Artists

London Symphony Orchestra (Rostropovich) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.8 in C minor, Op. 65’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Recordings like this don’t come along very often. Buy it. Here’s why.

First of all, Shostakovich was a major composer of the twentieth century, and his ‘Symphony No. 8’ is arguably his greatest work. read more…

Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic (Fischer) – ‘Haydn: Symphonies No.92 and No.94, La Fedelta Premiata’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Twenty or so years ago, Adam Fischer recorded Haydn’s ‘Surprise Symphony’ at the start of a cycle of the composer’s complete symphonies. Listening to him revisit it now on a new hybrid multichannel CD/SACD from Musikproduktion Dabringhaus and Grimm, you might find that what was once a polite, mildly surprising loud chord in the slow movement is now a lightning-sharp smack upside the head. read more…

R.E.M. – ‘Out of Time’  A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

R.E.M. – ‘Out of Time’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Out of Time’ was the album that made R.E.M. world-wide rock stars, and for many years there has been a resultant backlash against the album for that very reason. Aficionados of the band may point out that it doesn’t have the focus of ‘Automatic for the People’ or ‘Murmur’, nor does it have the nervous energy of ‘Reckoning’ or ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’. But what it does have is a madly flowering sort of creativity that demands respect, even if in its heedless gushing it produced the band’s most notorious number, ‘Shiny Happy People’. Perhaps the time has come to revisit the album in its new remaster for DVD-Audio by Warner Brothers, and be swept away again by a burst of invention which changed the face of mainstream pop and opened the doors to the tidal wave of angst which was about to sweep rock in the 1990’s. Before starting, I should mention that this release comes coupled with a regular audio Compact Disc version of the album, but it shows no signs of remastering. This isn’t a DualDisc, instead it’s what Warner call a “Double Disc”, a DVD and separate CD in a gatefold sleeve. read more…

Scottish Ensemble (Gould) – ‘Britten: Les Illuminations, Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Serenade for Tenor, Horn, Strings’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

It takes a lot of nerve for some brash bunch to come along and try to make a recording of a piece that was already masterfully recorded under the composer’s own direction. And it would take a lot of talent, a lot of inspiration, and a distinctive angle to stake out new territory in an oft-recorded work. read more…

Cincinnati Symphony (Jarvi) – ‘Debussy: Prelude а l’apres-midi d’un faune, Nocturnes, La Mer, Berceuse heroique’  An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Cincinnati Symphony (Jarvi) – ‘Debussy: Prelude а l’apres-midi d’un faune, Nocturnes, La Mer, Berceuse heroique’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

There was a time when only French conductors were good at the music of Debussy. If a Germanic conductor such as Leinsdorf or Szell played ‘La Mer’ (“The Sea”), it sounded more like ‘Das Meer’ (or ‘La Merde’ for less charitable listeners). Though the French remain dominant in this music, it says a lot for the stylistic growth of the art that this new Telarc hybrid SACD by Paavo Jдrvi and the Cincinnati Symphony falls more into the French tradition than into the generic modern style. Indeed, Jдrvi’s deployment of his forces suggests an awareness of the old-fashioned “French sound” that has all but disappeared from modern orchestras. On the other hand, those who dislike the dry, pointillist manner of the French style and long for reverb-laden washes of “evocative” sound may not find this to their liking at all. read more…

Beethoven Orchestra Bonn (Kofman) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.5, Symphony No.9’  A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Beethoven Orchestra Bonn (Kofman) – ‘Shostakovich: Symphony No.5, Symphony No.9’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Secret-coded protest of a heroic artist or the apology of a scared man toeing the party line? Debate has raged for years about Shostakovich’s ‘Symphony No. 5’, and it isn’t likely to cease any time soon. The work was sent out into the world in 1937 not long after Shostakovich had been raked over the coals in an unsigned article in the leading Soviet Union newspaper ‘Pravda’. Such uncredited articles were normally assumed to have the authority of Communist dictator Josef Stalin behind them. It appears that Stalin had gone to a performance of Shostakovich’s bawdy and musically adventurous opera ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’, and found the subject matter appalling and the music rude. This was during the 1930’s, when the artistic intelligentsia in Russia were quickly realizing that people who were disliked by “Uncle Joe” Stalin had a way of disappearing, never to be heard from again. Shostakovich knew what danger he was in, and he wisely withdrew his wide-ranging, dark, and at times hallucinogenic ‘Symphony No. 4’ which was then in rehearsal for its premiere by conductor Fritz Stiedry (Side note to other classical record nerds: Anyone else out there have fond memories of a rough-and-ready LP of Haydn’s ‘Symphony No. 102’ by Stiedry from the early 1950’s on Music Appreciation Records?). His next major work to be issued was the ‘Symphony No. 5’, which was published along with the obnoxious tag, “A Soviet artist’s reply to justified criticism,” although it seems this groveling bit was suggested by a reporter or the publisher and did not originate with the composer. Shostakovich wisely just nodded his head and smiled. The piece seemed to be what a good, proper Soviet composer should write: Striving first movement, folk-influenced second movement, lyrical third movement, and rambunctious finale that ultimately triumphs. read more…

Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Mackerras) – ‘Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste’  An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Mackerras) – ‘Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Edinburgh, Scotland’s Linn Records has recently been accumulating an impressive catalogue of surround sound recordings, including several gems involving the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, under both their music director Joseph Swensen and their conductor laureate, the venerable Sir Charles Mackerras. This new hybrid CD/Super Audio Compact Disc release brings us Mackerras’ vital freshness in music of Bartók and Kodály in very attractive multichannel sound. With Mackerras’ well-known expertise in Czech music, it is fascinating to hear his take on music from two of Hungary’s finest composers. read more…

Kirov Orchestra (Gergiev) – ‘Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 Pathetique’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathйtique Symphony’ is music that can save your life. Unfortunately, it didn’t save Tchaikovsky’s. Just a week after the first performance, he was dead, probably by self-induced poisoning, though controversy has swirled around that hypothesis ever since. read more…

Anne-Sophie Mutter – ‘Vivaldi: The Four Seasons’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Thank God Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the greatest violinists in the world. Because if she wasn’t, the erotic come-hither shot of her on the cover of this album would seem to be a desperate attempt for hipness in our modern media-savvy world. read more…

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Abbado) – ‘Beethoven: Symphonies No.7 in A major and No.8 in F major’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

On October 17, 1917, in unusually hot weather, the players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Dr. Karl Muck squeezed in front of a large recording horn in Camden, New Jersey, and made the first recording of the last movement of Beethoven’s ‘Seventh Symphony’. read more…

Utah Symphony Orchestra (Abravanel) – ‘Mahler: Symphony No.2, Resurrection’ A DVD-Audio review by Chris Salocks

The first thing you notice about the MLP multi-channel version of this 1967 recording, especially in comparison to just about any other recording of the ‘Resurrection, is the vast space around the musicians, both front-to-back and side-to-side. read more…

Utah Symphony Orchestra (Abravanel) – ‘Brahms: Symphony No.1, Academic Festival Overture’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Brahms fans, rejoice! This new Silverline DVD-Audio release not only marks the debut of Maurice Abravanel’s glorious Utah Symphony cycle on DVD-Audio, it also stands as the first time these recordings have truly had a format that allows them to bloom like the beautiful flowers they are. read more…

Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin (Thielemann) – ‘Orff: Carmina Burana’ A DVD-Audio review by Mark Jordan

Debauchery. Sex. Gambling. Drunkenness. Aimless wanderings by overeducated, underemployed young people in a society that scorns them. Sound familiar? Well, it shouldn’t, because I’m talking about Europe in the late 1200’s. read more…

Russian State Symphony Orchestra (Yablonsky) – ‘Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos.2 and 3’ A DVD-Audio review by Chris Salocks

I’ve enjoyed many of Konstantin Scherbakov’s other recordings, such as his EMI disc of Johann Strauss transcriptions and his series of Godowsky recordings on Marco Polo, and was looking forward to hear what he would do with these magnificent Rachmaninov concertos. read more…

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