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Of the 500 or so albums examined in the latest American Record Guide, here are those that received the best reviews:

Borodin: Symphonies nos.1-3. Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz. Naxos 572786

“Here are all the splashes of color and soulful Slavic melody anyone could ask for at a price I know you can afford, and this is a treasurable introduction to the music of Borodin.” – Steven J Haller

Delius: Life’s Dance; Poem of Life and Love; Irmelin suite; A Village Romeo and Juliet suite. Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones. Dutton 7264

“David Lloyd-Jones has established himself as one of the prime Delius interpreters. His dedication to the composer’s music has also brought forth treasures few of us would have believed possible a decade or so back.” – Alan Becker

Dohnanyi: Symphony in F; Zrinyi overture; Suite en Valse. Miskolc Symphony/Laszlo Kovacs Hungaroton 32684

“pungent and committed playing… an absolute must-have for anyone with even the slightest affection for Hungarian music.” – Steven J Haller

Dvorak: Czech Suite; My Home; Husitska; In Nature’s Realm; Othello. Janacek Philharmonic/Theodore Kuchar. Brilliant 93259

“This is an outstanding release in every way. First, we get music from Dvorak’s top drawer… Second, we get superb playing from the Janacek Phil under its music director; and third, the full, rich recorded sound is spectacular” – Lawrence Hansen

Dvorak: Piano trio no.3; Martin: Trio on Irish Folk Tunes; Finlay: Piano trio. Leibniz Trio. Genuin 11208

“There is something very special about this album: the Leibniz Trio’s unique gift for style.” – Gil French

Ewazen: Chamber music with flute. Marya Martin (fl); Bridgehampton Festival Players. Albany 1271

“This is the kind of music that inspires people to become musicians… Ewazen always communicates, and what he has to say here is well worth listening to again and again.” – Todd Gorman

Glass: Cello concerto no.1. Wendy Sutter (vc); Orchestra of the Americas/Dante Anzolini. Orange Mountain 76

“[Sutter] has never sounded so wonderful as on this release: beautiful tone, enviable virtuosity, and the solid musicality needed to make Glass’s work great rather than simply agreeable.” – Rob Haskins

Liszt: Opera paraphrases. Eugene Choi (p). Sony 70595

“pianism of the highest order… If it falls into the category of must purchases for all but Liszt despisers, even they might eventually succumb to Ms Choi and her musical mastery.” – Alan Becker

Mozart: Complete sacred music. various soloists; Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Vienna Opera Choir; Concentus Musicus/Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Teldec 67611

“most listeners will find that many of these discs are chock-full of surprises… Performances are of remarkably consistent quality from one disc to the next… not only consistent, but absolutely top-notch… And, ah, the soloists!” – Lindsay Koob

Rachmaninoff: Preludes, op.23; transcriptions, etc. Alessio Bax (p). Signum 264

“This is an outstanding Rachmaninoff program… [Bax's] previous Signum release, Bach Transcribed, was a Critic’s Choice in 2005. This one may very well repeat the honor.” – James Harrington

Rachmaninoff: Symphony no.3; Prince Rostislav; Caprice Bohemien. BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda. Chandos 10677

“Noseda’s Third is the best recording of the work I’ve heard. Period. I don’t find myself saying that sort of thing in reviews very often, but there it is.” – Lawrence Hansen

Rossini: 8 Overtures. Munich Chamber Orchestra/Alexander Liebreich. Sony 77141

“this totally unexpected and – I’m sorry to say – way too short sampling of Rossini overtures should have impresarios clamoring for [Liebreich's] attention. I can’t recall when a Rossini collection has given me so much pleasure” – Steven J Haller

Vienna Premieres, vols 1-3 – music of the Strauss family and others. Johann Strauss Orchestra/Jack Rothstein; Marilyn Hill Smith (sop). Chandos 10684

“I never knew I could enjoy so much Strauss so much!” – Gil French

Victoria: Requiem. Tenebrae/Nigel Short. Signum 248

“this is a living, breathing, and perhaps even passionate interpretation. The balance of the voices and the clarity of the polyphony is near-perfect” – Charles E Brewer

Vivaldi: Oboe concertos. Alex Klein (ob); New Brandenburg Collegium/Anthony Newman. Cedille 7003

“There is nothing about this album that will not please you. From the care and direction he gives to each note to the subtle refinement of the New Brandenburg Collegium, the sounds you hear in this set are a benchmark.” – David Schwartz

Waxman: Taras Bulba. City of Prague Philharmonic & Chorus/Nic Raine. Tadlow 13

“If you miss out on the opportunity to hear over two hours of Waxman’s greatest film score in the best possible sound short of sitting front row center in the theater, you’ll never forgive yourself.” – Steven J Haller

Weber: Overtures. Tapiola Sinfonietta/Jean-Jacques Kantorow. BIS 1760

“I was surprised how irresistibly I was swept up by these tremendously exciting performances, so very much of the theater and set down with hair-trigger precision by these splendid Finnish musicians… an exhilarating presentation that deserves the highest recommendation” – Steven J Haller

Eclecticism – music by Beethoven, Lane, Morehead, Ravel, Rudin, Rathbun, Steinmetz. Carolyn Hove (English horn); Rebecca Henderson (ob); Vicky Ray (p). Crystal 823

“From start to finish, the program is imaginative and impressive; but, most important, her playing is exemplary and enjoyable. … Carolyn Hove and Vicky Ray have accomplished something wonderful together – making great music sound like it should.” – David Schwartz

Mozart: Sonata for piano 4-hands in F; Lutoslawski: Paganini Variations; Schubert: Fantasy in F minor; Poulenc: Two-piano sonata. Katja Lunkenheimer (p); Ines Lunkenheimer (p). Telos 100

“I am tempted to call the Lunkenheimer sisters the young German equivalent of the Labeque sisters. … one of the best two-pianist recordings I have heard in a long time.” – James Harrington

Romantic violin concertos – Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius. Vaclav Hudecek (vn); Prague Symphony Orchestra; Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vaclav Smetacek, Jiri Belohlavek. Supraphon 4055

“These are outstanding performances… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this set to budding music lovers who need to be introduced to these four works with recordings that present the music in the best possible light and continue to reward long after one is familiar with the music.” – Lawrence Hansen

Cancons de la Catalunya Millenaria: Planys & Llendes. Montserrat Figueras; Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hesperion XXI/Jordi Savall. Alia Vox 9881

“reveals a wonderfully vital but under-appreciated part of European culture via its splendid musical traditions, in beautiful performances.” – John W Barker

One Day Fine – music of Wilson, Volans, Grainger, Hamilton, Bax, Moeran, Stanford. National Chamber Choir of Ireland/Paul Hillier. RTE Lyric FM 131

“This versatile mini-chamber ensemble (12 voices) produces a tremendous range of vocal textures and colors, while demonstrating every technical virtue you can name. Crystalline sound; excellent notes. Any choral fan – and Irish folk in particular – will revel in this sterling collection.” – Lindsay Koob

The Worst of William Powers. William Powers (bass-bar); Slovak RSO & Chorus/Dennis Burkh. Centaur 3001

“He means worst in reference to his operatic characters…. And Powers has a solid grip on each one… All is sung with brilliance and flair, in a most immaculate, appropriate style, a warm burr to his solid, pitch-black voice. What a discovery! Why isn’t this man engaged by major companies!” – Charles H Parsons

Waltzes & Arias. Rita Streich (sop); Berlin Radio Symphony/Kurt Gaebel. Newton 8802069

“Streich is just… how can I put it?… she’s just wunderbar! Ja, ja! Wunderbar!” – John Boyer


Stephen J. Nereffid lives in Dublin, Ireland, where he spends far too much time reading reviews of classical recordings. He has on occasion been described as an expert, but this embarrassing myth can easily be dispelled by visiting his blog, http://nereffid.blogspot.com/ For reasons that are not entirely clear, the name Nereffid is pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable: like "terrible", not "terrific".
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