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.
Samuel Barber’s "Adagio for Strings" and Randall Thompson’s "Alleluia" are glorious, but our knowledge of their music should go beyond their hits. Thompson’s Symphony No. 2 has a distinctly American flavor, with Romantic heft underneath its jazz-inflected syncopations. Barber’s tautly conceived Symphony No. 1 brims with its composer’s youthful intensity. The all-star students of the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic are perfectly suited to project the bold energy in both of the symphonies -- as well as the new work on the disc. Samuel Adams based "Drift & Providence" on musical transcriptions he made from recordings of the Pacific Ocean. He makes nods to Debussy’s "La Mer," but also uses subtle electronic manipulation of the live orchestra to create a distinct sonic palette. This is an altogether impressive and moving disc of music ripe for discovery.
We will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth in 2018 and the celebratory releases have already begun. The centenary gives music lovers a great opportunity to explore the large and varied scope of Bernstein’s compositions beyond his iconic stage works like "West Side Story," "Candide" and "On the Town." His solo piano music is an interesting entryway as the bulk of these pieces are short character studies. These gemlike works have an immediacy and intimacy that reveal the depth of Bernstein’s compositional technique as well as his emotional insightfulness. University of Colorado piano professor Andrew Cooperstock plays with an idiomatic grace that illustrates Bernstein’s combination of popular and academic musical styles.
Unlike most Classical masterworks, Haydn’s Cello Concertos have not been in constant rotation for the last 200 years. Authorship of the D Major Concerto was disputed until the 1950s, and the C Major Concerto was lost until 1961. Since their recovery these pieces have come to be seen as cornerstones of the cello concerto repertoire. Isserlis acts as both soloist and director on this disc, and his authoritative maturity is captivating. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen plays with a supple lightness that highlights the Haydn’s transparent classical textures. The C.P.E. Bach concerto also crackles with a freshness and vigor drawn directly from the joyfully engaged musicianship.
Aaron Copland’s long and dense Symphony No. 3 is less frequently recorded than many of his other major works. However, the symphony is a marvel of thematic development, with much of the material deriving from basic elements of "Fanfare For The Common Man." This disc is notable as the first recording of Copland’s full original ending, restoring cuts made to tone down the valedictory excess of the closing minutes. While valuable as a document of the evolution of Symphony No. 3, the revised ending should remain definitive. Still, the crisp and nuanced performance by Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony maintains a growing strength throughout the duration of the piece, fully earning the over-the-top zeal of the finale.