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10.12.15

Best Recordings of 2015 (#5)


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.


# 5 - New Release


J.Ritter von Herbeck, Great Mass in E minor, Philharmonie Festiva, Philharmonic Chorus Munich, Gerd Schaller (conductor), Profil


available at Amazon
Johann von Herbeck, Great Mass
Philharmonie Festiva, Philharmonic Chorus Munich, Gerd Schaller
(Profil)

I wasn’t entirely sure if “Johann Ritter von Herbeck” mightn’t perhaps a made-up composer like his colleague Otto Jägermeier, so out of nowhere came this absolutely gorgeous, maybe slightly faceless, conventional, but highly impressive “Great Mass”. There are contemporary references to him, though; including Eduard Hanslick’s who thought it the best church music since Schubert’s. I’m inclined to agree and am just as impressed with the work and performance. And if there were any remaining doubts as to him having been a real person and composer, they are now eviscerated as I stumbled across his considerable grave on Vienna’ Central Cemetery.

This Grand Mass for chorus, organ, and orchestra is sacred gorgeousness of vast proportions. It is noble, unassuming, highly accessible, simple yet refined and easier to appreciate than Bruckner’s masses. With plenty in it that we like from Rheinberger, aforementioned Bruckner, and even Brahms, this Mass is obviously composed by someone who knew what choruses need and how to write effectively for them. When I sang masses in cold cathedrals as a kid, I should have loved to pipe these tunes. Misspending my time in concert halls now, I should love to hear such a work there. Or on this very well recorded, sumptuous-sounding CD. Only the choice of the cover betrays an amateurish side to the project: A half exploded pink alien lady with fake eye-lashes is random nonsense without aesthetic merit and nearly kept me from resisting the CD, unheard. Don’t make the same mistake: The contents are positively uplifting!



# 5 – Reissue


L.v.Beethoven, Complete Piano Sonatas, Maurizio Pollini, DG


available at Amazon
Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonatas
M.Pollini
(DG)

Reviewing this set for LISTEN Magazine’s Summer 2015 issues, I wrote that: “There is a sort of unforgiving relentlessness to Pollini that suits late Beethoven particularly well. After having climbed the first movement of op.111 with vigor, Pollini is disarmingly lyrical and gentle in the slow movement. His hands just purl off notes in all shapes and forms. Larger clusters of notes are churned out with such precision that every note has the same value, length, and force, making him seem like a sort of mechanical toy with everything falling perfectly in place and giving a coherence otherwise unachievable. But he is much more than the stereotype of the cold, inhumanly perfect technician, and Pollini also shines beyond (or rather: before) late Beethoven. His Appassionata is downright emotive. His literally brilliant interpretations go some way in shining light on the less popular, shorter opp. 54 and especially 90, which is elevated to unusual grandeur. The tension he builds in the growling, looming approach of the op.10/3 Largo shows that Pollini has plenty to say in the early works. His Pathétique is a crystalline, almost disturbing account. No trace of Haydn, and every note audible. It might send people scurrying to the comfort of softer takes, but Pollini changes your perception of these works for good.”

We've written plenty about Pollini and his Beethoven on ionarts... this shouldn't come as a surprise to any reader: Dip Your Ears No.13, “When the Gods Call…”, Beethoven Sonata Survey, Best Recordings of 2004.

 




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