Picks of the Year: 2002

Only four items that came my way this year met my own Want List criteria as neglected masterpieces of the past hundred years in superior performances.

Samuel Barber’s choral music constitutes some of his best work. Admirers of the American neo-romantic composer who remain unfamiliar with this portion of his output are well advised to acquaint themselves with this recording. They will not be disappointed.

Music for piano solo does not figure prominently among Ernest Bloch’s oeuvre; yet most of these pieces effectively evoke the mysterious, darkly exotic moods favored by the composer, while his powerful three-movement sonata ranks among the major 20th-century contributions to the genre. English pianist Margaret Fingerhut offers a meticulous one-disc survey.

English composer Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) was one of the most distinguished of the many 20th-century symphonists who made important contributions to a genre prematurely dismissed by many as an outmoded form. Brought together in Hickox’s sympathetically performed compendium, Rubbra’s eleven symphonies loom as artistic statements of a spiritual depth and nobility too profound to overlook.

Naxos’s “American Classics” series produced quite a surprise with its release of one of William Schuman’s thorniest works along with two of his most popular pieces. The surprise is that violinist Philip Quint and conductor José Serebrier offer readings with a level of precision and concentration that leaves all previous recorded performances far behind.

BARBER Choral and Organ Works · Brown/Cambridge Ch/Filsell (org) · GUILD GMCD 7145

BLOCH Piano Works· Fingerhut · CHANDOS CHAN-9887

RUBBRA Symphonies (11) · Hickox/BBC O Wales · CHANDOS CHAN-9944(5) (5 CDs)

W. SCHUMAN Violin Concerto et al · Serebrier/Bournemouth SO/Quint (vn) ·NAXOS 8.559083