Each month, our arts critics — music, book, theater, dance, and visual arts — fire off a few brief reviews.
Françoix-Xavier Roth delivers a must-have cycle of Robert Schumann’s symphonies; Herbert Blomstedt’s Brahms’s Symphony no. 1 is spacious, restrained, and – too often – dull; Daniel Barenboim’s latest Elgar installment features a regrettably unsung masterpiece.
This San Francisco Symphony release proves to be a fitting send-off for music director Michael Tilson Thomas; there’s much to admire in the Seattle Symphony’s playing of Carl Nielsen’s first two symphonies; fiery energy from both violinist Arabella Steinbacher and the excellent Münchener Kammerorchester make their new disk a gem.
It’s Beethoven’s 250th birthday year: reviews of four sets of the complete piano concertos from, respectively, Paul Lewis, Stewart Goodyear, Inon Barnatan, and Stephen Hough.
More proof that Offenbach’s is a remarkable body of work; a serviceable, but not particularly notable, Cavalleria rusticana; another installment in the Rossini Project, brilliantly curated, stirringly played and sung, and beautifully recorded.
Lovers of American music, don’t miss Aspects of America: The Pulitzer Edition ; Lindberg’s recording of Leonard Bernstein’s first two symphonies lacks a compelling command of the musician’s singular voice; the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra tackles four pieces by Morton Gould.
Herbert Blomstedt conducts a powerful version of Mahler’s valedictory essay, organist Christopher Jacobson provides a so-so “Organ” Symphony, and Kirill Petrenko’s initial recording as the chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic is lovely.
Reviews of three superior vocal recordings, featuring baritone Gerald Finley, tenor Ian Bostridge, and baritone Thomas Meglioranza.
Two Mahler symphony entries: one is above average, the other a disappointment. Violinist Arabella Steinbacher delivers a first-rate and strongly recommended disc.
A winning reminder of Sir Neville Marriner’s impressive stylistic range as a conductor, a fine recording of a much-loved and -played Richard Strauss tone poem, and a striking, powerful presentation of the string quartets of James MacMillan.