Mahler

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler. The Resurrection Symphony was the first Mahler I ever heard. I remember seeing it listed in FM Guide magazine for broadcast on New York’s WNCN at the ungodly hour of 1AM back in 1974. That was when the Music Through the Night With Fleetwood program was on, a bit of a problem since it was a school night, but I actually set my alarm clock and put my headphones on to hear Bruno Walter lead the New York Philharmonic. I was hooked. I saved my lunch money to buy the recording – back in those days I would eat a 75 cent pretzel and save the rest of my lunch money to buy records—and two weeks later I had a double LP Odyssey recording of the Walter performance. God bless all the budget labels that I was able to buy back then, they were my musical education. Odyssey, Seraphim, Nonesuch, Turnabout, Vox, London Stereo Treasury, RCA Victor were my lifeblood. There was no Naxos back then and these labels, unlike Naxos, were the golden age recordings of an earlier generation.

I bought the Mahler and 36 years later have never looked back. Mahler has been one of those composers who always nails me right between the eyes. Sentimental, acerbic, neurotic and schmaltzy, Mahler connects with me.

I have two and half large binders filled with Mahler CDs. The collection is ever-growing but here’s some of my favorites. I believe all of them are currently available, I only wish the older recordings still had their original cover art.

Symphonies

Symphony No. 1
The London Symphony Orchestra
Georg Solti

The original cover had a glowing red sun burning the surrounding sky

Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”
Emilia Cundari, soprano; Maureen Forrester, alto; The Westminster Choir; The New York Philharmonic
Bruno Walter

I remember the Odyssey reissue has having a blue cover?

Symphony No. 3
Petra Lang, mezzo-soprano; Prague Philharmonic Choir; Netherlands Children’s Choir; The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly

Symphony No. 4
Reri Grist, soprano; The New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein

It's a little faded, but the original artwork is charming



Symphony No. 5

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein


Symphony No. 6

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado

Symphony No. 7
The Cleveland Orchestra
Pierre Boulez

Symphony No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand”
Soloists; The Chicago Symphony Chorus; The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Sir Georg Solti


Symphony No. 9

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Carlo Maria Giulini

Symphony No. 10
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle

Song Cycles

Das Klagende Lied
Marina Shaguch, soprano, Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Moser, tenor; Sergei Leiferkus, baritone; San Francisco Symphony Chorus; San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Michael Tilson-Thomas

Das Lied von der Erde
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano; Fritz Wunderlich, tenor; The New Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer

Das Lied von der Erde (version with baritone)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; James King, tenor
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein

The original cover had Lenny in profile against a black background

Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; The London Symphony Orchestra
George Szell

Kindertotenlieder
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Hallé Orchestra
Sir John Barbirolli

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano; North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner

Rückert Lieder
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano

Resurrection Symphony finale — nothing more can be said

July 4th

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 3, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Some of the most magnificent prose ever written:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

The 100th Anniversary of the Premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 12, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Young RVW

September 6th was the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. Rob Young of The Guardian wrote a terrific article about the event.

Old RVW and a friend

Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs

Posted in Music with tags , on May 21, 2010 by Craig Zeichner


A terrific review of Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs on the

Yvonne Loriod

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

The widow of Olivier Messiaen, Yvonne Loriod, passed away on Monday. She was a brilliant pianist and her recordings of her husband’s music and other 20th century repertoire are treasures. She also was Messiaen’s partner in recording birdcalls:

I love this photo of Loriod holding the microphone

I’ll have more on her in the next few days, but you can read some interesting essays at the Olivier Messiaen

Want to learn about classical music?

Posted in Music with tags , on May 17, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

The 5th edition of the Rough Guide to Classical Music has just been published. Check out my review on the New York Journal Of Books

Ascension

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Andrea Mantegna's Ascension (c. 1462)

So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
–Mark 16:19

The Christian calendar marks this day as the Feast of the Ascension. The feast takes place on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday and commemorates the Ascension of Christ into heaven.

Giotto's Ascension of Christ (c. 1300)

I love the way the Ascension has been depicted through the ages. Some artists have gone full out with glowing clouds and Christ rising like a missle. Others have a touch of whimsy, with only Christ’s feet poking out of the bottom of a cloud as the Apostles look skyward.

Hans Suess Von Kulmbach's Ascension (c. 1513)

For lovers of choral music and Anglican liturgy there’s two superb recordings of music for the Feast of the Ascension. On the Hyperion label there’s The Feast of the Ascension at Westminster Abbey. The recording takes the listener through a day of worship at the Abbey with music for Matins, the Eucharist and Evensong. Some highlights include Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s old favorite Caelos ascendit hodie, Gerald Finzi’s “God is gone up,” and Patrick Gowers’ brilliant Viri Galilaei. The Westminster series has now reached several volumes of glorious sacred works for chief feast days – O Praise the Lord, Restoration Music from Westminster Abbey is the newest – and they are some of my favorite recordings.

The Feast of the Ascension at Westminster Abbey (Hyperion)

You can sample some of this terrific album at the Hyperion website.

The Ascension from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (c. 1412-1416)

The always marvelous Delphian, a super-cool independent label from Scotland, has Ascension. This recording features the Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh in an Evensong service for The Feast of the Ascension. The recording has hymns, psalms, anthems and a terrific pair of canticles (Magnificat and Nunc dimittis) by Richard Allain. The program closes with organist Simon Nieminski playing Olivier Messiaen’s magnificent L’Ascension.

Ascension (Delphian)

Speaking of Messiaen, here’s Oliver Latry playing Transports de joie d’une âme devant la gloire du Christ qui est la sienne, the 3rd movement (not part one as the video post claims) of Messiaen’s L’Ascension.

Suomi

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

The young Sibelius

There’s no way around it, music always sounds better when native singers are singing the music of their homeland. A Russian choir glows in the Rachmaninov Vespers, Italians make Monteverdi madrigals erotic and French choirs…well, never mind nobody is allowed to sing in French except the French so I won’t go on.

“Kullervo, Kalervon poika, sinisukka äïjön lapsi, hivus keltainen korea…”
An American choir can’t sing that idiomatically. No way. Thankfully when Osmo Vänskä led the Minnesota Orchestra in a performance of Sibelius’ Kullervo at Carnegie Hall in early March he had the YL Male Voice Choir on hand.

YL Male Voice Choir

YL sang this music as if it was wired into their DNA. Not surprising, founded in 1883, they are the oldest Finnish-language choir. I won’t go into the details of the performance which proved once again that this work by the 27 year old composer is a masterpiece and deserves to stand beside his more famous music. As we’ve learned from his BIS recordings with the Lahti Symphony, Vänskä is the man when it comes to Sibelius. From what I heard at the concert I’m also sure that YL are the men for Sibelius. They sang with a full-bodied muscular sound that was perfectly blended and shaped. For once the exotic, mythic quality of the choral passages really kicked in. Their outstanding (and soon to be retiring) conductor Matti Hyökki is to be praised.

As an encore the orchestra and choir gave us Finlandia – it’s so rare that we get to hear this chestnut with full choir and it was a marvelous performance.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Finland, The Kalevala (their national epic), the Finnish Olympic ice hockey team (the concert took place right after the Olympics) and this superb choir. Some of my inspiration has been fueled by a book I’m reading: Sibelius, A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland by the former editor of the Sibelius Critical Edition, Glenda Dawn Goss.

Essential reading

The upshot of all this is The Kalevala is terrific reading, the hockey team was crushed by the U.S. team because the Finnish goaltender melted down, and the Goss book is one of the most fascinating composer biographies (it’s so much more than just a composer bio), I’ve ever read. Do the work on your own: read the Kalevala and the Goss book. I can’t say anything for the hockey team except they played their tails off to come from behind to beat the Slovakians and win the Bronze medal.

The great Teemu Selanne and his mates sporting their Bronze medals

Back to the choir… I met some of the singers at the concert after-party and learned a bit more about the choir. They have a pretty extensive discography and it’s not just comprised of Sibelius. I didn’t make the connection until after the fact but I have some of their recordings and have been enjoying them for the past year or two—this is the curse of having a CD collection that is too large to manage.

Their recording of Kullervo with the Helsinki Philharmonic conducted by Leif Segerstam (no slouch in Sibelius either) on the Ondine label is excellent. Perhaps not as perfectly conceived and executed as the Vänskä Minnesota Carnegie performance, but plenty full-blooded, colorful and superbly conducted by Segerstam.

The Kullervo you need to have

Another outstanding recording is their Ondine CD of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s complete music for male choir. This is fascinating music, at times quite challenging and at times piercingly beautiful. Their performances are remarkable for their precision, power and beauty.

Ravishing choral music from the most famous living Finnish composer

They are joined by the Talla Vocal Ensemble on Talescapes (their newest), a recording of contemporary works on the Ondine label. Talescapes features music by five Finnish composers: Perttu Haapanen, Tapio Tuomela, Erik Bergman, Mikko Heiniö and Riikka Talvitie. In addition to the Finnish composers there is also music by the English composer Tarik O’Regan.

I must admit that O’Regan was the only composer with whom I was familiar but I’m certainly interested in hearing more from the Finnish composers. This is such daring music, so out on the edge that it will make you re-consider any notions you might have about choral music. It’s an essential recording if you care about the choral art.

Cutting-edge choral music

You can sample some of the Talescapes music at Ondine.

The mature Sibelius

It’s not the YL Male Voice Choir singing, but this is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written by Sibelius.

Be sure to visit the YL Male Voice Choir at their

Papa Haydn at the Hayden

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on January 26, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Lisetta (Rachel Calloway) and Buonafede (Marco Nisticò) travel to the Moon

How often do you get to see a Haydn opera? Okay. How often do you get to see a Haydn opera staged at New York’s Hayden Planetarium? You can still answer yes to both questions if you get yourself to the Planetarium before Gotham Chamber Opera’s production of Papa Haydn’s Il mondo della luna closes on January 28th.

This delightfully oddball but marvelously inventive production showcases the talents of director Diane Paulus, video and production designer Philip Bussmann and costume designer Anka Lupes. Of course it’s about the music and the talented Gotham Chamber Opera deliver top-notch performances.

Set to a libretto by the great Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, Haydn’s 1777 opera is a loony (pardon the extended astronomy metaphor) farce in the buffo tradition, but the score is also dotted with moments of plaintive beauty and some show-stopping vocal pyrotechnics. Plot-wise it’s filled with standard buffo characters: there’s the wealthy over-protective father smothering his two daughters, a wily astrologer/con-man who loves one of the girls, a saucy maid and an earthy servant who loves her. The plot orbits (did it again) around the astrologer’s trickery as he convinces the gullible father that they can travel to the moon and enjoy life in a magical world. Once there, the daughters and the maid arrive and are ordered by moon emperor to wed moon men (in reality their lovers). It’s fluffy and fun and, like I said, filled with some top-notch Haydn.

The astrologer Ecclitico has a marvelous comic aria and a gorgeous romanza that is the model of elegance. Buonafede, the over-protective father, has some brilliant buffo passages and a lovely aria (with some clever word-painting) when he arrives on the moon. The ladies have the best bits. Ragion nell’alma diede is a show-stopping aria in the tradition of Come scoglio from Mozart’s Cosi or the Queen of the Night’s music from Zauberflote, while Quanta gente che sospira is a model of opera seria pathos.

Paulus and Bussman did a brilliant job of turning the Planetarium into a performance space ideally suited to the opera. The 180-degree dome was splashed with spectacular images from the museum’s space shows that were integrated seamlessly and underscored the fantastic elements of the plot. I think 18th century audiences would have been enraptured by the subject matter and this production delivered that same sense of wonder and fancy. Tossed into the mix were some hysterically campy sci-fi costumes which featured the most creative use of $5 portable library lights I’ve ever seen (you have to see the production to get what I’m talking about) and a crazy dance scene with glowing hula hoops! Sure, the opera does have its gentle moments, like Buonafede’s touching aria about the wonders he “sees” on the moon, but it’s the farce that’s being sold here and it’s infectious fun.

Here’s some of the fun.

Musically it was a fine performance. Naples-born baritone Marco Nisticò was a superb Buonafede and he is a singer I would like to hear in some of the repertoire’s meatier baritone roles. Sopranos Albina Shagimuratova and Hanan Alattar were both vocally secure in their showpiece arias and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway delightful as the sexy maid. I was also taken by the clear, bright tenor voice of Nicholas Coppolo as Ecclitico, the burly baritone of Timothy Kuhn as Ernesto and the tenor Matthew Tuell’s fine comic turn as the servant Cecco. The small orchestra led by Gotham Chamber Opera’s director Neal Goren was fine, despite some occasionally scratchy string tone, and featured some especially nice wind playing in Buonafede’s aria about the wonders of the moon.

This is my first encounter with Gotham Chamber Opera and they have made a fan out of me.

There are only two performances left, so you’ll want to get tickets as soon as possible. For details visit the Gotham Chamber Opera’s

Best of 2009

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Lots to chose from and most of it from living composers who create outside the tedious and ugly world of the conservatory. Proving that the future of music is really in the hands of those who care about originality and beauty rather than residing in the clammy claws of the sterile academics.

CD of the Year

Phil Kline: John the Revelator
Lionheart; Ethel
(Cantaloupe Music)
I can’t say enough about John the Revelator. Phil Kline has created a work whose stark beauty connects on so many levels. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel this one.

John Adams: Dr. Atomic Symphony
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson, conductor
(Nonesuch)
A strange and beautiful world of orchestral color and rampaging rhythms.


Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Big-boned, heroic Brahms that rivals my favorite recordings by Otto Klemperer and Istvan Kertesz. Speaking of Kertesz, I wish the corporate troglodytes at Universal would get a clue and reissue his Decca recordings.

Michael Daugherty: Fire and Blood
Ida Kavafian, violin; The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi, conductor
(Naxos)
Daugherty’s Fire and Blood concerto has balls and Kavafian delivers a brilliantly muscular performance. Daugherty’s music is disliked by the pasty-faced academics–“it’s glib and filled with cheap effects”–they shriek. All the more reason to love his music. Check out the recording of his Metropolis Symphony too.

Gabriel Jackson: Not No Faceless Angel
Polyphony
Stephen Layton, director
(Hyperion)
Jackson grabbed some deserved acclaim with “The Christ Child Sat On Mary’s Lap,” the carol commissioned for the 2009 Festival of Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge. This sublime CD is an ideal introduction to his music.

Rued Langgaard: Messis
Flemming Dreisig, organ
(Dacapo)
An organ work that clocks in at over 2 hours? Yes please! Langgaard’s music is hyper-Romantic and Dreisig is a superb organist. It’s been quite a Langgaard year with Dacapo releasing a boxed set of the quirky Dane’s complete symphonies.

James Macmillan: St. John Passion
Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
(LSO Live)
A deeply moving and piercingly dramatic telling of the Passion story. A gorgeous performance led by the greatest living conductor.

Mahler Symphony No. 4
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Fischer’s excellent Mahler cycle hits a high point.

Felix Mendelssohn: Complete Organ Sonatas
William Whitehead, organ
(Chandos)
Church organists love these little gems but they are not especially well-know outside the organ loft. Whitehead plays a marvelous old instrument on this terrific recording.

Olivier Messiaen: Saint Francois d’Assise
Rodney Gilfry, baritione; Camilla Tilling, soprano; Hubert Delamboye, tenor
Netherlands Opera Chorus, Hague Philharmonic Orchestra
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor
(Opus Arte)
Pierre Audi’s hypnotic staging is remarkable and Messiaen’s score will probably never be better-served. I think they will be serving frozen margaritas in hell before this opera is ever staged in New York, so grab this DVD and prepare to be overwhelmed.

A video treat

I’m deeply in love with soprano Miah Persson, the soloist on Fischer’s Mahler 4th. Here she is singing “Come scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

Happy 2010! I hope…