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Top 10 Classical Albums: August 2014

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 10 Classical Albums: August 2014


We're covering about 800 years of musical style in this month's playlist: from the 13th-century compositions of French polyphony featured in a recent release by the spectacular vocal ensemble Anonymous 4, to a corker of a saxophone concerto from the much-in-demand 21st-century orchestral writer John Adams -- in addition to music by Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, and the electro-influenced experimenter Michael Hammond (who goes by the name No Lands).

Don't worry, we've got points in between covered, too. (Just check out conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin's take on Tchaikovsky's Pathetique symphony, or soloist Stewart Goodyear's approach to Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor.) But top honors have to go to a complete new performance of Olivier Messiaen's masterpiece, the Turangalila-Symphoie, which stuns anew in a release from the Ondine label.

The engineering of this recording -- ably led by conductor Hanna Lintu -- gives particular pride of place to the composer's use of ondes Martenot (an electro-acoustic instrument that's kind of like a theremin). Exquisitely played by Valérie Hartmann-Claverie, the part may remind you of some of Jonny Greenwood's film-scoring work. (And piano soloist Angela Hewitt provides crisp work, too.) Definitely set aside an hour and change to listen to that performance in full. Shattering, in the best way.

We've also got Ralph van Raat's latest album of piano works by the American innovator Frederic Rzewski. (Particularly tasty: a composition from 2011 titled "Hard Cuts.") And the Swiss Romande Orchestra checks in with a lush rarity from Franz Schreker. So click play, and refer to our composer tracklist below in order to keep the authors of the works straight as you go. Enjoy!

Track 1: Anonymous, "J'ai les biens / Que ferai biau sire"

Track 2: Michael Hammond, "Sleep Atlas"

Tracks 3-5: John Adams, Saxophone Concerto

Tracks 6-8: Frederic Rzewski, Hard Cuts

Track 9: Anonymous, "Marie assumptio afficiat / Hujus chori suscipe"

Track 10: Hammond, "Pretender"

Tracks 11-20: Olivier Messiaen, Turangalila-Symphonie

Tracks 21-27: Richard Reed Parry, Interruptions

Tracks 28-31: Franz Schreker, Ein Tanzspiel

Track 32: Rzewski, "The Housewife's Lament"

Tracks 33-35: Edvard Grieg, Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16

Track 36: Anonymous, "J'ai un cuer trop lait"

Track 37: Hammond, "Seawall"

Tracks 38-40: Per Nørgård, Symphony No. 8

Tracks 41-44: Rzewski, Four Piano Pieces

Tracks 45-48: Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique"

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