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Classical 101

Here's What Santa Could Bring A Music Lover

There really is a Santa Claus. If not, I don't want to hear it.

What should St. Nick bring the music lover in your life?

Here are some ideas.

Mozart: Don Giovanni

A new recording of Mozart's take on the Don Juan legend. Conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin gets the balance of voices and Mozart's heavy-for the time, light to us, orchestration.

This may be the perfect opera. Think about it. What would you cut? This performance was recorded in Baden-Baden last year. With Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Diana Damrau, Joyce diDonato, Rolando Villazon and Luca Pisaroni.

Bach: The Art of the Fugue Andrew Rangell

Sometimes we just need to hear 'pure music.' Sure, Bach is filled with patterns and geometry, and they will play on you in a saintly way. Bach gives personality to a complicated musical form. Andrew Rangell is a favorite of mine. he has skill in abundance. He also has heart. Bravo!


Brahms: Quintets, Opp. 34 and 115 Tokyo String Quartet, with Jon Nakamtsu, piano and Jon Manasse, clarinet.

If you want to wallow in gorgeous music, this one is for you. The Tokyo String Quartet retires this season after nearly 40 years of worldwide concerts and recordings. They're joined by the next generation of artists and the high calorie splendor of Brahms.


1612 Italian Vespers I Fagiolini conducted by Robert Hollingwoth.

Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 (Vesperae de Beata Virgo Maria) set the standard for me, for all music. This new recording is a wonderful complement, with music by Monteverdi and some of his pupils and contemporaries.

It included is a reconstruction of a Magificat by Giovanni Gabrieli. Critics describe this as "electrifying." For once, the critics are right.


Complete Piano Sonata of Viktor Ullman with Jeanne Golan, piano.

Good for you Jeanne! Viktor Ullman (1898-1944) was incarcerated at the Terzin (Theresianstadt) camp by the Nazis. There, he managed to teach music and to compose. In 1944, he was sent to Auschwitz and died in the gas chambers. That alone makes his music worth of attention. You realize, tragically that Ullman was a warm and creative composer, who's best work may have been ahead of him. These sonatas will work on you. I played through this two CD set twice in one day.

More information is available through the Viktor Ullman Foundation.

I'm not really a DVD person, but I do have some recommendations later. Please check back for more recommendations.