The gift of music is always a wonderful way to say happy holidays to friends and family. The week, the editors and correspondents of ClevelandClassical.com are pleased to suggest nineteen CDs released in 2016 by outstanding musicians, most of whom call Northeast Ohio home.
There’s certainly something on this list for every classical music lover. Click on the links at the end of each paragraph to read complete reviews of each album.
Many know Meng Su from her performances in the Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival as part of the Beijing Duo. This past summer the award-winning guitarist released her first solo CD, titled Meng. Read a review here.
Audiences have come to know saxophonist Jacob Swanson’s artistry through his outstanding performances with his longtime collaborator Sarah Marchitelli (Jake & Sarah) on Trinity Cathedral’s Brownbag Concert series. On his recently released CD — Invisible Cities, American Music for Soprano Saxophone — Swanson reveals himself as a soloist of impeccable taste. Read a review here.
Back in March the San Antonio Chamber Choir, directed by Scott MacPherson, released an album of Andrew Rindfleisch’s choral music. Rindfleisch teaches composition at Cleveland State University and heads the Cleveland Contemporary Players Artists in Residency Series. MacPherson heads choral activities at Kent State University and directs the Cleveland Chamber Choir. Read a review here.
The most striking thing about the album What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand to Record, devoted to the music of Mario Castelnuovo- Tedesco, is not the music itself, though the interpretations by tenor Salvatore Champagne and pianist Howard Lubin are quite lovely. (Both musicians hold teaching positions at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.) Read a review here.
In February, Chicago’s all-star Third Coast Percussion released an album of Steve Reich’s music on the Cedille label creatively titled Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich. Read a review of this 2017 Grammy-nominated album here.
In a newly-released, all-Ginastera album on Oberlin Music, a single element unifies four distinct compositions, four different instrumental groupings, and four different decades of Ginastera’s creative output. The album features performances by Yolanda Kondonassis, harp, Gil Shaham, violin, Orli Shaham, piano, Jason Vieaux, guitar, and the Oberlin Orchestra. Read a review here.
Flutist George Pope, who played principal with the Akron Symphony from 1978-2002 while teaching at the University of Akron, has released a CD on the Crystal Records label featuring seven works he either commissioned, or were written for or first performed by him. Read a review here.
Victor Herbert wrote two cello concertos, the second of which has been recorded a number of times, but the first is much less frequently performed. Cleveland Orchestra principal cellist Mark Kosower has recently released a recording of both works on Naxos with the Ulster Orchestra led by JoAnn Falletta. Read a review here.
On their most recent CD, The Oberlin Trio explores three highly personal piano trios by Dimitri Shostakovich, Joan Tower, and Antonín Dvořák. The variety of styles, ranging from Dvořák’s expressive romanticism to Tower’s intense modernism and Shostakovich’s eclectic polystylism, creates a welcome balance. Read a review here.
The acclaimed Cleveland baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire has recorded a compendium of melodies from the nomadic Sephardic sect. Ranging from the secular to the intensely sacred, the music on Sephardic Journey celebrates the plurality of influences the Sephardim acquired throughout their travels, as well as the remarkable ability of a people to adapt their culture to unfamiliar surroundings. Read a review here.
Released on January 8, just a week before her U.S. premiere of the work with The Cleveland Orchestra, Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan’s recording of Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you with Andris Nelsons and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra should count as one of the most important new music CDs of 2016. Read a review here.
Name four chamber works scored for oboe, viola, and piano. Then name four chamber works for oboe, viola, and piano that are based on poetry. Most of us would give up before getting to the second question. But the Jackson Trio — oboist Roger Roe, violist Michael Isaac Strauss, and pianist R. Kent Cook — have turned up pieces by August Klughardt, Felix Harold White, Josef Holbrooke, and Charles Martin Loeffler that fit the criteria for their fascinating album, Wordless Verses, released on the Oberlin Music Label. Read a review here.
On her latest recording, Mean Fiddle Summer: Modern American Violin Works, Lina Bahn has tapped the repertoire of composers she has admired and championed during her impressive, yet still young career. The CD features works by two local composers, Keith Fitch and Jeffrey Mumford. Read a review here.
College of Wooster music professor Jack Gallagher has released a retrospective CD of his piano music on the Centaur label, performed by Miami University professor Frank Huang, and recorded at the studios of WFMT in Chicago. More than just a sound album, the disc also represents an Enigma Variations-style introduction to Gallagher’s family and friends, to whom most of the pieces are dedicated. Read a review here.
Quire Cleveland’s live recording from its May 2016 concerts featuring the sacred music of William Byrd is distinguished by any measure, but it also comes with more than a little nostalgia. This is one of the last recordings to be engineered under the sure hand of Tom Knab, who died in August. The album is dedicated to his memory. Read a review here.
Ghosts is an apt title for an album featuring Robert Schumann’s solo piano music. The composer had just finished his Geistervariationen (“Ghost Variations”) before entering a mental asylum for treatment of his schizophrenia, which manifested itself as spirits, ghosts, and demons playing him strange, otherworldly music. Caroline Oltmanns, an internationally-acclaimed pianist and a professor of piano at Youngstown State University, released Ghosts — her most recent solo album — in November on the Filia Mundi Label. Read a review here.
In June of 2014, the dynamic duo of Jason Vieaux (guitar) and Julien Labro (bandoneón, accordion, and accordina) gave a spectacular closing concert for that year’s Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival. For those of us who were lucky enough to be in attendance, we can now relive that evening via Vieaux’s and Labro’s latest studio recording, Infusion, released on Azica Records on October 28, 2016. If you were not there, buy this album ASAP. It’s a must-have. Read a review here.
The New York-based period instrument ensemble Quicksilver, co-directed by violinists Robert Mealy and Cleveland’s own Julie Andrijeski, have released an enthralling album titled Fantasticus: extravagant and virtuosic music of the German seventeenth century. The title refers to a new musical idiom — the stylus fantasticus, invented in Germany but inspired by the experiments of Italian musicians — that took its cue from the art of rhetoric. Read a review here.
Last January, on the Innova label, composer and former Oberlin Conservatory faculty member Aaron Helgeson, released Poems of sheer nothingness, a 53-minute album of works for soprano and small instrumental ensemble. James Baker leads the Talea Ensemble, featuring soprano Susan Narucki. Read a review here.