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Best Recordings of 2010 (# 6)

This continues the “Best Recordings of 2010” countdown. No.10 can be found here, No. 9 here, No. 8 here, No. 7 here. The lists from the previous years: 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 6 - New Release

Elliot Carter & Udo Zimmermann, Cello Concertos, Jan Vogler, Kristjan Järvi, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, NEOS SACD

available at AmazonE.Carter, U.Zimmermann, Cello Concertos,
Vogler / Järvi / BRSO
A disc with just 39 minutes of playing time? Yes. And not only do I think that’s not a problem, I like it. There is no reason that in 2010 any published sound recording should be measured by how close it gets to the (now) arbitrary 80-minute mark that the CD has standardized. That limit has just about become meaningless. SACDs can only fit about 70-some minutes on a disc. But SACDs with regular definition content can fit up to ten hours. If audio-only BluRay discs become common, the limit is even higher (will we complain then, if the music on one disc doesn’t max out the storage capacity?), but more likely the very idea of “capacity” is going to go, as we are moving toward streaming, downloading, and media servers. The blurb on press flyer justifying the short playing time doesn’t even go into that, but is just as right: "We deemed it appropriate not to dilute the impact of these two works by adding any filler, just to get to a greater play time for this SACD." Bravo!

I’ve written about the concert from where this CD was recorded here. Elliot Carter’s Cello Concerto with its searching and confused solo cello opening—courtesy Jan Vogler—is pierced by orchestra stabs that are as short as they are vigorous, which then mellow considerably as they travel through the orchestral sections one by one. The orchestra has one surprising moment approximating lyricism, the cello part is often barely played, timidly screeching like cats at night with broken hearts. Atypical for Carter, the meandering work makes it difficult to perceive any musical purpose or goal, though the end has a coy smile that gives Carter, even at his most modern, that human touch that many of his modernist colleagues lack. By the way: Happy Birthday Elliot!

Still more intriguing on this disc is Udo Zimmermann’s Cello Concerto “Songs from an Island” which received its world premiere performance here, under Kristjan Järvi and with Vogler. Zimmermann is in charge of the Musica Viva series, so seeing a composition of his at his ‘own’ event—though the first in over a decade—wasn’t terribly surprising. The work itself, its quality and listenability, is surprising though. It starts with lengthy, fragmented quotes from Schumann’s “Ich hab im Traum geweinet” (Dichterliebe, op.48) which allow the cello to do what it can do best: sing. While the cello is almost incidental to Carter’s concerto (any instrument—a dulcimer, for example—might have served equally well), here it is stipulated by Zimmermann’s music. Purpose, truth’s little cousin, is established and the mind can begin to grasp and the ears can go on a journey with the composer. Zimmermann hides behind Schumann for the beauty; typical of the reflexive cowardice of modern(ist) European composers when it comes to musical consonance. “Is that allowed? Is this an Anti-Concerto” his notes at the concert disingenuously questioned and eagerly postulated. But better beauty and purpose under a pretense than not at all, and that’s what we get: The concerto is gorgeous, even when it gets busy, noisy, and tangled. Via perceptible ideas and motifs, through recognizability and musical craftsmanship Udo Zimmermann has arrived, if not at truth, so at least in reality.

# 6 – Reissue

Johann Wilhlem Wilms, Symphonies 6 & 7, Concerto Köln, Brilliant Classics 93778

available at AmazonJ.W.Wilms, Symphonies 6 & 7,
W.Erhardt / Concerto Köln
Brilliant Classics 93778
I don’t much like the idea of previous “Best of” picks (among new releases) already showing up as re-issues… something about product cycles (or my own age), I suppose. But here we are: One of my very favorite releases of a hitherto-unknown composer (“like a synthesis of Beethoven and Schubert, vaguely familiar but oddly new”), my No.2 choice in 2004, Johann Wilhelm Wilms (then on Archiv) has now come out on Brilliant Classics. Perhaps you have a good reason why you didn’t get the recording then… at Brilliant’s prices there is no reason not to get them now. Werner Erhardt and Concerto Köln bring the music to life like I’ve not yet heard other performers do Wilms.

-> Best Recordings of 2010 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #2
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #10

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