Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Top Ten Discs for 2018

Welcome to my fourth Top Ten Discs post for Music for Several Instruments. Here is last year's, the list from the year before, and the one from 2015.

Delicacy and intricacy in a vast expanse

The third release in Aleyson Scopel's complete recording of Almeida Prado's masterwork Cartas Celestes. I've chosen this disc for my Top Ten for its variety, but the last disc in the series is also from 2018, and is also very fine.

The best introduction into Pettersson's dark & serious world

Christian Lindberg continues on his way to a new complete Pettersson symphonies cycle for BIS, for The Allan Pettersson Project 2013-2019, a joint project with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.

More great Bacewicz from The Silesians, with Friends

The Silesian Quartets complete Bacewicz String Quartets release was on my list of Top Ten Discs of 2016, and this disc continues the high quality (as, indeed, does the composer).

Schubert in the style of Kubrick

The Trio Vitruvi's passionate, controlled performance of Schubert's late Piano Trio was a highlight of chamber music recordings in 2018. In my review I go off on a cinematic tangent.

The secret of wonderment

Leif Ove Andsnes brings "surprise and delight" to these great works by Chopin, just what the doctor - and André Gide - ordered.

Bjorn Schmelzer brings his speculative musical-historical approach to English music of the late 15th and early 16th century, once again combined with the highest levels of both music and recording technology. The result is stunning.

Fade to black...

This is the very last release in Masaaki Suzuki's magisterial Bach cantatas series with the Bach Collegium Japan. Man, it's hard not to give out one of my Top Ten places just for that. But this isn't an Al Pacino/Scent of a Woman situation here; this gorgeous disc is a good as anything in the entire series.

Music of complexity & gravitas from the 20th and 21st century

Music about the natural world, human connections and the theatrical and creative experience, by one of the greatest living composers, Kaija Saariajo. Violinist Jennifer Koh shines, and has superb support from the musicians of the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble.

Singing about the dark times

Rory McCleery demonstrates that at least some of these musical laments are more than personal declarations of grief or devotional works, but also political statements, and even underground expressions of activism against the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs in Portugal. A superb disc from The Marian Consort.

À la recherche du temps perdu

Charles Owen's two-disc set of Brahms late piano music is a nuanced and deeply moving portrayal of a great composer looking back over a lifetime of creativity, love and friendship, while always pushing ahead with music of increasing complexity, profundity and grace.

A Christmas gift, for next year

Telemann: Christmas Oratorios

This disc came just in time for Christmas; for me, that is. Unfortunately for you, though, it has a release date of January 4, 2019. So you'll need to remember this review for next Christmas, and definitely buy or stream this marvellous music next year. In the three oratorios on the disc Telemann has added operatic flourishes to his cantata style, and turned up the footlights to express himself dramatically. This is really impressive music even today; I can hardly imagine its effect in the Hamburg Cathedral on successive Sundays during the Advent season. The cantata Und das Wort ward Fleisch is also richly ornamented, and includes a lovely interlude: the ancient song In dulci jubilo.

This music is newly discovered, and recorded for the first time, which I find astounding. Is it possible that there's even more spectacular music like this still waiting for first performances and recordings? Alexander Willens has done a spectacular job in presenting Telemann's music, and works by many other Baroque composers, with his amazing Kolner Akademie and superb soloists. Once again CPO provides excellent recordings and complete documentation for music of the very highest quality. This is a Christmas gift that's so good it will still be outstanding next year!