One would assume that when preparing the packaging for an orchestral CD or DVD, one wouldn't use a shot where the conductor looks like he just stubbed his toe or is dealing with a severe case of constipation.
Anyway, why only three? Because only three of the classical CDs I bought this year were actually released between January 1 and right now. Believe me, there exists an extensive list of stuff I
need want, but my sometimes-better-half continually bitches about these things called "bills." I told her I don't know anyone named Bill. Then she, in her righteous anger, chopped my head off. Then I woke up. It's very strange to be staring at your headless corpse from across the room. At least it was only a dream. For now. On to the list.
1. Osmo Vänskä, conductor, Ludwig van Beethoven, symphonies nos. 2 and 7. Harnoncourt's early 1990s take on these greatest of all musical works is still sitting on top of the mountain, but the climax of this series inches these fresh views on The Nine ever closer. Crisp, clear, muscular and, according to the experts who actually know something about musical theory, pretty damn exact when it comes to following the Maestro's markings for tempi and such. All I know is that this bloody fucking brilliant playing stirs the soul. It's so easy to screw up something this involved, this large and Vänskä erases any fears of that within the first measures.
2. Steven Osborne and Alban Gerhardt, Charles-Valentin Alkan and Frédéric Chopin, cello sonatas. Both of these composers, one legendary and one far less known than he should be, are synonymous with the piano. You'll be disabused of that notion after hearing these wonderful works. Don't get me wrong, the piano writing is stellar, but the interplay between the keys and the cello's lower registers in the propulsive, thick Alkan piece and the lighter one of Chopin shows that there was more than high-wire virtuosity to these gents. If there's a highlight in this brilliant disc, it has to be Alkan's weeping adagio.
3. Rachel Barton Pine, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Clement, violin concertos. If you've read anything on Beethoven, there are plenty of composers, dedicatees and musicians name-dropped within the text, violinist Franz Clement being one of them. This is the world-premiere recording of his work and if it isn't on the same level as Beethoven's -- impossible, really -- it's pretty goddamn good in its own right. Very lyrical, but not showboaty, certainly a beautiful work that goes far beyond being a mere historical curiosity. And the Beethoven ain't too shabby, either.
Gothic Voices, The Medieval Romantics. One other album that I already have but has long been out of print was happily rereleased this year, and if you dig vocal music, you should definitely pick it up. Don't let the fact that it consists of 14th and 15th century French tunes scare you. That first track is pure ear candy.