Favorite Recordings of 2011
I don't do "best-of" lists. "Best" is so subjective that it implies too many things to too many people. Besides, "best" suggests that I've sampled everything available in a given category, and even though I review hundreds of discs a year, I confess I have heard but a fraction of what's available. Therefore, I prefer to do "favorites" lists. Here are just a few of the recordings (listed alphabetically, to be fair) I heard last year that I enjoyed enormously for their performance and sound. OK, I know I've forgotten a few; forgive me. These just stood out, many of them new remasters of old favorites.
Bizet: Carmen, complete
Victoria de los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda, Janine Micheau, Ernest Blanc; Sir Thomas Beecham, French Radio Chorus and Orchestra. EMI Classics 50999 9 48215 2 9.
Yvone Kenny, soprano; Paul Esswood, countertenor; Martyn Hill, tenor; Magnus Linden, bass; Anders Ohrwall, members of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Stockholm Bach Choir. First Impression Music LIM UHD 029.
Haydn: Baryton Divertimenti, Vol. 1
Trios Hob. XI: 35, 87, 97, 101, and 124. The Esterhazy Machine. Smithsonian FoM 36-811.
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto
Also, Clarinet Quintet. Sharon Kam, basset clarinet. Osterreichisch-Ungarische Haydn Philharmonie. Berlin Classics 0016672BC.
Choir of New College Oxford; Edward Higginbottom, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Novum NCR1383.
Rossini: Sonate a quattro
Salvatore Accardo, violin; Sylvie Gazeau, violin; Alain Meunier, cello; Franco Petracchi, double bass. First Impression Music LIM UHD 049.
Smetana: Ma Vlast
Also, Dvorak: In Nature's Realm. Antal Dorati, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Newton Classics 8802073 (2-disc set).
Stravinsky: L'Histoire du Soldat
Also, Respighi: Rossiniana. Robert Mandell, Ars Nova (Stravinsky); Robert Zeller, Vienna State Opera Orchestra (Respighi). HDTT HQCD.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Also, Concertos RV375, RV277, and RV271. Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Philharmonia Baroque Productions PBP-03.
Also, Lecocq: Mam'zelle Angot. Anatole Fistoulari, Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden. HDTT HQCD152.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.