XENAKIS: A Colone. Knephas. Medea. Nuits. Serment / New London Chamber Choir; Critical Band; James Wood, conductor / Hyperion 66980
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.
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
YSAŸE: Sonatas for Solo Violin Nos. 1-6 / Tianwa Yang, violinist / Naxos 8.572995
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.
ZARȨBSKi: Piano Quintet in G min., Op. 34 / Jonathan Plowright, pianist; Szymanowski Quartet / Hyperion 67905 or available for free streaming on YouTube
Zarębski was not really a major composer, but this particular work, dedicated to Franz Liszt, is really a masterpiece, vital and dramatic.
ZELENSKI: Piano Quartet in C min., Op. 61 / Jonathan Plowright, pianist; Szymanowski Quartet / Hyperion 67905 or available for free streaming on YouTube
The Zelenski quartet is not quite as interesting as the Zarębski quintet, but these musicians also make it sound excellent.
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
A marvelous performance of Zeller’s charming operetta, though sadly missing the mechanical bird-chirping in the tenor aria!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
ZWILICH: Fantasy for Solo Violin / Jinjoo Cho, violinist / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: Flute Concerto / Doriot Anthony Dwyer, flautist; London Symphony Orchestra; James Sedares, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: Images.* Millennium Fantasy. Peanuts Gallery+ / *Read Gainsford, Heidi Louise Williams, pianists; +Jeffrey Biegel, pianist; Florida State University Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Jiménez, conductor / Naxos 8.559656, “Images” available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking title above
ZWILICH: Piano Concerto / Marc-André Hamelin, pianist; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Günther Herbig, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: Septet for Piano Trio & String Quartet / The Newbury Trio; Amphion Quartet / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: A Simple Magnificat / Keith Toth, organist; New York Concert Singers; Judith Clurman, director / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: Symphony No. 2, “Cello Symphony” / Louisville Orchestra; Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: Symphony No. 3 / Louisville Orchestra; James Sedares, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
ZWILICH: Violin Concerto / Pamela Frank, violinist; Saarbrücken Symphony Orchestra; Michael Stern, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube
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: 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
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.