Poster MayAlbums-04
Platoon
Recordings of the Month

Music for mental health, a four-handed party and new Beethoven highlight May releases

Every day, YourClassical’s programming team (music director Joe Goetz and associate music directors Jennifer Allen and Robin Gehl) listen to dozens of recordings as they create our daily radio playlists and on-demand streams. Here are some of their favorites for May 2024.

MayAlbums-04
Platoon

Jeff Beal: New York Etudes; Jeff Beal, composer and piano (Platoon Records)
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Beal was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Already a busy musician, he immersed himself in creative work to defy the degenerative disease. His recent album of solo piano works, New York Études, grew from practicing piano as therapy for brain strength, but in its composition, he also found mental and spiritual strength. The music is gently rhythmic and melodic, soothing but with an undercurrent of energetic emotion, a powerful reflection of Beal’s optimism and perseverance. — Jennifer Allen  

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Jeff Beal: Riverside Revelations

MayAlbums-03
Navona

Elevate; Yuko Uébayashi, Nobu Kōda, Damien Geter; various artists (Navona)
The second installment of All Classical Portland’s Recording Inclusivity Initiative, which seeks to “change America’s playlist,” offers two works by Japanese composers and one by Black composer Damien Geter. Geter’s string quartet, Neo-Soul, lives up to its billing. The last movement, “Please Don’t Kill My Vibe,” has a relaxed groove that I indeed did not want to end. The most sparkling discovery for me, though, was the Sonata in D Minor for Violin and Piano, by Nobu Kōda. Written in 1897, it’s emblematic of the embrace of Western music that began to take place in Japan in the last part of the 19th century. Kōda spent time studying in Boston and Vienna, then returned to Japan to teach at the Tokyo Music School. The lack of respect from her male peers, however, turned out to be too much to overcome, and she ended up leaving the school to teach privately for the rest of her life. All-Classical Portland’s Recording Inclusivity Initiative isn’t the only public media effort to add underrepresented artists to classical music playlists. We’ve been doing the same thing here at YourClassical; check out our various commissions. — Joe Goetz

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Nobu Kōda: Sonata in D Minor

MayAlbums-02
Erato

Four Hands; Alexandre Tharaud and various other pianists (Erato)
French pianist Alexandre Tharaud has issued more than 50 recordings over the past 30 years. He started piano studies at 5, entered the Paris Conservatoire at 14, and quickly developed an international performing and recording career, known for his diverse repertoire and critically acclaimed performances. A champion of French music as well as music of J.S. Bach, Franz Schubert, Sergei Rachmaninoff and others, he lays flowers at the tomb of composer Emmanuel Chabrier at Montparnasse Cemetery before beginning each new recording. He had the concept for his latest album, Four Hands, in mind for a long time and wanted to “put together an album for the sheer pleasure of it, in collaboration with dear friends and paying tribute to the wonders of the piano duet repertoire,” choosing each piece of music to match the character and skills of each guest pianist. The 22 tracks highlight composers such as Bach, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Philip Glass, Edvard Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Astor Piazzolla, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Schubert and Peter Tchaikovsky. Norwegian pianist Víkingur Ólafsson joins Tharaud for Grieg’s spritely Norwegian Dance in A Major; noted Robert Schumann interpreter Eric Le Sage performs Schumann’s Innig with Tharaud; and Chopin Competition winner Bruce Liu joins in the fun for Brahms’ well-known Hungarian Dance No. 5. — Robin Gehl

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Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 5 in F-Sharp Minor

MayAlbums-01
National Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: complete symphonies; National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda (NSO)
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a complete Beethoven symphonic cycle from a U.S. orchestra. One might have expected one to come from one of the “big” institutions such as the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra or Los Angeles Philharmonic. But the National Symphony Orchestra, which has as its home the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is no slouch. Over three sets of concerts spanning 18 months in 2022 and 2023, these live recordings made along the banks of the Potomac are a worthy addition to the pantheon of Beethoven cycles. The mighty Ninth Symphony was the last to be released, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of its premiere in May 1824, and you can hear an excerpt from that below. Oh, and don’t forget to browse our list of other essential recordings of Beethoven’s Ninth. — Joe Goetz

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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - 2nd movement

 

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