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
RACHMANINOV: Christ is Risen. Bliss. The Boy’s Song / Nicolai Gedda, ten; Erik Werba, pn / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C min. / William Kapell, pn; Robin Hood Dell Orchestra; William Steinberg, cond / available for free streaming on YouTube
RACHMANINOV: Piano Sonata No. 2 / Van Cliburn, pn / available for free streaming on YouTube
RACHMANINOV: Prelude in C-sharp minor / Sergei Rachmaninov, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
RACHMANINOV: The Isle of the Dead / Russian National Orchestra; Mikhail Pletnev, cond / available for free streaming on YouTube
RACHMANINOV: Vespers / Swedish Radio Choir; Tōnu Kaljuste, dir / Virgin Classics 61845
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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: 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
RATHAUS: Symphony No. 2, Op. 7 / Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt; Israel Yinon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
RATHAUS: Symphony No. 3, Op. 50 / Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt; Israel Yinon, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Karol Rathaus (1895-1954) is a great composer waiting to be discovered. I did. Will you? His music, though essentially tonal, is full of unusual chord positions and modulations; it’s original, dramatic, and will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s also beautifully constructed. What are you waiting for?
RAUTAVAARA: Before the Icons. A Tapestry of Life / Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor / Ondine 1149 or available for free streaming on YouTube
RAUTAVAARA: In the Beginning (for orchestra) / Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern; Pietari Inkinen, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
RAUTAVAARA: Cello Concerto No. 2, “Beyond the Horizon.” Modificata. Percussion Concerto, “Incantations” / Truls Mørk, cellist; Colin Currie, percussionist; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra; John Storgårds, conductor / Ondine 1178 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube
RAUTAVAARA: Suite for Strings / Burlington Chamber Orchestra; Michael Hopkins, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
RAUTAVAARA: Symphony No. 7, “Angel of Light” / Norrköping Symphony Orchestra; Anna-Maria Helsing, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
The music of Einojuani Rautavaara (1928-2016) is often overrated, particularly his works of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, which consisted of a lot of empty rhetoric, pretentious post-romanticism and pointless repeated arpeggios, but in his last 22 years he wrote a few truly interesting works. These are listed above with my preferred recordings of them.
RAVEL: Alborado del grazioso (piano version) / Dinu Lipatti, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
RAVEL: Bolero / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
RAVEL: Chansons madécasses. Don Quichotte à Dulcinée. Épigrammes de Clément Marot. Histoires naturelles. Mélodies hébraïques. Cinq Mélodies populaires Grecques / Gérard Souzay, baritone; Dalton Baldwin, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above
RAVEL: Vocalise en forme de habanera / Jennie Tourel, mezzo; Paul Ulanovsky, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
The song recordings listed above are magnificent, as are these instrumental versions. Ravel’s Bolero is often the most poorly-played of his famous pieces; only Rattle, Ravel himself, and Toscanini in his 1939 NBC broadcast capture the jazzy swagger in the music that he insisted on.
RAVEL: Concerto for Piano Left Hand & Orchestra / Florian Uhlig, pianist; Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken; Pablo Gonzalez, conductor / part of SWR Music 19027 or available for free streaming on YouTube
This concerto was written for Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I, but ironically he was a lousy pianist who played it very badly. Ravel was constantly berating him in rehearsal because he couldn’t even phrase the music correctly. (A live performance from 1938 exists, proving just how terrible he was.) Florian Uhlig will simply blow you away.
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloe (Complete) / SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden und Freiburg; Michael Gielen, conductor / Hänssler Classic 93.197, or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2 / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Classic performances of the complete ballet and the Suite No. 2 by two of the greatest conductors of all time. Yes, there’s a nice version of the ballet by Charles Dutoit as well, but for me Gielen is a shade better, and the Toscanini recording of the suite is one of his most beautiful recordings.
RAVEL: L’Enfant et les Sotrilèges / Marie-Lise de Montmollin, mezzo (Mother/Cup); Flore Wend, mezzo-soprano (Child); Lucien Lovano, bass (Armchair/Tree); Hughes Cuénod, tenor (Teapot/Math Book/Frog); Pierre Mollet, baritone (Broken Clock/Cat); Juliette Bise, mezzo (Bergère/Father/Owl); Adrienne Migliette, soprano (The Fire/Nightingale); Suzanne Danco, soprano (Princess/Squirrel); Gisèle Bobilier, soprano (Shepherd); Geneviève Touraine, mezzo (Cat/Widower Bat); The Motet Chorus of Geneva; l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; Ernest Ansermet, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
This is undoubtedly the greatest recording of Ravel’s weird yet fascinating children’s opera. The libretto, by Colette, is the story of a naughty child punished by only getting tea and toast for supper. Alone in his room, he smashes the teapot, tears up the wallpaper and hurts his pet squirrel with a poker. All of these objects and more, including a cat, a bat, the fire in the fireplace, a fairy princess in a book he loves and the numbers in his arithmetic book, come to life and chastise him. The music may be a bit over the heads of most children, but it’s still one of Ravel’s most imaginative works.
RAVEL: Gaspard de na nuit. Sonatine. Le tombeau de Couperin / John Browning, pianist / Sony/RCA 886446381886 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube
Absolutely the greatest performances you’ll ever hear of these works. Fabulous technique as well as nuance hold you spellbound.
RAVEL: L’Heure Espagnole / Gaëlle Arquez, mezzo-soprano (Concepción); Julien Behr, tenor (Gonzalve); Mathias Vidal, tenor (Torquemada); Alexandre Duhamel, baritone (Ramiro); Lionel Lhote, baritone (Don Iñigo Gomez); Münchner Rundfunkorchester; Asher Fisch, conductor / BR Klassik 900317 or available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits
Ravel’s other short opera, equally charming and superbly crafted, in a relatively new recording with superb singing and conducting.
RAVEL: Introduction & Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet & String Quartet / Nicanor Zabaleta, harpist; Christian Larde, flautist; Guy Deplus, clarinetist; Monique Frasca-Colombier, Marguerite Vidal, violinists; Anka Moraver, violist; Hamisa Dor, cellist / part of Ermitage ERM1034 or available for free streaming on YouTube
An outstanding and oft-overlooked piece by Ravel, played to perfection by one of the most exciting harpists of the 20th century.
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G / Natalia Kogan, pianist; University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Barbara Schubert, conductor / available for free streaming on Internet Archive
Ravel’s late piano concerto, influenced by jazz, is rarely played that way. This is one of the very few recordings of the work that infuse the performance with a bit of jazziness.
Outstanding performances of these two violin showpieces by the late, great Ginette Neveu.
RAVEL: Violin Sonata No. 2 in G: I. Allegretto; II. Blues; III. Perpetuum mobile / Ursula Schoch, violinist; Marcel Worms, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clocking on movement titles above
Another jazz-based Ravel work, particularly the first two movements. This is one of the very few recordings to present it with some jazz swagger.
RAWSTHORNE: Practical Cats: Overture; 1. The Naming of Cats; 2. The Od Gumbie Cat; 3. Gus, the Theatre Cat; 4. Bustopher Jones – The Cat About Town; 5. Old Deuteronomy; 6. The Song of the Jellicles. / Alexander Armstrong, narrator; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko, conductor
Alan Rawsthorne was a good composer who wrote some decent music, but nothing with the wit and sparkle of Practical Cats, based on T.S. Eliot’s whimsical poetry. This recording isn’t as sparkling as the original version, conducted by Rawsthorne himself and featuring Robert Donat as the narrator, but it’s easier to find and good to have in stereo.
REBIKOV: Chansons blanches, Op. 48. Dans leur pays, Op. 27: Les géants dansent. Esclavage et liberté, Op. 22. Une fête, Op. 38. Feuilles d’automne. Parmi eux. Les rêves, Op. 15: Les demons s’amusent. Scènes bucoliques. Tableaux pour enfants. Trois idylles. Two episodes from Yolka (The Christmas Tree) / Anthony Goldstone, pianist / Divine Art 25081 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube
Late-Romantic Russian composer Vladimir Rebikov had his own style of integrating melody, harmony and rhythm that was based on Baroque principles but brought forward in time. These fascinating pieces are played superbly by the late pianist Anthony Goldstone.
REGER: A Ballet Suite, Op. 130. Variations & Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, Op. 132 / Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam; Eduard van Beinum, conductor / Ein Lustspielouvertüre, Op. 120. A Romantic Suite* / Staatskapelle Dresden; *Groot Sinfinoeorkest; Fritz Lehmann, conductor / Serenade in G / Berlin Philharmonic; Eugen Jochum, conductor / Ein Vaterländische Ouvertüre, Op. 140 / Städtische Orchester Berlin; Robert Heger, conductor / Des Kindes Gebet. Schlichte Weisen Op. 76: Waldeinsamkeit, No. 3 / Anni Frind, soprano; Bruno Seidler-Winkler, conductor / Guild 2400/01
Max Reger, academic composer deluxe, is often looked upon by Germans as the sine qua non of composers, but most of his music follows similar patterns and some of it gets bogged down in formal structures. These are among his best pieces of music, lovingly played and sung by the various performers listed above. The mono sound precludes a higher rating.
RESPIGHI: Bella porta di rubini / Nicolai Gedda, tenor; Erik Wereba, pianist / 5 Lirische: No. 1, Tempi assai lontani / Mitsuko Shirai, mezzo; Heltmut Holl, pianist / Stornellatrice / Anna Moffo, soprano; unidentified pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above
Three of Respighi’s best songs sung by three superb singers.
When Toscanini first conducted Respighi’s Pines and Fountains of Rome in the early 1920s, the composer was astonished: music which had gone nowhere in the concert halls suddenly became beloved works. In gratitude, he wrote Feste Romane specifically for Toscanini. Yes, the music is somewhat gaudy in places, but Toscanini was the only conductor who performed these works with structural integrity and backbone. In his hands, they almost achieve the level of great music.
RESPIGHI: Sinfonia Drammatica / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra; Edward Downes, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Unlike the above tone poems, this little-known symphony by Respighi is a masterpiece. Edward Downes conducts a brilliant performance that is likely to be unsurpassed.
RESPIGHI: Gli uccelli (The Birds) / Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Désiré Defauw, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Respighi’s loving tribute to Baroque music is one of his most charming pieces, and this is certainly the sprightliest recording of it.
REVUELTAS: Caminos. Cuauhnáhuac. Janitzio. Musica para charlar. La Noche de los Mayas. Ocho por radio. Redes – Suite: part 1, part 2. Sensemayá. Toccata. Ventanas / Orquesta Filarmónica de la cuidad de Mexico; Enrique Batiz, conductor / part of Brilliant Classics 8771; available for free streaming by clicking on titles above
The sadly short-lived Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) was highly eclectic and quite original in his musical construction. Much of his music starts out as typically colorful Latin music, but quickly turns corners and down alleys you never expect. All of the above pieces are worth hearing.
Rey Alfonso X el Sabio
REY ALFONSO X: Cantigas de Santa Maria / Russell Oberlin, countertenor; Joseph Iadone, lutenist / available for free streaming on YouTube
Very early music of the 13th century, sung to perfection by the greatest countertenor of them all.
RIETI: Concerto per Clavicembalo e Orchestre / Sylvia Marlowe, harpsichordist; Chamber Orchestra; Paul Baron, conductor / Partita / Sylvia Marlowe, harpsichordist; Julius Baker, flautist; Mitch Miller, oboist; Kroll String Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above
The post-Romantic lyricism of Vittorio Rieti was tempered by his use of modern harmonies, which gave the music an odd quality, as if it were both ancient and modern at the same time. These are two of his best compositions, both commissioned by American harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Christmas Eve Suite / Scottish National Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Rimsky-Korsakov was a mediocre composer but a master orchestrator. This marvelous piece is actually one of his better compositions; a shame it isn’t better known.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Nightingale and the Rose / Rosa Ponselle, soprano; Romano Romani, pianist / Sadko: Song of the Indian Guest / Segeri Lemeshev, tenor; unidentified pianist / available for free streaming by clicking titles above
Two of Rimsky’s loveliest and most memorable tunes, sung to perfection.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade / Josef Fuchs, violinist; Cleveland Orchestra; Artur Rodzinski, conductor / available for free streaming on Internet Archive
The sound is old but the performance sounds modern. No one draws as much transparency of texture out of Scheherazade than Rodzinski did, nor does anyone conduct it with such strength and guts. A fabulous reading!
ROREM: Alleluia. As Adam in the New Morning. Ask Me No More. Early in the Morning. Far-Far-Away. Full of Life Now. I Am Rose. I Strolled Across an Open Field. Little Elegy. Love in a Life. Lullaby of the Woman of the Mountain. Memory. My Papa. Nantucket. Night Crow. Nightingale. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. O You Whom I Often and Silently Come. Orchida. Root Cellar. Sally’s Smile. See How They Love Me. The Serpent. The Snake. Spring. Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. Such Beauty as Hurts to Behold. Visit to St. Elizabeth’s. Waking. What if some little pain… Youth, Day, Old Age and Night / Carole Farley, soprano; Ned Rorem, pianist / Naxos 8.559084
ROREM: Alleluia. Clouds. Do I Love You More Than a Day? Early in the Morning. Far-Far-Away. Ferry Me Across the Water. For Poulenc. For Susan. I Am Rose. I Strolled Across an Open Field. I Will Always Love You. Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair. A Journey. Little Elegy. Look Down, Fair Moon. The Lordly Hudson. Love. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. O Do Not Love Too Long. Ode: Je te salue, hereuse Paix. Orchids. Santa Fe Songs: Opus 101; Sonnet; The Wintry Mind; The Sowers. The Serpent. Sometimes With One I Love. Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. That Shadow, My Likeness. To a Young Girl. The Tulip Tree / Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Malcolm Martineau, pianist; Ensemble Oriol / Warner Classics 68625
ROREM: For Poulenc. Little Elegy. The Tulip Tree. What Sparks and Wiry Cries / Phyllis Curtin, soprano; Ned Rorem, pianist / Look Down, Fair Moon. Night Crow / Donald Gramm, baritone; Ned Rorem, pianist / The Nantucket Songs / Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano; Ned Rorem, pianist / Some Trees / Curtin, soprano; Beverly Wolff, contralto; Gramm, baritone; Rorem, pianist / Women’s Voices / Katherine Ciesinski, mezzo; Rorem, pianist / CRI 657
One of the greatest and most prolific of American songwriters, Ned Rorem is an American treasure. The three albums listed above are among the greatest made, and two of them have Rorem himself as accompanist.
ROSLAVETS: Chamber Symphony No. 1 / Bolshoi Theater Soloists Ensemble; Alexander Lazarev, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: 3 Compositions. 3 Études. 2 Poems. Prelude. 5 Preludes / Olga Andryushchenko, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube in small bits
ROSLAVETS: In the House of the New Moon / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; James Judd, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: Komsomoliya / Mariinsky Theater Chorus & Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: Nocturne (for harp, oboe, 2 violas & cello) / Soloists of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: Piano Sonata No. 1 / Irina Emeliantseva, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: Piano Sonata No. 2 / Anya Alexeyev, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: Piano Sonata No. 5 / Natalia Pankova, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROSLAVETS: Piano Trio No. 3 / Trio Fontenay / available for free streaming on YouTube
Nikolai Roslavets (1881-1944) is probably the greatest Russian composer you’ve never heard of. A confirmed modernist, his music was often suppressed by the Soviet regime, yet he persisted and never gave up his principles. Strongly influenced by Alexander Scriabin and his “mystic chord,” he organized a new system of sound organization” by creating “synthetic chords” consisting of six to nine tones. He then expanded his style to include counterpoint, rhythm and musical form. The pieces and performances listed above will simply astound you.
ROSSETER: Sweet Come Again. What Is a Day? What Then is Love But Mourning? When Laura Smiles. Whether Men Do Laugh or Weep / Peter Pears, tenor; Julian Bream, lutenist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above
Philip Rosseter was one of the finest but least prolific of the great Elizabethan lute song composers. Above are some of the finest performances of his music.
ROSSINI: Il Barbiere di Siviglia / Mercedes Capsir, soprano (Rosina); Dino Borgioli, tenor (Almaviva); Riccardo Stracciari, baritone (Figaro); Attilio Bordonali, baritone (Fiorello); Salvatore Baccaloni, bass (Dr. Bartolo); Vincenzo Bettoni, bass (Don Basilio); Cesira Ferrari, mezzo (Berta); Teatro alla Scala, Milan Orchestra & Chorus; Cav. Lorenzo Molajoli, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Despite the boxy, dated sound,some odd cuts and at least one substituted aria—“Manca al foglio” for Dr. Bartolo instead of “Un dottor della mia sorte”—there are few, if any, recordings of Rossini’s comic masterpiece as funny as this one.
ROSSINI: Il Barbiere di Siviglia / Kathleen Battle, soprano (Rosina); Frank Lopardo, tenor (Almaviva); Placido Domingo, baritone (Figaro); Carlos Chausson, baritone (Fiorello); Lucio Gallo, bass (Dr. Bartolo); Ruggero Raimondi, bass (Don Baslio); Gabriele Sima, mezzo (Berta); Members of Teatre la Fenice Chorus; The Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Claudio Abbado, conductor / DGG 435763 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube
This is my personal favorite of all the stereo and/or digital recordings. It’s the most sparkling and lively by a wide margin, and the singing is simply spectacular.
ROSSINI: La Cenerentola / Jennifer Larmore, mezzo (Cenerentola); Raúl Giménez, tenor (Don Ramiro); Gino Quilico, baritone (Dandini); Alessandro Corbelli, bass (Don Magnifico); Adelina Scarabelli, soprano (Clorinda); Laura Polverelli, mezzo (Tisbe); Alaistair Miles, bass (Alidoro); Royal Opera, Covent Garden Orch & Chorus; Carlo Rizzi, conductor / Warner Classics 4672662
Absolutely the warmest and funniest recording of this usually-middling Rossini comedy, the performances here will convince you it is one of his better operas. May be out of print, but I think you can stream it on Spotify if you can download their stupid app.
ROSSINI: La Danza / Jussi Björling, tenor; Ford Motor Symphony Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
It’s sung in Swedish rather than Italian, and the radio sonics are mediocre at best, but you will NEVER hear another tenor hit every freaking note dead on the screws the way Björling does. Unbelievable!
ROSSINI: Guillaume Tell / Judith Howarth, soprano (Mathilde); Tara Stafford, soprano (Jemmy); Andrew Foster-Williams, baritone (Tell); Michael Spyres, tenor (Arnold); Raffaele Facciolà, bass (Gesler); Nahuel Di Pierro, bass (Walter/Melcthal); Artavazd Sargsyan, tenor (Ruodi); Alessandra Volpe, mezzo (Hedwige); Giulio Pelligra, tenor (Rodolphe); Marco Filippo Romano, bass (Leuthold); Camerata Bach Choir, Poznań; Virtuosi Brunensis; Antonino Fogliani, conductor / Naxos 8.660363-66
Forget Nicolai Gedda or Luciano Pavarotti…Michael Spyres sings the hellacious role of Arnold better than anyone else on records, plus Antonino Fogliani’s conducting pulls this rambling, four-hour monstrosity of an opera into focus better than anyone else. Granted, I prefer Sherrill Milnes’ voice as Tell a bit better than Foster-Williams, but the latter is not bad…plus this recording, like the Gedda, is in the original French. This same performance also exists on a DVD, but don’t bother to get it…the stage production is another one of those idiotic Regietheater horrors. When Tell shoots the apple off Jemmy’s head, the soprano is standing between two toilet seats nailed to the wall behind her. You get the drift.
ROSSINI: Li Marinari / John McCormack, tenor; G. Mario Sammarco, baritone / available for free streaming on YouTube
If you only know or think of John McCormack as a singer of Irish songs, Mozart, Handel and arie antiche, you’re going to be stunned by this recording. He nails all the high notes and sounds fully Italianate. Only 3 ½ fish, however, for the 1911 acoustic sound quality.
ROSSINI: L’Italiana in Algeri / Agnes Baltsa, mezzo (Isabella); Frank Lopardo, tenor (Lindoro); Enza Dara, bass (Taddeo); Ruggero Raimondi, bass (Mustafà); Patricia Pace, soprano (Elvira); Anna Gonda, mezzo (Zulma); Alessandro Corbelli, bass (Haly); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Claudio Abbado, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Agnes Baltsa’s performance of Isabella will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, as will Ruggero Raimondi’s Mustafà, and Abbado conducts with humor and brio. A great performance of what is probably Rossini’s funniest comic opera (sorry, Barbiere fans).
ROSSINI: Moisë et Pharaon / Ildar Abdrazakhov, bass (Moïse); Erwin Schrott, baritone (Pharaon); Giuseppe Filianoti, tenor (Aménophis); Tomislav Mužek, tenor (Éliézer); Giorgio Giuseppini, bass (Osiride); Antonello Ceron, tenor (Aufide); Sonia Ganassi, mezzo (Sinaïde); Barbara Frittoli, soprano (Anaï); Nino Surguladze, contralto (Marie); Maurizio Muraro, bass (Mysterious Voice); Teatro alla Scala, Milan Orchestra & Chorus; Riccardo Muti, conductor / Arthaus Musik 107149, DVD
One of the very few modern productions of an old opera that isn’t insulting to your intelligence, this is also the finest cast and conducting I’ve heard in this work, which is Rossini’s greatest serious opera. Why it’s not more popular than his dreadful Semiramide or Tancredi, I have no idea. By the way, Ildar Abdrazakhov is Mr. Olga Borodina, and a much more interesting singer and better actor than his wife.
ROSSINI: Petite Messe Solennelle / Françoise Pollet, soprano; Jacqueline Mayeur, mezzo-soprano; Jean-Luc Viala, tenor; Michel Piquemal, baritone/director; Ensemble Michel Piquemal; Raymond Alessandrini, pianist; Emmanuel Mandrin, harmonium / Accord 4760602
Except for soprano Pollet, none of the singers here are well-known, but tenor Jean-Luc Viala will stun you with his secure, brilliant voice, and the overall performance is by far the liveliest I’ve ever heard.
ROSSINI: Stabat Mater / Helen Field, soprano; Della Jones, mezzo-soprano; Arthur Davies, tenor; Roderick Earle, bass; London Symphony Chorus; City of London Sinfonietta; Richard Hickox, conductor / Chandos 10781
You’ll never hear a more exciting or beautifully conducted performance of this late religious work by Rossini than this. Bass Roderick Earle is just a shade unsteady, but his singing is deeply felt, and the other singers are simply fantastic.
ROUSSEL: Bacchus et Ariane (Ballet). Symphony No. 3 / Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Stéphane Denève, conductor / Naxos 8.570245, or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above
ROUSSEL: Évocations, Op. 15. Résurrection, Op. 4 (Symphonic Prelude after Tolstoy) / Nathalie Stutzmann, mezzo-soprano; Nicolai Gedda, tenor; José van Dam, baritone; Orféon Donostiarra; Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse; Michel Plasson, conductor / EMI 65564, or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above
ROUSSEL: Le Festin de l’araignée / Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Stéphane Denève, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROUSSEL: Jazz dans la nuit / Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi, soprano; Albert Roussel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
ROUSSEL: Le marchand de sable qui passe. Resurrection. Symphony No. 1 / Royal Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève, conductor / Naxos 8.570323 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual titles above
ROUSSEL: Pour une fête de printemps. Symphony No. 2 / Royal Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève, conductor / Naxos 8.570529 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual titles above
ROUSSEL: Sinfonietta. Symphony No. 4 / Royal Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève, conductor / Naxos 8.572135, symphony available for free streaming by clicking on link above
Albert Roussel was a late-Romantic French composer in the vein of Duparc, Fauré and Chausson who did not embrace the harmonic revolution of Debussy, Ravel and Koechlin, but his scores are imbued with Eastern mysticism and are rarely very conventional. His ballet Le Festin de l’araignée (The Spider’s Feast) was even a great favorite of Arturo Toscanini, who recorded the suite from it with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Happily, his music has been revived in recent decades by some first-class French conductors, including Ernest Ansermet (not represented here, although I prefer his Le Festin d’araignée to Denève’s performance), Michel Plasson and Stéphane Denève. All of the above recordings are very fine readings of his music.
RUGGIERO: Boppish Blue-Tinged: I. Tinged; II. Blue; III. Boppish / Joseph Lulloff, alto saxophonist; Musique 21 Ensemble; Raphael Jiménez, conductor / Chobim: I. Dark Samba; II. Nocturne-Etude; III. Bossa Nova Sentimental; IV. Nocturne – Changing Topics; V. Bossa à la Brubeck / Joseph Lulloff, alto saxophonist; Michael Kroth, bassoonist; Deborah Moriarty, pianist / Night Songs and Flights of Fancy: I. Under Sun and Moon; II. Late Night Romp; III. Shaw’s Mare; IV. Stars and Moon Aglow / Joseph Lulloff, alto saxophonist; Jun Okada, pianist / Blue Griffin 333, or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above
RUGGIERO: Tenor Attitudes: I. Disciples; II. Pathfinders; III. Master Storytellers / Jonathan Nichol, tenor saxist; Michael Kirkendoll, pianist / part of BGR 433 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on movement titles above
Charles Ruggiero is one of the most fascinating of those composers who combine classical music with jazz because he uses rigorous classical forms to expound his influence. I only wish there were more recordings of his music.
RUGGLES: Sun-Treader / Boston Symphony Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor / available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube
RUGGLES: Angels (trumpet version); Angels (trumpet-trombone version). Evocations (piano version). Evocations (orchestral version). Exaltation. Men. Men and Mountains. Organum. Portals. Sun-Treader. Vox Clamans in Deserto / Gerard Schwarz, trumpeter; John Kirkpatrick, pianist; Gregg Smith Singers; Leonard Raver, organist; Beverly Morgan, mezzo-soprano; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor / Toys / Judith Blegen, soprano; Michael Tilson Thomas, pianist / Other Minds 1020/21 or available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on individual titles above
Carl Ruggles, a friend and disciple of Charles Ives, wrote far less music. In fact, the works listed above comprise his entire output. Not all the pieces are of equal quality, but all are interesting. Michael Tilson Thomas’ 1970 recording of Sun-Treader with the Boston Symphony is a far more intense performance than the one with the Buffalo Philharmonic.
RZEWSKI: Les Moutons des Panurge / Taller Atlántico Contemporáneo / available for free streaming on YouTube
RZEWSKI: North American Ballads: No. 4, Winnsboro Cotton Mill. The People United Shall Never Be Defeated / Ralph van Raat, pianist / Naxos 8.559360
The unconventional avant-garde composer Frederic Rzewski has written some remarkable pieces; these are the three with which I am most familiar, and love the most.