Favorite CDs of 2011
…and I could always choose ten more and so could you, but here goes:
1. Berlioz: Les Nuits d’ete and Handel arias from Giulio Cesare, Arianna and Radamisto. Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, mezzo-soprano, with The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
My buddy Lloyd Schwartz called me up in a lather over this release. He knew the peerless Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson quite well, from her days as a viola player in Boston garage-early music bands. That she became a singer more incandescent than Callas was a bit of a surprise. Her death is 2006 was a great loss to music. These performances come from concerts in 1991 and 1995, published for the first time earlier this year. Listen and weep.
2. Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Piano Concerto 2 in c, op. 18. Yuja Wang, piano; Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Yuja Wang gave some of the first concerts of her career for Lorraine Wales at Denison University. The rest is becoming history. Barely 20, Yuja Wang holds her own splendidly with Claudio Abbado in these big-girl performances.
3. Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique and Cleopatre; Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin.
Yannick Nezet-Seguin is a young Canadian conductor, music director designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s a complicated name perhaps, but write it down, and savor this disc.
4. Jonas Kauffmann Sings Verismo Arias, with the Orchestra Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Antonio Pappano
More than just a pretty face, hunkmeister Kauffmann lives in French , German and the blood and guts or early 20th century Italian opera equally well. It’s a throaty, almost baritonal sound. He’s a young artist who gives and gives and what you get is thrilling.
5. Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, with Chiara Massini, harpsichord. I too love the intensity of Glenn Gould at the piano. Chiara Massini’s new recording of the Goldbergs at the harpsichord is neither a corrective nor an antidote-it is supremely elegant, wonderfully phrased and recorded. Get both.
6. Apollo’s Fire: We Come to the River.
It’s not as if Jeanette Sorrell and Cleveland’s Baroque Orchestra have run out of repertoire: but here we are in New England and Appalachia for note signing, hymn tunes, secular love songs and dances. TR. 15, Wondrous Love is…wondrous!
7. Puccini: Tosca with Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli and Cornell MacNeil. The Metropolitan Opera broadcast of April 7, 1962.
Met broadcasts have been available on various underground sites for years. SONY/CLASSICAL has begun releasing authorized and sonically cleaned up recordings of these historic broadcasts. There are a dozen titles so far. This Tosca for me, rises to the top. Price lacks the last note of passion for Tosca, but who has sung it more beautifully? Franco Corelli and Cornell MacNeil are at their most sensational. Go Met!
8. Vita Monteverdi-Scelsi. Sonia Wieder Atherton, Sarah Iancu and Matthew Lejeune, cellists.
Three cellists collaborate on a program of Monteverdi and the 20 th century composer Giacinto Scelsi. Not your grandmother’s early music and not your teenager’s contemporary fling, either. Completely original.
9. Wagner: Parsifal with Gary Lehman, Violeta Urmana, and Rene Pape; Maryinsky theater conducted by Valery Gergiev
The Russians don’t come to mind immediately when thinking of Wagner. I wonder if such a performance could have taken place in Leningrad 50 years ago. Never mind. The performance in St. Petersburg in 2010, released earlier this year is filled with reverence and drama and is sung auf deutsch by the soloists and the Maryinsky’s formidable mens chorus.
10. Stile antico Missa puer natus est:
Tallis sung with aching beauty by Great Britain’s hottest vocal ensemble.