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Best Recordings of 2012 (#9)

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.

# 9 - New Release

A.Diepenbrock, Orchestral Works, Symphonic & Orchestrated Songs, Missa in die festo, et al., Various artists, et'cetera KTC1435

available at Amazon
A.Diepenbrock, Collected Works,
Various & numerous artists

It is the bane of lesser known composers to be compared to the better known ones. That’s certainly the case with Alphons Diepenbrock, whom I will compare to anyone from Loewe to Schumann, to Debussy, Wagner, and Richard Strauss in just a moment.

The reason I found myself interested in Diepenbrock in the first place is because his name is among those on the plaques-of-honor in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw: Prominently at the back balcony in the left corner, flanked by FRANCK and (fittingly) DEBUSSY. The one-time Classics teacher at a catholic school and musical autodidact became a conductor and respected composer, the most significant Dutch composer of the first decades of the 20th century, according to his biographer Leo Samama. He performed and was performed in the famous hall of his home town that now has his name emblazoned among the more (and a few still less-) famous colleagues. For his 50th birthday for example, Willem Mengelberg performed an all-Diepenbrock concert with the Concertgebouw Orchestra that was a vast artistic (and financial) success.

Riccardo Chailly appropriately couples one of his Mahler recordings—the 7th—with Diepenbrock’s symphonic song “Im grossen Schweigen”. The disc can be hard to come by, but I needed to plug the gap in my Mahler collection. The Mahler’s all very well, but it was the Diepenbrock that captured my ears and imagination. How fortuitous that the Dutch et’cetera label collected all the fine Diepenbrock recordings they could get their hands on and issued them in a 150th anniversary 8CD box plus a DVD. That’s great news for the lover of romantic 20th century music—especially for voices—with a touch of the strange.

The few orchestral works without chorus or singers are gems welding Debussy to small-scale-Wagner. His sensually chromatic 50-minute Missa in die festo for double choir, tenor, and organ is, for all its Sweelinck-substructure, so seductive, the church immediately banned its performance. His songs, dear to Mahler, are not all among his best… Loewe-Schumann-Wolff meet here, in various languages: German, Dutch, French. (Christoph Prégardien and Robert Holl are among the singers.) His lavish, equally multilingual symphonic and orchestral songs are more intriguing and were, at their time groundbreaking, inspiring Mahler’s Lied von der Erde. The Hague Philharmonic and Hans Vonk (culled from old Chandos CDs) do most of the heavy lifting, but the Concertgebouw under Chailly (“Hymn to the Night”, with Arleen Augér) and Bernard Haitink (“The Night”, with Janet Baker) contribute as well.

# 9 – Reissue

A.Bruckner, Symphonies 8 & 9, Carl Schuricht, Wiener Philharmoniker, EMI SACD 9559842

available at Amazon
Bruckner, Sys.8 & 9,
C.Schuricht / WPh,

After holding out on Super Audio CD productions for ten years, EMI has caved to (presumably Japanese) audiophile pressure and produced a line of SACD re-issues at a time where the format, if not the physical medium itself, has been declared dead. Dead has rarely sounded so good as in the case of the 1960s Carl Schuricht Bruckner studio-recordings, luxuriously presented and resuscitated from frankly mediocre sound to something now perfectly acceptable. It’s still not spectacular HiFi, but it clears the way for the stupendous interpretation especially of the Eighth Symphony (Ed.Nowak). The old, ever-nonconformist Schuricht delivers one of the most intense, unwavering Eighths, with a first movement as urgent-but-steady as any on record. The Ninth isn’t shabby at all, either. In a way it sounds much more than any other reading as if it had considered the partly missing fourth movement (which Schuricht, for all his forward looking kinks, almost certainly didn’t)… which is to say that it avoids tame sentimentality in the Adagio and instead cherishes the dissonances.

-> Best Recordings of 2012 #1 - 10

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