronislaw Huberman, violinist; Boris Roubakine, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Two excellent short violin pieces, played to perfection by Kreisler and Huberman.

SMETANA: Ma Vlast / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Rafael Kubelik, conductor / Orfeo 115841

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Rafael Kubelik recorded Ma Vlast several times, including performances with the Czech Philharmonic from 1990 and 1991, but this earlier recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony remains his finest in all respects.

SMETANA: String Quartets No. 1, “From My Life” & No. 2, “From My Homeland” / Pavel Haas Quartet / Supraphon 4172 or available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

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There have been many fine recordings of these outstanding quartets over the years, but none have the incredibly intense energy of these performances.

Smyth, Ethel

Ethel Smyth was one of the finest composers of her day, which was the late 19th century through the mid-1920s, but by the late 1930s her fame and reputation had fallen away from her. In recent decades, however, a great deal of her music has been revived, showing her to have been not only a good composer but a very original one. Below are the works I consider to be her best.

SMYTH: Cello Sonata in a min.: I. Allegro moderato; II. Adagio non troppo; III. Allegro vivace e grazioso  / Moray Welsh, cellist; Martin Roscoe, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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SMYTH: Double Concerto for Violin, Horn & Orchestra / Sascha Gawriloff, violinist; Marie-Luise Neunecker, hornist; Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR; Uri Mayer, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SMYTH: Mass in D / Catriona Smith, soprano; Helene Schneiderman, alto; Scott MacAllister, tenor; Andreas Macco, bass; Hermann Trefz, organist; Philharmonia Chor Stuttgart; Württemburgische Philharmonie Reutlingen; Helmut Wolf, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SMYTH: String Quartet in e min.: I. Allegretto lirico; II. Allegro molto leggiero; III. Andante; IV. Allegro energico / Fanny Mendelssohn Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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SMYTH: The Wreckers / Peter Sidhom, baritone (Pascoe); David Wilson-Johnson, baritone (Lawrence); Brian Bannatyne-Scott, bass (Harvey); Anthony Roden, tenor (Tallan); Annemarie Sand, mezzo-soprano (Jack); Justin Lavender, tenor (Mark); Anne-Marie Owens, mezzo (Thirza); Judith Howarth, soprano (Avis); Huddersfield Choral Society; BBC Philharmonic Orchestra; Odaline de la Martinez, conductor / Conifer 51250; acts 2 & 3 only available for free streaming on YouTube

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Sorabji, Khaikosru Shapurji

SORABJI: Piano Pieces: In the Hothouse; Toccata. Fantaisia ispanica. Vales-Fantasie: “Hommage à Johann Strauss.” Pastiches: “Hindu Merchant’s Song” by Rimsky-Korsakov; “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen”; Chopin’s Valse. Le jardin perfumé. Jami. Gulist­ān. Opus Clavicembalisticum: Introito & Prelude-Corale. Prelude, Interlude & Fugue. Fragment Written for Harold Rutland. Fantasiettina sul nome illustre del’egregio poeta Christopher Grieve ossia Hugh M’Diuarmid. Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora. St. Bertrand de Comminges, “He Was Laughing at the Tower.” HABERMANN: Au clair de la lune, in the style of Sorabji / Michael Habermann, pianist / Naxos 8.571363-65, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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A reissue of Michael Habermann’s landmark recordings of Sorabji’s music—the first ever commercially made, and with the approval (not easy to get!) of the composer himself—this 3-CD set presents many astonishing gems as well as many “lighter” pieces (still very complex and difficult to play) that both he and Sorabji apparently felt would help to sell his difficult and very non-commercial music to the public. Habermann must be lauded for this effort; many of these performances still hold up extremely well, and several of the pieces here have never been recorded by anyone else.

SORABJI: Opus Clavicembalisticum / Geoffrey Douglas Madge, pianist / Bis 1062/64

5-fish

There are only two extant recordings of this massive work, this one and the recording  by John Ogden which, though more exciting in places, is played quite inaccurately in several key passages.

SORABJI: Songs / Elizabeth Farnum, soprano; Margaret Kampmeier, pianist / Centaur 3613, or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube starting HERE

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Sadly, Elizabeth Farnum has a wobbly and somewhat strained voice, but her musicianship is impeccable, Margaret Kampmeier is a superb pianist, and alas, no one else has recorded all of these songs, which are typically fascinating and atypically brief.

SORABJI: Symphonic Nocturne / Lukas Huisman, pianist / Piano Classics PCLD0119

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An exciting, outstanding performance of Sorabji’s late-period, unpublished “nocturne,” one of his strangest and most discursive works.

SORABJI: Transcendental Studies Nos. 1-25 / Fredrik Ullén, pianist / Bis 1373
SORABJI: Transcendental Studies Nos. 26-43 / Fredrik Ullén, pianist / Bis 1533
SORABJI: Transcendental Studies Nos. 44-62 / Fredrik Ullén, pianist / Bis 1713
SORABJI: Transcendental Studies Nos. 63-71 / Fredrik Ullén, pianist / Bis 1853
SORABJI: Transcendental Studies Nos. 72-83 / Fredrik Ullén, pianist / Bis 2223

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Pianist Fredrik Ullén is in the process of recording all 100 of Sorabji’s often long and discursive Transcendental Studies, but has been stuck at 83 for the past year. Nonetheless, all of these albums are worth acquiring, as these are among the composer’s most interesting and well-structured works.

Spontini, Gasparo

SPONTINI: Agnese di Hohenstaufen (abridged) / Montserrat Caballé, soprano (Agnese); Antonietta Stella, soprano (Irmengarda); Sesto Bruscantini, baritone (Duke of Burgundy); Bruno Prevedi, tenor (Henry the Palatine); Giangiacomo Guelfi, baritone (Emperor Henry VI); Giampaolo Corradi, baritone (Philip Hohenstaufen); Walter Alberti, bass (Henry the Lion); Ferruccio Mazzoli, bass (Archbishop); Carlo di Giacomo, tenor (Teobaldo); Giovanni Antonini, tenor (First Squire); RAI Symphony Orchestra & Chorus; Riccardo Muti, conductor / Opera d’Oro 1187 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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In my view, Gasparo Spontini is still one of the most underrated Italian opera composers of all time. His work is far more original and inventive than that of the “Bel canto boys” (Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini), yet because it is les obviously tuneful it is badly under-performed. This late opera concerning the struggle between Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI and Henry the Lion, which also involves the Emperor’s cousin Agnes, is not one of his strongest plots but the music is outstanding.

SPONTINI: Fernando Cortez / Angela Gulin, soprano (Amazily); Bruno Prevedi, tenor (Fernando Cortez); Aldo Bottion, tenor (Alvaro); Antonio Blancas Laplaza, baritone (Telasco); Luigi Roni, bass (High Priest); Ivan Stefanov, bass (Montezuma); Carlo del Bosco, baritone (Moralez); Nereo Ceron, tenor (A Sailor); Guido Fabbris, bass (Mexican official); RAI Symphony Orchestra & Chorus; Lovro von Matacic, conductor / House of Opera CD85812, available for sale HERE or available for free streaming on YouTube

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This earlier Spontini opera, written after his blockbuster hit La Vestale, is one of his most vital and exciting works.

SPONTINI: Olympie / Julia Varady, soprano (Olympie); Stefania Toczyska, mezzo (Statira); Franco Tagliavini, tenor (Cassandre); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, bar (Antigone); George Fortune, bass (L’Hiérophante); Josef Becker, bass (Hermas); RIAS Chamber Chorus; Berlin Opera Men’s Chorus; Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; Gerd Albrecht, conductor / Orfeo 137862

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One of Spontini’s finest French operas, curiously sung by a mixed Italian-German-Slavic cast but sung well nonetheless and well conducted by Gerd Albrecht.

SPONTINI: La Vestale (abridged) / Maria Callas, soprano (Giulia); Franco Corelli, tenor (Licinio); Enzo Sordello, baritone (Cinna); Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, bass (High Priest); Ebe Stignani, mezzo (La Gran Vestale); Nicola Zacccaria, bass (Chief Harsupex); Teatro alla Scala, Milan Orchestra & Chorus; Antonino Votto, conductor / Idis 6425/26

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SPONTINI: La Vestale (abridged) / Michèle Le Bris, soprano (Giulia); Nadine Denize, mezzo (La Grande Vestale); Robert Dumét, tenor (Licinius); Claude Méloni, baritone (Cinna); Jacques Mars, bass (La Grande Pontife); Orchestra and Chorus de l’ORTF; Roger Norrington, conductor / Ponto 1038

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Two abridged performances of Spontini’s masterpiece, but the only complete recording, conducted by Riccardo Muti, features the weak and wobbly voices of Karen Huffstodt and Denyce Graves as Giulia and the Gran Vestale. The Callas recording has particularly awful sound (the orchestra is recorded better than the voices), but the performance is simply astounding. The stereo version conducted by Norrington has a very competent cast. Your choice…or just get both.

Stenhammar, Wilhelm

STENHAMMAR: Romeo och Julia Suite. Reverenza. 2 Sentimental Romances. Sången, Symphonic Cantata / Charlotta Larsson, soprano; Martina Dike, contralto; Lars Cleveman, tenor; Fredrik Zetterström, baritone; Norkköpings Musikklasser Children’s Choir; Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra & Vocal Ensemble; Neeme Järvi, conductor / Bis 2359

5-fish

The prize composition on this CD is the symphonic cantata Sången, clearly one of Stenhammar’s greatest works, but the Romeo and Juliet Suite is also well written in addition to being quite charming.

Still, William Grant

STILL: Africa: III. Land of Superstition / American Symphony Orchestra; Leon Botstein, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title

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The first two parts of this suite are rather romantic-sounding and unremarkable, but the third section is highly imaginative. Today it is often played by solo pianists who don’t have a clue what to do with the music. Botstein doesn’t always capture the “feel” of Still’s music right, but in this performance he is really very good.

STILL: Danzas de Panama: 4. Cumbia e Congo (1953) / Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Encore Advanced Chamber Orchestra; Jaime Morales-Matos, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title above

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A fine performance of one of Still’s lighter works.

STILL: Ennanga (1956) / Ann Hobson Pilot, harpist; Videmus Ensemble / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title

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This performance is not quite as African-sounding as I might have liked, but spirited enough to give the right impression.

STILL: Frisco Jazz Band Blues / The Azusa Pacific University Chamber Wind Ensemble / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title

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A little-known and unusual work by Still, simulating the slightly off-kilter rhythmic playing of West Coast black blues bands of the 1920s and ‘30s.

STILL: Lenox Avenue: Spiritual and Blues (1937) / The Los Angeles WPA Symphony Orchestra; William Grant Still, conductor

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Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w3CRWAlMtY, move the cursor to about 11:16, and listen to the remaining music, which is the best in this ballet. I have no way of knowing how many Africa-American musicians were in this orchestra, but the gospel choir certainly sounds black.

Stradella, Alessandro

STRADELLA: Vocal duets / Emma Kirkby, Susanne Rydén, sopranos; Christine Marsoner, contralto; Sergio Foresti, bass; Alessandro Palmeri, violone; Claudio Astronio, harpsichordist/organist / Brilliant Classics 94343

5-fish

Stradella was an excellent craftsman who wrote a ton of vocal music. These charming duets, sung to perfection, are among his finest works.

Strauss, Richard

STRAUSS: Allerseelen / Peter Schreier, tenor; Norman Shetler, pianist / All mein gedanken. Du meines Herzens Krönelein / Klara Takács, mezzo; Jenö Jandó, pianist / Amor. An die nacht / Kathleen Battle, soprano; Margo Garrett, pianist / Befreit. Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland. Meinem Kinde / Anne Schwanewilms, soprano; Hallé Orchestra; Mark Elder, conductor / Cäcilie / Jussi Björling, tenor; Harry Ebert, pianist / Die erwachter Rose / Lucia Popp, soprano; Wolfgang Sawallisch, pianist / Freundliche Vision. Heimliche Aufforderung. Herr Lenz. Ich trage meine Minne. Ruhe, meine Seele / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Gerald Moore, pianist / Leise Lieder / Renée Fleming, soprano; Jean-Yves Thibaudet, pianist / Morgen. Ständchen / Leo Slezak, tenor; Michael Raucheisen, pianist / Die Nacht / Nicolai Gedda, tenor; Erik Werba, pianist / Das Rosenband / Carolyn Sampson, soprano; Joseph Middleton, pianist / Traum durch die Dämmerung / Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto; Katherine Hoffmann, pianist / Wiegenlied / Elena Gerhardt, mezzo; Artur Nikisch, pianist / Zueignung / Alexander Kipnis, bass; Arthur Bergh, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual titles above

Ranges from 3 1/2 (for historic material) to 6 fish for all of above

These are some of my absolute favorite recordings of Strauss lieder, which I highly recommend to you.

STRAUSS: Four Last Songs: I. Frühling; II. September; III. Beim schlafengehen; IV. Im Abendrot / Christiane Oelze, soprano; Eric Schneider, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

5-fish

These are the ONLY performances of these songs I’ve ever heard that don’t sound overly morose or drippy.

STRAUSS: Complete Vocal Music with Piano (all songs and recitations) / Christiane Libor, Juliane Banse, sopranos; Michelle Breedt, Anja-Nina Bahrmann, Anke Vondung, mezzos; Brigitte Fassbaender, speaker; Jeongkon Choi, Martin Mitterutzner, Brenden Gunnell, Christian Elsner, Lucian Vondung, tenors; Markus Eiche, baritone; Andreas Mattersberger, bass-baritone; Christoph Berner, Burkhard Kehring, Malcolm Martineau, Wolfram Rieger, Nina Schumann, pianists / Two Pianists TP1039312

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This boxed set of Strauss’ complete music for voice and piano, including the dramatic recitation Enoch Arden, is for the most part very good. All of the performances herein are well-interpreted and, for the most part, well sung. Worth your investment.

STRAUSS: Also Sprach Zarathustra / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Clemens Krauss, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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STRAUSS: Also Sprach Zarathustra / Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Fritz Reiner, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The two greatest performances I’ve ever heard of this oft-overplayed work, and both give lie to the claim that the work “dies off” after the dramatic opening section. Why it is not conducted like this more often, I have no idea, but even Reiner’s later recording (1960) lacks the fire of this earlier 1954 stereo gem.

STRAUSS: Daphne / Paul Schöffler, bass (Peneios); Vera Little, mezzo (Gaia); Hilde Güden, soprano (Daphne); Fritz Wunderlich, tenor (Leukippos); James King, tenor (Apollo); Rita Streich, soprano (First Maid); Erika Mechera, mezzo (Second Maid); Hans Braun, tenor (First Shepherd); Kurt Equiluz, tenor (Second Shepherd); Harald Pröglhöf, baritone (Third Shepherd); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Karl Böhm, conductor / DGG 445322 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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Strauss’ penultimate opera is clearly his best work since Elektra, and in fact the only post-Elektra opera worth hearing complete. The cast and conductor here are near-perfection.

STRAUSS: Don Juan / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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STRAUSS: Don Juan / Staatskapelle Dresden; Rudolf Kempe, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Toscanini’s stunning 1951 high-fidelity recording of this work reveals more detail than even the stereo versions of Reiner, Szell or Kempe. It is also much less rushed than Reiner or clumsily phrased than Szell, despite the better sound of the latter. Kempe’s recording is, in my view, the finest of all stereo or digital versions I’ve heard.

STRAUSS: Don Quixote / Enrico Mainardi, cellist; Karl Reitz, violist; Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra; Richard Strauss, conductor / available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

STRAUSS: Don Quixote / Frank Miller, cellist; Carlton Cooley, violist; Daniel Guilet, violinist; NBC Symphony Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Two mono recordings that will absolutely blow you away in their emotional but very different interpretations. The Strauss recording from c. 1939 is one of his best-sounding discs, and both his conducting and Italian cellist Enrico Mainardi’s performance are full of wit and humanity. This late (1953) recording by Toscanini features his first-chair cellist, Frank Miller, rather than Emanuel Feuermann, who played it with him in 1939, but I much prefer this warm, autumnal reading of the score, so different in feeling from not only his earlier self but also from virtually every other conductor who has ever played this work.

STRAUSS: Elektra / Res Fischer, mezzo (Klytämnestra); Astrid Varnay, soprano (Elektra); Leonie Rysanek, soprano (Chrysothemis); Helmut Melchert, tenor (Ägisth); Hans Hotter, bass (Orest); Heiner Horn, bass (Pfleger des Orest); Gerti Charlent, soprano (Vertraute der Königin); Helene Petrich, soprano (Schleppenträgen); Hasso Eschert, tenor (Junger Diener); Arno Reinhardt, bass (Alte Diener); Kaethe Tatzmann, mezzo (Die Aufseherin); Ilse Ihme-Säbich, contralto (1st Maid); Trude Roseler, mezzo-soprano (2nd Maid); Marianne Schröder, mezzo-soprano (3rd Maid); Marlies Siemeling, soprano (4th Maid); Käthe Möller-Siepermann, soprano (5th Maid); West German Radio Cologne Orch. & Chorus; Richard Kraus, conductor / Capriccio 5008 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

STRAUSS: Elektra / Birgit Nilsson, soprano (Elektra); Regina Resnik, mezzo (Klytämnestra); Marie Collier, soprano (Chrysothemis); Gerhard Stolze, tenor (Ägisth); Tom Krause, baritone (Orest); Tugomir Franc, bass (Pfleger des Orest); Margarethe Sjöstedt, sop (Vertraute der Königin); Margarita Lilowa, soprano (Schleppenträgen); Gerhard Unger, tenor (Junger Diener); Leo Heppe, bass (Alte Diener); Pauline Tinsley, mezzo (Die Aufseherin); Helen Watts, contralto (1st Maid); Maureen Lehane, mezzo-soprano (2nd Maid); Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano (3rd Maid); Jean Cock, soprano (4th Maid); Felicia Weathers, soprano (5th Maid); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Georg Solti, conductor / Decca 830302 or available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Two great recordings of Strauss’ greatest opera, one mono and one stereo. In the latter, all of the singers involved give 110% as does conductor Solti, producing a masterpiece of a recording, but in the former—conducted even more tautly by Richard Krauss—three of the important principles (Klytamnestra, Chrysothemis and Orest) are even more strongly cast. I suggest getting both.

STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Willem Mengelberg, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Two fantastic performances of this work from 1941. The Mengelberg is my absolute favorite; it is far more detailed and intense than his vastly overrated 1928 recording with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony; but the Toscanini, differently phrased, is also overwhelming in its emotional intensity and one of his best-recorded early NBC broadcasts.

STRAUSS: Horn Concerti Nos. 1 & 2 / Marie-Luise Neunecker, hornist; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Ingo Metzmacher, conductor / Warner Classics 7235472, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

Surprise! Dennis Brain has been deposed in the Strauss horn concerti…and his slayer is a female French horn player! She gives much more life and lift to No. 2 than Brain did, and equals him in No. 1; in addition, these are in modern digital stereo sound.

STRAUSS: Salome / Maria Cebotari, soprano (Salome); Karl Friedrich, tenor (Narraboth); Dagmar Hermann mezzo (Page); Wilhelm Felden, bass (First Soldier); Hans Braun, bass (Second Soldier); Marko Rothmüller, baritone (Jochanaan); Ludwig Weber, bass (First Nazarene); Hans Schwiger, tenor (Second Nazarene); Erich Majkut, tenor (Slave); Julius Patzak, tenor (Herod); Elisabeth Höngen, mezzo (Herodias); Peter Klein, tenor (First Jew); William Wernigk, tenor (Second Jew); Maximilian Willimsky, tenor (Third Jew); Erwin Nowaro, tenor (Fourth Jew); Ljubomir Pantscheff, bass (Fifth Jew); Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Clemens Krauss, conductor / Gebhardt 11 (live, London, September 30, 1947)

3-and-a-half-fish

STRAUSS: Salome / Leonie Rysanek, soprano (Salome); Waldemar Kmentt, tenor (Narraboth); Rohangiz Yachmi, mezzo-soprano (Page); Eberhard Wächter, baritone (Jochanaan); Hans Hopf, tenor (Herod); Grace Hoffman, mezzo-soprano (Herodias); Tugomir Franc, bass (First Soldier); Fredric Guthrie, bass (Second Soldier); Murray Dickie, tenor (First Jew); Heinz Zednik, tenor (Second Jew); Kurt Equiluz, tenor (Third Jew); Karl Terkal, tenor (Fourth Jew); Herbert Lackner, bass (Fifth Jew); Vienna State Opera Orchestra; Karl Böhm, conductor / RCA Red Seal 694320-2 (live, December 22, 1972)

5-fish

STRAUSS: Salome / Teresa Stratas, soprano (Salome); Wiesław Ochman, tenor (Narraboth); Hannah Schwarz, mezzo-soprano (Page); Bernd Weikl, baritone (Jochanaan); Hans Beirer, tenor (Herod); Astrid Varnay, mezzo-soprano (Herodias); Reinhold Möser, bass (First Soldier); Wolfgang Probst, bass (Second Soldier); Friedrich Lenz, tenor (First Jew); Ewald Eichberger, tenor (Second Jew); Kurt Equiluz, tenor (Third Jew); Karl Terkal, tenor (Fourth Jew); Alois Pernerstorfer, bass (Fifth Jew); Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Karl Böhm, conductor / Deutsche Grammophon DVD 0440 073 4339-5 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

I’ve heard most noted exponents of this role – Christel Goltz, Ljuba Welitsch, Inge Borkh, Birgit Nilsson, Montserrat Caballé, Gwyneth Jones, Hildegard Behrens, Cheryl Studer, Jessye Norman, Karita Mattila – and these are by far the three most intense and compelling performances of the opera ever recorded, period. Part of their success is undoubtedly due to conductors Clemens Krauss and Karl Böhm, the latter being Strauss’ favorite conductor of his own operas and the man to whom he dedicated the score of Daphne. On the first and earliest recording Krauss leads a performance of almost unbearable, white-hot intensity while Böhm provides both drama and clean, intense, beautifully sculpted performances. The Vienna Philharmonic plays a bit better than the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, but omigod that 1972 live performance is a killer.

First, however, we have the Cebotari performance, a live recording with multiple sound defects: scratchy acetate sound and occasional pitch distortions that apparently couldn’t be corrected. But you’ll NEVER get over this performance if you are willing to overlook these. Cebotari was Strauss’ own favorite interpreter of this role; she had a voice that has accurately been described as “being like a Gypsy singer, but tidied up a bit.” She is a princess who has gone completely over the edge, and her insanity grows moment by moment in this unbelievably intense performance. The final scene will drive you mad!

As for the 1972 Böhm performance, it is not perfect. Baritone Eberhard Wächter’s voice was one size too small for Jochanaan, plus he was not in his best voice at the start of the performance, but he is (in my view) the most intense interpreter of the role on records and as the opera progresses he gets past his worst moments of vocal unsteadiness. Soprano Leonie Rysanek, who was told by Richard Strauss’ son Franz that she had the voice his father “dreamed of when writing the opera,” goes off-pitch now and then in her confrontation with Jokanaan and, in the final scene, omits one high-lying phrase (which, for some reason, she never sang in performance) on the words “Ah! Ah! Jochanaan…du warst schön.” Tenor Hans Hopf is a beefy Herod, sounding a bit weary and too old for the role, but he projects the proper feeling of menace and perversion.

Yet in the end these few flaws matter not at all, because this is without question the most dramatically intense, powerfully sung and emotionally overwhelming stereo Salome on record. You’d think that each and every performer had one finger in a light socket all the way through this endeavor…that’s how incredibly electrifying it is. Other than the Cebotari reading I’ve not heard its like in my life. Her few flaws aside, Rysanek gives, to my mind, the most vivid and complete portrayal of the title character I’ve ever heard, Cebotari included. Welitsch, often thought of as a touchstone in this role, can’t hold a patch to her, not even in her superior 1949 broadcast of the opera. Rysanek lightens her voice in the first part, sounding appropriately youthful and silvery, and as the drama continues and develops she sounds more and more insane with each passing moment until she erupts in the final scene with such strong intensity that it will knock you off your seat. It is absolutely riveting. This performance has been issued by two different labels, Opera d’Oro and RCA Red Seal. It would be nice to say that it doesn’t matter which one you get, but unfortunately it does. The Opera d’Oro release sounds gritty and unnatural, as if the recording were made on a poor cassette tape, whereas the RCA version was taken from the original house tapes and sounds absolutely fantastic. The supporting cast is mostly exscellent, particularly Kmentt, Hoffman, Yachmi and the five Jews.

The video performance from two years later was a tour-de-force for soprano Teresa Stratas, whose voice was far too small to sing the title role onstage. For this filmed version she came in, lip-synched her part to the pre-recorded complete opera, and then mimed her role (as did the others) for the camera. Her Salome is entirely different from Rysanek’s psychotic reading: she comes across as a spoiled brat of a princess who is used to getting her way, and is therefore willing to have Jochanaan killed because he wouldn’t submit to her. Götz Friedrich’s direction, and the very imaginative but not trashy sets and costumes, are dazzling and certainly add to one’s enjoyment of the performance. Hans Beirer is a Herod much like Hopf two years before; Astrid Varnay’s voice is less well controlled than Hoffman’s, but she is an even more decadent Herodias. The vastly underrated and forgotten Polish tenor Wiesław Ochman sings a lovely, silvery Narraboth, and although Bernd Weikl is a shade less intense than Wächter, his Jochanaan is superbly sung, one of the very finest ever recorded. And, as usual, Böhm’s conducting is superb, if missing some of the intensity of the live 1972 performance.

Because of the few musical flaws in the Rysanek performance you really need to own both of these, and the Cebotari is a must for any serious lover of this opera, but if you do you need never acquire another Salome as long as you live. They complement each other and give you the full measure of Strauss’ intense, perverse, yet strangely erotic opera.

STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Richard Strauss, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel / Staatskapelle Dresden; Rudolf Kempe, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

The two lightest and wittiest recordings of this work, which desperately needs this sort of approach in order to make it work. Strauss’ earlier 1929 recording is equally witty, but the 1944 film sound of the Vienna Philharmonic performance brings out the details much better.

STRAUSS: Tod und Verklärung / Teatro alla Scala Orchestra of Milan; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / part of Immortal Performances 1015

5-fish

STRAUSS: Tod und Verklärung / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Death and Transfiguration, to give this work its English title, was one of Toscanini’s favorite works, and to my mind he was the only conductor who really got every last drop of meaning out of this music. I own no less than four recordings of it by him. The 1937 version with the Vienna Philharmonic is nearly as intense as the 1946 La Scala performance, but the sound is far inferior. The 1942 Philadelphia Orchestra recording is by far the most beautiful sonically, but lacks some of the intensity and depth of feeling of these last two performances. Had the La Scala version not existed, I would have no compunction about recommending the NBC Symphony studio recording as his best, but there is much more feeling and sweep in this 1946 performance.

STRAUSS: Violin Sonata in Eb: I. Allegro ma non troppo; II. Andante cantabile; III. Finale: Andante – Allegro / Jascha Heifetz, violinist; Arpad Sandor, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

4-fish

In my view, the best of all recordings of this work, in part because of the outstanding pianism of Arpad Sandor, in my view Heifetz’ best accompanist.

Stravinsky, Igor

STRAVINSKY: Agon / Sinfonieorchester des Südwestfunks Baden-Baden; Hans Rosbaud, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

For me, this is the tautest performance of Stravinsky’s great late ballet, his first written in the 12-tone style.

STRAVINSKY: Apollon musagète / RCA Victor Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

I personally prefer Stravinsky’s recording with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra a bit better, but this one is almost as good and is available online.

STRAVINSKY: Canticum Sacrum: Part 1, Part 2 / Marcel Beekman, tenor; David Wilson-Johnson, baritone; Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra; Reinberg de Leeuw, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on section titles above

5-fish

An outstanding performance of Stravinsky’s 1955 choral-vocal piece, unfortunately not available (to my knowledge) on CD.

STRAVINSKY: Capriccio: I. Allegro; II. Andante rapsodico; III. Allegro capriccioso ma sempre giusto / Ian Parker, pianist; London Symphony Orchestra; Michael Francis, conductor / part of Atma 2656, also available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

6-fish

My favorite performance of this effervescent work for piano and orchestra.

STRAVINSKY: Concerto for Piano & Wind Instruments: I. Largo – Allegro – Più mosso; II. & III / Alexander Toradze, pianist; Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

A spectacular performance of this concerto by the little-known Alexander Toradze, conducted by Valery Gergiev when he was still really Valery Gergiev.

STRAVINSKY: Concerto for String Orchestra: I. Vivace; II. Arioso; III. Rondo / Britten Sinfonia; Jacqueline Shave, conductor / part of Sound Circus 68475, also available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

5-fish

A stupendous and little-known performance of this excellent, underrated piece.

STRAVINSKY: Concerto in Eb, “Dumbarton Oaks”: I. Tempo giusto; II. Allegretto; III. Con moto. Danses Concertantes / Sinfonietta de Montreal; Charles Dutoit, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

5-fish

Two of the very finest performances from Dutoit’s somewhat uneven Stravinsky set.

STRAVINSKY: Duo Concertante / Samuel Dushkin, violinist; Igor Stravinsky, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

The historic first recording of this work, which gives us the rare privilege of hearing the composer at the piano.

STRAVINSKY: Ebony Concerto / Benny Goodman, clarinetist; Columbia Jazz Band; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

I own four recordings of this excellent piece, including the original one by Stravinsky conducting the Woody Herman Orchestra in 1946, but this one is my favorite.

STRAVINSKY: The Fairy’s Kiss (Baiser de la Fée, after Tchaikovsky). Fav’n i pastushka (Faune et bergère), Op. 2. Ode (In Memoriam Natalia Koussevitzky) / Lucy Shelton, soprano; Cleveland Orchestra; Oliver Knussen, conductor / DGG 449205, or available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

By far, the most exciting and interesting performance of The Fairy’s Kiss, along with two smaller works played (and sung) to perfection.

STRAVINSKY: Fireworks / Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Seiji Ozawa, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

STRAVINSKY: In Memoriam Dylan Thomas / Alexander Young, tenor; Columbia Chamber Ensemble; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

My favorite versions of these two short works. The second of these is among Stravinsky’s most lyrical and heartfelt pieces, beautifully sung by Alexander Young.

STRAVINSKY: The Nightingale / Loren Driscoll, tenor (Fisherman); Herbert Beattie, bass (Bonze); Donald Gramm, bass-baritone (Emperor); Reri Grist, soprano (Nightingale); Marina Picassi, mezzo (Cook); Elaine Bonazzi, mezzo (Death); Washington D.C. Opera Society Orch. & Chorus; Igor Stravinsky conductor / available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

This superb recording was once available as a single LP, then part of Sony/CBS’ massive boxed set of all of Stravinsky’s Columbia recordings. Now it appears not to be available except for free streaming on YouTube in chunks, but it’s still the preferred recording of this lovely early opera.

STRAVINSKY: Les Noces / Nadine Koutcher, soprano; Natalya Buklaga, mezzo-soprano; Stanislav Leontieff, tenor; Vasiliy Korostelev, bass; Musica Aeterna Chorus; Mikhail Mordvinov, Artem Abashev, Alexander Osminin, Oksana Pislegina, pianists; Nikolay Dulskiy, Roman Romashkin, Igor Grishkin, Andrey Nikitin, Vladislav Osipov, Vadim Yashin, Alibek Kabdurakhmanov, percussion; Teodor Currentzis, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Conductor Teodor Currentzis does the most spectacular job on this 1923 cantata for voices and percussion, a precursor to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. I’ve seen three different recordings out there conducted by him; all are equally excellent. This one is available complete in one sound file on YouTube.

STRAVINSKY: Octet / Georges Laurent, flautist; Manuel Valerio, clarinetist; Raymond Allard, Ernst Panenka, bassoonists; Georges Magar, Marcel Lafosse, trumpeters; Jacob Raichmann, John Coffey, trombonists; Leonard Bernstein, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

5-fish

Bernstein’s finest Stravinsky recording, and my favorite of this work.

STRAVINSKY: Oedipus Rex / Martha Mödl, mezzo (Jocasta); Peter Pears, tenor (Oedipus); Heinz Rehfuss, baritone (Creon/Messenger); Otto von Rohr, bass (Tiresias); Helmut Krebs, tenor (Shepherd); Werner Hessenland, narrator; NWDR Male Choir; Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / part of Acanta/Pilz 233694

5-fish

This recording was originally made, as it appears on this CD, as a radio studio rehearsal in 1950 for broadcast in West Germany with the narration in German. A few years later, it was issued commercially on a Columbia LP, but this time with the narration in French by Jean Cocteau, who had done the honors at the original premiere in Paris in the 1920s. But this was merely an experience, for although Stravinsky wrote this opera-oratorio in Latin, on purpose as a “dead language,” he wanted the spoken lines to be given in the vernacular of the country in which it is performed, so as far as I’m concerned, a speaker in French is just as incomprehensible to me as a speaker in German. Yet it remains the best-sung and most gripping performance of this work, exceeding by a large margin ALL stereo recordings I have heard of it. So there you are.

STRAVINSKY: Oedipus Rex / Patricia Johnson, mezzo (Jocasta); Ronald Dowd, tenor (Oedipus); Raimund Herincx, baritone (Creon); Harold Blackburn, bass (Tiresias/ Messenger); Alberto Remedios, tenor (Shepherd); Sir Ralph Richardson, narrator; Sadlers Wells Men’s Opera Chorus; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Colin Davis, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube: click HERE for complete links

5-fish

Although Patricia Johnson and Ronald Dowd are not quite as good as Mödl and Pears in the mono recording, this 1960 performance is clearly the best stereo and/or digital recording of this work because all of the singers are dramatic and have no wobbles. But Warner Classics/EMI chose only to issue it briefly in a box set of Colin Davis’ early recordings, and it is now unavailable EXCEPT on YouTube as streaming audio. If you click the link above, it will take you to my article on this recording which explains its bizarre history and provide you with all the links in their proper musical order.

You’re welcome.

STRAVINSKY: L’Oiseau de Feu (Firebird), Complete Ballet / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Another great recording made when Gergiev was “really” Gergiev (he isn’t any longer).

STRAVINSKY: L’Oiseau de Feu Suite / RAI Turin Symphony Orchestra; Artur Rodziński, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

This radio broadcast from 1955 is a bit noisy, but one of the most exciting performances I’ve ever heard.

STRAVINSKY: Perséphone / Pauline Cheviller, narrator; Andrew Staples, tenor; Finnish Children’s Chorus; Finnish National Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor / Pentatone Classics 5186 688

6-fish

There are several good recordings of this out there, including one by Kent Nagano on Virgin Classics, but this one is the best in my estimation.

STRAVINSKY: Petrouchka / New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra; Dmitri Mitropoulos, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Still the best version of this remarkable ballet.

STRAVINSKY: Piano-Rag Music. Piano Sonata: I. Quarter = 112; II. Adagietto; III. Quarter = 112 / Jenny Lin, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube vy clicking on titles above

6-fish

I absolutely love these crisp, energetic readings of early Stravinsky.

STRAVINSKY: 2 Poèmes de Paul Verlaine: I. Un grand sommeil noir; II. La lune blanche / Donald Gramm, bass-baritone; Columbia Chamber Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

5-fish

STRAVINSKY: 2 Poems of Konstantin Bal’mont: I. Forget-me-nots; II. The Dove / Evelyn Lear, soprano; Columbia Chamber Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

5-fish

STRAVINSKY: Pribaoutki: I. Uncle Armand; II. The Oven; III. The Colonel; IV. The Old Man and the Hare / Cathy Berberian, mezzo-soprano; Columbia Chamber Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

5-fish

Outstanding song performances recorded in the early 1960s with three excellent singers, Stravinsky and Robert Craft conducting.

STRAVINSKY: Pulcinella / Edda Moser, soprano; Werner Hollweg, tenor; Barry McDaniel, baritone; Radio-Sinfinieorchester Stuttgart des SWR; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

By far the finest performance I’ve ever heard of this charming ballet based on the music of Pergolesi, with three excellent singers (for once!).

STRAVINSKY: Ragtime for 11 Instruments / Columbia Jazz Ensemble; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

A really fun piece by Stravinsky. His own recording of it has much more of a jazz swagger than anyone else’s.

STRAVINSKY: The Rake’s Progress / Hilde Güden, soprano (Anne Trulove); Eugene Conley, tenor (Tom Rakewell); Norman Scott, bass (Mr. Trulove); Mack Harrell, baritone (Nick Shadow); Martha Lipton, mezzo (Mother Goose); Blanche Thebom, mezzo (Baba the Turk); Paul Franke, tenor (Sellem); Lawrence Davidson, bass (Asylum keeper); Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / Naxos 8.111266-67, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

STRAVINSKY: The Rake’s Progress / Jayne West, soprano (Anne Trulove); Jon Garrison, tenor (Tom Rakewell); Arthur Woodley, baritone (Trulove); John Cheek, bass-baritone (Nick Shadow); Shirley Love, mezzo (Mother Goose); Wendy White, mezzo (Baba the Turk); Melvin Lowery, tenor (Sellem); Jeffery Johnson, bass (Asylum keeper); The Gregg Smith Singers; The Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Robert Craft, conductor / Naxos 8.660272-73

5-fish

As you can see from the above, Naxos owns this opera. The composer’s 1964 stereo remake does have the benefit of Judith Raskin’s astoundingly lovely Anne Trulove, Alexander Young’s fine Tom and John Reardon’s first-rate Nick Shadow, but the tempi are too relaxed and Regina Sarfaty’s Baba the Turk is wiry and unattractive. Despite some diction problems for Hilde Güden and a somewhat too benign Nick in Mack Harrell, the earlier 1953 recording is far superior, with crisper tempi, Eugene Conley in fantastic voice and Blanche Thebom as the absolute best Baba the Turk you will ever hear in your life. Only Jennie Tourel, in the world premiere performance, is nearly as good, and that recording suffers from miserable orchestral playing, agonizingly slow tempi and horrible sonics.

Robert Craft was one of those rare conductors of modern music who had impeccable taste in solo singers. He never picked a loser in his entire long life, and this recording, which originally appeared on the Music Masters label, is yet more proof of this. Only John Cheek has a slightly rough timbre, but his Nick Shadow is wonderfully menacing in an underhanded way, and his outburst of temper comes across more vividly than Harrell’s. Wendy White is a very fine Baba, much better than both Sarfaty and the long string of losers we get nowadays, and the little-known Jayne West and Jon Garrison are also excellent in their roles. In addition, Craft’s conducting has the zip and drive of the 1953 Stravinsky recording, but is in digital sound.

STRAVINSKY: Renard / John Aler, Nigel Robson, tenors; David Wilson-Johnson, baritone; John Tomlinson, bass; London Sinfonietta; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

5-fish

Written in 1916, this witty and appealing opera-ballet is probably Stravinsky’s least-well-known stage work. This excellent recording was originally issued as a single disc by Sony Classical, but alas is now only available in a 7-CD boxed set with many superfluous (albeit OK) performances of other Stravinsky works.

STRAVINSKY: Requiem Canticles / Sally Burgess, contralto; Roderick Williams, bass; Simon Joly Chorale; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

This, one of Stravinsky’s last major works (1966), was played at his funeral in 1971 at his request. Once again, Craft’s performance tops all others.

STRAVINSKY: Le Roi des Étoiles / SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

An outstanding but little-known short work by Stravinsky, excellently conducted by Michael Gielen.

STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du Printemps / Orchestre Symphonique de Paris; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du Printemps / Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / Naxos 8.557508; alternate version with London Symphony Orchestra available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

6-fish

STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du Printemps (corrected manuscript version)/ Park Avenue Chamber Symphony Orchestra; David Bernard, conductor / Recursive Classics 2058479, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

Three performances of Stravinsky’s landmark ballet score, each of them indispensable. The 1929 Stravinsky recording was the first made of this score, and despite a few errors it is the most exciting performance I’ve ever heard. (Pierre Monteux’s first recording of the ballet, also made in 1929, has even more mistakes in it.) Robert Craft, as usual, gives us a taut, splendid reading (actually two of them), full of excitement. David Bernard’s recent recording of the amended score, taken from the manuscript, has dozens of corrections and changes in it. This performance is required listening, despite the fact that the composer apparently felt that the published score should stand, since he never conducted or recorded this alternate version himself.

STRAVINSKY: Scenes de Ballet / Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

This little-known but excellent 1944 composition is another one of those that shows a small jazz influence in Stravinsky’s work.

STRAVINSKY: A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer / Shirley Verrett, mezzo-soprano; John Horton, narrator; Loren Driscoll, tenor; CBC Chorus & Symphony Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Another outstanding but little-known composition by Stravinsky, beautifully sung by Verrett and Driscoll and conducted by the composer himself.

STRAVINSKY: The Soldier’s Tale / Dame Harriet Walter, narrator; Sir Harrison Birtwhistle (Soldier); George Benjamin (Devil); Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble; Oliver Knussen, conductor / Linn CKD 552

6-fish

This, the late Oliver Knussen’s last commercial recording, is an absolute gem, better than anyone else’s.

STRAVINSKY: 3 Songs from William Shakespeare: I. Musick to heare; II. Full fadom five; III. When daisies pied / Cathy Berberian, mezzo-soprano; Columbia Chamber Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual titles above

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Outstanding songs in classic performances by the great (if slightly cracked) Cathy Berberian.

STRAVINSKY: Symphony in C / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Leopold Stokowski, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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An astounding and surprisingly taut performance of this superb score by Stokowski.

STRAVINSKY: Symphony in Three Movements: I. quarter = 160; II. Andante; III. Con moto / SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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Absolutely the most exciting and explosive performance of this score.

STRAVINSKY: A Symphony of Psalms / Alexis Vlassoff Chorus; Orchestre des Concerts Straram; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits starting HERE

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I still find this the most exciting and vital performance of this oft-performed work.

STRAVINSKY: Symphonies of Wind Instruments / Montreal Symphony Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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There are many good recordings of this short, compact work, but I’ve always loved the combination of lyricism and drive in this performance.

STRAVINSKY: Tango / René Bosc, pianola / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A strange yet charming piece, originally written for the pianola on which it is played here.

STRAVINSKY: 3 Movements from Petrouchka: I. Danse Russe; II. Chez Petrouchka; III. La Semaine grasse / Yefim Bronfman, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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I’ve long been a Yefim Bronfman fan, and this performance is typical of his brilliant performances—detailed and exciting.

STRAVINSKY: Threni (Lamentations of Jeremiah) / William Lewis, James Wainner, tenors; Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Beatrice Krebs, mezzo-soprano; Mac Morgan, Robert Oliver, basses; The Schola Cantorum; Columbia Symphony Orchestra; Igor Stravinsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Actually, my preferred version of this work is the Robert Craft recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra and various soloists, but for whatever reason this seems to have disappeared from both CD and the Internet, so I have substituted the Stravinsky recording.

STRAVINSKY: Variations, “Aldous Huxley in Memoriam” / SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Another outstanding Gielen performance of a small but excellent late (1963) composition.

STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto: I. ; II; III.; IV. / Gil Shaham, violinist; NBR Symphony Orchestra; Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement numbers above

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Absolutely the most electrifying performance I’ve ever heard of this concerto.

Strong, George Templeton

STRONG: Au Pays de Peaux-Rouges / Stephanie Bruning, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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STRONG: Elegy for Cello & Orchestra / Mihaly Virizlay, cellist; Peabody Conservatory Orchestra; Frederick Prausnitz, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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STRONG: Die Nacht / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming at the Internet Archive

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STRONG: Le Roi Arthur / Moscow Symphony Orchestra; Adriano, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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George Templeton Strong (1856-1948), virtually forgotten today, was one considered a very important American composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Part of the reason for his being neglected is that he moved to Vevey, Switzerland in 1897 because of “poor health,” but apparently the mountain air worked wonder on him since he lived to age 92. His music is somewhat advanced harmonically for its time, particularly the four-part tone poem Die Nacht, but all of it is excellently written and wonderfully atmospheric.

Strozzi, Barbara

STROZZI: Arias & Cantatas, Op. 8: L’Astratto; Aure già che non posso dall’Idol mio; Cieli, stelle, Deitàdi; Che si può fare; E giungera pur mai alla linea crudele; È pazzo il mio core; Hor che Apollo è a Theti in seno; Luci belle deh ditemi perché / Emanuela Galli, soprano; Fabio Bonizzoni, harpsichordist; La Risonanza / Glossa C81503, available for streaming individually on YouTube

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Barbara Strozzi, the adopted (and quite probably illegitimate) daughter of poet and painter Giulio Strozzi, was clearly the first great woman composer. Also a singer, she wrote a large number of vocal works, most of which were, surprisingly, published during her lifetime (1619-1677). These are excellent performances all round.

Stulginska, Agnieszka

STULGINSKA: FGT (Flying Garbage Truck) / LUX:NM / In Credo. Stara Rzeka / Silesian Chamber Orchestra; Przemysław Fiugajski, conductor / Let’s Meet / Lutosławski Piano Duo / Ori / Warsaw Contemporary Ensemble / Dux 0759, available for free streaming on YouTube starting HERE

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Modern Polish composer Agnieszka Stulginska has written some extremely interesting and well-organized pieces, several of which are on this remarkable CD. Fascinating in both form and rhythm, they grab your attention and do not let go.

Suesse, Dana

SUESSE: Concerto for 2 Pianos & Orchestra in e min. / Beatrice Long, Christina Long, pianists; Eskichir Greater Municipality Symphony Orch.; Patrick Souillot, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SUESSE: 8 Waltzes for Piano & Orchestra (Symphonic Waltzes) / Dana Suesse, pianist; General Motors Symphony Orchestra; Frank Black, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SUESSE: Jazz Concerto in D for Combo & Orchestra / Cy Coleman, pianist; American Symphony Orchestra; Frederick Fennell, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SUESSE: Serenade to a Skyscraper. Spindrift. American Nocturne. Afternoon of a Black Faun / Dana Suesse, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual titles above

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SUESSE: Young Man With a Harp / Casper Reardon, harpist; Dana Suesse, pianist; Chauncey Morehouse, drums / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Dana Suesse, hailed in her younger years as “the female George Gershwin,” actually had two careers: the first as a composer of pop tunes with a classical bent, such as her Jazz Nocturne which evolved into the hit song “My Silent Love,” her 1930 smash hit “You Oughta Be in Pictures,” and other tunes promoted by bandleader Paul Whiteman, and her post-1937 career in which she turned to very serious works combining classical forms with jazz, during which time she studied with Nadia Boulanger. Ironically, her popularity declined once she started writing better music, but the pieces listed above are all excellent and worth hearing. She died in undeserved obscurity in 1981, but fortunately her name and works have been kept alive by pianist Peter Mintun.

Suk, Josef

SUK: Asrael: I. Andante sostenuto; II. Andante; III. Vivace; IV. Adagio  / SWR Orchester Baden-Baden; Karel Ancerl, conductor / SWR Classic 19055CD, also available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

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Josef Suk was one of the most interesting of Romantic-era composers, and this symphony is one of his greatest achievements. YouTube also has a performance available by Ancerl with the Cleveland Orchestra, but this recording has far greater sound.

SUK: Ballade for Cello & Piano in D min. Serenade for Celli & Piano in A / Marek Jerie, cellist; Ivan Klansky, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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SUK: Four Pieces, Op. 17 / Ginette Neveu, violinist; Jean-Paul Neveu, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SUK: Piano Trio in C min. / Ostravské Trio / available for free streaming on YouTube

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These are other excellent pieces by Suk, particularly the piano trio, in performances ranging from good (the Ballade and Serenade) and excellent (the Piano Trio).

Szewczyk, Piotr

SZEWCZYK: Twisted Dances. Conundrum. Piano Trio No. 1. Half-Diminished Scherzo. Images From a Journey. Furioso. Very Angry Birds. Nimbus. Bliss Point / Piotr Szewczyk, Philip Pan, violinists; Bogana Kraulj, clarinetist; Galen Dean Peiskee Jr., Ileana Fernandez, pianists; Jorge Pena, violist; Betsy Federman, cellist; Scott Erickson, oboist; Brian Magnus, cellist; Trio Solis / Navona NV6093 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning HERE

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I find Piotr Szewczyk to be one of the finest of contemporary composers, a man whose music bridges the gap between the “edgy” style of so many young composer today with an outstanding grasp of musical construction. These works are varied enough to show you how fine his music really is.

Szymanowski, Karol

SZYMANOWSKI: Études. Fantasia in C. Masques. 20 Mazurkas, Op. 50. 2 Mazurkas, Op. 62. Metopes, Op. 29. Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-3. 4 Polish Dances. 9 Preludes. Prelude in C# min. 4 Studies, Op. 4. Vales Romantique. Variations in Bb min., Op. 3. Variations on a Polish Theme / Sinae Lee, pianist / Divine Art 21400  or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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British pianist Martin Roscoe, who I believe was the first to record all of Szymanowski’s piano music, did a very fine job with nice styling, but Sinae Lee is a much more dynamic and exciting pianist, which is what many of these works call for. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Roscoe is not as much of a Szymanowski specialist as Lee.

SZYMANOWSKI: Harnasie, a Góral Ballet in One Act.* Stabat Mater+ / *Robert Murray, tenor; +Lucy Crowe, soprano; +Pamela Helen Stephen, mezzo; +Gabor Bretz, baritone; BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra; Edward Gardner, conductor / Chandos 5123

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SZYMANOWSKI: Stabat Mater / Adriana Martino, soprano; Anna Maria Rota, contralto; Renato Capecchi, baritone; RAI Turin Chorus & Orchestra; Artur Rodziński, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Both Harnasie and the Stabat Mater are outstanding orchestral-choral-vocal works by Szymanowski. The Gardner recording is supreme in the first, but although he conducts well in the second, his vocal soloists aren’t nearly as good as Rodziński’s.

SZYMANOWSKI: Love Songs of Hafiz / Katarina Karneus, mezzo-soprano; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

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An extremely fine performance of these songs by both singer and conductor.

SZYMANOWSKI: Krol Roger (King Roger) / Wojtek Drabowicz, baritone (King Roger); Piotr Beczala, tenor (Shepherd); Olga Pasichnyk, soprano (Queen Roxana); Krzystof Szmyt, tenor (Edrisi, a Sage); Romuald Tesarowicz, bass (Archbishop); Stefania Toczyska, contralto (Deaconess); “Alla Polacca” Youth Choir; Polish State Phil. Chorus & Orch. (Katowice); Jacek Kaspszyk, conductor / CD Accord 131-2, also available for free streaming on YouTube

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An absolute masterwork on a par with Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, Krol Roger is quite possibly Szymanowski’s masterpiece. This is the finest performance I’ve ever heard, not just vocally but also in the conducting of Kaspszyk.

SZYMANOWSKI: Mythes / Diana Tischchenko, violinist; Joachim Carr, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Absolutely the finest performance I’ve heard next to David Oistrakh of these superb, atmospheric pieces, but Oistrakh’s boxy, mono recording doesn’t really do these pieces justice.

SZYMANOWSKI: Prince Potemkin – Incidental Music / Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra (Katowice); Antoni Wit, conductor / Naxos 8.66062-23

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An unjustly-overlooked piece by Szymanowski, conducted with great feeling by Antoni Wit.

SZYMANOWSKI: 7 Songs After James Joyce: Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 / Mitsuko Shirai, mezzo-soprano; Hartmut Höll, pianist / part of Capriccio 67.024; four of them available for free streaming on YouTube

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Outstanding performances, in English, of these wonderful songs by the vastly talented Shirai.

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess / Iwona Sabotka, soprano; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Outstanding performances of these superbly crafted songs by Szymanowski by both Sabotka and Rattle.

SZYMANOWSKI: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 / Quatuor Joachim / Calliope 1747 or available for free streaming on YouTube in individual movements starting HERE

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These are the greatest performances I’ve heard of these mysterious yet gripping works.

SZYMANOWSKI: Symphony No. 3, “Piesn o Nocy” / Ryszard Minkiewicz, tenor; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra; Antoni Wit, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SZYMANOWSKI: Symphony No. 4, “Concertante” / Jan Krysztof Broja, pianist; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra; Antoni Wit, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

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Superb performances of Szymanowski’s last two symphonies, clearly his greatest.

SZYMANOWSKI: Violin Concerti Nos. 1 & 2 / Ilya Kaler, violinist; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Antoni Wit, conductor / Naxos 8.557981

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These performances of the violin concerti are equally fabulous.

Composers – Sa/Sc

girl-penguinSaint-Saëns, Camille

SAINT-SAËNS: Allegro appasionato. Le Carnaval des Animaux: The Swan / Emanuel Feuermann, cellist; Michael Taube, pianist / available for free streaming on You Tube by clicking on individual titles above

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SAINT-SAËNS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A min.: Part 1; Part 2 / Emanuel Feuermann, cellist; New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Alexander Smallens, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking links above

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There will be many other recordings by the great Emanuel Feuermann recommended throughout this guide, but these are surely among his most affecting, beautifully played without bathos or exaggeration.

SAINT-SAËNS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A min. / Leonard Rose, cellist; Radio Luxembourg Orchestra; Louis de Froment, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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In the era after Feuermann’s death and Casals’ retirement, French and Slavic cellists tended to dominate the scene (Fournier, Piatagorsky, Rostropovich and Starker), thus for some reason the great Leonard Rose somehow fell to the back of the pack. Today, he is recognized as their peer in tone and technique and the true successor to Feuermann in elegance without overdone emotional histrionics.

SAINT-SAËNS: Danse Macabre / Daniel Guilet, violinist; NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Almost everyone else who conducts this piece sounds glib and emotionally uninvolved. Toscanini shows you what “macabre” really sounds like while bringing out orchestral details that no one else even notices.

SAINT-SAËNS: Étude en forme de Valse. Piano Concerto No. 4 in C min.* / Alfred Cortot, pianist; *Charles Munch, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Matchless performances of these piano classics by the unique pianist Cortot, whose rich, deep-in-the-keys touch was unmatched by any other pianist in his lifetime and after.

SAINT-SAËNS: La flûte invisible / Kathleen Battle, soprano; Jean-Pierre Rampal, flautist; Margo Garrett, pianist / Guitares et Mandolines / Stephany Ortega, soprano; Lena Kollmeier, pianist / The Nightingale and the Rose / Rita Streich, soprano; unidentified orchestra and conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Kathleen Battle’s stormy and controversial exit from world stages in the mid-1990s have all but obscured her very real talents and abilities. I’ve never heard a more beautiful soubrette voice in all of my life. Stephany Ortega lacks Battle’s crystalline, sensuous tone, but she does a splendid job on this song. The great Rita Streich had some of Battle’s crystal sound if not quite the sensuousness.

SAINT-SAËNS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso / David Oistrakh, violinist; Boston Symphony Orchestra; Charles Munch, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title

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The matchless Oistrakh is accompanied here by the superb Alsatian conductor Munch for a perfect reading of this score.

SAINT-SAËNS: Phaeton / Paris Conservatory Orchestra; Piero Coppola, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A great performance of this little-known tone poem by a splendid but forgotten conductor.

SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Quartet in B-flat. Piano Quintet in A min. Barcarolle / Cristina Ortiz, pianist; Fine Arts Quintet / Naxos 8.572904 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Saint-Saëns’ finest chamber works are played here with a nice blend of swagger and sensuality.

SAINT-SAËNS: Samson et Dalila / Rita Gorr, mezzo-soprano (Dalila); Jon Vickers, tenor (Samson); Ernest Blanc, baritone (High Priest); Anton Diakov, bass (Abimélech/Old Jew); Rémy Corazza, tenor (Messenger); René Duclos Chorus; Théâtre National de l’Opera Paris Orchestra; Georges Prêtre, conductor / EMI Classics 67602

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The unmatchable Rita Gorr and wholly unique Jon Vickers inhabited these roles as no one else ever has or probably ever will, and they didn’t wiggle or wave their arms on stage when they sang. They were actors, not carnival barkers. Georges Prêtre conducts, as he usually did, with white-hot intensity, and the stereo sound is just good enough to capture it all without too much of an apology for its date.

SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3 in C min., Op. 78, “Organ”: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV / George Cook, organist; Joseph Kahn, pianist; NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual movements above

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This newly remastered version of Toscanini’s classic 1952 performance gives a true stereo perspective, making it now the preferred version of this stupendous work.

SAINT-SAËNS: Violin Concerto No. 3 in B min. / Henry Merckel, violinist; Orchestre de Concerts Pasdeloup; Piero Coppola, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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An exciting, outstanding early recording of this classic by the very fine but vastly underrated violinist Henry Merckel with Coppola doing a fine job conducting.

SAINT-SAËNS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in D min. / Maria Bachmann, violinist; Adam Neiman, pianist / part of Bridge 9394

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A fantastic performance of this sonata by the vastly underrated Bachmann.

Salzedo, Leonard

SALZEDO: Capriccio for Brass Quintet. Divertimento: 1. Prelude; 2. Scherzo; 3. Interlude; 4. March / Philip Jones Brass Quintet / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking links above

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SALZEDO: Concerto Fervido for Piano & Strings / Rucky van Mill, pianist; The London Soloists’ Ensemble; Nicholas Roth, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SALZEDO-LINDUP: Rendezvous for Jazz Band & Orchestra / Johnny Dankworth Band; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Hugo Rignold, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SALZEDO: String Quartets: No. 1; No. 5, pt 1, pt 2; No. 10 / Archaeus String Quartet / MPR 104 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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SALZEDO: Viola Concerto / Richard Crabtree, violist; Helmsley Festival Orchestra; Leonard Salzedo, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SALZEDO: Symphony No. 2 / The Rehearsal Orchestra; Harry Legge, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SALZEDO: The Witch Boy (ballet suite) / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Leonard Salzedo, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The fascinating and often quirky music of British conductor Leonard Salzedo has been almost entirely ignored in recent decades except for his brass quintet pieces, but his constant juxtaposition of jazz-based themes with classical structure remains unique and fascinating. In addition to the above pieces, Salzedo also wrote several film scores for British horror films of the 1950s, such as The Glass Tomb and The Revenge of Frankenstein, which of course were simply commercial work and may have hurt his reputation as a serious composer. The string quartets, only jazz-tinged in a small way, are very serious yet surprising and highly original works.

Santiago, Felipe Perez

SANTIAGO: El Ansia (original version for saxophones) / Anacrusax Saxophone Quartet / El Ansia (version for string quartet) / Apelron String Quartet / La Candesauria. Mal Timing / Camerata Metropolitana; Felipe Perez Santiago, conductor / Exoesqueleto / Anacrusax Saxophone Quartet; Sofia Zumbardo, alto saxist / Hospital Suite / Omix Ensemble; Felipe Perez Santiago, conductor / Manqui / Ismael Sanchez, clarinetist; Abdel Hadi Sabag, pianist / Pengamat Bulan / Tamayo Ensemble / Navona NV-6129 or available for free streaming on YouTube beginning here

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The highly rhythmic, almost manic music of Mexican composer Felipe Perez Santiago will grab you by the throat and not let you go. These are amazing scores, brilliantly played.

Sarasate, Pablo de

SARASATE: Caprice Basque. Introduction and Caprice-Jota. Tarantelle. Miramar-Zortico. Ziguenerweisen / Pablo de Sarasate, violinist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Nobody, but nobody, played or plays Sarasate like Sarasate did. He made the violin sound as if it were playing itself. Absolutely incredible despite the dated 1904 sound!

SARASATE: Carmen Fantasy. Jota Navarra / Bronislaw Huberman, violinist; Siegfried Schultze, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Huberman didn’t quite possess the delicacy that Sarasate could achieve in his soft playing, but otherwise had the same verve and drive. Phenomenal recordings, with spiccato rarely heard or duplicated nowadays!

SARASATE: Malagueña. Zapateado / Jascha Heifetz, violinist; Andre Benoist, pianist / Ziguenerweisen / Jascha Heifetz, violinist; RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra; William Steinberg, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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Heifetz was an even more “muscular” violinist than Huberman, but he had the same dazzling technique as both Huberman and Sarasate, and these are very satisfying readings.

Satie, Erik

SATIE: La Dive de l’Empire. Chanson. Adieu Air de poète. Daphénéo / Cathy Berberian, mezzo-soprano; Dario Müller, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Absolutely no one on the face of the earth ever sang like Cathy Berberian. No one.

SATIE: Avant-dernières pensées. La belle excentrique. Caresse. Chapitres tournés en tous sens. Croquis et agaceries d’un gros bonhumme en bois. Danse de travers. Descriptions automatique. Deux oeuvres de jeunesse. Embryons desséchés. Gnossiennes (6). Heures séculaires et instantanées. Les pantins dansent. Passacaglia. Petite ouverture à danser. Le Piccadilly – Marche. Pièces froides – Airs à faire fuir. Pièces froides – Danses de travers. Poudre d’or. Prélude de la porte héroïque du ciel. Prélude en tapisserie. Première pensée rose+croix. Sonatine bureaucratique. Sports et divertissements. 3 valses distinguées du précieux dégoûté. Trois Gymnopédies. Trois morceaux en forme de poire. Vértables préludes flasques (pour un chien). Vieux sequins et vieilles cuirasses / Anne Queffélec, pianist / Virgin Classics 22050

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Some people hate Satie’s music, some love it, and some like it. I happen to like it very much, and so did Claude Debussy and Francis Poulenc, so I think I’m in good company. Of the various recordings out there, I prefer Queffélec’s performances of the solo piano works best of all.

SATIE: Deux morceau en Forme de Poire. Parade (version for piano 4 hands) / Georges Auric, Francis Poulenc, pianists / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Outstanding historic recordings of two French composers paying tribute to Satie.

SATIE: En Habit de Cheval. Parade (orchestral version) / Orchestre National de France; Manuel Rosenthal, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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My absolute favorite versions of these wonderful scores, despite the slightly dated sound.

SATIE: Socrate / Hughes Cuenod, tenor; Geoffrey Parsons, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Virgil Thomson considered this monodrama to be Satie’s masterpiece. This is an outstanding late recording (1977) by the great Hughes Cuenod, a tenor who apparently kept his singing voice forever.

Saygun, Ahmed Adnan

SAYGUN: Cello Concerto, Op. 74 / Tim Hugh, cellist; Bilkent Senfoni Orkestrasi; Howard Griffiths, conductor / CPO 7290 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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SAYGUN: From Anatolia, Op. 25. Inci’s Book, Op. 10. Selected Etudes on Aksak Rhythms, Op. 38. Suite, Op. 2: Theme and Variations. 10 Sketches on Aksak Rhythms, Op. 58 / Kathryn Woodard, pianist / Albany 1168

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SAYGUN: Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 71 / Gülsin Onay, pianist; Bilkent Senfoni Orkestrasi; Howard Griffiths, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SAYGUN: Viola Concerto, Op. 59 / Mirjam Tschopp, violist; Bilkent Senfoni Orkestrasi; Howard Griffiths, conductor / CPO 7290 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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The fascinating music of Turkish composer Ahmed Saygun is still relatively unknown in the West, but these pieces, played very well by the above performers, make a strong case for his music. He managed to combine folk themes from his native country, with their fascinating harmonies, with Western form and melodic structure, creating a perfect balance between the two.

Scarlatti, Alessandro

A. SCARLATTI: Ammore, brutto figlio de portana / Pino di Vittorio, tenor; I Turchini; Antonio Florio, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Arie con Tromba Sola: Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6 / Kathleen Battle, soprano; Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter; Marc Goldberg, bassoonist; Anthony Newman, harpsichordist; Orchestra of St. Luke’s; John Nelson, conductor / part of Sony Classical 46672 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Cafra e dolce. Difesa non ha. O dolcissino speranza. La speranza. Toglietemi la vita ancor / Jon Vickers, tenor; Leo Barkin, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Che vuole inamorarsi / Ezio Pinza, bass; Fritz Kinzinger, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Già il sole dal Gange / Ramón Vargas, tenor; Roberto Negri, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Il giardino di Rose: Mentr’io godo in dolce oblio; Ecco negl’orti tuoi..Che dolce simpatia / Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano; Les Musiciens de Louvre Grenoble; Marc Minkowski, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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A. SCARLATTI: Griselda: Se il mio dolor t’offende. Sedecia, Re di Gerusalemme: Caldo sangue / Patricia Petibon, soprano; Venice Baroque Orchestra; Andrea Marcon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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A. SCARLATTI: Io vi miro ancor vestite / Roberta Peters, soprano; Harold Bennett, flautist; George Trovillo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Il Pirro e Demetrio: Le violette. Il Pompeo: O cessate di piagarmi / Tito Schipa, tenor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A. SCARLATTI: Su venite un consiglio / Magda Laszlo, soprano; Luigi Cortese, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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I’m sure the HIP crowd will cringe at most of my selections above, except perhaps for the pure voices of Tito Schipa and Roberta Peters, and even they would be lambasted for singing the “improper style.” But as far as the right feeling for each song goes, these performances are supreme, and I for one have no problems with any of them…even the “folk song” style of Pino di Vittorio.

Scarlatti, Domenico

D. SCARLATTI: 40 Sonatas for Harpsichord / Wanda Landowska, harpsichordist / Pearl 106, some of them available for free streaming on YouTube

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Absolutely no one plays these sonatas as well as Landowska did. Once available on a 2-LP Seraphim set, EMI stupidly cut several sonatas out when issuing it on a single CD. This is the complete series, happily cleaned up a bit by Ward Marston.

Scelsi, Giacinto

SCELSI: Khoom for soprano, horn, string quartet & percussion. Okanagon for harp, tom-tom and bass. Pranam I for mezzo, 12 instruments & tape. Pranam II for 9 instruments. Riti: il funerali di Alesssandro Magno / Marianne Schuppe, soprano; Bruno Schneider, French hornist; Friedermann Treiber, Daniel Haptmann, violinists; Patrick Jüdt, violist; Martin Jaggi, cellist; Daniel Buess, Daniel Staider, percussionists; Consuelo Giulianelli, harpist; Aleksander Gabrys, bassist; Daniel Buess, tom-tom; Christoph Bösch, Tamara Venuti, flautists; Petar Hristov, English hornist; Toshiko Sakakibara, clarinet/bs-cl; Povilas Bingelis, bassoonist; Raphael Carmenisch, alto saxist; Bruno Schneider, French hornist; Nenad Markovic, trumpeter; Michael Büttler, trombonist; Thomas Peter, electronics; Jürg Henneberger, conductor / Telos Music 191

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Scelsi was one of the earliest composers to write in the kind of mixed atonal style that was later associated with György Ligeti, but his naturally laid-back, low-key personality, combined with the difficulty of his music, kept him from getting the credit for it for decades. These outstanding performances are a great introduction to his work.

Schifrin, Lalo

SCHIFRIN: La calle y la luna. Danza de los Montes. Jazz Piano Sonata. Lullaby for Jack. Mission: Impossible Main Theme. Pampas. Tango a Borges. Tango: Main Theme. Theme & 10 Variations on an Original Theme / Mirian Conti, pianist / Grand Piano GP776

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An astoundingly gifted musician, Lalo Schifrin is still not entirely taken “seriously” by the arts community because of his long-time association with movie music, TV themes and jazz, but the above CD will open your ears to the extraordinary talent of this amazing man.

Schimmel, Carl

ROADSHOW: MUSIC OF CARL SCHIMMEL / SCHIMMEL: Roadshow for Otto1-3. Roadshow for Thora4. 4 Nocturnes from “The Oblivion Ha-Ha.”5 String Quartet No. 2, “Six Faces.”6 The Pismirist’s Congeries1,7 / 1Alex Sopp, flautist; 2Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinetist; 3Sumire Kudo, cellist; 1Steven Beck, pianist; 4SOLI Chamber Ensemble; 5Lucy Shelton, soprano; 5Da Capo Chamber Players; 6Left Coast Chamber Ensemble; 7Sharon Roffman, violinist; 7Wendy Law, cellist / New Focus Recordings FCR167

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Columbia University graduate Carl Schimmel’s music has been described by The New York Times as “vivid and dramatic,” but it’s also humorous, combining an intense “expression with a structural rigor which draws upon his mathematics background.” Yet for all its wackiness and humor, the music is resolutely tonal and, for all its asymmetric moments, highly rhythmic. Aside from its entertainment value, the music makes you think as you listen, perhaps because of those stops and pauses.

Schmidt, Franz

SCHMIDT: Chaconne for Orchestra in d min. Phantasiestücke for Klavier und Orchester in Bb. Variations on a Hussar’s Song / Jasminca Stančul, pianist; German State Philharmonic Rheinland-Pfalz; Alexander Rumpf, conductor / Capriccio C5274 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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I was very impressed by Schmidt’s unusual way with music. Particularly in the Variations on a Hussar’s Song (written 1930-31), one hears a very personal means of expression: decidedly German in structure, yet using several “crushed” or extended chords in the manner of French composers (one thinks not only of Ravel but also of Kochelin). Unlike his teacher Bruckner who, as an acquaintance of mine put it, only wrote “a series of endings,” Schmidt’s score shows real development, albeit in a very personal and somewhat strange vein. In some places the shifting orchestral chords put me in mind of Scriabin a little bit…one wonders if he heard any of the Russian’s music. The bottom line is a sort of “German impressionism”; one might say the stepchild of Wagner and Debussy, but it is very attractive; note, for instance, how in the “Theme and Variations” Schmidt makes the melodic line move the harmony rather than the other way round. This is the kind of harmonic-melodic interaction once often hears from very advanced jazz musicians but almost never from classical composers of Schmidt’s generation.

Schmitt, Florent

SCHMITT: Antoine et Cléopâtre –Six épisodes symphoniques. Le Palais Hanté, Op. 49 / Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta, conductor / Naxos 8.573521 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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SCHMITT: Habyssée for Violin & Orchestra, Op. 110. Rêves, Op. 65 / Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Piano Quintet, Op. 51 / Birgitta Wollenweber, pianist; Matthias Wollong, violinists; Ulrich Knörzer, violist; Andreas Grünkorn, cellist / À tour d’anches, Op. 97 / Matthias Bäcker, oboist; Richard Obermayer, clarinetist; Frank Forst, bassoonist / Naxos 8.570489

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SCHMITT: Rêves. Soirs. Symphonie Concertante* / *Hüseyin Sermet, pianist; Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo; David Robertson, conductor / Naïve V4909

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SCHMITT: La Tragédie de Salomé, Op. 50 / Natália Áurea, soprano; Cely Kozuki, Cristiane Minczuk, Fabiana Portas, Maria Angélica Leutwiler, Monica Weber Bronzati, Vesna Bankovic, mezzo-sopranos; São Paolo Symphony Orchestra; Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The music of Florent Schmitt occupies a strange niche between the German and French styles of the 1920s and ‘30s, but he was ignored for decades because of his irascible and somewhat nasty personality (he once shouted out “Viva Hitler!” at a concert of Kurt Weill’s music at which the composer was present), but talent is talent and Schmitt had it in spades. These performances will give you a good idea of his diversity and excellence; only the early (1920) Antoine et Cléopâtre suite is rather functional, having been written as incidental music for the Shakespeare play.

Schnabel, Artur

SCHNABEL: Notturno for Contralto & Piano / Noa Frenkel, contralto; Irmela Roelcke, pianist / String Quartet No. 1: I, II, III, IV / Pellegrini String Quartet / CPO 777 622

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SCHNABEL: Symphony No. 2: I. Andante – Allegro; II. Vivacissimo; III. Largo; IV. Misterioso; Allegretto energico / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Paul Zukovsky, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking links above

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SCHNABEL: Violin Sonata: I & II; III & IV / Paul Zukovsky, violinist; Ursula Oppens, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking links above

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It always surprises people when they learn that famed Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel, mostly renowned for his playing of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, was an outstanding composer of modernistic German works. The irony lay not just in the fact that he seldom played his own works in public, but that his busy performing career curtailed this creative side of him, thus his output was very small. These two works are, I think, his very best of those I’ve heard (not that many recordings out there, however), and the performances are first-rate as well.

Schnyder, Daniel

SCHNYDER: African Fanfare. Symphony No. 4, “Colossus of Sound.” Trumpet Concerto. Little Songbook. subZERO, Concerto for Bass Trombone & Chamber Orchestra / Reinhold Friedrich, trumpeter; David Taylor, bass trombonist; Absolute Ensemble; NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; Kristjan Järvi, conductor / Enja 9460

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SCHNYDER: Baroquelochness. The Four Elements. Melousine. Sailing.Suite Provençale for Flute & Bass Flute. Teirisias / Magda Schwerzmann, flautist; James Alexander, pianist / Neuklang 4051

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SCHNYDER: Concerto for Flute, Percussion & Strings / Kalina Majewska, flautist; Magdalena Myrczik, percussionist; Wroclaw Academy of Music Chamber Ensemble; Artur Koza, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHNYDER: Septets Nos. 1 & 2. Secret Cosmos. Song for my Grandfather. Blues Variations. Isabelle. Sailing / The Modern Art Septet / Enja 5055, also available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Daniel Schnyder’s brilliant classical-jazz hybrids tend to confuse audiences but delight musicians, combining well-ordered compositions with jazz inflections and style. He has an entire chapter to himself in my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond, which you should read for a detailed analysis of his work.

Schoeck, Othmar

SCHOECK: Penthesilea / Martha Mödl, soprano (Penthesilea); Paula Brivkalne, soprano (Prothoe); Paula Lenchner-Schmidt, soprano (Meroe); Res Fischer, contralto (High Priestess); Eberhard Wächter, baritone (Achilles); Stefan Scwer, tenor (Diomedes); Gustaf Grefe, baritone (Herald); Stuttgart State Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Ferdinand Leitner, conductor / Walhall Eternity WLCD0225

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Apparently impressed by Strauss’ Elektra and wanting to write an opera in the same vein, Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck, then in his late 30s, set about composing this gory tale of Penthesilea, the Queen of the Amazons, and her love/hate relationship with Achilles. Into this brutal tale Schoeck packed some of his densest and most concise music, a score that is utterly brilliant and unhackneyed. Gone are any allusions to arias: the vocalists perform in a sequence of orchestral-accompanied recitative with occasional curses and screams, intermittently reverting to speech for certain passages. The only truly lyrical passage in the entire opera, and the most conventional music, is the Penthesilea-Achilles love duet, which has a certain Richard Strauss-like feel to it.

Schoenberg, Arnold

SCHOENBERG: Brettl-Lieder Nos. 1-3. Erwärtung / Jessye Norman, soprano; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; James Levine, pianist/conductor / Philips 426 261-2, also available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

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This is one of those recordings I referred to in my article, The Strange Case of James Levine. Norman’s performance of this eerie monodrama is untouchable, vocally and dramatically, and the orchestra matches her mood perfectly. Just ignore who the conductor is. It’s fabulous in every respect.

SCHOENBERG: Das Buch des hangenden garten. Gedanken / Helen Vanni, mezzo-soprano; Glenn Gould, pianist / available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Vanni didn’t have the most beautiful voice in the world, but her singing here is highly expressive and Gould’s pianism helps her carry the emotion in the music. Another landmark recording.

SCHOENBERG: Five Pieces for Orchestra / Columbia Symphony Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHOENBERG: Die gluckliche hand / Simon Joly Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHOENBERG: Pelleas und Mélisande. Pierrot Lunaire / Bethany Beardslee, soprano; CBC Symphony Orchestra; Columbia Chamber Ensemble; Robert Craft, conductor / currently out of print and unavailable for free streaming

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Robert Craft’s recordings of Schoenberg’s music, both the original series for Columbia and the later series for Naxos, are outstanding in every way. You can find the later recording of the first piece with the Philharmonia Orchestra on a Naxos release, and it’s pretty good, too, but alas, the Beardslee-Craft Pierrot Lunaire seems to have sunk without a trace.

SCHOENBERG: Gurre-Lieder / Ethel Semser, soprano (Tove); Nell Tangeman, mezzo (Waldtraube); Richard Lewis, tenor (Waldemar); Ferry Gruber, tenor (Klaus the Jester); John Riley, bass (Bauer); Morris Gesell, speaker; New Symphony Society & Chorus; Rene Leibowitz, conductor / Preiser 90575

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SCHOENBERG: Gurre-Lieder / Eva-Maria Bundschuh, soprano (Tove); Rosemarie Lang, contralto (Wood-Dove); Manfred Jung, tenor (Waldemar); Wolf Appel, tenor (Klaus-Knarr); Ulrik Cold, bass (Farmer/Bauer); Gert Westphal, speaker; Berlin & Leipzig Radio Choruses; Prague Men’s Choir; Members of Leipzig Symphony Orchestra; Herbert Kegel, conductor / Brilliant Classics 94724, also available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Schoenberg’s orchestral-vocal masterpiece has had many good recordings, but few have the right voices for the music. The Rene Leibowitz version from c. 1952 is still, to my mind, the very finest all-around performance ever recorded, but the mono sound—though very good—doesn’t quite reveal the splendor of Schoenberg’s colorful orchestration, which is why I only give it 4 ½ fish. The vastly underrated conductor Herbert Kegel, much better known in Germany than in America or England, produced the best stereo recording of this masterpiece, due to the fact that all of the singers are superb as well.

SCHOENBERG: Die Jakobsleiter / Hanno Müller-Brachmann, baritone (Gabriel); Glenn Winslade, tenor; Guy Renard, tenor (The Monk); Laurin Aikin, soprano (The Soul); SWR Orch. & Chorus Baden-Baden & Freiburg; Michael Gielen, conductor / available for streaming in small bits on YouTube

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A vastly underrated work, brilliantly sung and well-conducted by the great Michael Gielen.

SCHOENBERG: 3 Klavierstücke. 5 Klavierstücke. 6 Kleine Klavierstücke. Phantasy for Violin & Piano. Piano Concerto* / Glenn Gould, pianist; Yehudi Menuhin, violinist (in Phantasy); *CBC Symphony Orchestra; *Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Although he played music of other composers, particularly Beethoven who he admired (and Mozart, who he didn’t), Glenn Gould’s twin gods were J.S. Bach and Arnold Schoenberg. Guess which one the public wishes he hadn’t liked playing.

SCHOENBERG: Moses und Aron / Franz Grundheber, baritone (Moses); Andreas Conrad, tenor (Aron); Johanna Winkel, soprano (Young girl); Jean-Noël Briend, tenor (Young man); Elvira Bill, mezzo (Sick woman); Friedemann Röhlig. bass (A priest); Andreas Wolf, baritone (Ephraimite); Europa Chor Akademie; SWR Symphony Orch. Baden-Baden & Freiburg; Sylvain Cambreling, conductor / Hänssler Classic 93314, available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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This is the operatic masterpiece that Schoenberg was too lazy to complete. He finished the first two acts by 1930, but although he lived another 21 years and really didn’t write many full-length works thereafter, he became uninterested in finishing this work. Nonetheless, it has a visceral impact that few of his works possess. There are a few other good recordings of it available, including Pierre Boulez’ second version for Deutche Grammophon, but the Cambreling performance is superbly conducted and the singers—particularly tenor Andreas Conrad as Aron—are superior to Boulez’ cast.

SCHOENBERG: Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte / Mack Harrell, narrator; Members of New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Artur Rodziński, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The best and most intense performance, in terms of both narration and conducting, ever recorded despite the dated sound quality.

SCHOENBERG: Prelude to the Genesis Suite / Columbia Chamber Ensemble; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title above

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Another outstanding performance from Craft’s early Columbia recordings.

SCHOENBERG: String Quartet in D. String Quartets Nos. 1-4. Verklärte Nacht. Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte.* Chamber Symphony No. 1 (quintet vers. By Webern).* Concerto for String Quartet & Orchestra after Handel.# String Trio / Schoenberg Quartet; *Sepp Grotenhuis, pianist; Michael Grandage, speaker (Ode to Napoleon); #Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra; #Roberto Benzi, conductor / Chandos 9939-43

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Absolutely the best versions available of Schoenberg’s complete works for string quartet, trio and quintet.

SCHOENBERG: Violin Concerto, Op. 36 / Rolf Schulte, violinist; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

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Although I personally prefer Craft’s earlier recording with violinist Israel Baker, it is not currently available, and this Naxos recording has superior, digital sound.

Schubert, Franz

Everyone has a different view of Franz Schubert’s music. The most prevalent is that of the warm, gooshy Romantic who, sadly, had an affair with a prostitute at age 17, contracted syphilis, and then died at age 32, and they carry that into their perceptions of how they want his music to sound. Happily, there is an alternate view, based on the fact that he idolized Beethoven, whose music was anything but warm and gooshy. That is my view, and thus I seek out the performances and recordings that reflect that aesthetic.

SCHUBERT: Alfonso und Estrella / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone (Froila); Magdalena Falewicz, soprano (Maiden); Eberhard Büchner, tenor (A youth); Peter Schreier, tenor (Alfonso); Edith Mathis, soprano (Estrella); Hermann Prey, baritone (Mauregato); Theo Adam, bass-baritone (Adolfo); Horst Gebhardt, tenor (Bodyguard); Berlin Radio Choir & State Orchestra; Otmar Suitner, conductor / Brilliant Classics 94689 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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Schubert’s operas tend to be well written but dramatically boring. This is the best of them, musically speaking, and it shows a surprisingly dramatic side of his style. This performance simply cannot be bettered in any way.

LIEDER:

SCHUBERT: Die Allmacht: Gross ist Jehova / Jussi Björling, tenor; Frederick Schauwecker, pianist / part of RCA Victor 60520 or available for free streaming on YouTube

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Absolutely the best version of this song you’ll ever hear, taken from a live Carnegie Hall concert in 1958. Honest to God, no one even comes close: not James King (dramatic but not soft enough in the middle section), Christa Ludwig (too slow and inward) or Jessye Norman (similar to King).

SCHUBERT: An die Freunde. Fischerweise. Prometheus. Der Wanderer. Auf der Donau. Der Wanderer an den Mond. Aus Heliopolis II / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Benjamin Britten, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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Forget the Schubert recordings that Fischer-Dieskau made with Gerald Moore. These are his most intense versions of these songs, accompanied by one of the greatest and  possibly most underrated Schubert pianists of all time.

SCHUBERT: An die Musik. Der Tod und das Mädchen / Rosa Ponselle, soprano; Igor Chicagov, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Criticized for her sloppy musicianship during the latter part of her active career, Ponselle took to studying lieder in retirement and became exceptionally good at it. These are two of the finest examples of her late singing. The low range in “Der Tod und das Mädchen” will take your breath away.

SCHUBERT: Ave Maria / Barbara Bonney, soprano; Geoffrey Parsons, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Seligkeit. Gretchen am Spinnrade. Der Einsame. An die Nachtigall. Waldesnacht. Die Gefangenen Sänger. An die Musik / Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Lois Shapiro, pianist / part of Bridge 9504, also available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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Modern-music specialist also sang a lot of early music in her career, even including a stint with the New York Pro Musica. These late-period recordings, made in the 1980s, show her interpretive and musical instincts still intact.

SCHUBERT: Auf dem Ström / Jung Eun Oh, soprano; Richard King, French hornist; Orli Shaham, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Der Hirt aus dem Felsen / Barbara Bonney, soprano; David Schifrin, clarinetist; André Watts, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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These two songs, lyrical and demanding of sweet voices and perfect legato, also demand that the instrumental soloists be as good as the singers. These two examples are stupendous.

SCHUBERT: Hark Hark, the Lark! / Alma Gluck, soprano; unidentified orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Nacht und Traume / Leo Slezak, tenor; Michael Raucheisen, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Erlkönig / Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto; Katherine Hoffmann, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube; move cursor to 4:23 to begin

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SCHUBERT: Aufenthalt / Alexander Kipnis, bass; Frank Bibb, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Die Forelle / Gérard Souzay, baritone; Jacqueline Bonneau, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Der Doppelgänger / Louis Graveure, tenor; Waldemar von Vultée, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin / Aksel Schiøtz, tenor; Gerald Moore, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Seven older, classic recordings that I don’t think have ever been surpassed, despite the ancient sound.

SCHUBERT: Die Winterreise / Peter Pears, tenor; Benjamin Britten, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Die Winterreise / Jonas Kaufmann, tenor; Helmut Deutsch, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Absolutely the best recordings of this difficult song cycle; each complements the other. Mezzo Mitsuko Shirai has also done a great job on this piece if you’d like to hear a female singer in it.

SCHUBERT: Auf dem Wasser zu Singen. Heidenröslein. Seligkeit / Karita Mattila, soprano; Ilmo Ranta, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles

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 CHAMBER MUSIC

SCHUBERT: Arpeggione Sonata in a min. / Emanuel Feuermann, cellist; Gerald Moore, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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Despite the dated sound, the best combination of elegance, warmth and dynamic contrasts in this music.

SCHUBERT: Impromptus, D. 899 & 935 / Artur Schnabel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Moments Musicaux, Op. 94 / Artur Schnabel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet in A, “Die Forelle” / Artur Schnabel, pianist; Pro Arte Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube in individual bits

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SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in D, D. 850 / Artur Schnabel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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No one is better than Schnabel in Schubert. No one.

SCHUBERT: Octet / Consortium Classicum / MDG Gold 3010768

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The best performance I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a bunch of them.

SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas: in c min., D. 958; in A, D. 959; in Bb, D. 960 / Craig Sheppard, pianist / Roméo 7283, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

Outstanding modern recordings of these great works, Schubert’s finest and most moving sonatas.

SCHUBERT: Piano Trio No. 1 in Bb: I. Allegro moderato; II. Andante un poco mosso; III. Scherzo: Allegro; IV. Rondo: Allegro Vivace / Jacques Thibaud, violinist; Pablo Casals, cellist; Alfred Cortot, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual movements above

4-fish

THE classic recording. No one else comes close for their combination of elegance and drive.

SCHUBERT: Piano Trio No. 1 in Bb / Jascha Heifetz, violinist; Emanuel Feuermann, cellist; Arthur Rubinstein, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

A more muscular version of this work, lacking some of the elegance of the older recording but still featuring the outstanding work of Feuermann and Rubinstein.

SCHUBERT: String Quartet in d min., “Tod und das Mädchen” / Capet Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The sound is old—this performance was recorded in 1928—but except for a few brief portamento slides, the style is surprisingly modern: clean, fast and emotionally powerful.

SCHUBERT: String Quartet No. 15, D. 887 / Busch String Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

One of the deepest, darkest performances you’ll ever hear.

SCHUBERT: String Quintet in C: I. Allegro ma non troppo; II. Adagio; III. Scherzo – Trio; IV. Finale: Allegretto / Lindsay String Quartet; Douglas Cummings, cellist / available for free streaming on YouTube

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The most elegant, flexible and emotional performance of this great work I’ve ever heard. When I die, I want this played for me In Memoriam.

ORCHESTRAL MUSIC

SCHUBERT: Symphonies Nos. 1-6, 8, 9 / Concertgebouw Orchestra; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor / Teldec 91184

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Harnoncourt’s tempi are a bit on the slow side except for the last two symphonies, but his incisive, transparent orchestral sound and dramatic readings are nonpareil.

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 7, D. 729: I. Adagio – Allegro; II. Andante; III. Scherzo: Allegro deciso; IV. Finale – Allegro / Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; Heinz Rögner, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on the movements above

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And here is the long-missing Seventh Symphony, which Schubert left in piano score and only Felix Weingartner had the brains to orchestrate. No, it’s not a great masterpiece, but it is the missing symphony, in a fine performance.

SCHUBERT: “Gastein Symphony” (Grand Duo in C, orch. Joachim) / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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This was passed off, for some time, as the missing Seventh Symphony. By the time Toscanini performed it in the early 1940s, he knew it wasn’t, but he liked its drama anyway. A great performance.

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 2 / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

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A performance guaranteed to give an Austrian Schubert-lover cardiac arrest, but very much in keeping with the idea of Schubert as an acolyte of Beethoven!

Schulhoff, Erwin

SCHULHOFF: Concertino for Flute or Piccolo, Viola & Bass / Ensemble Villa Musica / part of MDG Gold 3040617, or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

SCHULHOFF: Concertino for Flute, Piano, Strings & 2 Horns. Concerto for Piano & Small Orchestra. Concerto for String Quartet & Wind Ensemble. Cinq Études de Jazz, Nos. 2-4. Esquisses de Jazz, Nos. 4 & 5. Rag: Music for Pianoforte, Nos. 3, 4, 7, 8. / Bettina Wild, flautist; Aleksandar Madzar, pianist; Hawthorne Quartet; Deutsche Chamber Philharmonic; Andreas Delfs, conductor / Decca 4448192 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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Erwin Schulhoff’s rabid Communist propaganda—he even wrote a cantata based on the original text of  The Communist Manifesto—made him an unwelcome guest in nearly every country he went to, including America, but his composing skills were astounding and rather unique. These four concerti show his ability in large-scale works to great effect.

SCHULHOFF: Esquisses de Jazz. 5 Études de Jazz. Partita for Piano. 5 Pittoresken. Suite Dansant en Jazz / Caroline Weichert, pianist / Grand Piano GP723 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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SCHULHOFF: 5 Études de Jazz. Hot Music: 12 Syncopated Études. 11 Inventions. Piano Sonata No. 1. Second Suite for Piano. Suite Dansant en Jazz / Kathryn Stott, pianist / Bis 1249

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Schulhoff was infatuated with “jazz” in the 1920s, and wrote a number of piano pieces showing that influence, but to him jazz was more of a peppy ragtime, as evidenced by the fact that he thought Paul Whiteman a jazz and “blues” artist. Where he excelled, and probably had an influence on the growth of jazz, was in his use of extended chords and bitonal passages. Both of these collections are superb; although Kathryn Stott was first, several of Caroline Weichert’s performances are actually looser in rhythm and thus somewhat jazzier in feeling.

SCHULHOFF: Duo for Violin & Cello. 5 Études de Jazz. Sonata No. 2 for Violin & Piano. String Sextet / Valeriy Sokolov, Boris Brovtsyn, violinists; Eldar Nebolsin, pianist; Spectrum Concerts Berlin / Naxos 8.573525 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

Outstanding chamber works played by a collection of Russian and German artists, with yet another recording of the 5 Études de Jazz.

Schuman, William

SCHUMAN: New England Triptych: I. Be Glad Then, America; II. When Jesus Wept; III. Chester / Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Max Rudolf, conductor / Prayer in Time of War / New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Fritz Reiner, conductor / Undertow – Ballet Suite / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Guido Cantelli, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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William Schuman, considered for nearly 30 years one of America’s greatest composers, has somehow fallen out of favor in recent decades. Part of the problem, as I see it, is the lack of emotionally powerful and committed performances. The three historic recordings above, though varying in sound (the Rudolf has the best quality), are all outstanding readings of his music.

SCHUMAN: Symphony No. 3 / New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Leonard Bernstein, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

SCHUMAN: Symphony No. 6. Symphony No. 9 / Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

5-fish

SCHUMAN: Symphony No. 7 / Utah Symphony Orchestra; Maurice Abravanel, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

SCHUMAN: Symphony No. 10, “American Muse”: I. Con fuoco; II. Larghissimo; III. Presto – Andantino – Leggero Pesante / St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

5-fish

These are the best of Schuman’s symphonies, in my view, in their best performances. Happily, only the Ormandy performance on No. 6 is in mono sound, but it’s a fantastic recording.

SCHUMAN: Violin Concerto: I. Allegro risoluto – Cadenza; II. Introduzione; Adagio – Allegretto / Paul Zukofsky, violinist; Boston Symphony Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking movement titles above

6-fish

Clearly one of the most exciting and original of modern violin concerti in a stunning performance by the young Michael Tilson Thomas, whose talents have sadly waned in recent decades. I haven’t heard another recording to match this one.

Schumann, Robert

CHAMBER MUSIC & CONCERTI

SCHUMANN: Adagio & Allegro for Horn & Piano / Dennis Brain, French hornist; Gerald Moore, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

The classic recording of this piece, played to perfection by the late Dennis Brain.

SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto in a min.: I. Nicht zu schnell; II. Langsam – III. Sehr lebhaft  / Jacqueline du Pré, cellist; New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Leonard Bernstein, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

4-and-a-half-fish

Absolutely the best interpretation I’ve ever heard of this work. Bernstein is pretty good, too.

SCHUMANN: Fairy Tales / Walter Trampler, violist; Gervase de Peyer, clarinetist; Richard Goode, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

An excellent, taut yet charming performance of this oft-neglected piece.

SCHUMANN: Fantasy for Violin & Orchestra / Gidon Kremer, violinist; Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Heinz Wallberg, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

I like this performance not because Kremer has a lovely violin tone—he doesn’t—but because he plays with intensity, which many “pretty” violinists don’t. Wallberg also conducts at a taut, exciting pace.

SCHUMANN: Konzertstück for 4 Horns & Orchestra / Peter Damm, Klaus Pietzonka, Dieter Pansa, Johannes Friemel, French horns; Staatskapelle Dresden; Siegfried Kurz, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

One of Schumann’s most exciting orchestral-solo works, played to perfection by Peter Damm and his Dresden horn compadres.

SCHUMANN: Konzertstücke for Piano & Orchestra: in G, Op. 92; in d min., Op. 134 / Alexander Lonquich, pianist; WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln; Heinz Holliger, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

4-and-a-half-fish

Excellent performances of similarly neglected pieces, perhaps a shade underplayed by pianist Lonquich but fine nonetheless.

SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 54
Dinu Lipatti, pianist; Philharmonia Orchestra; Herbert von Karajan, conductor / available for free streaming
on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

Van Cliburn, pianist; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Fritz Reiner, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Schumann’s most famous concerto in two outstanding recordings. The Lipatti is legendary, of course, which is a shame because the equally interesting (and intense) Cliburn-Reiner reading is too often neglected.

SCHUMANN: Piano Quartet in Eb, Op. 47: I.; II.; III.; IV. / Benvenue Pianoforte Trio; Adam LaMotte, violist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement numbers above

5-fish

SCHUMANN: Piano Quintet in Eb, Op. 4: I.; II.; III.; IV. / Joyce Yang, pianist; Alexander String Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement numbers above

6-fish

Outstanding performances of two chamber works written close together in the same key.

SCHUMANN: Piano Trio No. 1 in d min., Op. 63
Jacques Thibaud, violinist; Pablo Casals, cellist; Alfred Cortot, pianist / part of Opus Kura 21001

4-fish

David Oistrakh, violinist; Sviatoslav Knuschevitzky, cellist; Lev Oborin, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

The two most outstanding performances of this great trio. Except for the dated sound, the Thibaud-Casals-Cortot recording is unmatched, but the Oistrakh-Knuschevitzky-Oborin recording is exceptional for a modern performance.

LIEDER

SCHUMANN: An der Mond. Volksliedchen. Mein schöner Stern. Die Soldatenbraut / Eileen Farrell, soprano; George Trujillo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

Surprisingly excellent lieder performances by an American icon.

SCHUMANN: Aufträge. Der Nussbaum / Maggie Teyte, soprano; Rita Mackey, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

4-fish

SCHUMANN: Mondnacht. Der Nussbaum / Leo Slezak, tenor; Heinrich Schacker, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

SCHUMANN: Der Contrabandiste. An die Türen will ich schleichen. Ballade des Harfners. Die beiden Grenadiere / Johannes Martin Kränzle, baritone / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

6-fish

Why is this man only famous for singing Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger? He has one of the most beautiful baritone voices in the world, and is an expressive and musical singer to boot.

SCHUMANN: Dein Angesicht so lieb und schöne / Peter Schreier, tenor; Norman Shetler, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3 / Gérard Souzay, baritone; Alfred Cortot, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

4-and-a-half-fish

When asked why he never authorized an official release of this magnificent 1956 recording, Souzay said that he was too young and Cortot was too old. Nonsense. Despite a couple of keyboard slips, Cortot’s touch and tone are magical, as is Souzay’s singing. A masterpiece.

SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe / Thomas Hampson, baritone; Geoffrey Parsons, pianist / EMI 555147

5-fish

The best of the modern recordings of this great song cycle.

SCHUMANN: Tanzlied. Er und sie. Ich denke sein. Wiegenlied am Lager eines kranken Kindes / Julia Varady, soprano; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Christoph Eschenbach, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

A match made in heaven: the bright soprano voice of Varady, the mellow timbre of Fischer-Dieskau and the pianism of Eschenbach.

SCHUMANN: Liederkreis. Frauenliebe und Leben. 4 Rückert Songs / Sharon Rostorf-Zamir, soprano; Jonathan Zak, pianist / Roméo 7260, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

A phonographic classic: Rostorf-Zamir’s mellow, expressive voice and Zak’s superb pianism. I’ve never heard a better Frauenliebe und Leben in my entire life.

SCHUMANN: Die Lotosblume / Elfreide Trotschel, soprano; Hans Löwlein, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

SCHUMANN: Meine Rose / Carolyn Sampson, soprano; Joseph Middleton, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

SCHUMANN: Röselein, Röselein / Roberta Peters, soprano; George Trovillo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

SCHUMANN: Der Sandmann / Gérard Souzay, baritone; Jacqueline Bonneau, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

SCHUMANN: Der Schatzgräber / Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Lois Shapiro, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

SCHUMANN: Saengers trost. Meine Rose. Ihre Stemme / Russell Oberlin, countertenor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

Outstanding performances of Schumann lieder from some unlikely sources.

PIANO MUSIC

SCHUMANN: ABEGG Variations. Davidsbündlertänze: I., II., III. / Jörg Demus, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above.

5-fish

Outstanding interpretations of these early pieces, with just enough rubato to make them interesting.

SCHUMANN: Arabeske. Blumenstück. Fantasie in C. Faschingsschwank aus Wien. Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 (w/5 posthumous variations) / Daniel Gortler, pianist / Roméo 7281/82, or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

A great set of performances by an unjustly-neglected pianist. The best I’ve ever heard in these works.

SCHUMANN: Carnaval / Alfred Cortot, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

The classic 1928 recording. Although Cortot also recorded this piece in 1923 and 1953, the former is in cramped acoustic sound and the latter is a bit too sloppy.

SCHUMANN: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 / Alfred Brendel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

In some pieces, you just can’t beat Alfred Brendel, and this is surely one of them.

SCHUMANN: Ghost Variations / Yvonne Chen, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

An extraordinarily mature yet unaffected reading of Schumann’s last great piano work by a young pianist.

SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen. Bunte Blätter / Clara Haskil, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above.

6-fish

And then there was Clara Haskil, the mistress of Kinderszenen. During her lifetime, no one could touch her in this work.

SCHUMANN: Kreisleriana / Luisa Guembes-Buchanan, pianist / available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube.

6-fish

No one matches Luisa Guembes-Buchanan in this music: not Rubinstein, not anyone.

ORCHESTRAL MUSIC

SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-and-a-half-fish

The person who uploaded this precious performance has nothing but criticism for it: “driving, hard-bitten…Brass turbulence and rhythmic precision…sometimes at the expense of warmth.”

OK, I’ve had just about enough of this crap. Why the hell do you want your classical music to sound “warm”? What’s so damn special about “warmth”? You want warmth? Go listen to Yanni singing lullabies. Classical music is supposed to challenge you, not pacify you!

SCHUMANN: Overtures: Manfred; The Bride of Messina; Goethe’s “Hermann und Dorothea”; Genoveva; “Julius Caesar”; Overture, Scherzo & Finale in E. Symphony in g min., “Zwickauer.” Symphonies Nos. 1-4 (including original & revised versions of No. 4) / WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln; Heinz Holliger, conductor / Audite 97.677, 97.678, 97,679, 97.705, also available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

6-fish

This four-CD set also includes the piano and violin concerti listed elsewhere. And you know what? Holliger’s performances aren’t very warm, either. Deal with it.

Schwendinger, Laura Elise

SCHWENDINGER: High Wire Act / BrightMusic / Nonet / Chicago Chamber Musicians / Rumor / Christine Jennings, flautist; Greg Sauer, cellist / Sonata for Solo Violin / Katie Wolf, violinist / Two Little Whos / Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould, violinist; Matt Gould, guitarist / Centaur 3098

5-fish

Not all of Laura Elise Schwendinger’s music is as intellectually interesting as these pieces—her string quartets are written more to create a mood, and not as tightly structured—but these works show an original and creative mind at work, and thus are highly recommended.

Scriabin, Alexander

SCRIABIN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-10 / Garrick Ohlsson, pianist / Bridge 9468A/B

5-fish

SCRIABIN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 5, 9, 10 / Vladimir Horowitz, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on numbers above.

4-fish

For decades, Ruth Laredo’s complete set of Scriabin’s sonatas on Nonesuch (along with some incidental pieces) was the best there was, but to my ears Garrick Ohlsson, whose early recordings never impressed me very much, gets further into the music and provides even more variety of phrasing. But neither Laredo nor Ohlsson quite matched Horowitz’ intensity in the three sonatas listed here. I normally dislike nearly everything Horowitz played, but not Scriabin. He knew the composer in his younger days and got straight to the heart of his music in these classic recordings. Only 4 ½ fish, however, due to the boxy mono sound.

SCRIABIN: 8 Études / Ruth Laredo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above.

5-fish

Although Laredo’s sonata recordings have been superseded by Ohlsson, her recordings of these short works are still quite stunning.

SCRIABIN: 2 Danses, Op. 73. Études Op. 42, Nos. 4 & 5. Morceaux: Op. 49, No. 3; Op. 51, Nos. 3 & 4; Op. 57, Nos. 1 & 2. Vers la flamme. Various Preludes. Various Preludes. Sonata No. 4. Valses / Vladimir Feltsman, pianist / Nimbus Alliance 6198Feltsman’s superb performances of these shorter works are also superb.

5-fish

SCRIABIN: Piano Concerto in f# min. / Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Lorin Maazel, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

Absolutely the best performance I’ve heard of this concerto.

SCRIABIN: Complete Symphonies, 1-5 / Fausto Tenzi, tenor; Doris Soffel, mezzo (Symph. 1); Wolfgang Saschowa, pianist (Symph. 5); Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra; Eliahu Inbal, conductor / Philips 420785, also available for free streaming on YouTube (check current availability)

6-fish

In recent years, this magnificent set of the symphonies (the only real problem is Fausto Tennzi’s tight, nasal voice in the first) has come under criticism from, in my view, ignorant critics who want to hear “Tchaikovsky-isms” in his work, but no one has come close to this achievement in toto.

SCRIABIN: Symphony No. 4, “Poeme de l’Extase.” Symphony No. 5, “Prometheus, Poem of Fire” / available for free streaming or download at http://www.stokowski.org/1932_Electrical_Recordings_Stokowski.htm

4-fish

Despite the fact that Stokowski spent great pains to make sure his recordings always had the best possible sound for their time, there is no escaping the fact that 1932 sound is 1932 sound, which is why I gave these performances only 4 fish.

 

Composers – R

girl-penguinRachmaninov, Sergei

RACHMANINOV: Aleko: Song of the young gypsy. Fragment from A. de Musset.* In the Silence of the Night.* How Fair This Spot. O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair. Vocalise* / Nicolai Gedda, ten; Gerald Moore, *Alexis Weissenberg, pn / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

5-fish

RACHMANINOV: Christ is Risen. Bliss. The Boy’s Song / Nicolai Gedda, ten; Erik Werba, pn / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

RACHMANINOV: All Things Depart. The Answer. Before My Window. The Drooping Corn. Floods of Spring. In the Silence of the Night. Lilacs. O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair. The Soldier’s Bride. Sorrow in Springtime / Jennie Tourel, mezzo; Erich Itor Kahn, pn / part of Preiser 89733 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

4-and-a-half-fish

RACHMANINOV: Child! Thou Art as Beautiful as a Flower. The Dream. In the Silence of the Night. I Wait for Thee. Lilacs / Irina Arphipova, alto; John Wustman, pn / part of Melodiya 102123 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

 

5-fish

RACHMANINOV: Cello Sonata in G min.: I. Lento. II. Allegro scherzando. III. Andante. IV. Allegro mosso / Joel Krosnick, cel; Nadia Reisenberg, pn / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above

5-fish

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C min. / William Kapell, pn; Robin Hood Dell Orchestra; William Steinberg, cond / available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 / Vladimir Horowitz, pianist; London Symphony Orchestra; Albert Coates, cond / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

RACHMANINOV: Piano Sonata No. 2 / Van Cliburn, pn / available for free streaming on YouTube

4-fish

RACHMANINOV: Prelude in C-sharp minor / Sergei Rachmaninov, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube

6-fish

RACHMANINOV: The Isle of the Dead / Russian National Orchestra; Mikhail Pletnev, cond / available for free streaming on YouTube

 

5-fishRACHMANINOV: Vespers / Swedish Radio Choir; Tōnu Kaljuste, dir / Virgin Classics 61845

 

6-fish

Sergei Rachmaninov was an outstanding pianist and an often self-indulgent composer, much of whose music is mooshy, gooshy romantic drivel. He did, however, compose one pretty good piano concerto (the second) which, when performed without sentimentality, is not too bad to hear; one good piano sonata (also the second); a very good and very famous Prelude in C-sharp minor; one fine orchestral work, The Isle of the Dead; the superb Vespers; and a surprisingly large series of outstanding Russian songs, which form the bulk of his legacy. I also tend to prefer his third Piano Concerto, particularly in the astounding recording by Horowitz (surely his greatest commercial concerto recording) to the Second, but William Kapell and William Steinberg give the finest reading ever of this oft-worn-out repertoire piece.

Rameau, Jean-Philippe

RAMEAU: Castor et Pollux / Jeffrey Thompson, haut-contre (Castor); Hadleigh Adams, bass (Pollux); Celeste Lazarenko, soprano (Télaïre); Margaret Plummer, soprano (Phœbe); Paul Goodwin-Groen, bass (Jupiter); Anna Fraser, soprano (Cléone/A Spirit); Pascal Herington, tenor (Mercury/Athlete); Mark Donnelly, baritone (High Priest); Cantillation; Orchestra of the Antipodes; Antony Walker, conductor / Pinchgut Live PG003

5-fish

RAMEAU: Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour / Chantal Santon-Jeffery, soprano (Orthésie/Orie); Carolyn Sampson, soprano (L’Amour/Memphis/Egyptian Priestess); Blandine Staskiewicz, mezzo (l’Hymen/an Egyptian/Shepherdess); Jennifer Borghi, mezzo (Mirrine); Mathias Vidal, tenor (Un Plaisir/Agéris/Aruéris); Reinoud van Mechelen, tenor (Osiris/an Egyptian shepherd); Tassis Christoyannis, baritone (Canope/an Egyptian); Alain Buet, bass (High Priest/an Egyptian); Concert Spirituel Orchestra & Chorus; Hervé Niquet, conductor / Glossa GCD921629 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

 

5-fish

RAMEAU: Hippolyte et Aricie / Mark Padmore, tenor (Hippolyte); Anna-Mari Panzarella, soprano (Aricie); Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo (Phèdre); Laurent Naori, bass (Thésée); Eirian James, mezzo (Diana); Gaëlle Mechaly, soprano (Cupid/Sailor); Nathan Berg, bass (Jupiter/Pluto/Neptune); Paul Agnew, tenor (Amor) / Patricia Petibon, soprano (Priestess/Shepherdess); Mirielle Delunch, soprano (High Priestess); Katalin Károlyi, mezzo-soprano (Oenone); François Piolino, tenor (Tisiphone); David Le Monnier, baritone (A hunter); Les Arts Florissants; William Christie, conductor / Erato 663052, available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits

6-fish

RAMEAU: Les Indes Galantes / Anne-Marie Rodde, soprano (Hébé/Fatima/Italian song); Sonia Nigoghossian, soprano (Phani/Zaïre); Rachel Yakar, soprano (Émilie); Jeanine Micheau, soprano (Zima); Bruce Brewer, countertenor (Valère/Carlos/Tacmas/Damon); Christian Tréguier, baritone (Bellone/Osman/Don Alvar); Pierre-Yves Le Magiat, bass (Huascar); Jean-Christophe Benoît, bass (Ali); Jean-Marie Gouélou, tenor (Adario); Ensemble Vocal Raphaël Passaquet; La Grande Ècurie et la Chambre du Roy; Jean-Claude Malgoire, conductor / Sony Classical 88985338292

 

6-fish

RAMEAU: Thésis (Cantata) / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Jean-Pierre Rampal, flautist; Robert Veyron-Lacroix, harpsichordist; Jacques Neilz, cellist / part of DG Archiv 2533058 or available for free streaming on YouTube

5-fish

Pretty much ignored for 200 years after his death, Rameau is now viewed as one of the most original and important composers of his day, a precursor to Gluck. The plots (such as they are) are based on mythology, but the music—though florid—is highly creative, individual and unpredictable, unlike most of Handel’s operas. I just wish more of them recorded complete. These are, by a wide margin, the best performances available of each opera.

Rathaus, Karol

RATHAUS: Suite for Violin & Piano. Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 / Karolina Piatkowska-Nowicka, violinist; Bogumiła Weretka-Bajdor, pianist / Dux 1347 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

5-fish

RATHAUS: Symphony No. 2, Op. 7 / Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt; Israel Yinon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube

 

5-fish

RATHAU