Music Reviews

Channel Classics Discoveries

This is my 21st post, and I’m really happy that I’ve been able to help people get know about some great music! This time I’ve decided to do something a little different. Many of you know the Channel Classics label for unsurpassed recording quality. That’s a given with all of their releases. The label is the home of some world class artists– including Ivan Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra, considered one of the ten best orchestras in the world. Another is violinist Rachel Podger whose Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart and other recordings have topped charts and made fans all over the world. But Channel Classics has many other amazing artists and ensembles. I want to tell you about some of them, with a sampling of their available albums.

Dejan Lazic

Let’s start with the Piano. Dejan Lazic is no stranger to my blog. His re-imagining of the Brahms Violin Concerto as the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 3 was just featured in Sikorski Magazine– a very interesting read. As Dejan says, great composers often intended that their works be performed on different instruments. Take a listen to the result:

In addition, be sure to check these– they are just a few of his many albums. “Retrospection” is one of the finest sets of works for piano by Ravel I’ve ever heard.

His three “Liaison” albums each feature two works by two composers one would not ordinarily expect to hear together– Like Bartok and Scarlatti. Check this one out, as well as his other two “Liaisons” sets.

And here’s another one you might have missed. I especially like the Beethoven.

Paolo Giacometti

Another superb pianist is Paolo Giacometti. His “Compared” set lets you hear the same Ravel pieces on both a modern Steinway, and a period Erard. Which one do you like best? Ravel composed on one and generally played the other in concert.

I just spent a wonderful hour with Giacometti’s “Complete works for Piano” by Rossini, Volume 5. The entire series is delightful, but this is an especially nice one:

And Giacometti is extremely enjoyable in the Schumann and Dvorak Concertos!

Bart Schneemann

And don’t forget Giacometti with Bart Schneemann on oboe doing the “Duosonatas” of Jacques Widerkehr. I know you’ve never heard of Jacques Widerkehr. But it doesn’t matter. These sonatas for piano and oboe from the early 1800’s (probably) are delightful. Giacometti and Schneemann are playing classic oboe and fortepiano from the period. You can tell they are enjoying themselves.

Gary Cooper

But wait, there’s more! Channel Classics is also where you can find the work of the fortepiano artist with the familiar name: Gary Cooper! Cooper is the amazing keyboardist accompanying Rachel Podger on her Mozart Sonata albums. But what I want to talk about are two of his solo sets. – Beethoven’s Diabelli Veriations, and the Late Piano Works of Haydn. I love this Diabelli!

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Haydn piano music more than this set:

By the way, Haydn’s variations on cut 3, “God Preserve Emperor Franz” might be a bit of surprise– it certainly was to me!

Konrad Jarnot, Reinild Mees, and Amanda Roocroft

Art songs, lieder, etc— they’re not for everyone. But I strongly suggest a quick listen to both volumes of “Complete Songs For Voice and Piano” by Edward Elgar, featuring Konrad Jarnot, Reinild Mees, and Amanda Roocroft. I’m listening to Volume II as I write this. As with Elgar’s orchestra works, the style seems far closer to Continental European than what is typically thought of as British.

Ebony Band

And then there’s the Ebony Band! What marvelous musicians! I first encountered them with the “Homenaje a Revueltas” album from a few years back. Silvestre Revueltas was a very unique Mexican composer, born on the very last day of the 19th Century, and living until 1940. His music can’t be anything but “contemporary,” but its Mexican origin jumps out at you. Rhythms are fascinating, and the music is – different, but very accessible. I’ve grown to love it! The wonderful Channel classics recording quality is a huge plus. I can guarantee you’ll be using it to make friends envious of your music system.

The musicianship and recording quality are also evident in their “Around Prague” set. This avant garde music is what you might have heard in Prague in the 1930s.

Amsterdam Sinfonietta

Finally— I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever heard from the Amsterdam Sinfonietta led by Candida Thompson. This superb string orchestra plays Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphonies, Ops 110a and 118a. Both were adapted by Rudolph Barshai– from Shostakovich’s 8th and 10th string quartets. They keep the character and emotion of the originals, but add the sound of the massed strings. These are beautifully played by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, along with Wienberg’s Concertino Op 42. It’s a great pairing.

And don’t miss this one either:

With the wealth of great music so many different labels and performers, it’s worth taking the time to explore— And you’ll find your own treasures.

Cover Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

Written by

Bill Dodd

Bill is Senior Music Reviewer at NativeDSD. He lives in the Portland, Oregon area. He is an avid photographer too! Along with his early interest in broadcasting and high fidelity audio, he was exposed to classical music in small doses from age 5, was given piano lessons from age 9— Starting with Bach and including Gershwin. Successful morning personality in San Francisco at age 22. (true). Sang in choirs in high school and college. Although the broadcasting experience was all in popular music, his personal listening has been mostly classical his whole life—along with others including Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Joni Mitchell, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.


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