1992 Records To Die For Page 8
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony 11, "The Year 1905"
James DePreist, Helsinki Philharmonic
Delos D/CD 3080 (CD only). John Eargle, eng.; Adam Stern, prod. DDD. TT: 68:17
This performance was my "Building a Library" choice when considering the available recordings of this poignant work (Vol.13 No.4). But rarely, in writing these articles, have I found a recording to be as superlative as a performance (or vice versa) as is this one. Both parameters heighten the forbidding and obsessive story it tells, demanding of its audience the same intense concentration it requires of its musicians. Such engrossing experiences on disc are rare indeed, and it still hasn't been bettered.
SARAH WALKER: Cabaret Songs
Songs by Gershwin, Coward, Wright, Duke, Britten, Ives, Mallory, & Dankworth
Sarah Walker, mezzo; Roger Vignoles, piano
Meridian CDE 84167 (CD only). DDD. TT: 61:11
Twenty-seven songs taken from two live concerts have been mixed here to give one of the most entertaining recitals I have ever heard. Inevitably there is audience noise, but it's laughter and applause, for Sarah Walker has those present in the palm of her hand---no one is bored enough to be snoring, or unwrapping a sweet! Few classical artists have found the crossover as successful as this, but then Walker is a witty, larger-than-life lady who has a good time in everything she does. This disc cheers me up every time I play it.
GRACE JONES: Warm Leatherette
Island 142-842 611-1 (LP), -2 (CD). Alex Sadkin, eng.; Chris Blackwell, prod. AAA/AAD. TT: 46:30
This recommendation comes straight from the (Linn-Sondek) turntable of a one-time audiophile guru, where it was praised for its stereo separation, the accuracy of its soundfield, and the faithful delivery of a funky Nassau, Bahamas-based Compass Point mix, plus a rhythm kick via legendary Taxi All-Stars Sly and Robbie. At the time Jones's rep as the Queen of the Night in New York clubland was scary monsters for me, but Mary, please, let this grow on you. Jones's vocals owe everything to Marlene Dietrich, her takes (kidney-punching covers on everybody from Chrissie Hynde through Smokey Robinson) to Chris Blackwell, and her charisma to the Paris edition of Vogue. Six feet tall, as subtle as Robert Mapplethorpe, and a class act to her toes, Jones remains Clarence Thomas's worst nightmare.
ROXY MUSIC: Stranded
Reprise/EG 26041-1 (LP), -2 (CD). John Punter, eng.; Chris Thomas, prod. AAA/AAD. TT: 43:01
Some CD track-end hiss and tape flap points, alas, to a cavalier remaster, but don't be one of those folks who wouldn't buy a Cord because it doesn't have an airbag. Fresh from the Golden Age of the British Art School---London, 1973---Roxy's third album is vital archaeology from the days when Eno---replaced here by violin and synth whiz Eddie Jobson---wore feathers and Bryan Ferry wasn't too proud to sing French. Every last effect, note, intonation, tape loop, and thread of musical development was created entirely by human hands. Roxy's the genuine article---accomplished musicians who made art when art was style---and the only antidote known to sampling, MIDI, and Paula Abdul. Sitting there in limbo? Crank up "Amazona" and fly, fly away.
J. Gordon Holt
Because the musical performances I love best tend to be older ones, mostly dating from 1958-70, I have been obliged to settle---as I did last year---for recordings that are merely good enough that they don't get in the way of the music. (Even recordings that good were rare back then.)
Both of my selections are CDs, and I make no apologies for this: Both are much better-sounding than the domestic LPs were. The LPs were released during the time when CBS was into unbearable shrillness; the CDs came out after the major record companies had learned that CD buyers did not like shrillness. (I never heard the English EMI LPs of these; they may or may not have been better than the domestic versions.)
So, on to my recommendations, followed by a few additional ones that constitute second votes for choices by other staffers in last year's "RTDF."
BEECHAM CONDUCTS DELIUS (The Complete Stereo Recordings)
Over the Hills and Far Away, On Hearing the First Cuckoo In Spring, Brigg Fair, Florida Suite, Dance Rhapsody No.2, Summer Night On the River, A Song Before Sunrise, Summer Evening, Songs of Sunset, Sleigh Ride, Marche Caprice, Irmelin Prelude, Intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda
Sir Thomas Beecham, Royal Philharmonic
Angel CDS 7-47509-8 (2 CDs). Christopher Parker, eng.; Lawrance (sic) Collingwood, prod. ADD. TT: 1:56:20
Delius's unique brand of impressionism owes its popularity to English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who found qualities in it that touched him deeply, and spent most of his life championing it. The music of Delius is still recorded today, but Sir Thomas is still its most eloquent interpreter.
These recordings span the period of 1958-63, and are rather variable: The earliest ones are the best, while the later ones barely met my criteria for this list.
Sadly, this compilation does not include some of Delius's greatest works; Beecham never recorded them in stereo, and I can never forgive him for that.
BRAHMS: Piano Concerto 2
Rudolph Serkin, Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
CBS Odyssey MBK-46273 (CD only). Robert Frost, prod. ADD. TT 47:59
You've probably come to suspect by now that I prefer music that speaks to my heart. This recording does it in spades.
Messrs. Serkin and Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra were products of that early-1900s tradition of music to soothe the savage breast, rather than to stimulate the mind. The result of that collaboration is a triumph of flowing melodies, soaring climaxes, and gorgeous sounds that never fails to move me deeply.
The 1960 recording is okay, albeit a bit on the lean side and short of soundstage information. The massed violins were not quite steely on my system, but could well be on one that's steely to begin with. So the sound is nothing to relish, but it's easy to ignore.
Second Opinions: Last year, Mortimer Frank, Richard Lehnert, and Lewis Lipnick chose titles with which I so heartily agree that I want to add my support to their recommendations. These recordings were the Reiner/Chicago Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, the Levi/Atlanta Copland Symphony 3, and the Handley/LPO Vaughan-Williams Job.