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Classical Music

Coming attractions

Three recent CDs offer a glimpse of groups and artists who will be performing in Boston in the coming months

As the fall classical music season approaches, it's tempting to look ahead and contemplate the offerings. In a kind of preview, here are recent CDs by groups and artists scheduled to visit Boston in the months ahead.


Leif Ove Andsnes , piano; Ian Bostridge , tenor (EMI Classics)

This is the fourth recording by Leif Ove Andsnes and Ian Bostridge pairing Schubert's late piano sonatas with songs. (They have also recorded the song cycle "Die Winterreise.") Regrettably, it's the last in this immensely worthwhile series, which has been notable not only for the protagonists' superb musicianship but for the illumination generated by their programming. Andsnes's playing in Schubert's Sonata in C Minor (D. 958) is lucid and unfussy: He generates momentum and rarely lingers over phrases, elucidating the music's dramatic logic rather than imposing the drama from outside. The playing is excellent on the technical level as well, with the sonata's frantic, pulsing finale coming off as supple and agile.

As in the earlier releases, the songs are lesser-known gems from Schubert's vast catalog. There's a mini-cycle called "The Harper's Songs" set to three poems by Goethe. Their melancholy atmosphere well suits Bostridge's willowy, utterly unique voice. So does a grim, highly sectionalized song called "Gravedigger's Homesickness." Andsnes provides attentive, understated support. Rounding out the CD is a selection of unfinished piano and vocal fragments. Some of these break off in mid-phrase, offering tantalizing glimpses at what might have been.

Andsnes plays Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto on Jan. 10-12 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Bostridge sings the Evangelist's role in Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" with the BSO under Bernard Haitink, March 20 -2 2 .


Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor (EMI Classics)

Sir Simon Rattle took over the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002, and his recordings with the orchestra have been a decidedly mixed bag. This live account of Brahms's great, humanistic Requiem was taken from concerts in Berlin last year. Rattle approaches the work as if it were a slightly larger-scale Bach cantata, with an unusually compact, focused sound. This is a double-edged sword. On the plus side is Rattle's intimate vision of the piece. There's some lovely detail in the orchestra's wind playing and in the singing of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, and rhythms are pointed and precise. But the low-calorie diet also robs the Requiem of some of its force. Highs and lows -- sonic as well as emotional -- are compressed, and the end results are oddly unaffecting in places.

The warmth is provided by the two soloists. Soprano Dorothea Röschmann's account of the difficult fifth movement is tender and eloquent, but it is baritone Thomas Quasthoff who steals the show: His commanding, emotionally exposed singing in the third and sixth movements provides a crucial reminder of what this music is really about. He matches the achievement of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Otto Klemperer's classic recording, which remains a better all-around bet.

The Berlin Philharmonic and Rattle present a Celebrity Series of Boston concert on Nov. 19, with Quasthoff as soloist in Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde." Quasthoff will also sing Schubert's "Winterreise" with the BSO under James Levine on Feb. 24 and Schubert songs with the BSO and Levine Feb. 28-March 1.


Christian Tetzlaff (Hänssler Classic)

Christian Tetzlaff first recorded the Bach solo violin music in 1993, and that set was notable for his immaculate playing, almost free of vibrato, and rigorous approach to Bach's rhythms and phrasing. The temptation in much of this music is to make every measure into its own drama; Tetzlaff let the music speak in whole, flowing paragraphs.

Like Gidon Kremer two years ago, Tetzlaff is now revisiting these endlessly mysterious works. His tone remains sweet and pure, and the immaculate fingerwork is still there, as any of the Presto movements show. But Tetzlaff allows the music to breathe a bit more freely, leaning into accents and adding touches of rubato to the slower movements. And his measured, insistent ascent of the D Minor Partita's famous chaconne movement is not only dramatic but musically cogent. These aren't radical rethinkings of the kind that Kremer produced, but rather a deepening and maturing of Tetzlaff's already compelling original conception.

Tetzlaff plays the Berg Violin Concerto with the BSO and Levine on Nov. 8-10.