Previously, when I have assembled my Want List for a given year, the choices have been pretty evident. While a number of excellent discs come up for initial consideration, I will have six or seven items that clearly stand head and shoulders above the rest. This year I had a far more difficult time, as only two items leaped immediately to the fore, leaving me to select the remainder from a goodly number of more or less deserving candidates. I will therefore first mention briefly the most prominent also-rans before moving on to the winners.
- A Channel Classics CD of the Bach Trio Sonatas, BWV 525-530, played in transcription by the Florilegium ensemble. Absolutely delightful!
- A Rondeau CD of vocal works by Gallus, Hassler, and Schein, sung by the male quintet Ensemble Thois Omilos. A most auspicious debut by a new early music vocal ensemble of seldom-heard but very worthwhile music.
- Pristine Classics releases of new remasterings of the Bruckner Symphony No. 9 and the Mahler Symphony No. 5, both conducted by Bruno Walter. Andrew Rose provides exceptionally fine transfers that cause one to hear and re-evaluate these two performances with fresh ears.
- An ICA Classics DVD of Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony performing the Mendelssohn
Midsummer Night’s Dream
Overture and the Brahms Symphony No. 1. The Brahms is magnificent, and only the unduly short timing of this video disc led me to rule it out of being a final selection.
- A Video Land DVD of the original 1869 version of Mussorgsky’s
, conducted by Yevgeny Kolobov and with Vladimir Matorin in the title role. This was disqualified because it was actually released several years ago, but the label is sufficiently obscure that I only discovered the performance recently. While it is not a perfect account of the score, it is an extremely riveting one.
- A C Major/Unitel Classics Blu-ray disc of Beethoven’s
, featuring a stellar solo quartet and Nikolaus Harnoncourt leading the Concertgebouw Orchestra. This intriguing and engrossing performance joins the very short list of outstanding versions of this masterpiece in DVD and Blu-ray format.
- The 32-CD boxed set on L’Oiseau-Lyre of Haydn symphonies (Nos. 1-75, 94, 96, 100, 104, 107, and 108) in the superlative classic performances by Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. After being long out of print or only partly available as Arkivmusic reissues, the entire series is now brought together in a single clamshell box at a super-budget price. More than ever, one keenly regrets that the cycle was never completed, but for Haydn aficionados this is absolutely indispensible. Only the fact that these are all reissues kept this from being one of the five finalists.
And now, for the winners –
First, the Music & Arts five-CD set of Metropolitan Opera broadcast performances of
Le nozze di Figaro
under the baton of Bruno Walter, with Ezio Pinza starring in both title roles. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this 1942
is quite possibly the greatest live performance of any complete opera preserved for posterity. Add to that a fine performance of
from 1944, and superb new remasterings from Music & Arts, and you have a
sine qua non
for the collection of every opera lover.
Second, the C Major/Unitel Classics Blu-ray disc of Verdi’s
from the Teatro Regio in Parma. After several deeply disappointing previous versions on LP, CD, and DVD of this under-valued work, restored to its original form only as recently as 1992 (it was presumed to be lost for almost a century), it finally receives a performance that brings out its many virtues. (My review of this, as part of a 27-disc set of the complete operas of Verdi, will appear in the next issue of
Third, the La Dolce Volta CD of Mendelssohn’s complete chamber works for cello, played by cellist Gary Hoffman and pianist David Selig. There are so many excellent chamber music players currently active that it’s difficult for a performance of such music to impress me as an exceptional standout worthy of citation, but this one did, with superlative interpretations that now top the field for these works.
Fourth, the Hänssler CD of four choral works by Paul Hindemith—the
Apparebit repentina dies
, the Six Chansons, the
Lieder nach alten Texten
, and the Mass, with choral and instrumental forces led by Marcus Creed. Recordings of this side of Hindemith’s compositional output are rare, particularly of the magnificent
Apparebit repentina dies
, and even fewer have done them justice, let alone to the high degree accomplished here.
Finally, the Harmonia Mundi CD of choral music by Imogen Holst, with choral and instrumental forces conducted by Graham Ross. Paul Ingram placed a CD of her chamber music on his 2009 Want List, and I am pleased to pay this one a similar honor. While long known and valued for her work as a conductor, educator, and amanuensis to more famous figures such as Benjamin Britten, Imogen Holst has only very recently begun to receive recognition and appreciation as one of England’s finest composers of the mid-20th century, and this release does her proud.
Don Giovanni. Le nozze di Figaro
Walter/Bampton, Novotná, Steber, Sayão, Kullman, Brownlee, Pinza, Kipnis/Metropolitan Opera Ch & O
WEST HILL RADIO ARCHIVES 6045 (5 CDs)
Battistoni/Yu, Aronica, Mangione, Frontali, Andguladze/Parma Teatro Regio Ch & O
C MAJOR 723104 (Blu-ray)
Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2.
Variations concertantes. Romance sans paroles. Albumblatt
LA DOLCE VOLTA 05
Apparebit repentina dies.
Lieder nach alten Texten.
Creed/SWR Vocal Ens/RSO Stuttgart
Mass in a.
A Hymne to Christ.
Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow. Hallo my fancy, whither wilt thou go?
Rejoice in the Lamb
Ross/Ch of Clare College, Cambridge/Dmitri Ens
HARMONIA MUNDI 907576