KlassikNet: CD reviews
You are in:  Home > KlassikNet: Classical Music > CD Reviews   •  Archives   •  send page to a friend


György Ligeti : The Complete Piano Music Volume 1

Fredrik Ullén, piano

If Klassiknet editors had to single out the most important classical music release of the year, this would be it. György Ligeti's (b. 1923) concert études for piano are a musical achievement as significant as the études of Chopin, Liszt, Scriabin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff. This recording includes the world première recording of his Etudes Book II (1988-93). Swedish pianist Fredrik Ullén (b. 1968) turns in world class performances for the entire set as well as for three of Ligeti's earlier works for solo piano. György Ligeti was born in Translyvania. Is this the reason Bis Records chose M.C. Escher's Circle Limit IV featuring little bats for the CD cover?
gyorgy ligeti

Jeanne-Marie Darré : Saint-Saëns

EMI 724356 94702 (2CDs) Mono

Jeanne-Marie Darré was a French pianist who had glamour, musical intelligence and a sparkling technique. Moreover, few pianists championed the five Saint-Saëns piano concertos with as much authority and style. These two vintage EMI CDs, specially priced and reissued as part of a series devoted to important French pianists, are as enchanting as a great old movie.
Jeanne-Maire Darre

Schubert : Missa, D 950

Ruth Ziesak, soprano; Jard Van Nes, alto; Herbert Lippert, tenor; Wolfgang Bünten, tenor; Andreas Schmidt, baritone
hor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Michael Gläser, Chorusmaster
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

Sony Classical SK 69290

Schubert's masterpiece setting of the Latin Mass in 1828, and the greatest of his liturgical scores is given a romantic performance by all concerned. With almost any other conductor, one might have questioned the tempo at times, but Carlo Maria Giulini's contemplative approach is easily justified by the superb results. A distinguished recording made possible by JAs Hennessy & Co.
Schubert Mass D 950

PÄRT : Litany

The Hillard Ensemble
Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Tonu Kaljuste, conductor
ECM New Series 449 810-2

With today's emerging spirituality in music, young people are primarily interested in contemporary composers with a mystical dimension. For those who enjoy the contemplative sounds of Estonion composer Arvo Pärt (b.1935) his latest release on ECM won't fail to please.

Korngold : Between Two Worlds; Symphonic Serenade, op. 39; Theme and Variations, op. 42

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
John Mauceri, conductor
Decca 444 170-2

Decca continues with its compelling "Entartete Musik" series devoted to so-called "degenerate" music banned by the Nazi political machine before and during World War II. With film scores such as 'Judgement Day', a sequence from the film Between Two Worlds (1944), the Vienna-born composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) gave Hollywood film music its lettres de noblesse. He still influences Hollywood studio composers right to this day.

Bach : Mass in B Minor

Ursula Buckel, soprano; Marga Höffgen, alto; Ernst Haefliger, tenor; Ernst-Gerold Schramm, bass
Munich Bach Choir
Munich Bach Orchestra
Karl Richter, conductor
Archiv Produktion 453 242-2 (2 CDs) Stereo

Some recordings get better with age. This is one of them. Recorded live in Tokyo in 1969, Karl Richter's sensual but deeply spiritual approach to Bach's B Minor Mass is a refreshing change from the rather austere, but more fashionable readings by today's historically informed baroque community.

Byron Janis plays Chopin

Byron Janis, piano
EMI Classics 7243 5 56196 2 4

Thirty-four years ago, at the height of his career, the American pianist Byron Janis was stricken with arthritis in his hands - a perverse and macabre fate for a virtuoso pianist. His performances and recordings of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto and Richard Strauss' Burleske left an indelible mark on the history of musical performance. Today, the sixty-eight-year old musician has emerged from semi-seclusion and returned to the recording studio to leave still another remarkable document to his already distinguished, although short discography. Without giving the impression that he is pushing his fingers as fast as the infirmity would allow, Mr Janis delivers an artistically eloquent, touching, pleasurable and, at times, puzzling one-hour recital of Chopin waltzes, nocturnes and mazurkas.

Byron Janis


Dimitri Hvorostovski, baritone
St Petersburg Chamber Choir
Nikolai Komiev, director
Philips 446 089-2

An unusual and highly attractive recital disc devoted to rarely heard works by Russian composers such as Tolstyakov, Burmagin, Khristov, Nikolaev-Strumski, Sakhnovsky, Arkhangelsky, Chesnokov or Kosolapov. While not exactly everyday names, this recording gives an excellent overview of Russian Church music written between 1850 and 1950. Both Dimitri Hvorostovski and the St Petersburg Chamber Choir turn in first-class performances of these romantic works.

Schubert Meisterwerke/Masterwork

Decca 452 389-2 (12 CDs)

Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt once said in an interview about Schubert that you can listen to Schubert's music as entertainment because it has nice melodies, but if you go farther and hear the real message, you see that it is not entertainment, but a confrontation with sadness and death as well as absolute, pure, honest art. Some of the great recordings in this box set illustrate the controversial conductor's assessment. Most striking are the Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D821 with Benjamin Britten, piano and Mstislav Rostropovitch, cello; String Quintet in C Major, D956 with the Weller Quartet and cellist Dietfried Gürtler; Istvan Kertész, Josef Krips and Pierre Monteux conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker and London Symphony Orchestra in a superb cocktail of Schubert Symphonies (4, 5, 8 & 9) and excerpts from Rosamunde, D797; Winterreise and Die Schöne Mullerin with Peter Pears, tenor and Benjamin Britten, piano; Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D960 with Clifford Curzon, piano; Pianist Radu Lupu's interpretation of the Fantasy in C Major, D934.

Mission : Impossible

Music from the original motion picture score
Original theme composed by Lalo Schifrin
Original film music composed by Danny Elfman
Point Music : 454 525-2

Danny Elfman's musical score is a dramatically effective example of contemporary Hollywood film composition and infuses this high-tech adventure with just the right amount of musical punch.
Mission Impossible

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

The unpublished BBC recital, London, 4 March 1957
Chopin, Debussy, Mompou, Schumann
2 CD Testament SBT 2088

Since the death of the great Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, several lables have been on the look out for unpublished material. After the disappointing Vatican concerts recently published on Frequenz, Testament has released a complete 1957 Royal Festival Hall recital. The Chopin works (Ballade No. 1, Fantasie, mazurkas...) are miraculous, and Debussy's Images subjugate the listener by their purity of sound. The mono recordings are excellent and contribute to the very limited discography of a pianist that the late Roumanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache considered "the greatest living musician of his time".

arturo benedetti michelangeli

Korngold : Symphony in F sharp; Einfache Lieder; Mariettas Lied

Barbara Hendricks, soprano
The Philiadelphia Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
EMI Classics 7243 5 56169 2

After composing the music to such Hollywood films as Juarez, King's Row, Of Human Bondage, and Deception, Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) returned to large-scale symphonic concert composition at the end of World War II. His orchestrally luxuriant, post-romantic and at times melodramatic Symphony in F sharp is an astonishing achievement in this genre. Full marks go to The Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Franz Welser-Möst for their captivating performance.

J.S. Bach : The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I & II

Ton Koopman, harpsichord
Erato : 0630-16174-2

Klassiknet editors included this set in their original 101 Best. It has been reissued recently as part of the Ton Koopman Edition which includes the Dutch musician's interpretation of Bach's French Suites and the Goldberg Variations. On harpsichord, Ton Koopman remains our choice for The Well-Tempered Clavier.
bach well tempered clavier

Franck : Symphony in D Minor Rachmaninoff : Symphony No. 2

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Paul Paray, conductor
Mercury Living Presence 434 368 2

Although less revered than Pierre Monteux or Charles Munch, conductor Paul Paray was the Frenchman who taught the Americans how to play French music. His recording of the Franck Symphony in D Minor with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra dates from November 1959 and is one of the finest available.

WAGNER : Tannhäuser : Overture & Venusberg; Parsifal : Prelude & Good Friday Spell; Rienzi : Overture; Das Liebesverbot : Overture

Dresden Staatskapelle
Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor
CD Deutsche Grammophon 449165-2

Giuseppe Sinopoli is very much a special case. A doctor of psychiatry, the Ventian orchestra conductor is capable of the best and the worst. However, with this recording Sinopoli ranks with Furtwängler, Karajan, Böhm, Reiner or Klemperer. The result is petrifying in its over-all beauty. It is difficult to imagine a more sensual and deadly Prélude to Parsifal, a more wildly baroque Tannhäuser Overture, or a Rienzi Overture so exquisitely shaped. The Dresden Staatskapelle delivers enough sorcery (the strings in Parsifal!) in these performances to make their colleagues in Berlin and Vienna grow green with envy.

If you value our reviews, please tell a friend or join our mailing list!

Back to Klassiknet CD review archives

E-mail to Klassiknet | Back to Klassiknet | Back to Culturekiosque

Copyright © 1996 -2000 Culturekiosque Publications Ltd
All Rights Reserved