The songs that Kathleen Battle chooses for her recital mostly eschew deep drama for sheer lyricism. If you want an album that explores the lyric impulse in Schubert songs, then, this is certainly for you. Battle sings these pieces with unfailingly beautiful vocal production, plus a winning charm and insouciance that border on the–well, girlish, one wants to say, if that isn't entirely politically incorrect. Her voice is a beautiful instrument, no doubt about it…By M. C. Passarella
"The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said." Taking a cue from these lines of Philip Larkin, pianist Simone Dinnerstein casts her album of the music of J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert in poetic terms. Her understanding of the composers is summed up in her own words: "The music of Bach and Schubert share a distinctive quality, as if wordless voices were singing textless melodies." Of course, Bach and Schubert were masters of setting texts to profoundly expressive music, so it is fruitful to look for the lyrical impulse in their keyboard works and appropriate to find songful interpretations. Yet Dinnerstein doesn't merely serve up rhapsodic renditions or treat the music as some kind of tuneful vehicle for idiosyncratic or personal reveries. Her playing is quite in character for both composers, and her treatment of the material is far from self-indulgent. Indeed, counterpoint and harmony are carefully balanced against the upper lines, and Dinnerstein is completely in control of the inner parts in Bach's partitas and the rhythmic subtleties of Schubert impromptus. Dinnerstein's playing is well-rounded and skillful, and the care she lavishes on the smallest details of execution may well remind listeners of Glenn Gould (without his attendant eccentricities) or Angela Hewitt.
When András Schiff completed the recording of all of Schubert's piano sonatas in the 1990s, Decca released a box set containing all of the individual discs from the series. For this 2011 reissue, Decca goes one step further and includes Schiff's recordings of the Impromptus, the Moments musicaux, and several other shorter works. Schubert's music, along with that of Bach and Mozart, is one of the cornerstones upon which Schiff built his reputation as a thoughtful and intelligent performer. Anyone looking for a complete set of the Schubert sonatas could do much worse than to choose this one by one of the foremost Schubert interpreters of his generation.
Verdi's brilliant final masterpiece Falstaff, in its first new Met production in 50 years – and conducted by Met Music Director James Levine in his first new production since his return to his podium at the Met. When it comes to theatrical flair, captivating costumes, stage antics and imagination, there are not many shows on Broadway to rival the Met s new Falstaff. “Ambrogio Maestri is made for the title role, with the apt physique, nimble acting and superb vocal presence that make him the leading Falstaff of the day. There is no weak link in a finely balanced, comically-attuned cast (the women are especially impressive) and Levine’s conducting is pitch-perfect. The show fizzles from start to finish and is tremendous fun” (Classical Music).