Recording of the Month

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Sep 11, 2018  |  1 comments
Berio, Boulez, Ravel: Sinfonia, Notations I–IV, La Valse
Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony Orchestra; Roomful of Teeth
Seattle Symphony Media SSM 1018 (CD, 2.0- and 5.1-channel downloads at 24/96). 2018. Rosalie Contreras, Elena Dubinets, exec. prods.; Dmitriy Lipay, prod., eng.; Alexander Lipay, eng. DDD. TT: 58:20
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

What ties Luciano Berio's boundary-breaking Sinfonia for Eight Voices and Orchestra (1968–69) to Pierre Boulez's out-there Notations I–IV for Orchestra (1945/1978) to Maurice Ravel's progressively off-kilter La Valse (1906–1920)? The Seattle Symphony's about-to-depart music director, Ludovic Morlot, cites their "ingenious transformation of pre-existing musical material or styles." I'm also inclined to say that it's their descent into chaos, even madness, which these performances transcend with an impeccably controlled, highly refined aesthetic, which I auditioned in 24/96 2-channel.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 04, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1965  |  14 comments
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
London Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, cond., Erich Gruenberg , solo violin.
London Phase 4 SPC-21005 (LP). Recorded September 22, 1964. Kingsway Hall, London. Marty Wargo, prod., Tony D'Amato, recording dir., Arthur Lilley, eng.

This is infuriating. Along comes the performance of Scheherazade that we've been waiting for, and the powers that be at London Records decide, God knows why, to bestow upon it the dubious blessing of Phase 4 recording. The sound is positively vast and cavernous, the bass booms, the highs scream, the harp sounds like it's 10' tall, and instruments wander back and forth across the stereo stage as if nobody had thought to tell the musicians where to sit.

Richard Lehnert  |  Aug 28, 2018  |  2 comments
Bruckner & Wagner
Andris Nelsons, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Bruckner: Symphony 4. Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude
Deutsche Grammophon 479 7577 (CD). TT: 79:24
Bruckner: Symphony 7. Wagner: Siegfried's Funeral March
Deutsche Grammophon 479 8494 (CD). TT: 76:48
Both: Everett Porter, prod., eng.; Lauran Jurrius, eng.; Polyhymnia International, mastering. DDD.
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

In works as vast and challenging as the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, near perfection of interpretation and execution can come in different, even opposed forms. The slow meditations of Celibidache, the crisp classicism of Schaller, the precise power of Skrowaczewski: each is uniquely fulfilling and true to the scores, and none sounds anything like the others—or anything like the Bruckner of Andris Nelsons. Deutsche Grammophon has contracted with Nelsons and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to record, in concert, Bruckner's symphonies 1–9. After beginning last year with a polished if impersonal account of Symphony 3, Nelsons's cycle is rapidly advancing in quality and pace of release.

Robert Levine  |  Aug 16, 2018  |  0 comments
Pärt: The Symphonies
Tõnu Kaljuste, NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic
ECM 2600 (CD). 2018. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Andrzej Sasin, Aleksandra Nagorko, engs. DDD. TT: 79:40
Performance *****
Sonics *****

Arvo Pärt is now so popular that it's no longer necessary to explain him. His piety is approachably beautiful and welcoming. He was not born composing his airy, contemplative, trademark "tintinnabular" (bell-like) music; up to the early 1970s, he cut his teeth on the 12-tone scale. His four symphonies, presented here on one CD for the first time, take us through that part of his career.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 07, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1966  |  9 comments
Music to Listen to KLH By
Excerpts from recordings by Everest and Concert-Disc.
KLH VSR-101 (LP).

Don't be misled by the title of this. It's fine for listening to KLH by, and it is also fine for listening to any other top-notch reproducer by. It is, in fact, the best, and most musical, stereo demonstration disc that's come along to date.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 31, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1966  |  6 comments
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos.4 & 5, The Swan of Tuonela, Tapiola
Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan
Deutsche-Grammophon 138 974 (LP, Symphony 4). Both symphonies reissued on CD (Deutsche Grammophon 457 748 2)

Magnificent, musically natural recordings with some of the deepest, fattest bass and richest, warmest orchestral sound that's been committed to recordings for many years. The discs are a shade more lucid than the tapes, but not much. Take your pick.—J. Gordon Holt

Kalman Rubinson  |  Jul 12, 2018  |  41 comments
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1924 jazz-band version, orch. Grofé). 1 Piano Concerto in F. 2 "Summertime." 3 Gershwin-Wild: "Somebody Loves Me," "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You."4 Oscar Levant: "Blame It On My Youth." 5
Kirill Gerstein, piano; 1–5 Storm Large, vocal; 3 Gary Burton, vibraphone; 5 David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra1, 2
Myrios Classics MYR022 (CD, 24/192 FLAC). 2018. Kirill Gerstein, prod.; Stephan Cahen, prod.,1-5 eng.; 1, 2, 4, 5 Paul Hennerich, 1, 2, 4 Doug Decker, 3 engs. DDD. TT: 73:45
Performance *****
Sonics *** (CD), **** (24/192 FLAC)

I grew up with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I was the youngest in a family not particularly interested in music, and whose record collection consisted of pop music and three oddly assorted classical recordings, all on 78rpm discs: Enrico Caruso singing "Vesti la giubba," Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (on four 12" 78s), and the 1927 recording of Rhapsody in Blue with the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra and Gershwin at the keyboard.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1966  |  0 comments
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty Selections
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Stokowsky
London Phase-4 SPC 21008 (LP); Ampex LCL-75008 (open-reel tape). Tony D'Amato, Marty Wargo, prods.; Arthur Lilley, eng. TT: 46:50.

These are exciting, lilting, concert-style (as opposed to ballet-style) performances of the best-known excerpts from Tchaikovsky's second- and third-most-popular ballets. (First, of course, is the Nutcracker.) The recording is a surprise, after the excesses we've heard on earlier Phase-4 recordings.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1967  |  34 comments
An Audio Obstacle Course: The Shure Trackability Test Record
Shure Bros. TTR-101.

Shure's new "Supertrack" V-15 Type II pickup was designed as an answer to all those high-powered discs whose excessive modulations make them shatter all over the place on lesser pickups, But just in case anyone didn't happen to own any of these difficult discs, Shure decided to issue one of these, too. The result is a collection of some of the meanest modulations ever gathered together in one place.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 28, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1968  |  18 comments
Chopin; Nocturnes
Arthur Rubinstein, piano
RCA Victor LSC-7050 (2 LPs) (reissued on CD as RCA Victor Red Seal 0902 663049-2). Max Wilcox, prod.; Tom MacCluskey, Sergio Marcotulli, engs. Recorded August 30–September 2, 1965, 2 February 21, 1967.

If these Nocturnes are never played better than this, we couldn't care less. These are exquisite performances!

The recording, via RCA Victor's Dynagroove process is a far cry from the earlier excesses that gave Dynagroove its horrid reputation among perfectionists. One is simply not aware of the recording at all, as long as it is played at the right volume, which is about what you would hear from a good first-balcony concert-hall seat.

Jon Iverson  |  Jun 12, 2018  |  6 comments
Steve Tibbetts: Life Of
Steve Tibbetts, 12-string guitar, piano; Michelle Kinney, cello, drones; Marc Anderson, percussion, handpan
ECM 2599 (CD). 2018. An ECM production; Steve Tibbetts, eng.; Greg Reierson, eng., mastering. DDD. TT: 50:40
Performance *****
Sonics *****

The sound of Steve Tibbetts's guitar music is unique—one need hear only a measure or two of his new album to identify the distinct tang of his playing. Common wisdom is that a guitarist's sound is in the hands and fingers, but Tibbetts has another trick: his weathered, 50-year-old Martin D12-20 12-string acoustic guitar.

Margaret Graham  |  Jun 05, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1968  |  17 comments
Stravinsky: Petrouchka, Circus Polka
Los Angeles Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta, cond.
London CS 6554 (LP/tape).

This is all the proof one could want that London's big, fat sound is more the result of their recording philosophy than of the halls they record in. One of the first London recordings ever made in the US, this has the now-familiar London sound all down the line: The big, fat low end, the richness, the superb balance, and the razor-sharp detail without zizz or zip. As usual, the result is not terribly real, but it certainly is exciting as well as being musically satisfying.

Robert Baird  |  May 18, 2018  |  3 comments
Brad Mehldau: After Bach
Brad Mehldau, piano
Nonesuch 7559-79318-0 (CD). 2018. Robert Hurwitz, exec. prod.; Tom Korkidis, prod. coord.; Tom Lazarus, eng., mix, mastering; Brad Montgomery, mix. ADD? TT: 69:24
Performance *****
Sonics *****

That American jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has made a recording of J.S. Bach's music should come as no great surprise to anyone who's followed his extraordinarily varied career. In many ways, it seems a natural progression.

Having become one of the most important jazz pianists of this century, and dabbled in classical-flavored music, film scores, and even performances of popular music (by Oasis Soundgarden and Nick Drake, to name just a few of the artists he's covered), Mehldau has finally gotten around to recording this album of five pieces by one of the greatest keyboard improvisers in history. Mehldau's method here is to play a more or less straight version of a Bach prelude or fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, followed by his own "After Bach" reimagining of the same piece.

J. Gordon Holt  |  May 08, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1970  |  6 comments
Pentangle: The Pentangle
Terry Cox (drums), Bert Jansch & John Renbourn (guitars), Jacqui McShee (vocals), Danny Thompson (double bass), Shel Talmy, prod.
Transatlantic TRA162 (English LP), Reprise RSLP63 15 (US LP). TT: 30:52.

The first "pop" recording we've ever reviewed in Stereophile may set a precedent for future reviews if there are others that sound like this. To this untutored ear, the material is rock out of raga, but it is beautifully done and, except for the larger-than-life singer, the sound is almost shockingly good. No filthy fuzzed-up guitars here, and the pickup of the double-bass simply has to be heard to be believed. Get it, at least as a demo.

Robert Levine  |  Apr 20, 2018  |  2 comments
Monteverdi: Vespers 1610
Joanne Lunn, Esther Brazil, sopranos; Amy Lyddon, Rory McCleery, altos; Joshua Ellicott, Matthew Long, Nicholas Mulroy, Peter Harris, tenors; Peter Harvey, William Gaunt, bass; Dunedin Consort, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts; John Butt
Linn CKD 569 (2 CDs). 2017. Phil Hobbs, prod.; Robert Cammidge, eng. DDD. TT: 94:00
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

As the old joke does not go, How do you get to the Papal Chapel? Audition, audition, audition. There you are, gifted and, for the early 1600s, relatively famous. You practically invented opera. You've worked for years at what seems a cushy job as the court composer to the Dukes of Gonzaga in Mantua, but you're underpaid, and feeling as if you need and deserve more. And so you self-publish, under the title Vespers 1610, a 90-minute collection—psalm settings, a motet, a hymn, a Magnificat—that highlights all of your compositional gifts.

Pages

X