Picks of the Year: 1996

The Boulanger recording, originally released on LP in 1960, features five works of great beauty and depth of both spiritual and emotional content. Du Fond de 1’Abime, a setting of the Psalm 130, is a masterpiece and perhaps this tragically short-lived composer’s greatest work. This recording is indispensable and its reissue on CD is cause for rejoicing.

I cannot list my selection of the year’s five most musically significant releases without including the Flagello disc (reviewed in 19:6) , although as its producer, I realize that this appears to be a flagrant conflict of interest. My defense is this: Anyone who suspects that my citation of this disc is a crass attempt to increase my own financial returns is welcome to disregard the recommendation. I can only insist that I produced this disc because I think that the music is great and needs to be heard (rather than the reverse), and I invite readers to listen and decide for themselves.

The Dane Vagn Holmboe and the Englishman Edmund Rubbra have used the medium of the symphony as a vehicle through which to express their own individual metaphysical visions. Their works are lofty, eloquent, and accessible enough to be appreciated by most listeners motivated to participate in an aesthetic experience devoid of frivolous attractions. Perhaps its serious, reflective character has prevented this music from reaching a wider audience. These CDs (reviewed in 18:6 and 19:5) respectively), parts of complete recording cycles, provide excellent points of entry into deeply rewarding realms of expression.
Miloslav Kabelac and Lubos Fiser are Czech composers who have pursued visions of a more extreme emotional nature than Holmboe and Rubbra, giving them perhaps less general appeal. However, it is the very intensity of their extremism that I find especially compelling. Each composer has been represented individually on a number of recent recordings, but I chose this one (reviewed in 19:3) because it features both on one disc (the Kopelent work can be disregarded).

L. BOULANGER: Du Fond de 1’Abime. Psalm 24. Psalm 129. Vielle
Priere Bouddhique. Pie Jesu. 
Markevitch/Elisabeth Brasseur
Chorale/Lamoureux Orchestra. (EVEREST EVC-9034
FLAGELLO: Piano Concerti Nos. 2 and 3. Credendum. Overtures.
Oliveira/Rankovich/Amos/Slovak Philharmonic, Kosice. VOX 7521)
HOLMBOE: Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9. Hughes/Aarhus Symphony
Orchestra. (BIS CD-618)
KABELAC: Symphony No. 3. FISER: Concerto for Two Pianos and
Orchestra. KOPELENT: The Song of the Birds.
Soloists/Pesek/Czech Philharmonic. SUPRAPHON SU 0035-2 031
RUBBRA: Symphonies Nos. 4, 10, and 11. Hickox/BBC National
Orchestra of Wales. (CHANDOS CHAN-9401