This reconstruction of the Ninth's Finale is the result of 30 years' work by Bruckner scholars Nicola Samale, John A. Phillips, Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, and Giuseppe Mazzuca (SPCM). (See March 2010 feature story.) For this new "Conclusive Revised Edition 2012," SPCM shortened by 18 bars the coda, of which little of Bruckner's writing survives, and reworked it to include, based on Bruckner's description, a development of the trumpets' "Alleluia" in bar five of the Adagio. This works well, though the coda now seems a bit short. A further "final" edition is in the works.
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter, Wolfgang Windgassen, George London, Gustav Neidlinger, Gerhard Stolze, Gottlob Frick, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Kirsten Flagstadt, Set Svanholm, James King, Régine Crespin, Christa Ludwig, many others; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic, Georg Solti
Decca 0289 478 3702 2 (17 CDs, 1 BD, 1 DVD). 195866/1997/2012. John Culshaw, prod.; Gordon Parry, eng.; James Lock (1997), Philip Siney (2012), remastering. ADD. TT: 14:36:56 (Ring only)
Gramophone called it "the recording of the [20th] century"; Stereophile named it No.1 of the 40 essential recordings of all time. Fifty-four years after the first Rheingold sessions, there is still nothing like this history-making first studio recordingby conductor Georg Solti, the Vienna Philharmonic, and producer John Culshawof Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, originally taped and released on LP from 1958 to 1966. The unsurpassed quality of singers and orchestra, Solti's astonishing ability to tell a dramatic story in music, the epic scope and sweep of work and performanceand the sound, as much a wonder for our own time as half a century agomake these recordings seem more precious, their combinations of qualities less likely to ever be repeated, with every passing year.
Jarrett, Garbarek, Danielsson, Christensen: Sleeper
Keith Jarrett, piano, percussion; Jan Garbarek, tenor & soprano saxophone, flute, percussion; Palle Danielsson, double bass; Jon Christensen, drums, percussion
ECM 2290/91 (2 CDs; hi-rez FLAC files from HDTracks). 1979/2012. Manfred Eicher, prod., mix; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng., mix. ADD. TT: 106:56
Keith Jarrett's American quartet (with Redman, Haden, Motian) was prolifically inventive. His Standards trio (Peacock, DeJohnette) continues endlessly rich and ebullient at the end of its third decade. But Jarrett's Scandinavian quartet of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, drummer Jon Christensen (both Norwegian), and bassist Palle Danielsson (Swedish), was something else again. Each player's technical mastery, combined with their collectively perfect attunedness to one other, an apparently effortless intimacy of interplay that sounds telepathic, made them special even in a career as brilliant as Jarrett'swho wrote his best tunes for this band.
Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well
Tord Gustavsen, piano; Tore Brunborg, tenor saxophone; Mats Eilertsen, bass; Jarle Vespestad, drums
ECM 2237 (CD). 2012. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD. TT: 53:19
The first time I heard J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier, I heard an endless sameness, lovely but undifferentiated. Only over many hearings did each pairing of prelude and fugue begin to emerge from the background, as what Bach did in each iteration of the same received form began to be revealed as an inexhaustible richness of difference. Gradually, I was learning Bach's musical language; only then did I begin to get an idea of what he might be saying.
These performances were recorded at the Ebrach Festival, held annually in the small town of Ebrach, Germany (an hour's drive north from Nuremberg or west from Bayreuth), in the former Abbey Church of Ebrach, which comprised a Cistercian monastery (now a prison) and a vast gothic cathedral built in the 13th century which now serves as the parish church. Many hear the phrases "festival orchestra" and "live recording" and expect the worst: flawed documents of underrehearsed performances by hastily convened pickup orchestras in venues not designed for good sound, and plagued by coughs, sneezes, scraped chair legs, the inadvertent rustlings of hundreds of attendees, and a level of applause that might not conform to the response of the listener at home.
WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde
Plácido Domingo, Tristan; Nina Stemme, Isolde; Mihoko Fujimura, Brangäne; René Pape, Marke; Olaf Bär, Kurwenal; Jared Holt, Melot; Ian Bostridge, Shepherd; Matthew Rose, Steersman; Rolando Villazón, A Young Sailor; Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Antonio Pappano
EMI 5 58006 2 (3 CDs, 1 DVD). 2005. David Groves, prod.; Jonathan Allen, John Dunkerly, Roland Heap, engs. DDD. TT: 3:46:29
And I used to think our annual "Records To Die For" issue was difficult. Whew! When it came down to choosing the 40 most influential rock/pop, jazz, and classical records of the past 40 years, during which this magazine has been the most honest and enjoyable source of high-end audio journalism, my initial list contained more than 200 choices. A painful paring-down process ensued, with input from every member of the Stereophile staff.