THE BEST OF THE 2021-20222 SEASON
Between September of 2021 and the summer of 2022, I reviewed dozens of CDs of instrumental and vocal music, and many live musical events. These are in random order several of my favorites from the season just ending now.
With Jessye Norman and Yevgeny Nesterenko both gone, and with Agnes Baltsa and José Carreras both now retired, it is fortunate that a 1981 Munich performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem has been lovingly recorded and preserved for posterity by BR KLASSIK. The re-mastered sound remains as fresh as it was when new almost forty years ago, and the singing from all four soloists is to be treasured. https://youtu.be/3bw0PCqBGuI
Signum Classics released a beautifully produced and engineered CD with early works of three masters of the Second Viennese School: Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Anton Webern. Played to utter perfection by the Heath Quartet, with the silver-voiced soprano Carolyn Sampson in the Schoenberg, the results are splendid.
Franz Liszt’s Consolations is a short cycle of six solo compositions for the piano. They provided the fulcrum of the superb violinist Maya Magub’s album of the same title, in which Handel, Massenet, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Gounod, Fritz Kreisler, Samuel Dushkin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn kept company in a lovely cd for the CRD label, providing healing, consolation, and inspiring music.
Two piano sonatas by Franz Schubert are included in the Vanguard Classics cd LILI KRAUS PLAYS SCHUBERT. In Lili Kraus’ playing there is technical excellence, there is strength, there is delicacy, all as summoned by the demands of the music. But the superb quality of Kraus’ playing is always there at the service of the music, and not as a means of self-aggrandizement.
Throughout one hour of music that straddles the salon with the “seriously” traditional, the extraordinary pianist Matei Varga is welcomed back in The Year that Never Was, his second album for Sono Luminus, in which the Rumanian pianist plays idiomatically, as to the manner born, and with a cool brain and a warm heart.
Consonant, precise, incisive, heartfelt, stylistically beyond reproach, throughout well over an hour of exemplarily superb playing, the Neave Trio made a memorable impression in its exploration of the nature of memory in Musical Remembrances, its new album for Chandos Records, featuring trios by Rachmaninoff, Brahms, and Ravel.
In Im Wald a new album for the Italian label Digressione Music, Benedetto Bocuzzi created a program that juxtaposed the Waldszenen of Robert Schumann, and piano versions of Franz Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin with compositions by several contemporary composers, including one by the artist himself, all brought to vibrant life by a major pianist-composer.
A recent NAXOS CLASSICS release featured the neglected music of César Guerra-Peixe (1914 –1993), an immensely gifted Brazilian composer that the Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Neil Thomson, plays as only they could: with precise rhythmic drive and exquisite lyricism. Part of “The Music of Brazil” series, works from the 19th and 20th centuries will be recorded by major Brazilian orchestras. https://allabouttheartscoms.com/2022/06/22/music-of-cesar-guerra-peixe/
Josh Tatsuo Cullen, a young artist of immense promise quietly and fastidiously explores the piano works of the much-neglected Florence Price in the exquisite release Scenes in Tin Can Alley: Piano Music of Florence Price (BGR615) for the Blue Griffin Records label, displaying a commanding technical arsenal coupled to elegant musicality and profound and evocative sensitivity.
Featuring great music, great scenic design, and the work of a very gifted cast of fifteen Broadway-bound, triple-threat young talents, Stephen Sondheim’s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE received in April a first-class production at CCM, led by the enormously creative director-choreographer Vincent DeGeorge, and the immensely talented musical director Julie Spangler.
Accompanied by the terrific collaborative pianist, Bradley Moore, the young bass Ryan Speedo Green sang in March for Matinee Musicale Cincinnati an interesting mix of operatic and oratorio arias, German Lieder, Spirituals, and American Art Song in a perfect length program that might just be the perfect musical calling card for this immensely gifted singer, whose future bodes well.
After a yearlong hiatus, the 108-year young Matinee Musicale Cincinnati opened their 2021-2022 season with WindSync, a wind quintet whose five members played authoritatively, elegantly, with adroit technique, and with a great sense of fun. This is both a review of their live appearance and their CD.
In his auspicious debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Roderick Cox arrived largely unknown to a Cincinnati audience still amid pandemic restrictions. Within a few moments after the start of the concert it was clear to that we were in the presence of a fully matured and impressive maestro. In the same concert Conrad Tao took on Ravel’s Piano Concerto and brought out its lyrical and its zany aspects, conquering all its technical hurdles in a performance that brought the audience to its feet.
Starting a new season in their very own space – a flexible black box in which the audience sits just a few feet from the performers, Jeanne Mam-Luft’s Mutual Dance Theatre – an artistic marriage of the Jefferson James Contemporary Dance Theatre and MamLuft&Co.Dance – delivered an exciting evening of dance in November.
Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music began its line-up of performances for 2021-2022 with a concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra, led by Mark Gibson, who paced the eighty-plus young musicians in an impassioned performance of Mahler’ First Symphony that reminded the listeners in Corbett Auditorium of what a treasure both this orchestra and their conductor are.
Dimitri Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Trio reflects on matters of life and death with music eerie, agitated, frenzied, somber, and menacing. In the program Inspired Recollections, part of the Ascent International Chamber Music Festival, the playing of violinist Grigory Kalinovsky, cellist Alan Rafferty, and pianist Vladimir Stoupel achieved a degree of intensity not often heard in chamber music concerts.
Rafael de Acha © 2022