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. Just click on the above picture to reach the playlist.
Schubert; An den Mond, D259 - Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau
Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Op.98 - Peter Schreier, Walter Olbertz
Saint-Saens: Cello Suite Op.16 - Maria Kliegel, François Joël Thiollier
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.
Schumann: Andante and Variations Op.46 - Martha Argerich, Nelson Freire
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.
Schumann/Debussy: Canonic Studies for Pedal Piano - Martha Argerich, Lilya Zilberstein
Rilke: Die Stille (poem in German)
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.
Stravinsky: Scherzo a la Russe - CBS SO, cond. Stravinsky
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.
Ravel: Alborada del gracioso - Dinu Lipatti
---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.
---Rachmaninov: Suite No.1 for 2 pianos, 1st movement - Martha Argerich, Alexandre Rabinovich
---Bach: The Well Tempered Clavier, Part II - Samuel Feinberg
---Widmann: Geburtstagswalzer - Oliver Triendl
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.
Suk: Písen lásky (Love Song) - Ivan Moravec
A piece well known in it's day, and still often played, a trifle oversweet perhaps but full of yearning, and with a fantastic surge of excitement in the middle section - just like it's subject matter, not very original, but with passion and commitment.
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.
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.
Beethoven: Der Kuß - D.Fischer-Dieskau, Hartmut Höll
A late song by Beethoven, published individually, about a lover stealing a kiss from his beloved. Full of humour, especially the concluding phrase "..doch lange hinterher... (..but long afterwards...), repeated many times with increasing triumph and mischief by Beethoven, and beautifully timed by F-D.
Schubert: Nähe des Geliebten - E. Schwarzkopf, Edwin Fischer
One of Schubert's most perfect songs, this simple setting of Goethe is in four stanzas, without any modifications, creating an air of simplicity and purity in the music. Nowhere else has the simplicity of missing someone been so unadulteratedly and clearly described, beyond passion and suffering, just the simple fact - I miss you. This recording is from that great collection of Schubert songs recorded by Schwarzkopf and Fischer, one of the most beautiful records of Schubert ever made.
Wagner: Liebesduett from Tristan und Isolde - Flagstad, Suthaus, Furtwängler
Perhaps the most overtly sexual of any
classical work, this is in effect an extended version of the more famous
Liebestod, culminating in a dramatic coitus interruptus. Slow, sensuous longing
opens the duet, a conversation gradually heating up, a gentle warning from the
friendly Brangäne, then an ever closer dialogue with an ever more inescapable
direction, more and more frequent exchanges, growing delight and hunger, the two
voices in joint ecstasy, higher and higher, the orchestra in frenzied
accompaniment, the moment of triumph,
Then disaster as the two are discovered....
Schubert: An Meine Sonne, D 439 - EAYCC Graz
Schumann: Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen - D. Fischer-Dieskau, V. Horowitz
Improvisations on "Happy Birthday" by Gabriela Montera
Beethoven: 6 Variations on "Ich denke Dein", WoO 74, nach Goethe - Jörg Demus, Norman Shetler
Mozart/Busoni: Duettino Concertante, after K.459 - Emil Gilels, Yakov Zak
This miraculous recording from a young Gilels and slightly older Zak is so full of life, humour, energy and skill that it must be one of the greatest Mozart performances on record. Busoni's arrangement of this final movement from Mozart's Piano Concerto in F feels so perfectly matched and textured that it stands equally beside Mozart's original - no false bombast, no extra complications, just a wonderfully tight piano sound. It reminds one of the famous quote attributed to Busoni when faced with an orchestra playing Mozart in an all too heavy manner: "Schlanker, meine Herren!" (Slimmer, gentlemen!).
Kapelle Josef Menzl - Zum Geburtstag viel Glück
Shostakovich: Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op.40 - Daniil Shafran, Dmitri Shostakovich
A memory from long ago...of something unfinished...waiting for you...
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