girl-penguinJanáček, Leoš

My take on Janáček is different from many critics in that I love his instrumental works but hate his operas…not because of the plots, which are marvelous, but because I find the music arid and ugly. Therefore, if you’re looking for a recommended recording of Jenufa, The Makropulos Case or The Cunning Little Vixen, you’re on your own.

JANÁČEK: Nine Songs on Moravian Poetry (sung in German) / Lucia Popp, soprano; Geoffrey Parsons, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube: song 1, song 2, song 3, song 4, song 5, song 6


This was once part of a splendid Lucia Popp CD that has since sunk beneath the waves, and the series of songs was complete, but as of right now you can gear 6 of the 9 songs for free on YouTube.

JANÁČEK: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2. On an Overgrown Path / Quartetto Energie Nove / Dynamic CDS7708


Janáček’s two string quartets are gems, and these are by far the most emotionally powerful and intense readings of them you’ll ever hear.

JANÁČEK: Sinfonietta (Sokol Festival) / Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; Karel Ancerl, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube


One of the underrated gems of the catalog. An incredibly intense, blistering performance of a piece generally given in a laissez-faire fashion.

JANÁČEK: Violin Sonata / David Oistrakh, violinist; Frida Bauer, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube: 1st & 2nd mvmts; 3rd & 4th mvmts


5-fishA superb performance of this excellent sonata by the legendary David Oistrakh.

Jiménez, Miguel Bernal

JIMÉNEZ: Tres cartas de México, Symphonic Suite / Cecilia López, Juan Reves, Jesus Ruiz, Alfredo Sanchez Oviedo, guitarists; Orquesta Filarmónica de la cuidad de Mexico; Enrique Batiz, conductor / part of Brilliant Classics 8771


An often-overlooked piece by an even more often-overlooked composer, part of the superb set of orchestral music by Mexican composers conducted by Batiz.

Jones, Robert

JONES: As I Lay Lately in a Dream. Goe to Bed,m Sweet Muze. Ite, Caldi Sospiri. Love is a Bable / Russell Oberlin, countertenor; Joseph Iadone, lutenist / part of “A Russell Oberlin Recital” on Decca LP


This thing is going to $211 on eBay. It’s not worth that much, of course, but these are superb performances of songs by one of the more underrated and forgotten of English lute song composers.

JONES: What If I Seek for Love? Goe to Bed, Sweet Muze / Alice Babs, soprano; Musica Holmiæ / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles


Classical listeners have probably never heard of Alice Babs. It’s their loss. She was one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, largely working in jazz and pop, but she had classical training in the mid-1950s and a pure, expressive voice.

Joplin, Scott

JOPLIN: Original Rags. Maple Leaf Rag. Peacherine Rag. Elite Syncopations. Cleopha. The Easy Winners. Pine Apple Rag. Binks’ Waltz. The Strenuous Life. Sunflower Slow Drag / E. Power Biggs, pedal harpsichordist / available for free streaming on YouTube / The Cascades. The Chrysanthemum. Something Doing. Magnetic Rag. Felicity Rag. The Entertainer. Paragon Rag. Sugar Cane. Scott Joplin’s New Rag. Great Crush Collision March / E. Power Biggs, pedal harpsichordist / available for free streaming on YouTube


The question has raged for a half-century now: Is Joplin’s music popular or classical? It certainly has classical form, mostly the A-A-B-A-C structure, but the tunes are relatively simple. On the other hand, there is a peculiar charm about his music, and that of the oft-neglected Joseph Lamb, that lifts it above the average popular music of its day. And to be honest, his rags were really only popular through sheet music for people to play in their parlors; very few of his rags were issued on commercial recordings during his lifetime. So I would categorize them as top-drawer light classical music, certainly better than some of the piffles that Mozart wrote (and critics faint over). Famed organist E. Power Biggs is heard here in a rare outing on the pedal harpsichord, and he lavishes the full extent of his considerable talent on them, further lifting most of this music above the mundane.

Jurowski, Vladimir

JUROWSKI: Russian Painters: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7. Symphony No. 5 / Norrköping Symphony Orchestra; Michael Jurowski, conductor / CPO 777875, or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on links above


Vladimir Jurowski, one of the most neglected and forgotten of Soviet-era composers, was also the father of the conductor here and grandfather of another conductor who bears his name (and is probably more famous than the other two, particularly in England). His music, at least as presented on this CD, is passionate and interesting, well-conceived and sometimes surprising. These performances are fully up to the challenges of the music.

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