The New Yorker Magazine

The New Yorker Magazine

December 3, 2009

2009: Ten Exceptional Recordings

The test of a great recording is whether you find yourself temporarily unable to live without it. For certain overlapping periods this year, I couldn’t stop listening to the Ebène Quartet’s hyper-lyrical renditions of Debussy, Ravel, and Fauré; to Mark Padmore’s psychologically raw “Winterreise”; and to Ann Southam’s immense, mysterious piano piece “Simple Lines of Enquiry.” Stile Antico’s radiant singing of the Clemens non Papa motet “Ego flos campi” heightened an idyllic late-summer run through the Sunken Forest on Fire Island; the Jack Quartet’s beautifully harsh Xenakis roared from my rented-car stereo during a drive into Death Valley. Lately, I’ve fallen under the autumnal spell of “Notturno,” a song cycle for baritone and string quartet by the twentieth-century Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck. On an immaculate ECM production, Christian Gerhaher sings with hushed intensity, and the infinitely gentle C-major chaconne that enters at the end is like a secret gift to the patient listener.

“Colbran, the Muse”: Rossini Arias; Joyce DiDonato, Edoardo Müller conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome (Virgin Classics)

Song of Songs”: Works by Palestrina, Gombert, Lassus, Victoria, Clemens, Guerrero, Lhéritier, Ceballos, Vivanco; Stile Antico (Harmonia Mundi)

Ravel, Debussy, Fauré, String Quartets; Ebène Quartet (Virgin Classics) [released in 2008, belatedly discovered in 2009]

Schubert, “Winterreise”; Mark Padmore, Paul Lewis (Harmonia Mundi)

Ann Southam, “Simple Lines of Enquiry”; Eve Egoyan (Centrediscs)

David Lang, “The Little Match Girl Passion”; Paul Hillier, Theatre of Voices and Ars Nova Copenhagen (Harmonia Mundi)

Xenakis, String Quartets; Jack Quartet (Mode)

Othmar Schoeck, “Notturno”; Christian Gerhaher, Rosamunde Quartet (ECM)

Mozart, Piano Concertos Nos. 23 and 24: Mitsuko Uchida, Cleveland Orchestra (Decca)

Messiaen, “St. Francis of Assisi”; Rod Gilfry, Hubert Delamboye, Henk Neven, Camilla Tilling, and Tom Randle, with Ingo Metzmacher conducting the Netherlands Opera Chorus and Hague Philharmonic (Opus Arte DVD)


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