Picks of the Year: 1993

Walter Simmons: Want List 1993

This year’s selection of the five most exciting releases to come my way features an international assortment of twentieth-century treasures. I have colleague Jim North to thank for bringing to my attention the marvelous program of Dutch post-romanticism, headed by Hendrik Andriessen’s neat and vigorous Fourth Symphony. Each of the remaining pieces is a treat as well. The disc, incidentally, is entitled, “400 Years of Dutch Music, Volume 8.”  Nicolas Flagello gets my vote as America’s greatest exponent of the post-romantic aesthetic, and this Phoenix release offers an excellent opportunity to discover the warm lyricism and dark, passionate intensity of his powerful personality (reviewed in 16:4). Bis deserves credit for undertaking the cycle of symphonies by the extraordinary Danish composer Vagn Holmboe, and this release is a fine introduction to his stirring and individual music (reviewed in 16:5). Korngold considered Das Wunder der Heliane his greatest work, and it is perhaps the most ambitious undertaking of this extraordinary talent. All enthusiasts of late-romantic Austro-Germanic opera will want to know this work (reviewed in 17:1).  Like Holmboe, Edmund Rubbra of England used the symphonic medium as a natural vehicle through which to express a unique and profound world-view. His Sixth and Eighth Symphonies are two of his loftiest and most sublime creations (see reviews in 16:3, 16:4 and 6:1, if your issues go back that far). 

H. ANDRIESSEN: Symphony No. 4; Ricercare; works by DIEPENBROCK, VAN GILSE, BADINGS. Spanjaard/Hague Residentie Orchestra (OLYMPIA OCD-507)

FLAGELLO: Contemplazioni di Michelangelo; Lautrec (Ballet); Cello Capriccio; Remembranceet al. Flagello/Soloists/Orchestra, Sinfonica di Roma. (PHOENIX PHCD-125)

HOLMBOE: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5. Hughes/Jutland Opera Choir/Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. (BIS CD-572)

KORNGOLD: Das Wunder der Heliane. Mauceri/Tomowa-Sintow, Welker, de Haan, Runkel, Gedda et al./RS0 Berlin. (LONDON 436 636-2; three discs)

RUBBRA: Symphonies Nos. 6, 8; Soliloquy. Del Mar/Philharmonia Orchestra; de Saram/Handley/London Symphony Orchestra. (LYRITA SRCD-234)

Picks of the Year: 1992

If I could only pick one recording for the Want List, the Barber disc (reviewed in 15:6) would be it: great performances of two of Barber’s greatest works. I selected the Mercury reissue (reviewed in 15:2 because the Concerti Grossi are two of Bloch’s most lovable pieces, the performances are superb, and the sound is stunning. The third installment of Gerard Schwarz’s Hanson survey (reviewed in 15:3) matches the standard set by its predecessors (each of which appeared on my Want Lists). The Fourth Symphony and the Merry Mount suite are among Hanson’s best music. The two cassettes of Persichetti piano music are worth writing away for (reviewed in 15:3; mailing address given): seventeen pieces not available elsewhere by America’s greatest keyboard composer. I selected the Schuman disc (reviewed in 16:1) because of the fine performance of Judith, perhaps the composer’s greatest work.

BARBER: The Lovers; Prayers of Kierkegaard. Schenck/Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra.   KOCH INTERNATIONAL 3-7125-2H1) 

BLOCH: Concerti Grossi Nos. 1 and 2; Schelomo. Hanson/Eastman-Rochester Orchestra. (MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE 432 718-2)

HANSON: Symphony No. 4; Lament for Beowulf; Merry Mount Suite; Pastorale; Serenade. Schwarz/Seattle Symphony/NY Chamber Symphony. (DELOS DE-3105)

PERSICHETTI: Piano Music. Patterson. (EDUCO 3235/3236 [two cassettes))

SCHUMAN: Judith; Symphony No. 5; New England Triptych; Variations on “America”. Schwarz/Seattle Symphony.   DELOS DE-3115)

Picks of the Year: 1991

I was absolutely captivated by Dawn Upshaw’s recital of 20th-century vocal music reviewed in 14:4, p. 445), and I can’t imagine anyone reacting otherwise. Ernest Bloch’s two piano quintets are among his masterpieces, but have never been paired on recording before. Now, three different versions appear at the same time (reviewed in this issue).   All are excellent, but I’d pick Laurel’s if I had to pick one. Gerald Finzi’s setting of William Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality is probably his most impressive large-scale work reviewed in 14:3, p. 196), and is sure to touch the hearts of all those responsive to early 20th-century English choral music. Nicolas Flagello is my candidate for America’s greatest post-romantic composer, here represented by a generous program of works for piano solo and piano with percussion ensemble (reviewed in the previous issue.)   The Howard Hanson revival continues with the second installment of Gerard Schwarz’s survey of the symphonies (reviewed in 14:3, p. 211); all three works are strong, representative examples of the composer’s output.

BARBER: Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and other vocal music by Harbison, Menotti, and Stravinsky. Upshaw/Zinman/Orchestra of St. Luke’s (Elektra/Nonesuch–9 79187-2).

BLOCH: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 and 2; Cello Suite No. 1.  H. Karp/P. Karp/Pro Arte Quartet. LAUREL LR-848CD.

FINZI: Intimations of Immortality; Grand Fantasia and Toccata.Langridge/Fowke/Hickox/Royal Liverpool Chorus and Orchestra. EMI–CDC7 49913-2.

FLAGELLO: Piano Sonata; Electra; other works. Pierce/Paul Price Percussion Ensemble. PREMIER PRCD-1014.

HANSON: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 6; Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth. Rosenberger/Schwarz/Seattle Symphony Orchestra/New York Chamber Symphony. DELOS DE-3092.