Classical 101 Hosts Recommend Recordings For Holiday Gift-Giving

Dec 17, 2018

Our hosts listen to a lot of music so, as you can imagine, we often turn to some of our favorite recordings at gift-giving time. 

Here's what our hosts are recommending this year for the music lover on your list.

Christopher Purdy recommends:
Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain: An Irish-Appalachian Celebration by Apollo's Fire

Arkiv | Amazon

This Apollo's Fire program is inspired by Artistic Director Jeanette Sorrell's life near Sugarloaf Mountain, "nestled between the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the eastern Appalachians, just at the northern tip of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia." The concerts sold out last year, so this year they've released a recording.

Christopher particularly recommends "Christ Child's Lullaby' featuring soprano Amanda Powell.

Cheryl Dring recommends:
Danish String Quartet's Last Leaf

Arkiv | Amazon

The Danish word "hygge" has been trendy the last few years. It's defined as "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)."

If your idea of a great afternoon is fuzzy slippers, hot cocoa, a crackling fire and a good book, you'll really enjoy this album. It's a combination of new compositions and arrangements of old traditional tunes – some dance-like, some melancholy – but all spectacularly played and beautifully recorded. '

Fredrik Sjølin's "Shore" and the traditional "Unst Boat Song" give you an idea of how mesmerizing this music can be.

Jennifer Hambrick recommends:
Rachel Barton Pine's Blue Dialogues: Music By Black Composers

Arkiv | Amazon

Through her Music by Black Composers project, Rachel Barton Pine continues to champion unjustly neglected music by black composers. Pine's unfailing technique shines throughout her most recent recording, Blues Dialogues, along with her instinct for swing and for the slip-sliding language of the blues.

Notable is Pine's haunting performance of Billy Childs' "Incident on Larpenteur Avenue," a work commissioned specially for this recording. The soulful lyricism of the recording's final work, Charles S. Brown's "A Song Without Words," is a moving conclusion to a recording that rightly reverences blues as one of the world's artistic treasures.

Kent Teeters recommends:
George Szell: The Complete Columbia Album Collection

The recordings conductor George Szell made with the Cleveland Orchestra from 1947 through '69 are nearly all reference-quality performances, with fine recorded sound. If you have someone special on your gift-giving list, you can make their Christmas mega-merry with this new Sony mega-box set of 106 CDs.

If you don’t mind waiting a bit (or paying a lot), this set is really exciting. Apparently demand was greater than anticipated, so both Amazon and ArkivMusic have it on back order. It’s also available on the Cleveland Orchestra's website at full price.

In addition to excellent performances from the Clevelanders, bonuses include original cover art and program notes, Szell as pianist in several chamber music settings, recorded interviews with Szell and a 144-page hardcover book with historical information and photos.

Boyce Lancaster recommends:
Daugherty: Dreamachine, Trail of Tears and Reflections on the Mississippi

Arkiv | Amazon

Michael Daugherty's latest release explores the relationships between machines, humanity and nature in three very different concertos. For me, "Trail of Tears" is particularly compelling, as I have Cherokee ancestors and grew up in Oklahoma, the state to which they were moved on the Trail of Tears.

The recording also features performances by three outstanding women musicians: percussionist Evelyn Glennie, flutist Amy Porter and tubist Carol Jantsch.