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December 2013’s Choice CD List

Thursday, November 14, 2013

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Each month, WCLV’s Program Director Bill O’Connell selects seven special CDs to be featured on the air throughout the month. Here is the December CD list, with a few comments from Bill about why these discs are standouts. [Browse previous months of Choice CDs]

Adagio: A Consideration of a Serious Matter - Ensemble Caprice (Analekta 9848)
Featured Mon 12/9, Wed 12/18, Tue 12/31
“Charles Ives gave two titles to his most famous composition,” writes Ensemble Caprice Artistic Director Mathias Maute. “The piece generally known as The Unanswered Question was also listed under the title A Consideration of a Serious Matter.” That wonderful title became the idea behind this album of vocal and instrumental adagios throughout the centuries, from Carissimi and Zelenka to Pärt and Ives. Highlights include the Allegri Miserere, Barber’s Agnus Dei, and the Albinoni Adagio of Remo Giazotto reimagined by Mr. Maute for the baroque instruments of Ensemble Caprice. Fascinating!

Strauss: Don Juan, Death & Transfiguration & Till Eulenspiegel - Pittsburgh Symphony/Manfred Honeck (Reference 707)
Featured Mon 12/2, Wed 12/11, Fri 12/20
Just because the orchestra is composed entirely (one supposes) of Steelers’ fans is no reason for Clevelanders to disregard the latest from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Manfred Honeck, who has been Music Director in the Steel City since 2008. And by the way, beginning January 12th, you can hear 26 weeks of broadcast concerts by the Pittsburgh Symphony here on WCLV 104.9, Sundays at 10:00 a.m.

Chopin Polonaises - Rafal Blechacz, piano (DeutGram 18883)
Featured Tue 12/3, Thu 12/12, Mon 12/23
Rafal Blechacz is one of Deutsche Grammophon’s best-selling young artists - his stunning albums have sold more than 180,000 copies worldwide. His last album, featuring music by Claude Debussy and Mr. Blechacz’s compatriot Karol Szymanowski, was named winner of the “Best Classical Album of the Year” at the Polish Fryderyk Awards and went Gold in his native country within a week of release in February 2012.

Christmas Time is Here - Canadian Brass (Steinway 30027)
Featured Wed 12/4, Fri 12/13, Thu 12/26
Featuring the music from the animated specials A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here pays tribute to the original themes and arrangements of Vince Guaraldi, Luther Henderson and Brandon Ridenour. It’s a mix of classic Canadian Brass holiday charts with new arrangements in this, their second release for the Steinway & Sons label.

Mater Eucharistiae - Dominican Sisters of Mary (Decca 18696)
Featured Thu 12/5, Mon 12/16, Fri 12/27
This is the first-ever recording from The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The fifteen peaceful and serene songs of this debut release include original compositions written by the Sisters reflecting their Dominican spirituality, along with a selection of modern and ancient hymns and chants in English and in Latin. Singing both a cappella and with accompaniment by organ, trumpet, and chimes, the Sisters have created a sweetly harmonized program reflective of the music in their daily community life.

Stravinsky, Bach/Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin (DeutGram 19032)
Featured Fri 12/6, Tue 12/17, Mon 12/30
This disc marks the debut on Deutsche Grammophon of the French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the new Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and it’s a tribute to the legendary Leopold Stokowski, who brought the Orchestra to prominence a century ago. The focus is on Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring in its centennial year, a work given its American premiere in 1922 by Stokowski and the Philadelphians. Note: this is the complete ballet, not the shortened version in Disney’s classic movie, Fantasia. Filling out the disc are popular Bach/Stokowski transcriptions, including Toccata and Fugue in D minor (which was in Fantasia), along with the Passacaglia and Fugue, the ‘Little’ Fugue in G minor, and Stravinsky’s Pastorale.

Tchaikovsky & Ellington/Strayhorn: The Nutcracker Suites - Harmonie Ensemble, New York/Steven Richman (Harm Mundi 907493)
Featured Tue 12/10, Thu 12/19
Steven Richman and his Harmonie Ensemble/New York swing in the holiday season with a twist, pairing Tchaikovsky’s original 1892 Nutcracker Suite with a 1960 jazz adaptation by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The idea for combining the two Nutcrackers came about when trombonist Art Baron, who had played with Duke Ellington, introduced Steven Richman to a 1960 recording of the Nutcracker Suite in Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s jazz arrangement. Richman loved it, and immediately decided he had to perform it side-by-side with Tchaikovsky’s original.

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