Here are four of the best recent discs we're featuring this month on CPR Classical. See what else we've loved recently. Stream some of our current favorites on Spotify, and subscribe to the playlist for updates.
4 Classical Picks For October 2017
The standard string quartet lineup -- two violins, a viola and a cello -- hasn’t changed since Joseph Haydn defined the form in the 17th century. But string quintets sometimes add a viola, a cello, or even a third violin or bass. For an established quartet, the addition of a fifth player can change the dynamic of the ensemble. The Boulder-based Takacs Quartet turns that challenge into an advantage. This recording of Antonin Dvorak’s “American” Quintet marks the second disc pairing Takacs with violist Lawrence Power. The result is hugely satisfying. Dvorak created extra richness by adding a second viola, and Power provides a seamless addition to the Takacs’ usual finessed balance.
Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra have a special alchemy when taking on music by Felix Mendelssohn. As in their previous recording of the “Italian” and “Scottish” symphonies, their approach is a joyous reinvigoration of the musical material. Musical phrases leap to life with a gutsy lightness that highlights Mendelssohn’s more classical forms and textures. Isabelle Faust is revelatory in the Violin Concerto, bringing out subtleties in the familiar favorite with a performance that is at once refined and biting. Rather than turning the concerto into a feature for the soloist only, the interplay between orchestra and violin is the star of the recording.
Although his name appears nowhere on the cover, the glue that holds “Grandissima Gravita” together is violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli. His landmark publication of Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Opus 5, helped establish the entire genre of the violin sonata and directly influenced the pieces and composers here. While Corelli is the touchstone, one of the pleasures of the disc is the variety of pieces included. The contrast between the haunting Adagio that opens Johann Georg Pisendel’s Sonata and the bright, dancing rhythms that drive Giuseppe Tartini’s Sonata illustrates the scope of Corelli’s impact. Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque play with a conviction that illuminates the humanity at the heart of this marvelous music.
Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca trained on both piano and guitar, and considered a career as a musician before becoming a writer. Following his tragic death, his musical connections continued as composers dedicated pieces to his memory or based pieces on his words. Garcia Lorca also wrote a handful of pieces himself but they have survived only as recordings and in arrangements by others. Guitarist Sharon Isbin made fresh transcriptions of those pieces as the centerpiece for her collaboration with opera star Isabel Leonard. The music is delightful and often moving, thanks to Garcia Lorca’s expressive poetry. The gentle intimacy between Isbin and Leonard is also very affecting, especially in Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs.