The Art of Instrumentation: Homage to Glenn Gould, G. Kremer, Kremerata Baltica
(released on September 25, 2012)
Nonesuch 528982-2 | 57'49"
The Music I Love, R. Podger (compilation)
(released on October 9, 2012)
CCS SEL 6212 | 2 CDs
Bach and Beyond, Part 1, J. Koh
(released on October 30, 2012)
Cedille CDR 90000 134 | 78'35"
Rachel Podger's new compilation, The Music I Love, is not for the serious collector, who likely has some or all of the recordings that are excerpted and stitched together here. (Indeed, we have reviewed some of them before.) The packaging has faults, including the fact that each excerpt is included as a single track (all three movements of a Vivaldi concerto or all movements of a Bach sonata, for example) and a booklet consisting of a few trite sentences (signed "Rachel") for each piece. There is not really any reason for the combination of pieces, other than that they are all pieces that Podger considers her favorites. Two Bach solo sonatas (nos. 3 and 6 -- Podger's are some of my preferred versions of these works) are the foundation for traditions of virtuosity extending into the classical period. Podger, as a historical-instrument specialist, is concerned only with meeting this music as close as possible to its own terms, with refreshing results.
Jennifer Koh has embarked on a three-program concept intended to draw connections between Bach's six works for unaccompanied violin and more recent music -- the related concert tour came to Strathmore earlier this fall. Koh's personal statement about this concept, published in the booklet of her new CD, says that the inspiration came from wanting to understand why she was so committed to classical music in an age when some people are convinced that it is a dying art form. If it helps you to think of Bach as relevant by connecting it to the music of Missy Mazzoli (Dissolve, O My Heart), good for you, but as long as at least one person can play the violin, the "Bible of music" will endure without anyone's help. Eugène Ysaÿe's pieces for unaccompanied violin are a natural match for Bach, so there is nothing particularly striking about the choice of that composer's second sonata. Of two more recent pieces placed between Bach's third and second partitas, Kaija Saariaho's Nocturne is the more alluring. Koh gives a meaty, intense reading of the Bach pieces, especially the second sonata's concluding Ciaccona. This music was comforting listening on this dark day.