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Best Recordings of 2015 (#1)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2014 . My lists for the previous years: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, (2011 – “Almost”), 2010, (2010 – “Almost”), 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 1 - New Release

Joseph Haydn & Domenico Scarlatti, Keyboard Sonatas - “Chiaro e scuro”, Olivier Cavé (piano), æon

available at Amazon
J.Haydn & D.Scarlatti, “Chiaro e scuro”

One of the most gratifying events in music-reviewing is a CD like this: Out of the wrapper. Into the CD player. And immediately it hops into the soul, pulling heartstrings along the way, and dancing and doing a few pirouettes. Not all music is like that, nor should every music experience be like that – there is and should be room for the difficult, for the dark, for the dense after all – but goshdarnit, it’s very nice when it happens that way. Well, this in so many words describes this CD by Olivier Cavé whose records hitherto I have enjoyed, but nothing like this. Putting together Joseph Haydn and Domenico Scarlatti (two of my favorites, which helps my positive bias along quite nicely) is an ingenious move. At the danger of ignoring the very considerable moody and gloomy side which Scarlatti possessed as well, this pairs the most upbeat, daringly jolly, musically glowing works of these composers… or at least they sound the way, given how Cavé treats them.

Charles Burney, the 18th-century musicologist, described the Scarlatti Sonatas (those he knew, at any rate) as “original and happy freaks.” He was on to something. And Haydn is, in any case, the quintessence of the musical smile. There are points where I ceased to notice where Scarlatti ended and Haydn began. If you want a disc that makes you grin from ear to ear like an idiot, this is as good a bet as any, this year, to accomplish the job. The exemplary liner notes deserve a prize, too, establishing the circumstantial but strong evidence for Haydn have been reared on a diet of Scarlatti.

# 1 – Reissue

Anton Bruckner, Symphonies 00-9, Stanislaw Skrowacewski (conductor), Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Oehms

available at Amazon
A.Bruckner, Symphonies 00 + 0-9*
S.Skrowacewski / Saarbrücken RSO

This cycle has had many different incarnations. Its first was on the budget label Arte Nova were Dieter label-founder Dieter Oehms was doing the good works, bringing out subsequent success stories like the David Zinman Beethoven Cycle (including No.7 on this year’s Best Re-Issues) and the early Christian Gerhaher/Gerold Huber recitals. And he pulled this Bruckner cycle off with the none-too-famous Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (which has since merged into the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern) and the perfectly sublime Stanisław Skrowaczewski. Dieter Oehms has since moved on from Arte Nova and founded his own, eponymous label, which had a few “Best of the Year” showing, too (Palestrina in 2012, the Apollon Musagète Quartet in 2010). Somewhere in the deal (Arte Nova was sold to RCA which then merged with Sony), he got the rights to this cycle back and has since re-issued it twice, now thrice. Let him re-issue it as many times as is necessary to make this never goes out of print… because this set is Tony-the-Tiger-TER-RR-RR-RIFIC!*

Skrowaczewski’s deft hand in anything, really, but especially Bruckner, made this underdog a primary contender for Top-Dog among Bruckner cycles. It is one of the few wholly recommended cycles in the ionarts Bruckner Symphony Survey and features consistently great interpretations, consistently excellent sound, palpable musical enthusiasm, and all 11 (!) of Bruckner’s symphonies to boot, not just 9 or 10 or 7 as most other (excellent and not) cycles do. Snap it up if you like Bruckner and haven’t got it already.

* I now it’s actually “Gr-r-reat!” But I like the alliteration. 

-> Best Recordings of 2015 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #2
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #6
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2015 #10

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