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Best Recordings of 2012 (#5)

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

# 5 - New Release

Max Richter / Antonio Vivaldi, Recomposed - The Four Seasons, D.Hope, André de Ridder, Konzerthaus CO, DG 1748602

available at Amazon
M.Richter, Recomposed / Four Seasons
D.Hope / Ridder / Konzerthaus CO

When an original is involved, a famous one at that, improving on it is impossible by by definition. But a pale pastiche or cheap imitation certainly isn’t desirable, either… so why bother at all? No one needs a mock-original or likeness of the Four Seasons. Something new must be created off the old substance if working with Vivaldi’s evergreen at all—and that is exactly what Max Richter’s re-composition manages.

Richter is a British genre-defying composer fond of electronic elements who has composed ballets for the Royal Opera House alongside collections of ringtones. His Vivaldi-goes-clubbing approach works most extraordinarily so in “Spring” and “Summer” where Richter opens whole new avenues and sightlines of beauty, calm and distant and dotted with moments of wicked otherness. Richter didn’t just re-mix extant recordings into pseudo-hip newishness, as DG’s “Re-Composed” series has done before (Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald’s Ravel/Musorgsky, Matthew Herbert’s “Mahler Symphony X”, Jimi Tenor, and Matthias Arfmann). Instead he created the piece from scratch, stripped Vivaldi bare, re-forged it, and recorded it with Daniel Hope. Not surprisingly, Richter is least interesting where he skirmishes closest to the original, but those instances are rare and the rewards elsewhere outweigh them greatly.

# 5 – Reissue

P.Hindemith, Eight Sonatas, Das Marienleben, Glenn Gould & others, Sony 541357

available at Amazon
Hindemith, Piano & Brass Sonatas, Marienleben,
G.Gould / R.Roslak et al.

Re-issuing the recordings of their golden goose Glenn Gould for the umpteenth time isn’t in itself novel for Sony to do. But the latest “Glenn Gould Collection” at least does the re-issuing very nicely. For one, it’s neatly sorted by composer, which is excellent for those (like me) who still like the physical product and are not too keen on unwieldy big boxes that can’t be properly filed. All the Bach (apart from the complete set) comes in appropriate batches. There are the (in)complete Beethoven Sonatas for those who feel it’s compelling… the Mozart sonatas, for the masochist in all of us. It includes the complete CBC Broadcasts and a re-issue of the intriguing Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould… in short: everything of great, some, and no importance that Gould ever produced.

I’d like to use the series for highlighting the true, but often ignored marvels in Gould’s output, namely the recordings of composers that were so dreadfully unfashionable in his time, that solely by playing them he already made a statement—and therefore didn’t feel compelled to add any Gouldisms in the interpretation to make a statement in the first place. That’s when his genius came to the fore, without the exasperating (or delightful, depending on the listener) wilfully contrarian streak. That includes his recordings of Richard Strauss—Enoch Arden with Claude Rains, 5 Pieces, the Sonata, and the Ophelia Lieder (Mrs. Legge-Schwarzkopf), his Schoenberg—Klavierstücke, various Songs, Ode to Napoleon, Fantasy, Piano Suite, Piano Concerto with Robert Craft, the Book of Hanging Gardens (!), et al, his six last Haydn Sonatas, and the Berg & Krenek bits. Exemplary for these off-the-beaten-path recordings in which he excelled I want to highlight his recording of the three Hindemith Sonatas, unsurpassed to this day, and coupled on four discs with the brass and piano sonatas, and Das Marienleben, Hindemith’s Rainer Maria Rilke-based song cycle. Turns out that Hindemith is still not very popular or reputation-enhancing fare today, but Gould makes you wonder why, more than any other pianist or even musician.

-> Best Recordings of 2012 #1 - 10

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