A Sea Symphony1. Ralph Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony
Delivered with visceral excitement and awe-inspiring majesty, Ralph Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony (1909) receives one of its greatest performances in this glorious super-audio recording by Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra, one to rival its predecessors and to set a high standard for others to emulate in the future. A setting of stirring poetry by Walt Whitman, this optimistic and heroic pæan to the world's oceans and sailors has never sounded warmer, richer, or deeper, thanks to Chandos' direct stream digital reproduction and the amazingly realistic multichannel mix which is so vivid and evocative, one expects to feel a bit "of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing" from the speakers. Read more>>

Vaughan Williams: The Wasps
Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony

Symphony No. 42. Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 4
The Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic" by Anton Bruckner has long been one of the most popular of his symphonies, and it has received numerous performances in its multiple versions, often to the confusion and consternation of listeners who have grown familiar with only one. For this 2007 EMI release, Sir Simon Rattle leads the Berlin Philharmonic in Leopold Nowak's 1953 edition of the 1886 version, somewhat puzzlingly known also as the "1878/1880" version, the first three movements representing Bruckner's second attempt on the work, and the Finale being a replacement movement prepared for Hans Richter's 1881 premiere. Read more>>

Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

Gurrelieder3. Arnold Schoenberg: Gurrelieder
Because the release of this magnificent SACD of Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder was intended to celebrate conductor Michael Gielen's 80th birthday, the enterprise seems a fitting present to him, since few conductors have been more devoted to the composer's cause; and this brilliant performance appears to be a fulfillment of Gielen's long-held wish to record this mammoth oratorio with maximum clarity and lustrous sound. Few recordings of Gurrelieder can match this one for its crystalline details and clean textures, a necessity in this fantastically dense work; and even though Schoenberg's orchestration is more layered and filigreed than anything found in Wagner or Mahler, Gielen makes the heaviest counterpoint sound utterly transparent, and the singers and the orchestral parts are given ideal separation and balance. Read more>>

Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

Sistine Chapel4. The Sixteen: Music from Sistine Chapel
Purists of religious music may quibble about the appropriateness of a mixed choir performing sacred music from the Sistine Chapel, which has had a male schola cantorum throughout its history; but when the mixed choir in question happens to be The Sixteen, with its angelically pure tone and marvelous blend of female and male voices, then purists should rethink their position. Besides, considering that the Sistine Chapel Choir has a reputation for singing with a rough tone, harsh attacks, sloppy cut-offs, and variable pitch, listeners who want to hear the music as it should ideally sound are wise to opt for The Sixteen, which never offends in those areas of performance. Read more>>

Palestrina: Ave Maria

Haba String Quartets5. Alois Hába: String Quartets
Enthusiasts of microtonality have long been frustrated by the limited number of recordings that document this fascinating area of modern music. Fortunately for them, a landmark set has been released on Bayer Records by the Stamitz Quartet, presenting all sixteen string quartets and a handful of shorter pieces by the Czech composer and microtonal pioneer, Alois Hába. His string quartets are firmly rooted in Western chamber music, so his chordal formations, rhythmic patterns, independent voice leading, and melodic shapes are quite similar to features of post-Romantic and early modern quartets. Yet Hába's music has this remarkable difference: his scales are seldom the familiar diatonic or chromatic scales of the even-tempered system, but more often scales with subdivisions of the octave into third-tone, quarter-tone, fifth-tone, and even sixth-tone systems. Read more>>

Haba: String Quartet No. 2

Sur Incises6. Pierre Boulez: Sur Incises, Messagesquisse, Anthèmes 2
If one characteristic stands out in the contemporary works of Pierre Boulez, it is the remarkable depths of sonority he achieves through methods of multiplication and elaboration. In their unique ways, the three pieces on this Deutsche Grammophon reissue are intensely wrought complexes of layered timbres, reiterated attacks, and mirrored motifs, and even the untrained listener can discern how ideas chase each other back and forth, replicate, and build up vast networks of textures and colors. Read more>>

Boulez: Anthèmes 2

Spohr Nonet7. Louis Spohr: Septet, Nonet
Even though most of Louis Spohr's compositions languished in obscurity for long periods after his death in 1859, only undergoing a serious revival in the last quarter of the 20th century, the Nonet in F major, Op. 31 has always been a staple of chamber groups and enormously popular ever since its premiere in 1813. This vivacious work is full of jaunty themes, clever counterpoint, virtuosic passagework, and lively exchanges; and the instrumentation of solo winds and strings gives it the palette of a chamber symphony, so varied are the color combinations and textures. Read more>>

Spohr: Nonet in F major

Mahler 58. Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Bernard Haitink recorded Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1970 in a quadraphonic format for Philips Classics; that recording is at last available as a multichannel hybrid SACD in this remastered edition from PentaTone. This extraordinarily vivid performance excels in all matters of interpretation, execution, and expression, and had it been heard on a quad system in its day, it would have been a sensationally popular recording, not just for its brilliant sound but also for its heights of musicality and profound depths of feeling. Every effort has been put into making this SACD version true to its original sources, from connecting the direct stream digital converter to a precisely tuned analog tape machine, to preserving the original four-channel format without adding echo, extra channels, or boosting the sound in any way. Read more>>

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Bruckner 29. Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 2
Due in large part to neglect by his well-meaning followers, Anton Bruckner's earliest symphonies suffered comparatively little from the editorial complications and tampering that afflicted his later works. Even so, the Symphony No. 2 in C minor exists in five separate versions and has been published in several editions, which may lead some listeners to wonder which is preferable. Diehard Brucknerians will naturally try to hear as many as possible, and there are many recordings to choose from, though most are of the 1877 version in familiar editions by Robert Haas and Leopold Nowak. But one of the most intriguing is Simone Young's 2006 concert performance with the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra of the Urfassung (i.e., original concept version) of 1872, edited by William Carragan for the Bruckner Society. Read more>>

Bruckner: Symphony No. 2

Vonk Messiaen10. Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie
Hans Vonk recorded Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie in 1999 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and this luminous performance has been selected by Arch Media Archives for its 8 CD tribute to the conductor. While Vonk is probably best known for performing the Romantic repertoire, with few recordings of modern music to his credit, this gargantuan landmark of 20th century music provides the grand scale and impressive orchestral palette that he seems to have favored, and offers the listener a case study of his fastidious handling of a long and complicated score. Read more>>

Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie