John Cage: Early Piano Music comes from Herbert Henck, an experienced hand with the work of Cage, having previously recorded Music for Piano, Music of Changes, and Sonatas and Interludes in addition to a mighty swath of first-tier twentieth-century literature for piano for various labels, most notably Wergo and ECM New Series. These are early works for standard, not prepared, piano, and some of these pieces will be as familiar to dyed-in-the-wool Cageans as "Happy Birthday." This puts the pressure on Henck to excel, and he does so spectacularly well here. The disc includes the two sets entitled Two Pieces for Piano, the piano version of The Seasons, Metamorphosis, In a Landscape, Ophelia, and the fragmentary Quest. The pieces date from 1935 to 1948, the same range covered by pianist Jeanne Kirstein in her pioneering 1967 survey of Cage's piano music for CBS Masterworks.
Between 1961 and 1986, Herbert von Karajan made three recordings of the Mozart Requiem for Deutsche Grammophon, with little change in his conception of the piece over the years. This recording, from 1975, is, on balance, the best of them. The approach is Romantic, broad, and sustained, marked by a thoroughly homogenized blend of chorus and orchestra, a remarkable richness of tone, striking power, and an almost marmoreal polish. Karajan viewed the Requiem as idealized church music rather than a confessional statement awash in operatic expressiveness. In this account, the orchestra is paramount, followed in importance by the chorus, then the soloists. Not surprisingly, the singing of the solo quartet sounds somewhat reined-in, especially considering these singers' pedigrees. By contrast, the Vienna Singverein, always Karajan's favorite chorus, sings with a huge dynamic range and great intensity, though with an emotional detachment nonetheless. Perfection, if not passion or poignancy, is the watchword. The Berlin orchestra plays majestically, and the sound is pleasingly vivid.
Decca, the opera company, presents a premium collection of the 100 most beautiful opera tracks on 6 CDs. Enjoy classic arias and overtures, performed by the greatest opera stars of all time. This is a fine compendium of opera's "greatest hits" by great singers including Pavarotti, Bartoli, Caballe, Horne and Sutherland from opera's latest "golden age" in the last decades of the 1900s. They're all there on six CDs, from Pavarotti's great "Nessun Dorma" to Sutherland's "Casta Diva."
Schiffsverkehr, Herbert Grönemeyer's 13th studio album, is the beginning of a new chapter for the German singer: after losing both his wife and his brother to cancer in 1998, his past couple of albums have been informed by his grief, and while Schiffsverkehr doesn't dispense with the melancholic ballads, it marks a return to the more experimental sounds of his album Bleibt Alles Anders, coupled with a stronger focus on guitars and synthesizers, giving the album an '80s sound with elements of Deutschrock. Just like its two predecessors, the record reached the number one spot in the German, Austrian, and Swiss album charts (thus continuing a streak of number one albums in Germany that has lasted since 1984's 4630 Bochum).
Although best remembered for his devotion to the core Austro-Germanic repertoire, Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan did flirt with the English repertoire in the '50s and early '60s.