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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A fantastic performance of this sonata by the vastly underrated Bachmann.
SALZEDO: Concerto Fervido for Piano & Strings / Rucky van Mill, pianist; The London Soloists’ Ensemble; Nicholas Roth, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
SALZEDO-LINDUP: Rendezvous for Jazz Band & Orchestra / Johnny Dankworth Band; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Hugo Rignold, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
SALZEDO: Viola Concerto / Richard Crabtree, violist; Helmsley Festival Orchestra; Leonard Salzedo, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
SALZEDO: Symphony No. 2 / The Rehearsal Orchestra; Harry Legge, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
SALZEDO: The Witch Boy (ballet suite) / London Philharmonic Orchestra; Leonard Salzedo, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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!
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
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: La Dive de l’Empire. Chanson. Adieu Air de poète. Daphénéo / Cathy Berberian, mezzo-soprano; Dario Müller, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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.
Outstanding historic recordings of two French composers paying tribute to Satie.
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
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
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
SAYGUN: Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 71 / Gülsin Onay, pianist; Bilkent Senfoni Orkestrasi; Howard Griffiths, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
SAYGUN: Viola Concerto, Op. 59 / Mirjam Tschopp, violist; Bilkent Senfoni Orkestrasi; Howard Griffiths, conductor / CPO 7290 or available for free streaming on YouTube
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.
A. SCARLATTI: Ammore, brutto figlio de portana / Pino di Vittorio, tenor; I Turchini; Antonio Florio, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
A. SCARLATTI: Che vuole inamorarsi / Ezio Pinza, bass; Fritz Kinzinger, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
A. SCARLATTI: Già il sole dal Gange / Ramón Vargas, tenor; Roberto Negri, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
A. SCARLATTI: Io vi miro ancor vestite / Roberta Peters, soprano; Harold Bennett, flautist; George Trovillo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
A. SCARLATTI: Il Pirro e Demetrio: Le violette. Il Pompeo: O cessate di piagarmi / Tito Schipa, tenor / available for free streaming on YouTube
A. SCARLATTI: Su venite un consiglio / Magda Laszlo, soprano; Luigi Cortese, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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.
D. SCARLATTI: 40 Sonatas for Harpsichord / Wanda Landowska, harpsichordist / Pearl 106, some of them available for free streaming on YouTube
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: 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
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: 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
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.
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
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: 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
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: 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
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
SCHMITT: Rêves. Soirs. Symphonie Concertante* / *Hüseyin Sermet, pianist; Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo; David Robertson, conductor / Naïve V4909
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
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: 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
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: 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
SCHNYDER: Baroquelochness. The Four Elements. Melousine. Sailing.Suite Provençale for Flute & Bass Flute. Teirisias / Magda Schwerzmann, flautist; James Alexander, pianist / Neuklang 4051
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
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
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: 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
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: 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
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
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
SCHOENBERG: Die gluckliche hand / Simon Joly Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
SCHUBERT: Die Allmacht: Gross ist Jehova / Jussi Björling, tenor; Frederick Schauwecker, pianist / part of RCA Victor 60520 or available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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
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
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
SCHUBERT: Der Hirt aus dem Felsen / Barbara Bonney, soprano; David Schifrin, clarinetist; André Watts, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
SCHUBERT: Nacht und Traume / Leo Slezak, tenor; Michael Raucheisen, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUBERT: Erlkönig / Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto; Katherine Hoffmann, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube; move cursor to 4:23 to begin
SCHUBERT: Aufenthalt / Alexander Kipnis, bass; Frank Bibb, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUBERT: Die Forelle / Gérard Souzay, baritone; Jacqueline Bonneau, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUBERT: Der Doppelgänger / Louis Graveure, tenor; Waldemar von Vultée, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin / Aksel Schiøtz, tenor; Gerald Moore, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
SCHUBERT: Die Winterreise / Jonas Kaufmann, tenor; Helmut Deutsch, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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: Arpeggione Sonata in a min. / Emanuel Feuermann, cellist; Gerald Moore, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
SCHUBERT: Moments Musicaux, Op. 94 / Artur Schnabel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet in A, “Die Forelle” / Artur Schnabel, pianist; Pro Arte Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube in individual bits
SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in D, D. 850 / Artur Schnabel, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
No one is better than Schnabel in Schubert. No one.
SCHUBERT: Octet / Consortium Classicum / MDG Gold 3010768
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
SCHUBERT: Symphonies Nos. 1-6, 8, 9 / Concertgebouw Orchestra; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor / Teldec 91184
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
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
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
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: Concertino for Flute or Piccolo, Viola & Bass / Ensemble Villa Musica / part of MDG Gold 3040617, or available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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
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
Outstanding chamber works played by a collection of Russian and German artists, with yet another recording of the 5 Études de Jazz.
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
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
SCHUMAN: Symphony No. 7 / Utah Symphony Orchestra; Maurice Abravanel, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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.
CHAMBER MUSIC & CONCERTI
SCHUMANN: Adagio & Allegro for Horn & Piano / Dennis Brain, French hornist; Gerald Moore, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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
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
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
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
Van Cliburn, pianist; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Fritz Reiner, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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.
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
David Oistrakh, violinist; Sviatoslav Knuschevitzky, cellist; Lev Oborin, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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.
SCHUMANN: An der Mond. Volksliedchen. Mein schöner Stern. Die Soldatenbraut / Eileen Farrell, soprano; George Trujillo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
Surprisingly excellent lieder performances by an American icon.
SCHUMANN: Mondnacht. Der Nussbaum / Leo Slezak, tenor; Heinrich Schacker, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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
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
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
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
SCHUMANN: Meine Rose / Carolyn Sampson, soprano; Joseph Middleton, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUMANN: Röselein, Röselein / Roberta Peters, soprano; George Trovillo, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUMANN: Der Sandmann / Gérard Souzay, baritone; Jacqueline Bonneau, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUMANN: Der Schatzgräber / Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Lois Shapiro, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube
SCHUMANN: Saengers trost. Meine Rose. Ihre Stemme / Russell Oberlin, countertenor / available for free streaming on YouTube
Outstanding performances of Schumann lieder from some unlikely sources.
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
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
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
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
An extraordinarily mature yet unaffected reading of Schumann’s last great piano work by a young pianist.
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.
No one matches Luisa Guembes-Buchanan in this music: not Rubinstein, not anyone.
SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture / NBC Symphony Orchestra; Arturo Toscanini, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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
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
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: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-10 / Garrick Ohlsson, pianist / Bridge 9468A/B
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.
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.
SCRIABIN: Piano Concerto in f# min. / Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Lorin Maazel, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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)
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
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.