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Best Recordings of 2009 (#4)

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.

# 4 - New Release

Mendelssohn-B., Symphony No.2 "Lobgesang", F.Bernius, Stuttgart Chamber Choir, Bremen Chamber Phil., C.Karg,; M.Bernius, W.Güra, Carus 83213

available at Amazon
F.Mendelssohn-B., Symphony No.2,
Frieder Bernius / Bremen Chamber Philharmonic

Mendelssohn wrote his own choral symphony, titled “Lobgesang” (Song of Praise, a Symphony Cantata), in 1840: three orchestral movements and a choral finale, just like Beethoven; though perhaps lopsided with the fourth movement longer than the three preceding ones together. It’s an underrated, perfectly wonderful Symphony that shows the strong influence of Bach on Mendelssohn’s Berlin. But with its rather darker, occasionally even dissonant mood, it’s very different from the champagne-bubbly gaiety we associate with Mendelssohn. It happens to be my favorite of the lot; but it’s not always been served well on record. Perhaps because it was recorded more often as part of the complete cycle, as an afterthought, rather than for its own merits?

2009 was different; two fine recordings have come out: Thomas Fey’s (part of his Mendelssohn orchestra works cycle on Hänssler) and Frieder Bernius’ (part of his recording project of Mendelssohn’s choral works on Carus). The latter is more than fine, it is fantastic. Not since Dohnanyi’s now unavailable recording on Decca have I heard the work so well performed. The participants are first rate: The Bremen Chamber Philharmonic (Paavo Järvi’s orchestra that is also responsible for the currently most thrilling Beethoven Symphony cycle) doesn’t play with the heft of the Vienna Philharmonic (Dohnanyi) or the Berlin Philharmonic (Karajan, DG), nor with the all-out energy of said Beethoven, but neither would necessarily be appropriate for this work—their energetic and flawless performance certainly withstands comparison with the very best. And Bernius has drop-dead gorgeous sounding tenor in Werner Güra who never sounds overtaxed, always sings and never pushes. The choir, as might be expected with choral expert Bernius, is tremendous. This SACD is the perfect introduction to this symphony if you don’t yet know it—and if you do, a worthy addition.

# 4 - Reissue

Brahms, Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2, Szell/Knappertsbusch, Clifford Curzon, LSO, WPh, Decca Heritage Masters 001268202

available at Amazon
J.Brahms, Piano Ctos. 1 & 2,
Clifford Curzon / Szell, Knappertsbusch / LSO, WPh
Unassuming greatness is the most impressive greatness; few musicians possessed more of it than Clifford Curzon. Decca’s “Heritage Masters” reissue-series illustrates that point by coupling his legendary performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto (under Szell with the London Symphony Orchestra) with his performance of the Second, under Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic. The Second has not, and probably will not quite attain the exalted status of the First, but now that Decca has finally released a good new release taken from their master tapes, the sound is pretty good for a late 1950s vintage. You will listen for Curzon play with instinctive, unassailable musical poise—but the elsewhere occasionally stodgy Knappertsbusch gets quite into it, too. Treasure trove material from nearly half a century ago.

-> Best Recordings of 2009 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #2
-> Best Recordings of 2009 #3
-> 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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