Musical gift ideas: for the classicist


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We are foretold a future in which giving music will be reduced to a card with a code to type into your computer. The music will unceremoniously download and probably work for a generation or two of iPods.

But Apple’s barbarians aren’t quite at the gate yet. Desirable, give-able, sometimes lovingly packaged, CDs and DVDs remain remarkably plentiful. So live it up while you can.


Here are gift suggestions from music critic Mark Swed. First up: for the classicist:

Maurizio Pollini, the probing Italian pianist, has made his first Bach recording with Book 1 of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (Deutsche Grammophon).

Stravinsky, like a great many musicians, needed at least one of these preludes and fugues to get through the day. Pollini finds the maximum nourishment in every note.

This year marked the 200th anniversary of Haydn’s death. But where to start with a composer who wrote scads of quartets, symphonies, piano sonatas, masses and operas? The piano trios are neglected, and the latest disc by the Haydn Piano Trio (MDG) is an excellent sampling of four of them. You can pair that with “Dedicated to Haydn” (Capriccio), pictured, which features the Haydn Trio Esterhazy playing 18 new piano trios by a wild range of contemporary composers, among them the German avant-gardist Dieter Schnebel and Hollywood’s own Lalo Schifrin.

Mozart’s violin concertos have been over-recorded, but that is no reason not to give Gidon Kremer’s set (Nonesuch) with his Kremerata Baltica a whirl. What it offers is fabulous live performances that make the five concertos sound fresh, cadenzas by Robert D. Levin that are brand new and booklet notes by the late Michael Steinberg that help you understand why any of this matters.

Beethoven’s ultra-popular Violin Concerto also needs no help, but the young Dutch soloist Janine Jansen and conductor Paavo Jarvi are an exciting pair. The companion piece to their Decca disc is Benjamin Britten’s seldom-heard Violin Concerto, which does need help — and they give it plenty. Beethoven’s 10 Violin Sonatas are also among the fall releases, and they get in scintillating performances from violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov on an elegant Harmonia Mundi set.


More picks:

Musical gift ideas: for the romantic

Musical gift ideas: for L.A. lovers

Musical gift ideas: for opera mavens

Musical gift ideas: for new music fans