Solti's 'Die Meistersinger' Tops Our List of 'Top 10' Recordings

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 2, 1998 | Go to article overview

Solti's 'Die Meistersinger' Tops Our List of 'Top 10' Recordings


Byline: Bill Gowen

It's time for our annual pick of a "Top 10" list in classical recordings, and the choices have been as difficult as ever, taking into account the thousands of new and re-released CDs appearing each year.

Since no reviewer can listen to everything, this list contains albums that 1, have particular merit, both as to the performances and the technical quality; 2, were significant for a particular reason (seldom-recorded works, unique interpretations of mainstream repertoire; or 3, of special interest because of the the particular artist(s) involved.

So, on to the list:

1. Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg. Vocal soloists include Ben Heppner (Walther Von Stolzing), Jose Van Dam (Hans Sachs) and Alan Opie (Beckmesser). Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Sir Georg Solti. London 452 606-2 (four discs), available in special limited-edition presentation case.

Solti's interpretation, his first "Die Meistersinger" after leaving the score alone for two decades, is a marvel of controlled drama balanced by civility. The late maestro wanted a more chamber music-like interpretation of Wagner's only comedy, and he succeeded admirably. Recorded during performances at Orchestra Hall in September 1995, this is a true monument to Solti's memory.

2. Johannes Brahms: The Four Symphonies. Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras, conductor. Telarc CD-80450 (three discs).

Mackerras, one of the world's unsung great conductors, brings us a Brahms symphony cycle as the composer himself would have heard played by the 49-member Meiningen Court Orchestra in the late 1880s to early 1890s.

Mackerras' Scottish Chamber Orchestra is of similar size, and he also uses so-called "historically informed" interpretations as to instrumentation, tempo, etc. The set also includes an extra track containing the first performing version (later revised) of the slow movement of the First Symphony.

3. Franz Liszt: The Complete Symphonic Poems, Volume 3 (transcribed for two pianos). Georgia and Louise Mangos, duo-pianists. Cedille 90000 031.

The Chicago-area Mangos sisters (they both teach at Elmhurst College) give impassioned, inspired readings of "Hungaria," "Hunnenschlacht," "Hamlet" and "Die ideale," bringing their triumphant three-disc cycle of Liszt's Symphonic Poems to a close. It almost sounds like you're listening to a full orchestra!

4. Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concertos. Itzhak Perlman, violin; Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, conductor. Teldec 4509-98255-2.

Some of Barenboim's finest work with the CSO comes when he has the opportunity to work with his closest musical friends. The Perlman-Barenboim partnership is a real winner here in two of the less-seldom-heard concertos from the 20th century violin repertoire. Also, fine sound is provided by Teldec's engineers from pre-renovation Orchestra Hall.

5. Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 2; other works. Houston Symphony Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach, conductor. Telarc CD-80452.

This world-premiere recording lets us hear one of the most powerful contemporary American symphonies (from 1994), which Eschenbach conducted with the CSO at Ravinia two years ago. …

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Solti's 'Die Meistersinger' Tops Our List of 'Top 10' Recordings
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