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Top 8 Classical Albums, December 2012

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 8 Classical Albums, December 2012


The classical world was saddened (if not shocked) to learn of composer Elliott Carter’s passing away at the age of 103 on November 5 this year. Two recordings of key late works emerged this season; though their commemorative nature was surely not planned, they offer an opportunity to celebrate the length of his productive years. One, a Decca recording of his Cello Concerto as delivered by Alisa Weilerstein, gives the work a lush new reading; the second, from the New York Philharmonic’s season-long live-recording series, features one of the abstract master’s final completed works, “Two Controversies and a Conversation.” By turns witty, winsome and severe, it’s prime Carter -- and a treat to hear so soon after his death.

Meantime, Joyce DiDonato gave us a thrilling tour of her baroque repertoire. Missy Mazzoli brought us a recording of her first chamber opera. The San Francisco Symphony issued a recording from its touring program of “American Mavericks,” featuring two excellent pieces by Henry Cowell. And the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth debuted with a spate of excellent new compositions, including two by tUnE-yArDs luminary Merrill Garbus. For seasonal flavor, we've also got a new advent carol by composer Nico Muhly, as performed by The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge. The rest of the month’s classical gifts -- including a huge box of Sir Georg Solti’s Wagner recordings -- are also in the accompanying playlist.