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Best Recordings of 2009 (#2)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2009. My lists for the previous years: 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 2 - New Release

Schoeck, Notturno, Rosamunde Quartet, Christian Gerhaher, ECM 001355902

available at Amazon
O.Schoeck, Notturno, Rosamunde Quartet, C.Gerhaher
What music! Schoecking, I dare say. If you know Othmar Schoeck only from his dabbling-delightful song-cycle “Elegy” (“Richard Strauss light”), the Notturno—eight poems by Nikolaus Lenau and a short text by Gottfried Keller in five movements—will come as a terse surprise. Not only the setting—voice and quartet—is reminiscent of Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet (and the ‘vocal movement’ of Berg’s Lyric Suite), the music, too, nods vigorously to the harmonic language of the Second Viennese School.

The Notturno flirts with the outer harmonic reaches from a late-romantic vantage point. If it is played with the utmost precision, and if it is thought of in long lines—horizontally, not vertically—it can sound more like Richard Strauss or Zemlinsky than mature Schoenberg. Long, thin strands of music wind through the score, emerging and submerging—in and out of audibility but with Schoeck’s melodiousness-stretched-to-vanishing always felt. Certainly if you hear wistfully lingering Viennese coffee-house romanticism in Berg’s op.1 Piano Sonata, then you will adore Notturno. The Rosamunde Quartet comes close to making this difficult, rewarding music sound ideal; Christian Gerhaher is right at home in the gloomy work and impeccable, anyway. The recording, ever so narrowly edging out its only competition (Klaus Mertens, Minguet Quartet, NCA) is one of the great winners of 2009.

# 2 - Reissue

Langgaard, The Symphonies & Orchestral Pieces, Thomas Dausgaard Danish National SO, DACAPO 6.200001

available at Amazon
R.Langgaard, Symphonies et al., T.Dausgaard / Danish NSO
Rued Langgaard was a wacky composer. He resists categorization, he taunts expectations, he probably enjoyed being original for its own sake. Thankfully the results are so fine—sometimes magnificent—that he delights nowadays, without having to make excuses (WETA review, Best of 2008). I found to Langgaard through Violin and Piano miniatures and eventually fell in love with the great variety of symphonies he wrote… from the large, Furtwänglerian First Symphony to whimsical 15-minute, one-movement works. Dacapo has recorded them over the last decade and now issued the complete Symphonies in their best available recordings in a most convenient box set.

There are very few works of Langgaard that don’t completely endear themselves to me—and the regularly occurring fingerprints of other composers further that effect, rather than coming across as derivative. The unabashedly romantic style of the Wagner-quote and Strauss-flavor sprinkled Second Symphony (“Awakening of Spring”) is as intriguing as the impressionist 23-minute, 13-movement Fourth Symphony. And from the romantic ‘choral piano concerto’ of a Third to the Fifth Symphony’s first version (both are included) with its faint touches of Berg’s Violin Concerto in the “Lento Misterioso”, there isn’t a dull moment (unlike with most other romantic symphonists). Dacapo then outdoes itself on the packaging: instead of lumping the seven jewel cases of the extant releases into a cardboard wrapper, they house the 7 SACDs designed a luxurious little box that is playful and convenient and just about deserving a WPO WorldStar nomination.

-> Best Recordings of 2009 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #6
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #10

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