We are approaching the year-end “best of” lists, so why not start with the one you care about least? I had a very good year for classical music listening, with the following as new discoveries:
John Cage, Two2, by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas, now perhaps my favorite Cage work?
Alvin Curran, Endangered Species, two CDs of jazz and popular song classics but done with piano distortion, plenty of spills and turns, a genuinely successful hybrid product.
James Tenney, Changes: 64 Studies for Two Harps, more listenable than you might think.
As for old classics, the Marek Janowski recording of Bruckner’s 4th is my favorite in a crowded (and impressive) field, recommended as a Bruckner introduction too.
This year I also started to enjoy Szymanowski for the first time, though that remains a work in progress.
I usually do a Fanfare meta-list, namely the recordings recommended the most by the critics of this outlet for classical music reviews. This year there were three clear winners represented on the lists of multiple reviewers:
Poul Ruders, The Thirteenth Child (Danish opera, sung in English).
Feodor Chaliapin, The Complete Recordings, 13 CDs (not my thing).
Wilhelm Furtwängler, The Radio Recordings, 1939-1945 [sic]. James Altena writes: “…layers of aural varnish have been stripped away to uncover the true glories of one incandescent performance after another, from the conductor’s most inspired period of music-making during the horrors of the Nazi regime and World War II.” Other critics concur, so political correctness has not yet come to classical music reviewing. If you are reluctant to spend so much money, you can always try the Furtwängler 1942 “Hitler’s birthday” recording of Beethoven’s 9th and see how offended you feel. So far I can’t bring myself to buy this one. (By the way, even the Nazis still played Fritz Kreisler’s cadenza to the Beethoven violin concerto…Kreisler was Jewish).
I’ll turn to other musical genres soon.