by Mona Seghatoleslami
It's the end of the year, so everyone is making their lists. These are a few of my favorite things released over the past year (or at least the ones that made it to us here at WV Public Radio), in no particular order. What are some of your favorites?
Leroy Anderson: Orchestral Music (series)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin (Naxos 8.559313/ 8.559356/ 8.559313/ 8.559381/ 8.559382)
The American master of light orchestral music has his centenary celebrated here with an ongoing series of his complete orchestral works. Leonard Slatkin leads the BBC Concert Orchestra in delightful performances of beloved standards and previously unrecorded gems, featuring excellent soloists from clarinet and trumpet players to those playing typewriters, clocks, and sandpaper. Every time a new Leroy Anderson CD arrived throughout the year, it brightened my week.
Constantinople/Francoise Atlan (ATMA Classique 2594)
This recording of draws on medieval French song, ancient Greek fragments, Sephardic romances, and Arab-Andalusian music, to name a few of their sources. It's striking and different sounding--not strictly "classical" (wherever that line is drawn these days). Françoise Atlan has a beautiful voice and the ensemble Constantinople's accompaniment is direct and evocative.
Alfred Brendel: The Complete Vox, Turnabout, and Vanguard Solo Recordings
35 CD Box Set (Brilliant 93761)
Pianist Alfred Brendel is retiring after a long and productive career, celebrated for his interpretation of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. This set collects his early recordings from when he was "making his bones" recording discount CDs sold at grocery stores. Some of the recording quality from these older budget label recordings is less than satisfying, but that's worth listening past. My favorite discovery in this collection was the disc of Chopin--it's a pity he didn't find time to record more (and I'm looking forward to working my way to his Schoenberg recordings).
Carl Nielsen: String Quartets Vol. 2
The Young Danish String Quartet (DaCapo 6.220522)
The Young Danish String Quartet performs the music of the young Carl Nielsen I think I forgot about this disc over the summer, but have returned to it as the winter months have returned to this beautiful, dark, and intense music. Everything about this recording is direct and immediately gripping. This passionate, late-romantic music is not easy listening, but certainly is rewarding listening.
Micahel Gandolfi: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano (Telarc CD-80696)
Gandolfi's "The Garden of Cosmic Speculation" is an engagingly varied, rambling collection of pieces, inspired by a garden in Scotland designed around concepts from modern physics. The idea of combining science and the arts (both visual and musical) is appealing, and music takes you on a pleasant journey. Within the larger work, there's a dreamy little baroque-style suite called "The Garden of the Senses" which I particularly like.
Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 20
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano/direction; Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (EMI 500281)
I missed this recording when it first came out, and then kicked myself for not noticing it earlier after I played it on recent our program of Grammy nominees. The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra dances agilely through the music and Andses shows he can deliver sparkling Mozart just as well as he does the moody music of his fellow countryman Edvard Grieg.
Vicente Martin y Soler: Una cosa rara (Harmoniemusik)
Moodwinds/Joan Enric Lluna (Harmonia Mundi HMC 902010)
Mozart's Don Giovanni has tunes from Vicente Martin y Soler's opera Una Cosa Rara played for him over his final dinner. The Don hears the same style of playing we get on this recording—a chamber wind ensemble known as “Harmonie.” But while I may have been drawn to this recording for this bit of trivia, it’s made my list because it’s absolutely charming, refined, and refreshing. Equally delightful are the three previously unrecorded Divertimenti on this disc.
Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel (DG 4777457)
You've seen the video, so now hear more of what Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela can do. This Latin American orchestral music is (as Dudamel writes) "all about dance, about rhythm" and these exciting, sometimes rambunctious performances just might have you out of your seat dancing around the room. From what I've heard here and on Performance Today, I'm really looking forward to hearing what Dudamel does with the LA Philharmonic (not to mention their plans for music education programs).