From my new Classical TV column:
It’s good we have these new discs, and it’s good this can be done with music. Musicians playing music is roughly comparable to writers reading the works of others for their own personal satisfaction and aesthetic inspiration. Writers read and re-read, and how they feel about a book will change over time, through age, experience and especially the prism of the other books they have read. But what can a writer do with this other than talk about it or use it as fuel for their work? Music is different. The size and scope of a symphony may be like a novel, but a symphony is a set of instructions for musicians to follow, it’s like taking dried mushrooms and reconstituting them in broth. The symphony preserves a composer’s ideas, but it requires musicians to turn it into something we can experience. And how musicians do that can, and should, change. What do weeks and years of meals, sleeping, love and heartache, travel, companionship and loneliness, satisfactions and frustrations, books and elections and family and clothes and clouds have to do with the length of a dotted eighth-note, the fullness of a crescendo, the relative weight of notes in a phrase, and especially the outpouring of inchoate, raw, wonderful emotion from deep in the chest, down through the arm and out of the baton or bow? Only absolutely everything.
There are two new discs in question, the first installment in the second Sibelius cycle from Osmo Vänskä, this time with the Minnesota Orchestra. It’s already quite different than his previous set, and shows a way with Sibelius that is refreshingly out of the ordinary on the contemporary scene (his previous cycle, with the Lahti Symphony, is consistently good and can still be had for the ridiculously low price of $7.99 for the complete download, meaning you really must buy it, even if you don’t like Sibelius … you will!)
The other disc is Isabelle Faust’s return to the Beethoven Violin Concerto, paired with Berg’s Concerto. This is an exceptional recording with simply the finest playing of the Berg I’ve heard and incomparable playing of the Beethoven. It’s guaranteed to be one of the leading releases of 2012, and has earned a place in the Bit City library of essential recordings. Buy it.