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The Best Discs Shine On in Hard Times

January 20, 2009

Among the Star-Ledger’s Top 10 discs for 2008 are these three great titles, available from Naxos:

Rued Langgaard: Symphony No. 1
Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Da Capo 6.220525

The "problem child" of Danish music, eccentric composer Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) combined nostalgic neo-Romanticism with an experimental streak. Unloved in its own time, his vast First Symphony—subtitled "Mountain Pastorals"—is delicious deja  vu for today's lovers of the nature-loving spiritualism of Bruckner, Mahler and Richard Strauss. This disc's luxuriant sound makes it seem as if the music were recorded in a cathedral of the outdoors.

Einojuhani Rautavaara: "Manhattan Trilogy," Symphony No. 8
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Pietari Inkinen, conductor
Naxos 8.570069

Lush and melodic, but with a modern edge, the music of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, 80, sounds like no other. His "Manhattan Trilogy" is a characteristically radiant concerto for orchestra. Young conductor Pietari Inkinen gets his New Zealand orchestra to play like a world-class ensemble, also giving knockout accounts of the shimmering Eighth Symphony and ecstatic, Van Gogh-inspired "Apotheosis."

Bach: Music for Lute-Harpsichord
Elizabeth Farr, lute-harpsichord
Naxos 8.570470-71

A vanished Baroque hybrid, the lute-harpsichord combined the compass of a keyboard with the warmth of a plucked instrument. J.S. Bach obviously loved its gorgeous, gut-strung sound, leaving behind his own lute-harpsichord specs. American keyboardist Elizabeth Farr—whose William Byrd collection was one of last year's best recordings—includes not only works Bach wrote especially for lute-harpsichord or lute in this double-disc set, but also transcriptions of originals for cello and violin, with even the familiar music taking on a veil of mystery.

- Bradley Bambarger, Star-Ledger (New Jersey), 30 December 2008



Langgaard Biography & Discography

Rautavaara Biography & Discography

Bach Biography & Discography

Byrd Biography & Discography


Danish National Symphony Orchestra Biography & Discography

Thomas Dausgaard Biography & Discography

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Biography & Discography

Pietari Inkinen Biography & Discography

Elizabeth Farr Biography & Discography


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