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Best Recordings of 2012 (#7)

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.

# 7 - New Release

Hans Pfitzner, Palestrina, K.Petrenko, Frankfurt Opera & Museum Orchestra and Chorus, Oehms OC 930

available at Amazon
Hans Pfitzner, Palestrina
K.Petrenko / Frankfurt Opera & Museum Orchestra and Chorus
Oehms OC 930

I have a soft spot for most of the disreputable Hans Pfitzner’s unabashedly romantic tone. But Palestrina, his supposed masterpiece, can be dull. While I suffered through a performance with Simone Young in Munich, the Frankfurt opera, too, performed Palestrina, and fortunately Oehms was there to capture it. Under Kirill Petrenko the score sounds the way I want to hear it: delightfully crisp, full of purpose, nuance, detail, and even joy. It turns Palestrina from admirable craftsmanship into a sanguineous musical drama. The quality singers—among themPeter Bronder, Britta Stallmeister, Claudia Mahnke, Wolfgang Koch, and Johannes Martin Kränzle—add to the delight, but the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra and its conductor are the stars.

# 7 – Reissue

A.Bruckner, Five Symphonies, Günter Wand, Berlin Philharmonic, RCA 1708661

available at Amazon
Bruckner, Five Symphonies,
G.Wand / Berlin Philharmonic
RCA 1708661

available at Amazon
Bruckner, Symphonies 1-9,
G.Wand / Cologne RSO
RCA 7776582

About two years ago Sony/RCA’s started releasing box re-issue-sets that are not just super inexpensive, but downright cheap. Some of those no-frill sets are so packed with great interpretations of great music that they throw into confusion the relationship of value, cost, and price. Günter Wand’s first and only complete go at Bruckner’s Nine Symphonies is among them the most tempting (alongside Erich Leinsdorf’s Prokofiev and Murray Perahia’s Mozart Concertos). In Europe it has been out since late 2010, now it's made it to the US. Still, I mention it only by way of pointing to another, even more recent re-issued set of Wand’s Bruckner on RCA.

This time it is his incomplete Berlin Philharmonic cycle that contains the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Symphonies. There are proponents of each of Wand’s cycles and his various recordings of the Eighth and Ninth especially. I’ve always made my case that the Eight in this is among the most special Bruckner recordings there are—of any symphony by any conductor: gravity, divine architecture, recording quality, dedication, orchestral sound, just enough—not too much—reverb, and that inscrutable ‘innate musicality’ in perfect combination. The Berlin Ninth is certainly my favorite Wand Ninth and among the very best. The rest is exemplary in the unfussy, unassuming, sneakily grandiose way of Wand’s.

Wand’s performances can get mistaken for bland, especially by those in need of ostentatious glare-and-blare. But that’s not how I prefer my Bruckner, nor how I think of Bruckner. Some of these recordings have been difficult to come by in the US… which makes their re-release doubly welcome. It’s anyone’s best first Bruckner-stop (unlike the specialist-Schuricht choice earlier) just as it belongs in any Bruckner-veteran’s collection.

-> Best Recordings of 2012 #1 - 10

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