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.
Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata is one of his most loved and recorded pieces. How does an artist find something new within a work that has been so often performed and recorded? For violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov, that something new comes out of something old: period instruments. Playing on gut strings and an 1885 Erard piano yields a quieter, more subdued texture than is common for the work. The lightness lends the sonata subtle nuance and reveals a different emotional intimacy. Ernest Chausson’s Concert is a more unusual work, in part due to its length as a chamber work and also the strange combination of piano, violin and string quartet. While the music is symphonic in scope, the understated approach on this recording serves the piece well, emphasizing a graceful transparency that glows with warmth.
2017 marks 450 years since composer Claudio Monteverdi’s birth, meaning we are benefiting from a round of celebratory anniversary releases. As Monteverdi figures so prominently into the early baroque period, today’s leading period performance ensembles produced many of the new recordings. They showcase the vibrant energy that transfixed the musical world four centuries ago. Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini have recreated an authentic vespers setting, incorporating pieces by Monteverdi and well as Palestrina, Frescobaldi and Gabrieli. The recording captures a refreshing blend of dancing vibrancy and inspirational reverence. The motets Beatus vir and Laudate dominum are excellent examples of these qualities in both performance and composition.
Students in most music history or music appreciation classes are bound to learn quite a bit about musical forms, and the changes and developments in forms over the centuries. Composers organize their musical thoughts using these existing rules and conventions to leverage an audience’s knowledge of those forms and also, sometimes, to tweak the nose of the status quo. yMusic fashioned their new record first using a tried and tested musical form, but one from outside the scope of the classical world: the rock album. The conceit works beautifully thanks to the phenomenal musical chops of yMusic but also to the unified compositional vision of Ryan Lott, who makes his music under the name Son Lux. Musical development happens within each individual song, but connections between songs bring together a whole that is kaleidoscopic with expressive depth -- especially on the closing track, “Paris.” Hear more about the album’s creation on a recent episode of CPR Classical’s Centennial Sounds podcast.
The seven symphonies written by Jean Sibelius occupy a place somewhere between the Romantic and the modern. The harmonic language is more in line with Tchaikovsky than Stravinsky, and the symphonies are filled with melodies. But the thematic development and streamlining of form look forward and plant Sibelius firmly in the 20th century. Thomas Sondergard and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales emphasize these modernist tendencies with performances that are not effusively emotional, highly mannered or overly cerebral. Instead, they strike a balance between external reserve and the deeply human heart of these symphonies. The nuanced interplay of solo clarinet and timpani at the beginning of Symphony No. 1 illustrates the connection between conductor, orchestra, and score.