New Classical Tracks - "Must-Have" Discs of 2011

by Julie Amacher,
Valerie Kahler
December 27, 2011

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Simone Dinnerstein - Bach: A Strange Beauty (Sony 88697) (Courtesy of Sony Music)

Julie Amacher: This is New Classical Tracks from APM. I'm Julie Amacher...

Valerie Kahler: and I'm Valerie Kahler.

JA: As we look ahead to a new year, I thought it would be kinda fun to reflect back on the old one and revisit some of those must-have recordings from 2011.

VK: First on the list, I see a recording you introduced listeners to almost a year ago, back in January. It's titled "A Strange Beauty" with pianist Simone Dinnerstein. In fact you're going to be reviewing her new CD, aren't you?

JA: Yep, I already have a pre-release copy of that one, so I'm really excited to bring that to our listeners in January.

VK: Now, tell me how "A Strange Beauty" earned its name.

JA: Francis Bacon wrote, "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." It was that quote which inspired the title for this recording. Dinnerstein says the title for her describes the music of Bach... because even though it's all about symmetry and mathematics and perfect form, he actually tends to shy away from those forms and deviate from them.

Simone Dinnerstein: And it's those times when he moves away from what's expected and does something which is essentially like a purposeful's those times that make the music so incredibly special and beautiful.

JA: One of my favorites on this recording is a transcription by Wilhelm Kempf...

SD: It starts off with the chorale. And then you hear the chorale repeated in the middle voice, so you have a sort of tenor line that's carrying the melody of the chorale, and then there's a kind of walking bass line underneath that. And then above that is this crazy florid melody of notes that is running around the chorale.

JA: And there's also 2 keyboard concertos on this disc, and they feature SD with Statskapelle Berlin.

VK: She said what was really exciting about this performance is what was missing. There was no conductor. She did lead the ensemble, but none of the players spoke English... so she had to communicate with them completely visually. And they all played standing up! Except for Simone Dinnerstein, of course.

JA: And the cellos! But that added a lot of excitement to the performance itself.

JA: Well, I thought another must-have recording from 2011 was one called "The Romantic Violinist." It features British violinist Daniel Hope, and he has been fascinated by Joseph Joachim for a really long time.

VK: Joachim was pretty much responsible for resurrecting the Beethoven Violin concerto. It had been forgotten for four decades after its premiere was a failure. After Joachim's astonishing performance, the concerto finally earned its place in the violin repertory, as a masterpiece. And there it has stayed!

JA: And not only that — Joachim also influenced the concertos by Dvorak, Schumann and Brahms... and the beloved 1st Concerto by Max Bruch. Now, the heart of this concerto is the lyric Adagio... and I think it really takes a passionate performer like Daniel Hope to expose the vulnerability of this gorgeous melodic line.

JA: My third choice for a must-have for 2011 is a chamber recording with Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. She released her first recital album, and it's a collection of French pieces with pianist Itamar Golan.

VK: The CD is called "Beau Soir" and it takes us into a moonlit night... from dusk to dreams to daylight. The recording opens with Debussy's Violin Sonata. This is a work that shifts through various emotions, according to Jansen.

Janine Jansen: It can go from sweet to completely the opposite!

JA: One of my favorites on this collection of French pieces is by Lili Boulanger. It's called "Nocturne" and Jansen and Itamar Golan wanted to learn this magical piece specifically for this recording.

There you have it: three recommendations for "must-have" recordings from 2011. We're looking forward to introducing you to many more new releases on New Classical Tracks in 2012. Happy New Year!