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Classical 101

10 Favorites of 2009

It's my turn to mention the recordings which brought me special joy or grabbed my attention this past year. In no special order:

  • Yiddish Rhapsody with the Sirba Octet (Naive). Guaranteed to spice up a boring party. (Note: There are 12 tracks total on the recording. ArkivMusic.com's information is incomplete. It only shows 5 tracks.)
  • razor blades, little pills, big pianos with James Rhodes (Signum). He had me with the title, let alone his piano playing.
  • Discoveries with Gustavo Dudamel (Deutsche Grammophon). A great compilation album to introduce the conducting phenom who is taking the world by storm.
  • Sacrificium with Cecilia Bartoli (London/Decca). Oh my gosh, I've never heard such virtuosic singing in my life.
  • Pictures Reframed with Leif Ove Andsnes & Robin Rhode (EMI Classics Deluxe Edition with CD, DVD & Book). A fascinating project merging Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on piano with video and still imagery. The imagery of them burying a grand piano under tons of water haunts me.
  • Gabriel Jackson: Not no faceless Angel with Polyphony and Stephen Layton (Hyperion). Choral lovers, take note: One of today's finest choral ensembles performing gorgeous music.
  • At Home with Friends with Joshua Bell (Sony). If you like Joshua bell's violin playing and enjoy different types of music, give this one a try. Bell's friends (Chris Botti, Sting, Carel Kraayenhof, Josh Groban, Edgar Meyer, Frankie Moreno, Nathan Gunn, Regina Spektor, Chris Thile, Anoushka Shankar, Marvin Hamlisch and even Sergei Rachmaninov by way of Zenph Re-performance technology) stopped by his home for intimate playing.
  • Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov: Piano Trios with Lang Lang, Vadim Repin and Mischa Maisky (Deutsche Grammophon). Given the discourse over Lang Lang's "over the top" performances, I didn't know if he could partner with the likes of Repin and Maisky. He can!
  • 111 Years of Deutsche Grammophon (55-CD boxed set). A veritable who's who in the world of classical music through the past 111 years. What a deal!
  • El Sistema: Music to Change Life with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bulovar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (Euroarts DVD). The documentary on Venezuela's revolutionary system of music education, bringing hope and joy to the lives of hundreds of thousands of impoverished children. You can't help but be moved.