Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's playing in my car?

Okay, let's face it.  We all have busy days, and we can't all just sit at home in front of our stereo systems listening to fine music.  Well, most of us can't, at least!  A great deal of my music listening happens en route to and from work in my Honda, and while it's not exactly equipped with high-end audio equipment, it suits its purpose.  I remember a passage from Robert Harley's The Complete Guide to High-End Audio in which he says that he also listens to a great deal of music in his car and that when you're in that setting, you just has to lower your expectations.  Okay, you might not get that sense of spatial separation of instruments and wide soundstage, BUT if the music grabs you, that's all that matters, right?

Here's what has been playing in my car this week:

Rudolf Kempe was one the great, in my opinion highly underrated, conductors of the 20th century.  Record collectors know that his early stereo LP recordings for EMI HMV are highly collectible in their original white/gold label pressings.  His interpretations and recordings of Richard Strauss have been critically acclaimed and may be considered the reference recordings by many.  I picked up this one used at a local classical CD shop and haven't regretted it one bit.  My favorite is track 2, "Tod und Verklarung" (Death and Transfiguration).

This album is, simply put, beautiful.  It may be the finest pairing and performance of French cello music I've ever heard.  Anne Gastinel has such a lovely tone on her instrument, and Claire Desert serves as a perfectly sensitive musical partner on the piano.  The Franck cello sonata (transcribed from the violin sonata) has very quickly become one of my favorite sonatas for stringed instrument.  I love the opening drama of the Debussy cello sonata and the playfulness of the Poulenc.  This was a BBC Music chamber recording of the month in 2012.    
 There are so many recordings of the Tchaikovsky symphonies that it may be hard to choose which ones to keep.  I had this struggle last year when I, in a Tchaikovsky phase, picked up seven different Tchaikovsky symphony recordings, including singles from Tugan Sokhiev, Kiril Karabits, Carlo Maria Giulini, and George Szell, and the boxed sets from Mariss Jansons on Chandos, Riccardo Muti on Brilliant Classics, and another one on Brilliant Classics starring conductors Fedoseyev, Rozhdestvensky, and Simonov.  This one is a classic and is considered by many to be the finest recording of 4-6 ever.  Listening to it, you can tell that the orchestra is playing it's heart out.  Tell me if you can find a more exciting interpretation!

I discovered Jorge Federico Osorio only last year, when I read a number of reviews in Fanfare on his latest recording for Cedille.  Being a huge fan of Debussy's piano works, I picked up this CD used on  It's been a real joy to listen to this pianist.  The sound he creates on the piano is perfect for these works and is very nicely captured by the recording engineers.  I'd say that it has an intimate sound to it, so that you feel that Osorio is playing for just you.  Great for the evening drive home!


  1. Osorio is a terrific pianist. I had the immense pleasure of listening to him play all 5 of the Beethoven Piano Concerti from memory over two days at the Ravinia Summer Festival some years back. (He is also a terrifically nice person, based on my interaction with him after the concert). What I really like about him is that he plays persuasively all kinds of music: The Beethoven I heard outside Chicago, the Debussy and Liszt you mention, and a wonderful album (on Cedille) of Mexican piano music. Check him out!

  2. Thanks for the comment, ejeden! That's fantastic that you got to meet him in person. What do you think of his most recent album of Mexican piano music?