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 November 2017
Superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma transcends the classical genre by regularly working with a diverse array of world, pop and folk musicians. He also takes part in significant collaborations within the classical world, but few have been as rewarding as his work with pianist Emanuel Ax. The two have made great records together for more than 30 years. Their new set of Brahms Piano Trios with violinist Leonidas Kavakos continues that tradition of capturing powerful and moving performances. The nuanced musicianship that made these players stars is put entirely into the service of the compositions, resulting in music that is subtle and revealing.
The Dover Quartet’s new release delivers far beyond any expectations that were raised by the group’s strong 2016 debut. The unity of their ensemble playing continues to develop and mature. The programming on this disc marks a bold step forward that shows the quartet’s ambition to make insightful musical connections. They play a trio of works from 1943, 1944 and 1945 illustrating composers making music of resistance in the face of the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II. The group presents Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 2 alongside two works born of the Holocaust. It gives a broader context for the scale of devastation that pervaded Europe in those trying years. Composer Szymon Laks’s String Quartet No. 3 is a revelation. After his experiences being forced to lead the prisoners’ orchestra at Auschwitz, that he was able to compose music with joy or humor is mind-boggling.
Richard Strauss’s Oboe Concerto, written in 1945 when the composer was in his eighties, is regarded as one of the masterworks for the oboe. Despite its reputation, the piece has had relatively few new recordings in recent years. Alexei Ogrintchouk’s reading here is a welcome addition. His near-superhuman capacity for sustaining extended phrases allows him to bring added expression to Strauss’s expansive melodic writing. At nearly 40 minutes, the Sonatina No. 2 hardly embodies the brevity implied by its title, but is wonderful nonetheless. The joyful piece is subtitled “The Happy Workshop” and was dedicated to “the spirit of the divine Mozart.” This performance is balanced and graceful, allowing the richness of Strauss’s wind writing to shine.
Composer Jean Sibelius’s reputation is so tied up in his orchestral writing that many thumbnail summaries of his work don’t even mention the piano. Since Sibelius was a violinist, critics sometimes attack his piano writing as awkward. Additionally, detractors call these often brief works insubstantial. Inspired by a newly published edition of Sibelius’s complete piano music, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes explored this neglected corner of the piano universe and made many worthy discoveries. Andsnes gives committed and personal readings that lend a jewel-like clarity to these concise pieces. The highlight of the disc is Sibelius’s final piano work, the Five Sketches, which are uniquely mysterious and imaginative.