Give comfort with these classical music gifts
After you read this, power off your computer. Set your smartphone to Airplane Mode. Then settle into a comfortable chair, turn out the lights and just listen to this classical music, closely. Final step: Give it to the people you really love.
"Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, Volume 2" • From 1960 to 1972, the legendary conductor appeared on prime-time TV, explaining the joys and mysteries of classical music to millions of Americans. Here on nine DVDs are 27 episodes of Bernstein's lecture-concerts, as informative and entertaining as ever. This new box set completes the job begun with Volume 1 in 2004. ($134.99; http://www.amazon.com)
Double Bach • To say that J.S. Bach is timeless, grounding, miraculous it's all true. Try pianist Jeremy Denk's new Nonesuch CD of the "Goldberg Variations," which comes with a DVD on which Denk (a terrific gabber) demonstrates and unravels the Goldbergs. ($16; http://www.nonesuch.com/store). Or try the new Bach CD by Chris Thile, of the Punch Brothers, who performs sonatas and partitas for violin in a nifty manner on his mandolin. ($13; http://www.nonesuch.com/store)
Big-bang orchestra recordings • Top American orchestras keep releasing brand new Cadillac albums. This, for instance San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor: "Beethoven/Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II, Symphony No. 2" (SFS Media, $18.98, http://www.shopsfsymphony.org). And this Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, conductor: "Stravinsky/Stokowski/The Rite of Spring/Bach Transcriptions" (Deutsche Grammophon, $16.10, http://www.amazon.com). Or this Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine, conductor, Evgeny Kissin, soloist: "Live at Carnegie Hall," works by Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert (Deutsche Grammophon, $13.78, http://www.amazon.com).
San Francisco Opera: "Moby-Dick" and "Lucrezia Borgia" • The West Coast's leading opera company recorded these two recent productions live onstage in high definition. "Moby-Dick," a spectacle, is an adaptation by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer of Melville's novel (EuroArts, $21.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, http://www.amazon.com). Donizetti's "Lucrezia Borgia" stars soprano RenÃ©e Fleming, who sparkles (EuroArts, $21.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray).
"Verdi at the Met" • Released to mark the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth, this new 20-CD box set includes a wealth of Metropolitan radio broadcasts, spanning four decades. "AÃ¯da," "La Traviata," "Rigoletto" these and other full productions have been restored and remastered to showcase many glorious voices: Richard Tucker, Jussi BjÃ¶rling, Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry, Robert Merrill. (Sony Classical, $60, http://www.metoperashop.org)