Some of my Favorite CDs

I've listed below some special CDs that I've enjoyed over the years. Click the small picture of any CD below to link directly to Amazon.com's detail page about that CD.

Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues

Shostakovich - Preludes & Fugues Op87 - If you've been reading some of my other CD thoughts below, you know I've been looking for more Shostakovich. I was thrilled when I discovered his Piano Concerto #2, but was having trouble finding other works of Shostakovich that I also liked. Well, I think I found one. This two-CD set is marvelous. Preludes and Fugues...a la Bach, but not! Very inventive, lots of Bach-like counterpoint, a bit of dissonance (certainly compared to Bach). Mostly, a real pleasure to listen to. Often, very light and airy. I think these Preludes and Fugues will grow on you, they certainly did me.

Hovhaness Mysterious Mountain Hovhaness Mount St. Helens

Hovhaness - Mysterious Mountain and Mount St. Helens - Hovhaness' most well-known piece is called Mysterious Mountain, and it is really quite wonderful. Hovhaness was a real fan of mountains. You can almost hear his religious fervor for them. I wish I could tell you why so many of his works are so instantly recognizable as being his, but I can only guess! I think Hovhaness is using a slightly different musical alphabet when he writes his music. It's as if there is a major scale, a minor scale, and a Hovhaness scale. I bought, on impulse, his Symphony #50, also known as the Mount St. Helens Symphony and was delighted. It has the same recognizable Hovhaness feel to it. The first movement is one of the most beautiful symphonic movements I've ever heard. The last movement, as you might guess, includes a symphonic volcano blowing up! An unusual and beautiful symphony. I hope you'll try it.

Prokofiev Piano Concerto #3

Prokofiev - Piano Concerto #3 - Knowing little about Prokofiev other than Peter and the Wolf, and a few other standards, one day I happened to see the movie The Competition, with Richard Dreyfus and Amy Irving. In the movie (an excellent movie for piano fans), Amy Irving dazzles everyone (including me) playing the Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto. It's almost embarrassing to admit, but that's actually the first time I've ever heard that Piano Concerto. And, it's fantastic....a real mind opener. I love it when I hear pieces of music that stretch the bounds of where music can take you. And, this piece definitely qualifies. It's also a reminder, at times, of why the piano is considered a percussion instrument. But, it's not all percussive, the concerto also includes some of the most lyrical and beautiful themes you've ever heard. This is a must-hear! (Of course, you can always rent the movie...I'll bet that will make you want to hear the whole concerto.)

Shostakovich Piano Concerto #2

Shostakovich -Piano Concerto #2 - I've always known that Shostakovich was held in high regard, but somehow never had the chance to get to know his works. I've mostly only heard bits and pieces of his works. Recently, though, I happened to hear the whole of his Piano Concerto #2 on the radio and was just mesmerized. It actually had many of the same aspects that I loved about Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto (listed elsewhere.) It, too, is, at times, very percussive and at times very lyrical. Makes you wonder whether Prokofiev and Shostakovich were friends or student and teacher, etc. Have to find out one day. Anyway, I just loved this work, and maybe you will too. If you happen to be a Shostakovich fan, I'd love it if you would email me with some recommendations on what other works of his you think I might enjoy.

Andre Previn Uptown Andre Previn Old Friends

Uptown and Old Friends - Two CDs, both featuring Andre Previn, Mundell Lowe, and Ray Brown - These are two superb CDs. I'd actually call them elegant! You probably know Andre Previn, as I did, as a classical music conductor. What I learned though, was that he is also an astoundingly accomplished pianist. Here, in both these CDs, he has teamed up with guitarist Mundell Lowe and Ray Brown on bass. This music is some of the finest, light jazz that I've ever heard. In virtually every selection on both CDs, sit back and marvel at the genius at the keyboard. There's not a note out of place, it's perfection, it really is. A real pleasure, not to be missed.

Pops Plays Puccini

Pops Plays Puccini - Arrangements for Orchestra - (Erich Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops) - Now it so happens, I happen to be a big opera fan, but, please, don't hold that against me. Pops Plays Puccini is a truly beautiful CD, with some of the most beautiful music ever written. (You did know some of the most beautiful music ever written was written for opera, didn't you?) Pops Plays Puccini includes many of Puccini's most famous works in totally orchestral arrangements (no singing). You have no idea how many friends I've turned on to this album, even those who've never seen an opera in their life. To tell you the truth, (being just a little bit of a snob), I expected a CD like this (with a Pops-type orchestra) to be a disappointment. Instead I found myself listening to it again and again, recording it on a cassette so I could play it in my car, and recommending it to friends and family. I'll bet you'll thank me for recommending it. Enjoy!

Stravinsky Rite of Spring

Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring - This is a fantastic, mind-blowing piece of music. If you've never heard it before, you have a real treat in store for you. This piece not only has some of the most driving rhythms you'll find anywhere, but it will also transport you to a new world you might not have known before. What came as a real shock to me when I first learned it, was that "Le Sacre" is actually a ballet! (Notice, I said, "Le Sacre". When you're in the know, and your nose is just a little bit stuckup, you don't say "The Rite of Spring" anymore. No, no, instead, you say "Le Sacre du Printemps". Better yet, if your nose is really high in the air, you just say "Le Sacre" as if everyone understands French! But, of course!) I have read that when the ballet was first performed, the dancers couldn't keep in sync with the music. So, in the first performance, they listened instead to someone hidden on the side of the stage counting out the beats, and they danced by the numbers. If you haven't heard this piece, don't miss it. It's like no ballet you've ever heard before, guaranteed!

Bernstein's Mass

Leonard Bernstein's Mass - A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers - WOW! What an amazing piece! And, what's so amazing, to me, is that you've probably never heard of it, most people haven't. Only very rarely will you ever hear it on the radio either, excepting the occasional excerpt. This is a fantastic achievement by the composer, but it just doesn't seem to get the attention that it deserves. The text of the work is taken from the Liturgy of the Roman Mass, but I guarantee you it's like no Mass you've ever heard. It includes a "regular" orchestra, but also features a concert organ, a rock organ, electric guitars, keyboards, a blues group, a jazz group, some gospel, etc. I know this is a risky recommendation, but I hope you'll give it a chance. (Click on the picture of the CD, which will get you to Amazon.com. At Amazon.com, you can sample a few of the "cuts" from the CD and see if you like it. Good Luck!)

Faure's Requiem

Faure's Requiem - Ahhhhh, what a wonderful work. I'm actually a big fan of requiems, as some of the beautiful and most sublime works are religious in nature. I guess that shouldn't be too much of a surprise. But, what really affected me about this particular work was that it sounded like nothing I've ever heard before. I've actually been a fan of classical music since I was born (thanks Dad!), but it wasn't really until college that I really began to think (with supreme humility (-:)) that I had heard it all. But, somehow I found I had missed Faure. I had never even heard of Faure, when I first heard his Requiem on the radio. And, I was instantly taken with it. I was hearing a kind of light, melodic, ever-so-peaceful musical texture that I'd not heard before. It was something new, and quite beautiful. I knew then and there, that I'd never run out of new musical discoveries. Want a new experience? Try it. Maybe you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I first heard Faure's Requiem.

Mahler's Resurrection

Mahler's Symphony #2 - "Resurrection" - Uh-oh, watch out! I'm getting into some real heavy stuff here! Mahler's Resurrection...if you haven't heard it, expect to be shocked. It's rare you'll find a more dramatic and emotional symphony. (In fact, this is so much more than what I ever thought a symphony could be, it really expands the definition.) If you want to describe Mahler, you just need two words (or three if you want to be picky), Love and Death! That's it. That describes everything that is Mahler. In fact, after listening to some of Mahler's symphonies, you might think that there really should be a new single word that means both love and death...maybe they're the same thing! Oh my! You see the effect this symphony has already had on me. This is one of the most powerful symphonic experiences you can have. Don't miss it.

Dave Brubeck: Time Out

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out - On a desert island, and can only have one jazz CD? This is the one to have. If you've never heard this one, maybe you really are on a desert island. Dave Brubeck (on piano) is a genius, and Paul Desmond plays the sweetest sax you'll ever hear. Try this CD, and your only problem will be deciding how many additional Brubeck CDs to buy. It's that good!

Linda Ronstadt: What's New? Linda Ronstadt: Lush Life Linda Ronstadt: For Sentimental Reasons

Linda Ronstadt - What's New, Lush Life and For Sentimental Reasons - Go back in time, and relax. Enjoy Linda Ronstadt singing some of the most memorable tunes of the 20's, 30's, and 40's. What's New, I've Got a Crush on You, Someone to Watch Over Me, My Funny Valentine, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, etc. George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, etc. Add the incomparable Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra, and you've really got something.


Last Modified: January 1, 2013


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