An easy gift for the hard to please Music can soothe shopping frenzy


December 18, 1992|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

Frazzled by the demands of holiday shopping? Why not get yourself down to Tower Records with an open checkbook and give the gift of music.

* For the choral music lover: Herbert von Karajan's 1969 recording of Haydn's oratorio "The Creation" finally has been released on CD, and a welcome appearance it is. Ravishing orchestral playing, terrific soloists and a first-rate chorus are all at the service of one of the most stirring musical statements ever made by Haydn -- or anyone else.

* For the "Lenny" Fan: Bernstein is gone, but certainly not forgotten, especially as Deutsche Grammophon releases the late maestro's final recordings. His Sibelius 1st is one to treasure: a weighty, impassioned reading of great intensity. The Tchaikovsky-like fourth movement melody arrives with a force that is vintage Bernstein.

* For the "Messiah" Lover: Sir Thomas Beecham's big band, big-bash "Messiah" has arrived on disc. There's not an original instrument or counter-tenor to be seen in this performance, which is guaranteed to put Baroque authenticists into immediate cardiac arrest. Cymbals? In "Messiah?" You betcha.

* For the Cheapskate: He didn't spend much on you, so return the favor with a Naxos label CD. If you pay more than $4.99, you're being overcharged, but the quality can be remarkable. Any of the Haydn quartets performed by the Kodaly Quartet are marvelous, as is the pairing of the Dvorak and Suk Serenades and a disc of Schumann and Brahms piano quintets with Jeno Jandoat at the keyboard.

* For the History Buff: Our first national anthem. The songs that galvanized the abolitionist movement. Millard Fillmore's campaign song. They're here in an anthology of 19th century political music entitled "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," from the Newport classics label. They are well performed and exceedingly interesting. "We Are Coming Father Abraham!" A must for the history enthusiast.

* For the Opera Buff: Erato's "Ultimate Opera Collection" features Domingo's "Celeste Aida," as well as Handel from Marilyn Horne and Kiri Te Kanawa's Mozart. "Opera's Greatest Moments" from RCA is distinguished by extraordinary Puccini and Verdi from Leontyne Price. And nobody sings "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro" like Robert Merrill.

* For the BSO Buff: Two Baltimore Symphony discs will satisfy any music lover on your list, no matter how snooty. Excellent performances of the Elgar 1st and Rachmaninov 2nd Symphonies (both on Telarc) reveal what a world class instrument the BSO has become.

* For the Local Aficionado: There's so much Annapolis-area talent, why not have it at your fingertips? There are the gifted Hilderbrands ("Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Music of the Charles Carroll Family") from Albany Records, "Chapel Music from the US Naval Academy" (Richardson Records), and Academy organist James Dale's superb anthology, "Exultate" (Pines Recordings). There is Bach, Telemann, Fasch and Handel from the Maryland Bach Aria Group, the ensemble putting St. Mary's College on the musical map, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without "Byrd and Brass" featuring the Annapolis Brass Quintet and guitarist Charlie Byrd.

* For the Children: Turn your junior couch potatoes into opera buffs with the new video of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," courtesy of James Levine's Metropolitan Opera cast. The music is, of course, extraordinary, the proceedings are immensely colorful, and the plot is silly enough to rival anything on television.

Happy Listening.

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