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Best Recordings of 2015 (#9)

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.

# 9 - New Release

L.v.Beethoven, The Piano Sonatas, vol. 2 (Opp. 10/1-3, 53 “Waldstein”, 52, 57 “Appassionata”), Paavali Jumppanen (piano), Ondine

available at Amazon
Ludwig van Beethoven,
Piano Sonatas
Paavali Jumppanen

That Paavali Jumppanen has one of the most prodigious techniques, he’s already shown years ago in his recording of the Boulez Sonatas (Dip Your Ears No.30a), for which he was allegedly hand-picked by the composer himself. That skill shows (but is never shown-off) in the total ease and control with which dashes Beethoven’s sonatas off at any tempo. The Waldstein Sonata’s first movement would be a great place to listen to, for confirmation. That’s not to suggest he’s necessarily playing fast, even if he averages out on the quicker side: The Hammerklavier Sonata (back in volume 1 of this finished but piecemeal-released cycle), for example, is on the decidedly slow side, way south of Beethoven’s post-ex-facto metronome markings. It would be short-changing Jumppanen to make it just about tempi or chops.

He actually looks to be delivering one of the consistently most playful, subtly surprising Beethoven cycles around, and the early sonatas are doing much to that end. The F-major Presto of op.10/2 superbly embodies these impish qualities; the opening and third movements of op.10/3 sound just about perfect: youthful, impetuous, gripping, steady, quick and with perfect delineation of all lines. Occasionally – largely in the early sonatas so far – Jumppanen inserts personality and interpretation that will make the purist blanch and musicians snigger: A bit of cheek, but never outlandish. Ondine’s direct, close, but not claustrophobic sound is very gratifying—dare I say: ideal!

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# 9 – Reissue

F.Cavalli, La Calisto, Soloists, René Jacobs, Concerto Vocale, Harmonia Mundi

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Francesco Cavalli, La Calisto
Soloists / Concerto Vocale
René Jacobs (conductor)
(Harmonia Mundi)

While sitting through an uncut performance of Francesco Cavalli’s La Didone can be secco recitativo purgatory, his La Calisto is a racy firecracker. True, it’s much helped by a great production like David Alden’s (Bavarian State Opera), whose sexy gloss and wit so brings out the juicy subject-matter of Jupiter-the-prowl and how Kallisto (“Most Beautiful”) ends up as the zodiac sign Ursa Major. But the music is top-notch baroque entertainment and Dominque Visse as a horny, bleating countertenor-goat (the synopsis explains!) is hilarious. René Jacobs’ recording has always been the go-to choice and it’s great to see it re-released in Harmonia Mundi’s splendid, shelve-space saving “Heritage” series. Splendid booklets but—expectedly, understandably—no libretto. 

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