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Classical 101

Favorite Classial Music CD Releases of 2015

Boston Symphony Orchestra's Sibelius: Symphony 2; Wagner: Overture to Tannhauser album cover
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Boston Symphony Orchestra's Sibelius: Symphony 2; Wagner: Overture to Tannhauser album

The other day a twenty-something asked me 'What's a CD?' If I had told him about LP or even 45s he would have fainted dead away. The news that vinyl is making a return makes me feel a bit less of a Luddite.

That said, I still play my music on compact disc. Here are five of the CDs released in 2015 giving me the most enjoyment these days. Merry Christmas!

5. Handel: Keyboard suites volumes 1 and 2 with Philip Edward Fisher, piano. I didn't know Mr. Fisher nor did I know much about Handel at the keyboard except for the organ concerti. These two discs from Naxos gives us a window of wit and pleasure into an unappreciated aspect of Handel's art. The notes makes clear that 'keyboard' in the 18th century could mean organ, harpsichord, clavichords, spinets and even early fortepianos. I'll bet a lot of this vigorous music began life as improvisations at the keyboard, during rehearsal or performance breaks of the operas and oratorios. Who cares? These recordings are an elegant feast.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0AuVQztGJw

4. Verdi: Simon Boccanegra with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Barbara Frittoli, Ildar Adrazakov and Stefano Secco. Constantine Orbelian conducts the Kaunas City Symphony.  A new recording of Verdi's Boccanegra is a rare event.  All the more reason to be grateful for this one. Hvorostovsky sings with power that doesn't sacrifice the beauty of his voice.  And that's the Kaunas City Symphony, not the Kansas ​City Symphony! Delos

3. Sibelius: Symphony 2; Wagner: Overture to Tannhauser Boston Symphony conducted by Andris Nelsons. The BSO's new Music director has made an auspicious beginning in my home town. My buddy Lloyd reviews these-and many other-concerts and is completely objective, but he's a fan and has swept me up along with him. BSO Classics

2. Stella di Napoli, Joyce DiDonato The gorgeous American mezzo sings a program of arias from operas originating in Naples during the first half of the 19th century. Full marks for the beauty of the singing and for the repertoire choices. I'm supposed to know a lot about these things, but who knew there were two operas called Lucia di Lammermoor (Carafa) and La sonnambula, okay Il sonnambulo, the sleepwalker's a guy,  by Valentini. If you buy one vocal album buy this one. Unexplored repertoire and great singing. Erato/Warner Classics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3AQjjwSBtg

1. Maria Callas: The Complete Studio Recordings, 1947-1969. A seventy CD box of every commercial recording the lady made for EMI , from her first 78s in the 1940s to her final sessions in 1969. All of the complete operas are here, and all of the recital discs. You can hear Callas in every phase of her career. In good voice or not, there was always something new to hear in Callas's singing. This cost me two years allowance . So be it. Warner Classics