Skip to content ↓

MIT musicians pick season's hits among classical, jazz and rock

The Who: 'Endless Wire' (Republic)
The Who: 'Endless Wire' (Republic)

Faculty from MIT's music section and the Media Laboratory offer the recordings listed below as great gifts to give and receive this holiday season.

Classical: Piano

David Deveau, senior lecturer in music, has established himself as a pianist, radio personality, recording artist and international competition judge. Deveau recommends:

Beethoven: Piano Concertos 2 and 3 (Deutsche Grammophon)--Martha Argerich, piano, with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. "This recording is simply astonishing. It's music-making of technical perfection, fantasy and the loftiest artistry."

Bach: Six Partitas for Solo Keyboard (Dorian label)--Andrew Rangell, piano. "Glenn Gould has been my gold standard for most Bach, but in the partitas, Rangell (based in Boston) is superb as well. He is an original, sometimes maddening, but always provocative and rewarding."

Brahms: Piano Concertos 1 and 2; Variations on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24; Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (London/Decca Records)--Julius Katchen, piano, London Symphony Orchestra. "The late Julius Katchen is simply riveting in these pieces. Those looking for mellow, sunbathed Brahms should look elsewhere. These interpretations are white-hot."

Classical: New Vocal Releases

Ellen T. Harris is Class of 1949 Professor of Music at MIT. Harris is a musicologist working in the area of Baroque opera and vocal performance practice with a special emphasis on the music of Handel. She recommends:

Handel: "Le Cantate per il Cardinal Pamphli" (Glossa)--"Soprano Roberta Invernizzi is spectacular, but every musician on the disc is a virtuoso."

"Sings Peter Lieberson: Neruda Songs" (Nonesuch)--"This disc captures the luminous voice of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing the love poetry of Chilean Pablo Neruda. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine, is achingly beautiful."

Cherubini Requiem/Boston Baroque (Telarc)--"The requiem that was written to commemorate the beheading of Louis XVI during the French Revolution, it was played at Beethoven's memorial service. It is here recorded for the first time on period instruments."

Classical and Rock

Tod Machover, professor of media arts and sciences, has composed five operas and leads the group that invented Hyperinstruments. Machover recommends:

Natura Renovatur: "String music by Giacinto Scelsi" (ECM)--"This spectacular CD features solo cello and string ensemble music by Scelsi (1905-1988), a reclusive Italian aristocrat whose radical music explores exciting sonorities and textures."

William Byrd: "The Complete Keyboard Music" (Hyperion)--"Byrd has always been the "3rd B" for me; his keyboard music is the only oeuvre that matches the other two B's--Bach and Beethoven--in richness, range and sheer beauty."

The Who: "Endless Wire" (Republic)--"Who would have thunk it?! This CD is an explosive blast from Who remaining members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry, updating the edgy sound of their youthful work and adding an entirely new dimension of acoustic beauty and very strong texts."

Chamber Music

Marcus Thompson, Robert R. Taylor Professor of Music, heads programs in chamber music and performance studies. As an internationally acclaimed violist, he has performed throughout the Americas, Europe and the Far East. He recommends:

Beethoven: Op. 18 #6 in B flat, Op. 59 in B flat and Op. 59 #1 in F ("Razumovsky") (Telarc CD 80229)--"This displays the quality I prize most in chamber music performance and composition: nuance."

Gabriel Fauré: Complete Chamber Music performed by the Nash Ensemble (Brilliant Classics 92337)--"This is a rare compilation of all the chamber works of this master of harmonic and tonal shading."


Pamela Wood, senior lecturer in music and coordinator of sight-singing classes, is also a soprano whose performances have been acclaimed in concerts around the world. Wood recommends:

Bobby McFerrin: "Bang! Zoom" (Blue Note, 1996)--"It's sunshine on a disc! Bobby McFerrin, inimitable composer, conductor, shares his masterful vocal improvisation."

Richard Smallwood: "Memorable Moments" (EMI Gospel, 1999)--"I'm repeatedly inspired at depth by Smallwood's virtuosity as a classically trained pianist, singer, composer who is working in the field of gospel music."

Bessie Jones: "Put Your Hand on Your Hip and Let Your Backbone Slip" (Rounder Records, 2001)--"This is a unique collection of songs, singing games and stories from the Georgia Sea Islands. For decades, Miss Bessie was the living repository of this body of folk literature, often performing with the Georgia Sea Island Singers."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 13, 2006 (download PDF).

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News