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.
Renee Fleming’s luscious tone and masterful vocal control made her one of the most famous sopranos in the world. Her new disc proves she is also interested in making bold artistic statements. Opening with Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” Fleming is wonderfully touching and nostalgic. The heart of this disc is Anders Hillborg’s marvelous new song cycle “The Strand Settings.” The music is tonal but decidedly contemporary, especially the atmospheric and restless orchestral writing. Fleming embraces the complexity of the material with singing that is otherworldly and mysterious. To witness a popular superstar pursuing adventurous contemporary material is a refreshing reminder that new music is more than a niche. It’s a vital part of the classical landscape.
Duos for violin and cello are not that common, so this disc of four such pieces from the early 20th century is full of welcome discoveries. Fischer and Muller-Schott have played together for more than a decade and their rapport makes these deceptively difficult works seem simple. When the compositions become more challenging, the pair seems to focus on clarifying the meaning of the notes and focus on communicating the emotion at the heart of the music. The results are invigorating.
With a number of recent releases showcasing the fabulous musicality of the recorder, maybe we should stop thinking of the instrument as an acquired taste. Maurice Steger is a dazzling recorder player who transforms the recorder into an effervescent treat. A highlight of the virtuosic pieces on this disc is Johann Adolf Hasse’s “Cantata pour flauto,” which showcases the recorder’s jaunty delights and melancholy beauty.
The “warhorse” concertos are sometimes easy to take for granted. New recordings of these pieces face the tough job of making a mark in an already crowded field of choices. Star soloists and big name conductors don’t always guarantee a new recording will displace beloved familiar recordings of the past. Sometimes, though, the right forces come together and deliver a performance that refreshes an overplayed work and makes it new again. Violinist Lisa Batiashvili and conductor Daniel Barenboim bring nuance and depth to the two well-worn works featured here. The secret ingredient in the recording is the Staatskapelle Berlin. Its musicians bring out details in the orchestration that are often hidden behind the solo violin.