John Williams: “Air and Simple Gifts”– Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Itzak Perlman, violin; Gabriela Montero, piano; Anthony McGill, clarinet. Composed for and performed at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama last month, this is the first classical chamber piece ever performed at a Presidential inauguration (not a bad thing that our new President likes Classical music.) Available as a download only from I-Tunes.
Richard Strauss: “Four Last Songs,” etc – Renee Fleming, soprano; Munich Philharmonic; Christian Thielemann. Fleming’s second recording of this beloved work by Strauss, the disc also contains scenes from his operas “Ariadne auf Naxos” and “Die Agyptische Helena,” plus four other songs. Renee Fleming never fails to deliver the goods! (Decca 028947806479/Boo11851-02)
Anne Akiko Meyers: “Smile” – Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Akira Eguchi, piano. Anne Akiko’s first disc for the Koch label contains new and traditional pieces that have been her recital favorites for years. The title track is by Charlie Chaplin; there are two pieces by Astor Piazolla; Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major; a Fantaisie by Olivier Messiaen; “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Part, and Howard Arlen’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow concludes this disc. There are also two pieces by Japanese composers based on folk melodies, “Haru no Umi (Ocean in Springtime) by Michio Miyagi, and “Kojo no Tsuki (Moonlight Over the Ruined Castle)” that Anne Akiko used to play for her grandmother in Japan. The whole disc has a relaxed, laid-back feel. Anne Akiko Meyers, by the way, will be playing in Maryland next weekend, February 27 & 28, the Barber Violin Concerto with the Annapolis Symphony. (Koch 099923776222/KIC-CD-7762)
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantatas BWV 51, 82a & 199 - Natalie Dessay, soprano; Le Concert d’Astree; Emmanuelle Haim, conductor. French soprano Natalie Dessay’s third recording of baroque music with Emmanuelle Haim and Le Concert d’Astree, and the first all-Bach program. Three lovely cantatas Bach wrote for soprano: the popular and exuberant “Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen” (Praise God all ye Lands) BWV 51; “Ich habe genug” (It is enough) BWV 82a, which contains the beautiful “Slumber” aria, and an early cantata “Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut” (My Heart Swims in Blood) BWV 199. You can hear Natalie Dessay next month on the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” Saturday March 21 2009 at 1 PM on 89.5 FM. (Virgin Classics 5099951931421/519314-2)
“Russian Masterpieces for Cello: Tchaikovsky/Shostakovich” – Zuill Bailey, cello; San Francisco Ballet Orchestra; Martin West, conductor. Bailey’s first CD with Telarc features Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme;” “Pezo capriccioso in b-minor;” “Nocturne in d minor,” and Dmitri Shostakovich’ “Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major.” An impressive debut. (Telarc 089408072420/CD-80724)
Ludwig van Beethoven: “String Quartets Opp. 74 & 95” – Tokyo String Quartet. Volume 3 in the Tokyo’s new cycle of Beethoven String Quartets debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Classical charts when it was released in late January. Two sublime quartets, the Op. 74 nicknamed “the Harp” because of the pizzicato strings in the first movement, and the direct and concise Op. 95, sometimes called “serioso.” Beethoven was not one to pussyfoot around. (harmonia mundi 093046746063/HMU 807460)
As usual, we’ll be playing more from these discs in the coming weeks on WSCL.