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Sunday Classical: New Release Highlights for April 2024

The Ragazze Quartet:  Jeanita Vriens–van Tongeren, Rebecca Wise, Rosa Arnold, Annemijn Bergkotte.
Nichon Glerum
The Ragazze Quartet: Jeanita Vriens–van Tongeren, Rebecca Wise, Rosa Arnold and Annemijn Bergkotte.

On the first Sunday of every month, WRTI broadcasts a special edition of Sunday Classical focused on classical new releases. Here are some highlights from our April edition, from Ragazze Quartet, the Cantata Collective, Lang Lang and more.

Gershwin Rhapsody

Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano), Michael Feinstein (piano)

Fresh off their U.S. concert tour, which took them to Carnegie Hall and other venues, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Michael Feinstein present an ear-tickling program of piano duos, solos and songs by George Gershwin. As both a singer and a pianist, Feinstein has a special affinity with this music as ambassador for the Great American Songbook and as a one-time assistant to George’s brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin.

Tchaikovsky: Overtures, Vol. 2

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Alpesh Chauhan (conductor)

Following up their critically-acclaimed first volume, the BBC Scottish Symphony and Associate Conductor Alpesh Chauhan present more orchestral Tchaikovsky. There are a number of lesser-known works to discover here, including the symphonic fantasy Fatum (Fate), excerpts from his early opera The Oprichnik, and incidental music for The Snow Maiden. The Shakespeare-inspired fantasy Hamlet and the rousing, rollicking Capriccio Italien are two of the more familiar selections here.

But Not My Soul: Price, Dvořák & Giddens

Ragazze Quartet

During his time in America, Antonin Dvořák stated, “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on… Negro melodies. These beautiful and varied themes… are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.” Work songs, spirituals, and early blues infuse quartets by two female African American composers — Florence Price and Rhiannon Giddens — on this new release by the all-female Ragazze Quartet. Dvořák’s own “American” String Quartet, also said to show the influence of African American spirituals, rounds out the recording.


Daniel Hope (violin), Zurich Chamber Orchestra

Violinist Daniel Hope, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and friends present one of the more upbeat recordings of the year with this infectious musical survey of seven centuries of music connected to dance. From tango and klezmer tunes to Duke Ellington to the stylized dance music of Handel, Schubert, Bartók and Prokofiev, the 30+ selections on this album will lift your spirits and you yourself onto the dance floor.

Bach: Mass in B Minor, Bwv 232

Cantata Collective, Nicholas McGegan (conductor)

Early-music enthusiasts are sure to welcome this new recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s supreme sacred choral achievement, the Mass in B Minor, completed the year before his death. Renowned conductor Nicholas McGegan leads the orchestra and chamber choir of the San Francisco-based Cantata Collective, along with four distinguished early music vocal soloists: Rhianna Cockrell, Thomas Cooley, Sherezade Panthaki and Paul Max Tipton.

Lang Lang – Saint-Saëns

Lang Lang (piano), Gina Alice (piano), Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Andris Nelsons (conductor)

Pianist Lang Lang returns to the spotlight in this new recording of French music for the piano that boasts many discoveries. Among them is Lang Lang’s own wife, pianist Gina Alice, who makes beautiful music with her husband in Saint-Saëns’ beloved Carnival of the Animals and Debussy’s delightful four-hand Petite Suite. Lang Lang also performs with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Andris Nelsons in Saint-Saëns’ popular Piano Concerto No. 2 and unearths solo pieces by five female composers of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Dorothy Howell – Orchestral Works

BBC Concert Orchestra, Rebecca Miller (conductor)

The BBC Concert Orchestra and Rebecca Miller offer world premiere recordings of symphonic compositions by Dorothy Howell, who was dubbed the “English Richard Strauss” during her lifetime. Also featured is her tone poem Lamia, which made the 21-year-old composer an overnight success after its premiere at the Proms in 1919.

Mendelssohn: Symphonies

Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (conductor)

Seeking to raise the profile of early Romantic German composer Felix Mendelssohn, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra with Music Director Paavo Järvi present Mendelssohn’s five Symphonies and complete incidental music to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The recording includes the half-symphony, half-cantata Symphony No. 2 “Lobgesang” (Song of Praise), written by Mendelssohn in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of Gutenberg’s movable type system.

Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil

Igor Morozov (tenor), Evgeny Kachurovsky (baritone), Alexis V. Lukianov (octavist), PaTRAM Institute Male Choir, Ekaterina Antonenko (conductor)

Hailed as “the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church” and one of the composer’s own favorite compositions, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil is a traditional evening worship service, based on traditional chant melodies and sung in Church Slavonic. Originally for mixed chorus, the work is performed here in arrangements for the northern California based PaTRAM Institute Male Choir.

A Philadelphia native, Mark grew up in Roxborough and at WRTI has followed in the footsteps of his father, William, who once hosted a music program on the station back in the '50s.