The Well-Tempered Ear

The New York Times names the top 25 classical recordings of 2020 and includes sample tracks

December 27, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

What did the holidays bring you?

Did Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa bring you a gift card?

A subscription to a streaming service?

Maybe some cash?

Or maybe you just want to hear some new music or new musicians or new interpretations of old classics?

Every year, the music critics of The New York Times list their top 25 recordings of the past year. Plus at the end of the story, the newspaper offers a sample track from each recording to give you even more guidance.

This year is no exception (below).

In fact, the listing might be even more welcome this year, given the  coronavirus pandemic with the lack of live concerts and the isolation and self-quarantine that have ensued.

The Ear hasn’t heard all of the picks or even the majority of them. But the ones he has heard are indeed outstanding. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear a sample of the outstanding Rameau-Debussy recital by the acclaimed Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafssen, who scored major successes with recent albums of Philip Glass and Johann Sebastian Bach.)

Here is a link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/17/arts/music/best-classical-music.html

Of course not all critics agree.

The Ear has already listed the nominations for the Grammy Awards (a link is below), and more critics’ picks will be featured in coming days.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2020/11/28/for-holiday-shopping-and-gift-giving-here-are-the-classical-music-nominations-for-the-63rd-grammy-awards-in-2021/

You should also notice that a recording of Ethel Smyth’s “The Prison” — featuring soprano Sarah Brailey (below), a graduate student at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music and a co-founder of Just Bach — is on the Times’ list as well as on the list of Grammy nominations.

What new recordings – or even old recordings — would you recommend?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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Classical music: American pianist Van Cliburn has been diagnosed with advanced cancer. The Ear dedicates Cliburn’s playing of the beautiful and touching Liszt-Schubert song “Dedication” to honor the pleasure, joy and inspiration he has given to so many.

August 29, 2012
14 Comments

 

By Jacob Stockinger

Judging from news reports, an icon of American classical music is living out his final days.

American pianist Van Cliburn (below, in a photo taken by Ross Hailey for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram), now 78, has been diagnosed with advanced bone cancer . The very consistent stories, clearly taken form the same press release, do not say whether it is Stage III or Stage IV (there is no Stage V) but the word “advanced” suggests it is one of them and is probably beyond any hope of a cure or even a long survival.

As a young pianist, Cliburn was a superstar sensation with the public, the first classical musician to sell one million LPs (of his live recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1) and the first classical musician to get $10,000 a night. Sviatoslav Richter, one of the giants of 20th century Russian pianism also thought Cliburn so gifted that he handed Cliburn all his votes to seal Cliburn’s win in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition (below).

But Cliburn has also had his detractors, critics who found his performances uneven and lazy, especially as he aged and seemed to grow bored with his art. And some people including The Ear, also wish that he had come out publicly, despite his conservative politics and apparently deep religious beliefs.

For myself, in his prime I found most of his performances very good and several of his performances stupendous, including his Tchaikovsky First and Rachmaninoff Third concertos, but also his MacDowell Second Concerto.

Anyway, in an earlier post I asked: How good was Van Cliburn?

Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/classical-music-how-good-was-pianist-van-cliburn/

And here are links to the latest story from The Associated Press about Cliburn and his diagnosis of cancer:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/08/28/arts/ap-us-cliburn-illness.html?_r=1&ref=arts

http://www.spinner.com/2012/08/28/van-cliburn-cancer/

http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/story/2012-08-27/van-cliburn-cancer-diagnosis/57355752/1

I don’t know if Cliburn reads The Well-Tempered Ear, but if he doesn’t now maybe he will if there are enough hits or somebody forwards it to him.

So leave a message in the COMMENTS column.

And tell us about your favorite Van Cliburn moments or performance.

One of mine is his playing of Franz Liszt’s transcription of Robert Schumann‘s song  “Widmung” (Dedication) — which was a favorite encore of Cliburn in his heyday and which is meant to honor the joy, the beauty and the inspiration he provided to so many young listeners and players, including me.. (Many more such moments, including Chopin, Brahms  and Debussy can be found for free on YouTube. Tear yourself and listen to a few).

 


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