Picks of the Year: 1995

by Walter Simmons



Each year at this time, as the compact disc continues to replace concert performance as the musical medium of consequence, it is mind-boggling to review the annual bounty of unknown treasures that have entered the discographic repertoire. Four of my five choices this year celebrate such esoteric discoveries.  Of them, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah may not be considered truly obscure, being one of the most widely performed American operas. However, it is only now available on commercial recording, making it accessible to a much broader audience, in a gorgeous performance (reviewed in 18:3) that should be pretty irresistible to the mainstream opera lover. Nicolas Flagello and Vittorio Giannini rank with Samuel Barber as the foremost American avatars of the 20th-century consummation of traditional European late-Romanticism, and their gradual emergence into the musical marketplace is one of the most exciting developments of recent years. It was difficult to choose between the new Albany disc and the Flagello/Schwantner release on Koch International (both reviewed in 18:5), featuring works inspired by the words of Martin  appeal to a small group of enthusiasts. However, more and more listeners seem to be discovering the inexhaustible delights offered by his highly individual, meticulously crafted works The disc noted here (reviewed in 18:4) features new recordings of three of his most important compositions. The highly accessible yet thoroughly individual music of Arnold Rosner has developed something of a cult following during the past ten years. His latest CD (reviewed in this issue) demonstrates exactly why, with four of his best, most representative works. My one selection that does not feature little-known music is Robert Shaw’s glorious recording of the respective Stabat Maters of Poulenc and Szymanowski (reviewed in 18:4). These two deeply-moving works each of which represents its composer at his best, make a fascinating and most apropos pairing. 

FLOYD: Susannah. Nagano/Studer/Ramey/Hadley/Opera de Lyon. (VIRGIN 7243 5 45039 2; two discs)  
FLAGELLO: Serenata. Andante Languido. GIANNINI: Concerto Grosso. Prelude and Fugue. GOULD: Harvest. Amos/New Russia Orchestra ALBANY TROY-143)  
MARTIN: Symphonie. Symphonie Concertante. Passacaglia Bamert/London Philharmonic. (CHANDOS CHAN-9312)  
POULENC: Stabat Mater. SZYMANOWSKI: Stabat Mater. Shaw/Atlanta Symphony Chorus/Orchestra. (TELARC CD-80362)  
ROSNER: Of Numbers and of Bells. Horn Sonata. Cello Sonata No. 1. Nightstone. Various duos. (ALBANY TROY-163)