Staff Picks ~ 7/12

It’s been awhile since the last round of staff picks, so its about time for some more.

Steve Reich Works 1965 – 1995

I like Steve Reich’s music. This box set is a collection of Reich’s music spanning a 30 year period featuring the Steve Reich Ensemble among many other esteemed groups. Its a great collection.

The cover art is pretty cool too.

Bruckner: Symphonies 1-9

This nifty little box set off the the RCA label is a really well put together compilation of what are arguably some of the biggest, longest and most complex symphonies in the major Western repertoire. The cycle was recorded in the 70’s by the Gewandhausorchester of Leipzig under the baton of Kurt Masur. Its powerful where it needs to be powerful, which is important with Bruckner. Even the slower tempos don’t seem as drawn out as other recordings of Bruckner, although I would not say Masur zips through them. Overall, if you like Bruckner, this is a good box to look at.

Copland: Third Symphony ~ Music for the Theater

I like Copland. I especially like his Third Symphony. It represents a culmination of his Americana-esque sound now associated with Western Soundtracks. I also like it because the orchestration is incredibly well done. Chief among this, in my opinion is the way he handles the Brass. I know I am a bit biased towards Brass (was the Bruckner a clue at all?), but this is one of those pieces that is made for the brass section, taking advantage of everything it does well. But enough about the piece, lets talk about this recording.

Usually when people talk about a recording of Copland’s Third Symphony, they talk about the New York Philharmonic recording from 1986 under Bernstein’s Baton. Actually, with so much attention on that recording, people tend to forget that there are other great recordings out there. This is one of them. Yoel Levi conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a great performance that reminds you that you can find a nice recording outside of the Big Five.

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Lieutenant Kije, Scythian Suite

Sporting more than just a cool picture, this collection of Prokofiev conducted by Abbado is seriously heavy. Alexander Nevsky and Lieutenant Kije is as big as anything gets these days. However, Scythian Suite is something that just takes that extra excessive step. This was my first recording of the piece and as a brass player, the second movement holds a special place in my heart. Take a listen and see why.

Prokofiev: The 5 Piano concertos

If you asked me which Pianist I would want to hear play something Russian, it would be Alexander Toradze. Then if you asked me who I would want to conduct, it would be Valery Gergiev. So it only makes sense that this recording be in my list of recommendations. Toradze is powerful on the keys, yet sensitive to the frenetic changes in mood common in Prokofiev. Add to this the long years of collaboration between him and Gergiev and you have a match made in heaven.