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Best Recordings of 2015 (#8)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2014 . My lists for the previous years: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, (2011 – “Almost”), 2010, (2010 – “Almost”), 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 8 - New Release

SPIN CYCLE, Afiara String Quartet feat. Skratch Bastid, Centrediscs

available at Amazon
Afiara Quartet
feat. Skratch Bastid

I'll do my best turntable-scrubbing sound: Woop-Woop. Gwaa-kwakka-Gwaa-kwakka. Woop-Woop. Scratching it on the turntables 90’s Hip-Hop style, Skratch Bastid accompanies the excellent Afiara Quartet who are leaving the shores of classical music behind for this. And what is this? I have no idea, really, how to explain it. Reading the supporting material, apparently this is what happened: Four young Canadian composers wrote a bunch of pieces that incorporate classical music (you’ll recognize a few famous classical passages). These works were “repurposed and re-envisioned by DJ Skratch Bastid” and then each composer, hearing what Skratch Bastid had done, responded by writing parts for the Afiara Quartet to play with (or against) the DJs remix. Come to think of it, I don’t care how the sausage is made, as long as the sausage sounds good. And this re-mixed, semi-classical, hip-hopping, col legno-beating,  pizzicato-plucking, Beethoven-quoting sausage sounds great! It genuinely, organically merges classical music and beat, jam and semi-quavers… in a way that even Gabriel Prokofiev and Max Richter manage only at their very best. I am bopping my head along in seriously uncool fashion as I write this. When I am in need for a pick-me-up other than Bach, this goes in the player where I have been spinning the two discs of SPIN CYCLE more often than any other disc this year.

# 8 – Reissue

W.A.Mozart, Piano Concertos, Rudolf Buchbinder (piano, conductor), René Jacobs, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Profil Hänssler

available at Amazon
Wolfgang Amadé Mozart,
Piano Concertos
Vienna SO / Rudolf Buchbinder
(Profil Hänssler)

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder is respected worldwide; in his hometown Vienna he is worshiped. Sometimes predictable, hardly electrifying, occasionally stupendous, I find him so-so on average. But in these live recordings from Vienna’s Konzerthaus (re-re-released), where he plays and directs the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in the complete Mozart piano concertos, he achieves something extraordinary. With understated, classical demeanor, a no-nonsense touch, total lack of indulgence, he achieves a consistency and quality across all 21 works. Silliness about “the best” aside, this certainly sets a standard, not the least because the orchestra eats out of his hand. Don’t make mistake this for the frankly-boring single disc Mozart-concerto collaboration with Harnoncourt (Sony). This is simple geniality, not forced pseudo-historical vigor. While slightly space-saving over the predecessor and conveniently cheap, the presentation is a real bummer: two thick, clunky jewel cases and zero-information booklets. ☹ 


Anonymous said...


How would you describe Buchbinder's approach: is it old-fashioned, or aware of period practices - similar to what Tetzlaff and Zinman are in Beethoven's violin concerto? Knowing Buchbinder, I would guess the later.

Thank you!

jfl said...

His approach to which? The new Mozart with Harnoncourt or the one I listed with the VSO?

In either case it's decidedly NOT a la Tetzlaff and in LvB. Buchbinder is aware of period practices, I'll grant that, and perhaps it is that which inoculates him against Karl Boehmisms (were he prone to that at all), but I think it's more his deep involvement with Haydn that shines through this Mozart cycle. It's not consciously anything, style-wise... it's certainly not particularly (much less ostentatiously) "new". It's just bloody good and genial. You could call it old fashioned, but only in the sense that it isn't HIP or trying to be. But it is small scale (for the time) and nimble.