Béla's List

 

This is a list of music that is occupying me at the moment. It seemed a good idea to share it - I will add to the list at regular intervals, and occasionally write a few lines on this page where it seems desirable. It is by no means a list of favourite recordings, a top ten or one hundred or anything like that, just a list of pieces/recordings I feel I can recommend.

 

Schubert; An den Mond, D259 - Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau

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Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Op.98 - Peter Schreier, Walter Olbertz

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Saint-Saens: Cello Suite Op.16 - Maria Kliegel, François Joël Thiollier

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Brahms:  Der Gang zum Liebchen, Op.31 No 3 - Chamber Choir of Europe

This is one of a set of three vocal ensemble songs Brahms wrote early in his time in Vienna. He also adapted it for piano duet, including it in his Waltzes Op.39. It is sung both by solo voices and by choirs. The opening bars, the linking passages and the coda as well as the words - omitted in the piano duet - make this version more special than the duet version, which is also usually played at a more flowing tempo.

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Schumann: Andante and Variations Op.46 - Martha Argerich, Nelson Freire

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Schönberg: Weihnachtsmusik

Schönberg's Weihnachtsmusik is one his many tonal works, written not only in his early years but throughout his life. In many ways it recalls both Brahms and Wagner, full of counterpoint and development, but intensely sensual. The melancholy brings it closer to Brahms, perhaps.

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Schumann/Debussy: Canonic Studies for Pedal Piano - Martha Argerich, Lilya Zilberstein

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Rilke: Die Stille (poem in German)

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Bach: Violin Sonata in G - Adolf Busch, Rudolf Serkin

This Violin Sonata by Bach is very brief, and only has a figured bass for the piano - what Rudolf Serkin is playing here is his own realisation. Busch's playing is of such tenderness and truth unmatched by any other recording I know. Intensely personal, but without any hint of sentimentality.

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Stravinsky: Scherzo a la Russe - CBS SO, cond. Stravinsky

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Brahms: In stiller Nacht - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gerald Moore

There are many great recordings of this song, taken from the 49 Folk Sings published at the end of Brahms's life. The slow, restrained tempo and the sad intensity of every word make this one of the greatest. Other wonderful recordings include two by Herman Prey, one solo and one adapted to a duet with Pamela Coburn.

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Ravel: Alborada del gracioso - Dinu Lipatti

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Brahms: Es steht ein Lind - Herman Prey, Karl Engel

This song is also taken from the 49 Folk Songs by Brahms. In its directness and simplicity it is related to the most tragic songs from Schubert's "Schöne Müllerin"; it also tells of a lost love, with nothing to embroider or explain the loss - no jealousy, betrayal, bitterness, just loss. It has only sadness.

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Rachmaninov: Suite No.1 for 2 pianos, 1st movement - Martha Argerich, Alexandre Rabinovich

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Bach: The Well Tempered Clavier, Part II - Samuel Feinberg

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Widmann: Geburtstagswalzer - Oliver Triendl

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Chopin: Concerto No.2 in F Minor, Op.21, 2nd Movement - Wilhelm Kempff, Karel Ancerl

Perhaps one of the most beautiful of Chopin recordings, by a pianist hardly associated with this composer. His almost complete absence of the usual rubato makes the movement feel like a lullaby, swaying with slow and gentle regularity.

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Suk: Písen lásky (Love Song) - Ivan Moravec

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Bach: Sarabande from Partita No.4 in D - Sergei Rachmaninov

Freedom, spontaneity, clarity - one of the greatest performances of Bach. What a tragedy there is no more...What should music be? A gesture, an exhalation, a moment in time expanded and indivisible, the flow of time suspended, the recognition of truth and humanity in sound. All these things are present here. It is the supreme example of the importance of the performer: Stravinsky once described the performer as a necessary evil, but however great Bach's composition is, it needs moments like this to reveal the truth it contains.

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Mendelssohn: 17 Lieder ohne Worte - Walter Gieseking

There are some recordings by Gieseking where he seems to be playing just next to you, in a small room, just for you. The sound has an immediacy, an emotional directness quite unique in quality. These Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn can often sound trite and predictable, but in these recordings, Gieseking plays with an intensity and concentration that makes every note of the melody seem vital and meaningful, as if he were speaking simple but profound truths. In my experience only Horowitz has achieved a similar rhetorical directness, but only by employing much more expressive modulation - Gieseking here plays quite simply, and speaks just as directly.

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