Claudio Abbado's Valedictory Recording with Martha Argerich

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This week's featured albums include one of conductor Claudio Abbado's final performances, recorded live with his old colleague, pianist Martha Argerich. Plus, we samples some effervescent French wind quintets and a zesty collection of folk arrangements for string quartet.

Mozart Piano Concertos in D minor (K. 466) and C major (K. 503)
Orchestra Mozart
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Martha Argerich, piano
Available at

Claudio Abbado and Martha Argerich had a shared Latin heritage, the conductor being from Milan and the pianist from Buenos Aires. As such they forged a particularly long-lasting and deep friendship that resulted in several celebrated recordings. They made their first together for Deutsche Grammophon in the late 1960s in Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto and Ravel's G Major. It is somehow fitting and poignant then that, following Abbado’s death in January at age 80, DG should release this album of Mozart concertos, again with Argerich as the soloist.

These two concertos were recorded live at the Lucerne Festival in March 2013. While the Ravel/Prokofiev album (still available) featured the Berlin Philharmonic, this release spotlights one of Abbado’s several training ensembles, the Orchestra Mozart. The performances of the D minor (K. 466) and C major (K. 503) concertos have all of the vivacity and stylistic acuity one would expect from these two veteran artists; a few slightly ragged transitions only serve to underscore the sense of spontaneity.

Below is an album sampler from DG. For a deeper dive, also consider this compilation of works by Beethoven, Liszt, Scriabin and Nono featuring Argerich and Abbado.


French Music For Winds/20th Century Wind Quintets
Les Vents Français
Warner Classics
Available at

Five top wind players (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn) join forces for Les Vents Francais (The French Winds), a 2-CD set bursting with colorful, tuneful pieces. Perhaps best known is Darius Milhaud’s Le Cheminee du Roi Rene, a charming and tuneful evocation of medieval chivalry. Other highlights include Mason Jones's gorgeous transcription of Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin; the lovely Summer Music by Samuel Barber and the exuberant Kleine Kammermusik, No. 2, by the underrated composer Paul Hindemith. For those who know Gyorgy Ligeti for his abstract modernist statements, the Six Bagatelles will be a surprise, their Hungarian folk influences brought out in a delightfully animated performance. Jacques Ibert's "Trois Pièces Brèves" reflects a relieved continent dispelling the shadows of the Great War.


European Folkscapes
Apollo Chamber Players
Available at

Founded by former classmates at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, the Apollo Chamber Players specialize in the rich crossroads where classical, folk and ethnic styles meet. The ensemble released its first recording earlier this year, a collection of European folk melodies in the group’s own arrangements for string quartet. There’s Basque and Spanish folk music, Italian songs, rebetika music from Greece and folk sounds from the Slavic region.  Karim Al-Zand, a Rice professor, contributes a Fantasy on Bulgarian Rhythms, highlighting the exotic harmonies and irregular rhythms of the Balkan region.