Gift Guide: Classical music selectionsLoading

    Gift Guide: Classical recordings

    Music is as much a part of holiday tradition for many people as trees and candles and worship services. And the experience of unwrapping a CD and reading the liner notes in anticipation of hearing those first wonderful notes can elevate the day into something even more special.

    Here are recent noteworthy recordings that should enliven the holiday experience.

    Compiled by The Bee's Edward Ortiz

    Chopin: 24 Preludes, Nocturnes, Mazurkas and Scherzos
    Maurizio Pollini; Deutsche Grammophon; CD and download

    Reasons to listen: The 70-year-old Pollini's bond with Chopin's music has stood the test of time. This excellent CD offers trademark Pollini performing Chopin's 24 preludes – the ones he first explored on vinyl in 1974. Here is the telltale austerity. He delivers the preludes as a set of powerful but small-scaled gestures. It's a caress, not an embrace. The B-flat minor Scherzo is the highlight. A fine no-nonsense introduction to Chopin.
    Bach and Beyond, Part 1
    Jennifer Koh, violin; Cedille; CD and download

    Reasons to listen: Koh's stellar tone, coupled with an intuitive sense for plumbing works of living composers, is noteworthy. The proof is found on this CD, which includes a smart arrangement. Koh begins with a radiant performance of Bach's Partita No. 3, followed by Eugène Ysaÿe's Sonata No. 2. This gives way to Kaija Saariaho's pensive "Nocturne." Then comes a highlight of this CD – Missy Mazzoli's pliant and compelling "Dissolve, O My Heart." This, in turn, is capped by a sonorous Bach's Partita No. 2. That's as circular a musical evolution as you're going to get – and Koh delivers.
    Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, the Four Seasons
    Daniel Hope, violin; Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin; Duetsche Grammophon; CD and download

    Reasons to listen: A brilliant reconception of one of the most iconic works in the classical canon. The genre-bending Richter undertakes a note-by-note exploration of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," and the result is an injection of much-needed life to a well-trod work. The CD begins, with the first movement of Spring, with music that cascades in bright, gleaming notes, like light snow. It then gives way to violin music with underpinnings suggesting Sigur Rós as much as Vivaldi. As the seasons progress, it is as if Richter is channeling Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt – and imprinting these voices into Vivaldi's musical DNA. An interesting portal into how a work of art lives on best through interpretation.
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