Desert Island DiscsDesert Island Discs
The SOLO movie page has been very well received, so, prompted by a suggestion from Peter Cresswell, I'm proposing to add a similar page for CDs. You're allowed five CDs to take with you into exile - which would you choose & why? I know five is cruelly inadequate - you may give honourable mention to others if you wish :-)
Several years ago I made transworld move from Los Angeles to Rhodes, Greece. My possessions were limited to what I could take with me on the plane. Most of which were art supplies and unfinished paintings (rolled-up), a shopping bag of clothes, and FIVE recordings. So the deserted island scenario was a real experience for me. I love it when speculation and reality meet up!
Though I wouldn't want to limit myself again, but if I had do it, even down to one choice, I would, with absolute certainty, pick TURANDOT, 1924 (!), by Puccini, Mehta conducting, with Sutherland, Caballe, and Pavarotti as soloists. Sparkling clarity, dramatic pacing, meltingly soft lyricism, and thundering climaxes describe the attributes to this brilliant studio recording of Puccini's epic, 20th Century, masterpiece. Mehta weaves in and out of the colorful orchestration, pointing out moments of sheer sensuality, drives to huge sound, and intertwining it all with a glorious chorus, and soloists that match him note for note. Sutherland's voice is shimmering steel. She starts off big with beautiful arched phrasing and simply continues to clime. Caballe sound is liquid gold. And Pavarotti rings above the orchestra throughout. The supporting roles are delightful. But the amazing thing is that everything, the soloists, the orchestra, the chorus, the conceptions, the climaxes, and the details, to my sensibilities, are perfect
There is an interesting undocumented story about Ayn Rand that was told to me by Michael Berliner. He told me that some friends of his invited Rand to go to the Metropolitan Opera House to see Puccini's La Boheme. The friends were quite anxious that Rand would enjoy herself, she had been known to make audible comments, not necessarily kind, whilst in a theater. Anyway, she loved it and afterwards, while waltzing on the sidewalk, commented that, "If someone can't feel Puccini's music, he must be dead."
Beethoven: the Complete Violin Sonatas, Kremer, Argerich. If I could have two choices of music to have on my island, which is not deserted :), this would be my second choice. Kremer and Argerich play these Beethoven Violin Sonatas with so much passion, joy, and drive that I am completely dazzled. They convey a brilliant, sparkling, joyfully charged perspective that I have rarely experienced through art.
Bellini: Norma, Serafin conducting, with Callas, Corelli, Ludwig, and Zaccaria as soloists. The conducting is brilliant, sensually intense and Serafin has an eye/ear for the structure of the whole work. The duets and trios are cataclysmic and the last act is heart wrenching. Zaccaria the bass, what a beautiful big sound, and his legato line is a marvel. Ludwig's voice sounds fresh, warm, and rich, and her acting is tender and dramatic. The young Corelli blazes passionately with a beautiful ringing voice. His sound reminds me of a perfect blend of Pavarotti and Domingo, but he is more exclamatory, Mediterranean bravado personified. And Callas is, in a word, formidable! And I mean as an artist, not only the size of her voice! Beware, Callas does not have a beautiful voice, animalistic is a better choice for an adjective.
J.S. Bach: Toccata, Partita, and English Suite No. 2, Martha Argerich, piano. Argerich's playing doesn't sound like a Romantic mannerism, and doesn't sound like a period affectation complete with powered wig. It sounds like I've died and gone to Bach heaven; it seems like she tosses off the complex structure of the pieces with irresistible movement, immaculate timing, and with an affection I would call joy or love. And far from sounding like Argerich, for which she as been criticized, the music sounds like...Bach. But I have that sense that with all the interpretations I have heard from Argerich, that Chopin sounds like Chopin, Ravel sounds like himself, Prokofiev etc. The greatest recording of any Bach music I have heard.
Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3, Ormandy conducting, and Horowitz as soloist. This was recorded live in 1978 at Carnegie Hall with some inserted corrective replays following the concert. Horowitz is moody, elegant, and very passionate in his playing. But what makes this a hit for me is the great conducting by Ormandy with New York Philharmonic. I think Ormandy is underrated. He keeps the rhythmic structure of the entire piece, swells romantically with lush sound, and in the scherzo parts he really whips the orchestra to play with pinpointed exclamations. This is the only CD I cannot work by; I close the lights, get a pillow for my head, lie prone with the speakers aimed at my ears, and go for one of the greatest rides of passion and beauty I know.
O.K. that's five, but since I actually went through this scenario I think I am entitled to one more. Beethoven: Symphonies 5-8, Toscanini conducting, NBC Symphony Orchestra. What is there to say about Toscanini, but that he is the greatest conductor I have ever heard. His integration of structure, momentum, and detailed expression is without peer. I don't know how its possible but the first cord from each of these Symphonies, seems to set the whole in motion. He creates an overwhelming sense of anticipation, moves through waves of feeling, and then lets loose with cataclysmic precision. And he does something that I have rarely heard, but he makes every note seem as if it's a human expression. I don't mean that its as if it was made by the thought or feeling of the composer, but that the orchestra itself is an intensely passionate and intelligent animal whose form of expression is solely by sound. His interpretations never sound like musical abstractions, which are how most conductors' interpretations sound to me. There is something primordial in hearing Toscanini, that feeling makes me recall that someone said that the first musical instrument was the voice.
With real difficulty I stop. But I could easily go on to include the entire discophile of Leontyne Price, everything else that Martha Argerich has touched, and my delightful concession to Jazz, the incomparable, Ella Fitzgerald.
The following list of CDs is not exhaustive. There is so much music that is important to me but I think I could live with these selections. This music evokes my sense of the sublime and leaves be in a state of awe.
First up is HOLST'S THE PLANETS: Levine/Chicago Symphony. This is a tremendous volcanic performance, the most powerful I have ever heard. There is no better version of Mars bringer of War; it just hammers you. Yea!
Second up is SHOSTAKOVICH'S SYMPHONY NO.11 (1905) - Berglund/Bournmouth Symphony. This symphony is a titanic shout of NO!!! into the face of tyranny. It packs quite an emotional wallop. Haunting, mysterious brutal, exciting, sorrowful,and heroic. You just cannot better this performance and recording. It's super-spectacular, and the ending - Oh My God! SO AWESOME!!!
Third up is R.STRAUSS'S AN ALPINE SYMPHONY - Sinopoli Staattskapelle Dresden. Total majesty. Stand on top of a mountain peak in glorious triumph.Survive a massive storm to see a golden sunset. A magnificent performance and a stellar recording. Its is the ultimate 'Alpine' to listen to.
Fourth up is RACHMANINOV"S SYMPHONY NO.2 - Svetlanov/State Orchestra of the Russian Federation. This is the most searingly passionate performance of this symphony, period! Pure romantic beauty and joy. The final coda brings me to tears. This is worth the price of the box set of the complete orchestra works of Rachmaninov. It cannot get better than this. A supreme achievement!
Now the fifth; The envelope please! The winner is....SAINT SAENS' SYMPHONY NO.3 (Organ) - Tortelier/Ulser Orchestra. This is a soaring hymn of beauty to Man the Hero. This symphony has the most powerful and soul-stirring final movement in all romantic period music. Music for the Noble Soul. This recording sweeps the board. All other versions are left in the dust. THIS IS WHAT MUSIC CAN BE AND OUGHT TO BE!
I have not mentioned the symphonies of RALPH VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS or TCHIAKOVSKY or the film music of BERNARD HERRMANN because there is so much greatness and so many to choose from. One last mention must go to OTORINO RESPIGHI'S THE PINES OF ROME - Karajan/ Berlin Philharmonic. Karajan's version of the Pines of the Appian Way towers over all others It's pure ectasy and exaltation!
I hope everyone who hasn't heard this music to discovers it for himself.
Peter Saint-Andre:Duke Ellington, "And His Mother Called Him Bill..." -- I'd have to have some Duke along, and this is my favorite of his recordings, even though the compositions are by his longtime associate Billy Strayhorn. Such a powerful performance!
Bach, "Cello Suites" -- a difficult choice here since I also love a lot of Bach's keyboard music and his "Art of the Fugue", but I would bring the Cello Suites because I love the cello and also because I want to learn to play these on electric bass, so I'd use the time on the desert island as an opportunity for study. I'd probably bring Yo-Yo Ma's "Inspired by Bach" recording.
Yes, "Close to the Edge" -- For me, this is rock music at its most advanced. It's either this album of theirs or "Relayer", but I think "Close to the Edge" would win out (though if I brought "Tales from Topographic Oceans" I could sneak in a two-disc set).
Dvorak, "Cypresses" -- the most beautiful, haunting chamber music I know.
Marcus Roberts, "Alone with Three Giants" -- a stunning recording of music from Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk by an absolute virtuoso. Gets me a piano fix and a jazz fix all in one.
Well, that's five. I'd surely miss so many other fine recordings, but I suppose I could survive with just these few.
Mario Lanza, of course - of whom it has been said that if there were a God & He had a voice, this is what it would sound like. A custom CD, containing the 1949 Che Gelida Manina, Recondita Armonia & E Lucevan le Stelle, the Rhino CD version of Vesti la Giubba, Un Di All'azzuro Spazio, the Coca Cola recording of Lamento di Federico, a bunch of Neapolitan songs, Serenade, Drink! Drink! Drink!, Beloved & I'll Walk with God from the Student Prince ... & many many more from this Prince of Passion, this force of nature who "rumbled the stars themselves." See Derek McGovern's essay, "Mario!" on this site.
Anna Moffo. This soprano is one of the world's best-kept secrets. The most voluptuous-voiced prima donna ever! Again, a custom CD that contains, at minimum, her Rachmaninoff Vocalise, Songs of the Auvergne, her "Dream Duets" with Sergio Franchi, highlights from Die Fledermaus, her German recording of Vissi d'Arte, her German operetta recordings ... OK, maybe there are two or three custom CDs here!
Fritz Wunderlich. Here I cheat. I'm taking the 5-CD Deutsche set with me. There's everything here - his superb lieder, operatic arias, Italian ballads & his astounding, superhuman, sonic-boom delivery of Granada.
Maria Callas. Another force of nature, a voice with a heart-stopping, other-worldly quality, capable of the most terrifying violence & the most poignant tenderness, well captured on a CD called The Incomparable Callas - a compendium of arias recorded at different times during her explosive career. Gluck's J'ai Perdu mon Eurydice & Massenet's Pleurez, mes Yeux are particular stand-outs in an outstanding collection.
Rachmaninoff - A Window in Time. Transfers of his piano roll recordings, sounding as though they were made just yesterday. The master-composer was also a master-pianist. Hearing his spirited renderings of his own war-horses like the Prelude in C & the Prelude in G Minor is a joy. For good measure, there's a thunderous Star-Spangled Banner to conclude with!
Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto #3. Rapture set to music. Here I'll cheat again & take the 2-CD collection of all 4 Rach concertos & his Paganini Rhapsody, played by Howard Shelley. Mr Shelley's reading of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue can go in the bag as well. Oh, & Earl Wild's joyous Gershwin transcriptions while I'm about it.
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Indescribable in its grandeur, what a salute to the human race I'll be leaving behind! Of course, we all quiver in anticipation of the earth-shattering finale, but to me the third movement, the Adagio, is also one of the sublimest pieces of music ever written. Which version to take? I'll have to think long & hard about that, but probably one of the Furtwanglers.
Well, I've already well exceeded my limit, but, if no one's looking, I'm going to tuck away every bit of Chopin I can lay my hands on as well.
Ring Cycle-Richard Wagner There's enough in this one selection to keep a castaway company for years to come, a whole universe of music to explore, understand and be thrilled by. I'll pack the complete set by Solti, although I will miss Jessye Norman's Brunnhilde. Grrrr. Perhaps I'll sneak in her Wagner Opera Scenes just to hear her in the Gotterdämmerung finale.
Far East Suite-Duke Ellington I'll try and slip in the definitive 24CD RCA boxed set of the Duke's best 462 tracks-a snip at nearly US$400, and between the Ring and the RCA set I'd be pretty well covered for music--but if I get caught I'll put his Far East Suite in my luggage. The tone colours, contrasts and excitement he is famous for, all in this exotic and musically rich package should keep my spirits fuelled and my toes tapping. It will have to be the 100th Anniversary expanded edition though, with all the extra tracks and outtakes.
Magic and Loss-Lou Reed
"I would take to a funeral march in preference to The Blue Danube Waltz' or to the Nelson Eddy-Jeanette McDonald kind of music,"
said Rand. This album is a march through Lou's grieving for the loss of two close friends: Not an upbeat toe-tapping number by any means, but a work of great depth about real pain and redemption; an emotional journey through grief, and the strength that acknowledging the finality of loss finally brings. The final track sums up the journey both musically and lyrically:
"When you pass through humble when you pass through sickly
When you pass through I'm better than you all
When you pass through anger and self-deprecation and have the strength to acknowledge it all
When the past makes you laugh and you can savor the magic that lets you survive your own war
You find that the fire is passion, and there's a door up ahead not a wall."
Not one to listen to every day, but it would bear many repeat listenings on a lonely desert island.
Generation Terrorists--Manic Street Preachers When the Manics recorded this flawed masterpiece they boasted they'd sell sixteen million copies, kill rock and roll, and then split up. In the event, none of these things happened, but this debut album has all the dash and chutzpah that only four (actually three) rock musicians with that sort of world-beating arrogance can really pull off. I'm almost put off by their recent flirtation with 'Old Busy Whiskers' himself-Fidel Castro-but this album can be my own desert island flirtation with the best and worst excesses that passionate punk guitar music can produce.
Tosca-Puccini I must have my favourite piece of Italian opera in my suitcase. How could I survive if I could never again hear Scarpia fall to 'Tosca's kiss' in that erotically charged Second Act, or hear Cavaradossi so poignantly express his desire and love of life in the Third? The selection will have to be the Karajan version with Leontyne Price.
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operetta -- I surprised myself with this choice, but I would feel genuinely sad if I couldn't hear her sing The Nun's Chorus again.
The Boatman Calls--Nick Cave If the Marquis de Sade could write love songs, this is how they would sound. Warmly romantic piano-fuelled balladry from the otherwise loudly gothic legend, this album glows with intelligent, heartfelt paeans to romance, love, and louchness. I simply couldn't leave it behind.
Inside Out--Graham Brazier I also couldn't leave behind this New Zealand classic--still, to my mind, the best album ever produced here, and a reminder of many wonderful hours listening to Graham and Hello Sailor produce nightly feats of musical brilliance around the country. And I could play Graham's Billy Bold to drown out my own exuberant though execrable after-hours singing.
Five!! What do you mean I can only take five (or so)?! No Diz or Monk, no Hamp or Satch! No Bob or Tom.
Monart Pon:For Monart Pon, to take with him to exile, not to a desert island, but to a space island hopefully, are these:
Custom CDs of --
1. The Best of John Mills-Cockell: Syrinx, Long Lost Relatives, Heartbeat, A Third Testament, Gateway, Atlantis, Do You Hear the Rushing River?
2. The Best of Dvorak I: Cello Concerto, New World Symphony, American Quartet, American Suite, American Flag, Dumky Trio, Slavonic Dances, Legends.
3. The Best of Dvorak II: Symphony No. 8, Symphony No. 7, Czech Suite, Wind Serenade, String Serenade, Slavonic Poems, Slavonic Rhapsodies, Cypresses.
4. The Best of Mario: All the things you are, Serenade, Golden Days, One Alone, Beloved, Core 'ngrato, Arrivederci Roma, Tourna a surriento, Drink Drink Drink.
5. Assorted: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Bizet's L'Arlesienne Suites, Schubert's Trout Quintet, Pachelbel's Canon, Rodrigo's Concierto De Aranjuez.
Larry Sechrest:My experience with CDs is rather limited. I am so old that most of the music I have is still in the form of vinyl records. But here goes:
1. John McDermott, The Danny Boy Collection, Angel Records 1998. The best of the Irish Tenors with some of his best recordings. If songs like "The Green Fields of France", "The Dutchman", and "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" don't touch you deeply.....well, you must have ceased breathing.
2. John McDermott, Anthony Kearns, and Ronan Tynan, The Irish Tenors, POINT Entertainment 1999. Hopefully, this treasure needs no comment.
3. Jay and the Americans, Greatest Hits, Capitol-EMI 1991. This little-known rock group was one of the best. The lead singer has perhaps the finest voice in rock 'n roll. Good fun.
4. Matt Monro, Spotlight on Matt Monro, Capitol Records 1995. Monro was often called "the British Sinatra", but I prefer his voice to Sinatra's any day. Excellent romantic ballads and show tunes---like "Ebb Tide", "Stardust", and "I'll Take Romance".
5. Charles Aznavour, Greatest Golden Hits, EMI 1995. Armenian by birth, Aznavour usually records in French, but this is all in English. As is true of most popular French music, this goes down best if you just lost a lover and there is a bottle of wine at your elbow.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra:
Coming up with five CDs to take with me into exile is difficult... and I assume that these CDs can't be compilations of lots of single cuts from other CDs, so I'll do my best:
1. The Rhino Soundtrack version of "Ben-Hur": Yes, the movie is my favorite, but the soundtrack is also one of the grandest and most important symphonic film scores ever recorded. Composed, arranged, and conducted by the great classical and film composer Miklos Rozsa, it is filled with the sounds of struggle and redemption. A true inspiration.
2. Getz/Gilberto: One of the most melodic albums in the history of jazz, featuring the magnificent tenor saxophonist Stan Getz playing the classic bossa nova sounds of the great Brazilian composer (also featured on this album), Antonio Carlos Jobim. Great vocals and guitar work too from Astrud and Joao Gilberto.
3. Intuition: A duet album with the incomparable Bill Evans on piano and the virtuoso bassist Eddie Gomez. A tour de force of improvisational interplay on some great standards from the American songbook, including "Invitation."
4. For Django: Joe Pass, the great jazz guitarist, doing his remarkable and swinging tribute to another great jazz guitarist: the gypsy Django Reinhardt.
5. Thriller: If I'm in exile, I'm gonna want to boogie! Some of my fondest memories from New York dance clubs are from the 80s, and no album better captures that moment than Michael Jackson's "Thriller" -- which ended up becoming a greatest hits collection. He's eccentric, to say the least, but his music has had a major impact on pop culture, and this infectious, rhythmic collection is among his best, from "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" to "Billie Jean." (However, I won't be moonwalking anytime soon...)
Honorable mention: "Embraceable You" -- I say honorable mention, because I'd not want to be accused of nepotism. This album, by a fantastic jazz guitarist (Carl Barry) and his equally talented wife (Joanne Barry), is actually by my brother and sister-in-law, and features some great improvisation on classic standards of American song.
Anna Moffo: Cantaloube, Villa-Lobos, Rachmaninoff. Like Lindsay, I would probably cheat and make my own custom Anna Moffo CD, as amazing gems are sprinkled through various recordings. But if I had to stay official, I'd go with this one -- her collaboration with the brilliant Stokowski. And though the entire disc is breathtaking, it would be enough to have only her version of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, a final eight minutes of compelling evidence of a Divine Force. And this is an atheist talking.
Mario Lanza. Here, I face a similar problem: how to choose a single recording, or collection, from the greatest tenor voice of the century? Again, a custom compilation would be best, but to choose one release, I'd go for the Opera Arias and Duets collection. It's all about his sizzling Andrea Chenier arias, and the final Otello duet with Licia Albanese. This last will raise hairs on the back of your neck. Amazing examples of why Mario was as brilliant an operatic interpreter as he was of popular song.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, Furtwangler. Passionate, unforgettable interpretations of the greatest symphonic achievement of mankind. But WHICH Furtwangler recording, among several masterpieces? Tough choice, but I'll go for the Bayreuth Festival recording from 1951, recently re-released and re-mastered. Ecstasy.
Ella Fitzgerald: Ella in Rome. No other female jazz singer could pour so much infectious joy and life into even the most pedestrian song. Ella was most explosive in her live recordings, when she plays off the audience and lets it all out in sensual ballads and scorching scatting. Her birthday concert in Rome is an astonishing example.
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concertos 2 and 3, Byron Janis. It's difficult to choose one recording of these two masterpieces, but, even with Horowitz and Shelley offering their masterful versions, my heart belongs to Mr. Janis. Credit also to the engineers on this album, as the sound quality is phenomenal.
I'm over my limit already, but I'm a Beethoven fiend, so I can't get away without mentioning Carlos Kleiber's famous recordings of the 5th and 7th symphonies. Along with the Furtwangler Ninth, this is ready evidence of why belonging to the same species that produced Beethoven is reason for endless hope.
Special guest: Damon Lanza (Mario's son)
Lindsay says five! Is that all?! Naturally I'll be taking my father's CDs. You might like to know about four that you can obtain only from us at Damon Lanza Productions - email@example.com:Golden Days
All of these include rare, unreleased material of my father. What you will hear are some candid snapshots of a beautiful human being. As I said in the recent Mysteries & Scandals documentary about Dad, "People know him as the world's greatest singer. I know him as the world's greatest father."