Thursday, January 03, 2019

Favorite Recordings in 2018

These are the recordings that came my way in 2018 brought me the most joy. They are the performances to which I return repeatedly. Take a listen! 

In addition, by all means, post your own favorites, in any genre on this blog. I can always use more favorites.

Happy New Year to all!

Anthony Roth Costanzo with Les Violons du Roy conducted by Jonathan Cohen. Muisc by Handel and Glass.

Countertenors? God spare me. Give me a hooty mezzo-soprano any day.
And yet.

I’ve always loved wonderful singing, especially when combined with superb musicianship. Think Callas. Think Fischer-Dieskau. Think Anthony Roth Costanzo.
Gold star to whoever thought of combining Handel and Glass. Costanzo uses his voice to make beauty and project words, not to show off. Jonathan Cohen conducts Les Violins du Roy and whoever the king is, I hope he’s good to this band. I especially love the last two tracks, Handel’s Ombra mai fu (a.k.a Handel’s Largo) and theHymn to the Sun from Glass’s Akhnanten. Pharaoh, Gods, and Anthony. Winners all.

Veni Domine: Advent and Christmas at the Sistine Chapel
Palestrina: Pope Marcellus Mass
Sistine Chapel Choir conducted by Massimo Palombella.

Need a bliss out? Do you want to forget political attack ads, DJT, broccoli and the like? These two new releases from the Choir of the Sistine Chapel are for you.
Veni Domine presents chant and sacred motets by Palestrina, Josquin, Victoria and Allegri. For centuries, this music was never heard outside of the Vatican. The teenage Mozart wrote down the Miserere by Allegri and smuggled it out to the world. 
Today, we have state of the art recorded technology to make this beauty widely available.

Palestrina’s Mass honors Pope Marcellus II, who reigned for three weeks in 1555 and then dropped dead. He earned his place in history from this sublime mass that honors him.

Child Alice by David Del Tredici
Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose, with Courtney Budd, soprano

I took a composition class with David Del Tredici at Boston University over forty years ago. He was wild and naughty then, and brilliant, and during a recent interview, he was still all of those things! 

Del Tredici happily admits to an obsession with Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Child Alice is a huge symphony, almost too big to perform! The movement titles alone are enticing: Simple Alice, Triumphant Alice, Ecstatic Alice, Quaint Events, Happy Voices and All in a Golden Afternoon

The work holds no terrors for the accomplished Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose. Courtney Budd is Alice. Who else has the skill to sing these lines? Superb engineering and packaging. Any release by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project is worth knowing better. It a fantastic journey. Try it.

Matthew Shepard was the young gay man murdered outside of Casper, Wyoming in October of 1998. He was savagely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. He lingered for a few days and never regained consciousness.

Craig Hella Johnson, conductor of the superb Conspirare Choir, has written an oratorio called Considering Matthew Shepard. It’s a hymn of grief and reconciliation (I wouldn’t have minded more rage) The horrible details of the murder are not shirked. The texts are by Leslea Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, Craig Hella Johnson, Judy Shepard and Rabinranath Tagore.

Here’s a work that invokes the big sky of Wyoming, the crime, the trial and the grief. It’s not a tragic work. Considering Matthew Shepard is a mediation on what happened, and what must never happen again.


Wagner: Die Walkure Act 1 and Act 3 Hans Knappertsbush and Sir Georg Solti conductors. Vienna Philharmonic, with Kirsten Flagstad (Sieglinde and Brunnhilde) Set Svanholm (Siegmund) Arnold Van Mill (Hunding) Otto Edelman (Wotan) Marianne Schech (Sieglinde)

Decca lured Kirsten Flagstad back into the recording studios in the mid-1950s. As a result, we have the sixty-year-old Flagstad in stereo sound singing some of her best roles. She may be older, but who can surpass the beauty of this voice? To the charge her Sieglinde is matronly I say, thank God for matrons.

Boito: Mefistofele (selections) Cesare Siepi, Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe di Stefano. Chorus and Orchestra of the Academy of St. Cecilia, Rome conducted by Tullio Serafin.

There’s a wonderful complete recording of Boito’s opera on the market with the above cast except with Mario del Monaco as Faust. Apparently, di Stefano was first choice but for whatever reason didn’t finish the recording. Here he is, still splendid in 1958, with Tebaldi and Siepi in their primes.  Wouldn’t you like to live in an age where a del Monaco could be brought in to replace a di Stefano?

And don't miss:

Prettye Yende, soprano:  Dreams music by Meyerbeer, Bellni, Donizetti and Gounod

Javier Camarena, tenor 'Contrabandusta'  music by Manuel Garcia,Rossi and Zingarelli

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