Saturday, October 31, 2015

Richard Wagner - Orchestral Music (George Szell)


Information

Composer: Richard Wagner
  1. Das Rheingold: Einzug der Götter in Walhall (Szene 4)
  2. Die Walküre: Walkürenritt (Akt III, Szene 1)
  3. Die Walküre: Wotans Feuerzauber (Akt III, Szene 3)
  4. Siegfried: Waldweben (Akt II, Szene 2)
  5. Götterdämmerung: Morgendämmerung und Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt (Prolog)
  6. Götterdämmerung: Siegfrieds Trauermarsch und Finale (Akt III, Szene 2 und 3)
  7. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Vorspiel zum I. Aufzug
  8. Tristan und Isolde: Vorspiel zum I. Aufzug und Isoldes Liebestod

Cleveland Orchestra
George Szell, conductor
Date: 1962 (7, 8), 1968 (1-6)
Label: Sony Classical

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Review

George Szell was the greatest opera conductor who never recorded a complete opera. Early in his career, he decided to leave the opera house because he was unable to work with what he considered to be the compromising conditions of modern opera production. The most tantalizing recording he never conducted was the complete "Ring" for London. The honor went instead to Sir Georg Solti, and although Solti's work was hardly inconsiderable, this exceptional disc gives us some sense of what we lost. In fact, if you can only afford to buy one Wagner disc, get this one. Not only is the playing incredible, the whole package is available at a budget price. It's more than a bargain; it's a steal.

-- David Hurwitz

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Orchestral-Nibelungen-Meistersinger-Essential/dp/B0000027VN
http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Without-SZELL-CLEVELAND-ORCH/dp/B000002763

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Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theater director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas. He revolutionized opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesize the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. His composition are noted for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs.

***

George Szell (June 7, 1897 – July 30, 1970) was a Hungarian-born American conductor, widely considered one of the twentieth century's greatest conductors. He is remembered today for his long and successful tenure as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, and for his recordings of the standard classical repertoire.

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Richard Strauss - Four Last Songs; 12 Orchestral Songs (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf)


Information

Composer: Richard Strauss
  1. Vier letzte Lieder, Op. posth.: 1. Frühling
  2. Vier letzte Lieder, Op. posth.: 2. September
  3. Vier letzte Lieder, Op. posth.: 3. Beim Schlafengehen
  4. Vier letzte Lieder, Op. posth.: 4. Im Abendrot
  5. Muttertändelei, Op. 43 No. 2
  6. Waldseligkeit, Op. 49 No. 1
  7. Zuneigung, Op. 10 No. 1
  8. Freundliche Vision, Op. 48 No. 1
  9. Die Heiligen drei Könige, Op. 56 No. 6
  10. Ruhe, meine Seele, Op. 27 No. 1
  11. Meinem Kinde, Op. 37 No. 3
  12. Wiegenlied,  Op. 41 No. 1
  13. Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4
  14. Das Bächlein, Op. 88 No. 1
  15. Das Rosenband, Op. 36 No. 1
  16. Winterweihe, Op. 48 No. 4

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano
Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (1-9)
London Symphony Orchestra (10-16)
George Szell, conductor
Date: 1965 (1-9), 1968 (10-16)
Label: EMI

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Review

Occasionally reviewers are sent an album which quite simply awes them. This is such a disc. At the time of its original release Gramophone's critic wrote: "...a heavenly record, so beautiful that it goes against the grain to analyse

it." Exaggeration? Not a bit of it. This record is truly a masterpiece: a great meeting of extraordinary talents - the consummate artistry of Schwarzkopf and the glorious accompaniments of Szell, so often criticised for bing cold and aloof in performance, here inspiring the two orchestras to heights of breathtaking beauty in this opulent music. This CD truly deserves to be labelled a Great Recording of the Century.

This was the second recording that Schwarzkopf had made of the Four Last Songs The first had been with Otto Ackerman and the Philharmonia in 1953 - by 1949, after years of light lyric soprano roles such as Zerbinetta, Schwarzkopf had developed fuller tones sufficiently to suit the work. As John B. Steane, the eminent Gramophone critic, remarks in his eloquent notes "... the two performances are complementary, one does not have to choose between the freshness of the one and the experience of the other. (The first performance of the work, at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, in May 1950 had been not by a lyric soprano but by the mighty Wagnerian Kirsten Flagstad under Furtwängler.). In speaking about Schwarzkopf's performance at the Royal Festival Hall a few days after this 1965 recording of the Four Last Songs, Steane continues, "Schwarzkopf, whose conductor was Barbirolli, sounded essentially as in the Szell recording, a warm radiance in the tone, ample resources to make the voice sound out clearly and yet to meld with the instruments, and a deep humanity in all."

Strauss completed his late, lovely masterpiece, the Four Last Songs between May and September 1948. A fifth song was started but not finished. Sadly, barely a year later, the composer died without ever hearing them in performance.  Throughout his life Strauss had shown a distinct penchant for the soprano voice - one only has to recollect the three magnificent but demanding soprano roles in Der Rosenkavalier for instance. It is therefore fitting that this sublime last work with its fine vocal writing and opulent orchestrations (with glorious string parts), should be given to the soprano. The songs, sad but serene, suggest journeyings: through the day, through the seasons and through life. There are so many joys in this recording. I would just single out a few before I pass onto the 12 songs. Clearly Schwarzkopf's lovely silken tone; her effortless, seamless, floating, soaring singing that follows the winged spirit in "Beim Schlafengehen" (Going To Sleep) [and of course throughout all the four songs] is wondrous to hear. Then there is the lovely horn solo over softly caressing strings that closes "September" on an exquisite note of departing sadness for the departure of Summer; the melting beauty of the violin solo that distinguishes "Beim Schlafengehen"; and just everything in the haunting "Im Abendrot" (At Gloaming) - if music can be called heavenly then this is it! The closing orchestral pages are truly magical.

Strauss's 12 songs here recorded were written between 1897 and 1948. All are memorable and impressive. They are quite varied and give Schwarzkopf opportunities to show off her technique and considerable expressive powers, and Szell the opportunity to provide equally persuasive and glowing accompaniments. The most famous, perhaps, and the most beguiling are "Morgen" (Tomorrow) heartrendingly beautiful (again with a beautifully conceived violin solo over flowing harp arpeggios); and the sublime little lullaby, "Wiegenlied" (Cradle Song). To mention one or two of the other songs: the contrasting "Muttertändelei" (Tantalizing) is a light, wryly humorous look at motherhood with Schwarzkopf cooing, proudly and possessively over her new baby with the orchestra taking a more realistically ironic view of her exaggerated affections/affectations. "Die helligen drei Könige aus Morgenland" (The Three Holy Kings from the Orient) is Strauss' Nativity celebration which captures all the wonder of the star of Bethlehem, the closing orchestral pages shimmer gloriously; the string writing is bewitching but then the string writing (and playing) for all these songs is particularly rich. "Ruhe, meine Seele" (written in 1948) seems to forecast Strauss's imminent death. It is shadowy, brooding and foreboding and Schwarzkopf and Szell penetrate its dark soul.

In passing I would just like to draw attention to another very good recording of these works - that by in 1978 for CBS Masterworks by Kiri te Kanawa with Andrew Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra.

But rush out and buy this great reissue.

-- Ian Lace, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Songs-Orchestral-Recordings-Century/dp/B00000GCAE

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Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, lieder, tone poems and other orchestral works. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany andAustria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism.

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Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (9 December 1915 – 3 August 2006) was a German-born Austrian/British soprano opera singer and recitalist. She was among the most renowned classical singers of the 20th century, much admired for her performances of Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, and Wolf. She leaves a discography that is considerable both in quality and in quantity

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Ludwig van Beethoven; Jean Sibelius - Symphonies (George Szell)


Information

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven; Jean Sibelius
  1. Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67: 1. Allegro con brio
  2. Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67: 2. Andante con moto
  3. Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67: 3. Allegro
  4. Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67: 4. Allegro
  5. Sibelius - Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: 1. Allegretto - Poco allegro - Tranquillo, ma poco a poco ravvivando il tempo al allegro
  6. Sibelius - Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: 2. Tempo andante, ma rubato - Andante sostenuto
  7. Sibelius - Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: 3. Vivacissimo - Lento e suave - Largamente
  8. Sibelius - Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: 4. Finale (Allegro moderato)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
George Szell, conductor

Date: 1964 (Sibelius), 1966 (Beethoven)
Label: Philips
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4646822

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Review




The excellence of these two famous performances hasn’t diminished a bit over time. George Szell’s Beethoven Fifth exists in three versions: this one; another with the Cleveland Orchestra on Sony; and (finest of all) one with the Vienna Philharmonic live from the Salzburg Festival on Orfeo. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! It’s really pointless to dwell on minute variations in interpretation or playing: all three recordings represent a surpassingly high level of achievement, from the taught opening and generously “con moto” Andante, right through the grim scherzo to the explosive finale. It’s simply great Beethoven.

Szell’s Sibelius Second has stood as a reference edition of the score since the day the recording was made. Once again, there is a live rendition (with Cleveland made on tour in Tokyo) that arguably surpasses this one in some respects, but at present it’s only available on a limited basis from Japanese Sony, and hearing this dazzling recording, with it’s warmly glowing strings, perfectly judged first movement climax, jaggedly brilliant brass in the second movement, sizzling scherzo, and effortlessly grand finale, it’s easy to forget all about any other performance you might have heard or currently own. Frankly, no other even approaches Szell’s knockout combination of discipline and excitement, though some (such as Barbirolli’s on Chesky or Bernstein’s on Sony) offer a marginally greater sense of spontaneity, albeit with markedly less spectacular playing.

Sonically, this remastering sounds exactly the same as the “Early Years” two-disc set containing all of Szell’s Concertgebouw recordings for Philips (also available from Musical Heritage Society), which is to say it’s noticeably better than the overly dry, “CEDAR-ized” first CD issue. In fact, the engineering on display here compares favorably with today’s best. Classics in every sense of the word, these two performances deserve an honored place in even the most minuscule collection of music by either composer.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/July01/BeethovenSibelius.htm
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/beethoven-symphony-no-5-sibelius-symphony-no-2
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beethoven-Symphony-No-Sibelius/dp/B00005CCAB
http://www.amazon.com/Sibelius-Symphony-No-Beethoven/dp/B00005CCAB

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Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, his great Mass the Missa solemnis and an opera, Fidelio. Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_van_Beethoven

***

Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic period. His music contributed to the development of a feeling of national identity in Finland where he is now celebrated as the country's greatest composer. Sibelius is mostly known for his seven symphonies, the violin concerto and the tone poems such as Finlandia. He almost completely stopped composing after 1920s and did not produce any large-scale works in his last thirty years.

***

George Szell (June 7, 1897 – July 30, 1970) was a Hungarian-born American conductor and composer. He is widely considered one of the twentieth century's greatest conductors. Szell is remembered today for his long and successful tenure as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra (1946-1970), and for his recordings of the standard classical repertoire he made in Cleveland and with other orchestras, mostly for Epic/Columbia Masterworks. Szell was also well-known for his autocratic manner in rehearsal and his reputation as a perfectionist.

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Richard Wagner - Great Scenes from ''Der Ring des Nibelungen'' (Georg Solti)


Information

Composer: Richard Wagner

CD1:
  1. Das Rheingold - Scene 1: Prelude - Rhinemaidens' Song - Alberich's Curse
  2. Das Rheingold - Scene 4: Entry of the Gods into Valhalla
  3. Die Walküre - Act I: Siegmund Spring Song - Duet with Sieglinde
  4. Die Walküre - Act III: Ride of the Valkyries
  5. Die Walküre - Act III: Wotan's Farewell - Magic Fire Music
CD2:
  1. Siegfried - Act I: Forging Scene
  2. Siegfried - Act II: Forest Murmurs
  3. Götterdämmerung - Prologue: Dawn - Siegfried's Rhine Journey
  4. Götterdämmerung - Act III: Siegfried's Funeral March
  5. Götterdämmerung - Act III: Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene

Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Régine Crespin, soprano
Wolfgang Windgassen, tenor
Gerhard Stolze, tenor
James King, tenor
Hans Hotter, bass
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Georg Solti, conductor
Date: 1958-1965
Label: Decca
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4489332

More info & reviews:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00002458I
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00002458I

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Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theater director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas. He revolutionized opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesize the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. His composition are noted for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wagner

***

Georg Solti (21 October 1912 – 5 September 1997) was an orchestral and operatic conductor, best known for his appearances with opera companies in Munich, Frankfurt and London, and as the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 22 years. Solti was a prolific recording artist, making more than 250 recordings, including 45 complete opera sets.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Solti

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Richard Strauss - Eine Alpensinfonie; Horn Concerto No. 1 (Rudolf Kempe)


Information

Composer: Richard Strauss
  • (01-03) Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 11
  • (04-25) Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

Alan Civil, horn
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Rudolf Kempe, conductor
Date: 1966
Label: Testament (original record by RCA)
https://www.testament.co.uk/shop/product/sbt1428.aspx



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Review

This is a critically important recording for fans of Richard Strauss and An Alpine Symphony . We are all in debt to Testament for making available Rudolf Kempe’s groundbreaking 1966 RCA recording of An Alpine Symphony for the first time on a well-made CD that accurately reproduces the sound of the original LP. It has been previously available on a mediocre Rediscovery CD (remastered by David Gideon) that plugged the gap until the appearance of this reissue. The original recording was produced by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson (the team responsible for the Reader’s Digest recordings and the RCA “Classic Film Score” series). Needless to say, the sound is superlative. More on that later.

Kempe ranks with Fritz Reiner and Karl Böhm as a Strauss specialist. He has no peer in the management of orchestral balances that is so critical to the music of Strauss. This is clearly evident here in the transparency he brings to Strauss’s masterful manipulation of his huge orchestra (in contrast to the denser texture of Mariss Jansons’s recent SACD with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra ( Fanfare 32:4). Every single instrumental detail is clearly audible and never buried in a muddy orchestral mix that characterizes so many recordings of An Alpine Symphony . Kempe re-recorded the work as part of his survey of Strauss’s orchestral music on EMI. The Staatskapelle Dresden plays better than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, but EMI’s sound cannot compare to this. Kempe’s RCA version, aided by its sound, is clearly preferable by a considerable margin. Alan Civil’s brilliant interpretation of Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1 may not be quite on the level of the legendary Dennis Brain’s mono EMI version with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, but it is the preferable performance in modern stereo sound, along with Barry Tuckwell accompanied by István Kertész and the London Symphony Orchestra.

The sound for An Alpine Symphony and the Horn Concerto, both engineered by Wilkinson in Kingsway Hall, is amazing. This has all of the clarity, sweetness, and inner detail of the RCA “Classic Film Score” series and at the same time maintains accurate orchestral balances. The high-lying wind and trumpet sonorities that provide the sonic signature of An Alpine Symphony for once receive proper emphasis. My only quibble is the relatively reticent organ and the overall lack of bass in a recording that otherwise has never been matched in the way it reveals the fine nuances of Strauss’s orchestration. Zubin Mehta’s excellent Decca performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra gets the bass and organ right, but lacks the mid-range clarity of this recording. In comparison to Kempe, that well-received recent Jansons SACD with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is the sonic equivalent of an overdose of Ambien. 

-- Arthur Lintgen, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.classicalcdreview.com/rks.html
http://www.allmusic.com/album/strauss-eine-alpensinfonie-horn-concerto-no-1-mw0001405630
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Horn-Concerto-Kempe-Royal-Civil/dp/B001IAGQGS
http://www.amazon.com/Eine-Alpensinfonie-Horn-Concerto-No/dp/B001IAGQGS

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Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, lieder, tone poems and other orchestral works. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany andAustria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism.

***

Rudolf Kempe (born 14 June 1910 in Dresden - died 12 May 1976 in Zürich) was a German conductor. Kempe directed the Dresden Opera and the Staatskapelle Dresden from 1949 to 1952, and maintained a relationship with them for the rest of his life. Kempe was associated with the Royal Philharmonic (RPO) from 1955, became its Associate Conductor (1960), Principal Conductor (1961-1962) and Artistic Director (1963-1975).

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Richard Strauss - Eine Alpensinfonie; Don Juan (Herbert Blomstedt)


Information

Composer: Richard Strauss
  • (01) Don Juan, Op. 20
  • (02-21) Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Date: 1989
Label: Decca
our of print, more details can be found in
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4786480

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 9 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Artistically at least, the Herbert Blomstedt/San Francisco Symphony/Decca Records partnership was one of the most successful of the 1990s. For the most part the performances were excellent, while the recordings boasted natural, high impact sound. This Alpine Symphony is a case in point: Blomstedt has clearly mastered the terrain of Strauss’ musical travelogue as he renders both the big, dramatic passages (Sunrise, Summit, Storm) and the more delicate and quiet ones (Pasture, Elegy, Final Sounds) with imagination and authority. The San Francisco Symphony takes to this music as if it were newly composed, offering playing of high enthusiasm and virtuosity. The brass–given much critical and prominent music–steals the show. But the winds weigh in powerfully, as certainly do the strings, whose divided parts in the opening and closing Night sequences make it seem as if the whole journey takes place in a dream. Decca’s vivid, spacious recording captures the full dynamic range of the performance–and it’s pretty wide, so be careful with your volume setting.

The disc opens with a quite muscular Don Juan–not the super-virile protagonist in Reiner’s, Kempe’s, and Szell’s fiercely driven performances, but imposing nonetheless. Here the strings dominate, and the San Francisco players make sweet, swooning sounds in the love music. Don Juan and An Alpine Symphony are not necessarily two works I’d play together in one sitting, but this disc presents both in top-notch performances. Order it from Arkivmusic.com’s “on-demand” service to hear for yourself.

-- Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/r-strauss-alpensinfonie-don-juan
http://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Juan-Alpine-Symphony-Blomstedt/dp/B00000E3S2

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Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, lieder, tone poems and other orchestral works. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism.

***

Herbert Blomstedt (born July 11, 1927 in Springfield, Massachusetts) is a Swedish conductor. Blomstedt is most noted for his performances of German and Austrian composers, and also as a champion of Scandinavian composers. He served as chief conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle (1975-1985), San Francisco Symphony (1985-1995), and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (1998–2005), in the process making many well-regarded and awarded recordings.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Richard Strauss - Also sprach Zarathustra; Till Eulenspiegel; Don Juan (Herbert von Karajan)


Information

Composer: Richard Strauss
  1. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Prelude (Sonnenaufgang) (Sunrise)
  2. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
  3. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
  4. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
  5. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
  6. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
  7. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
  8. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Das Tanzlied - Das Nachtlied (The Dance Song - The Night Song)
  9. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Das Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)
  10. Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks (Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche), Op. 28
  11. Don Juan, Op. 20
  12. Salome, opera, Op. 54: Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils (from Scene 4)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Date: 1972 (10), 1973
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4474412

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Review

The playing of the Berlin Philharmonic on both the 1973 and 1983 sets is as glorious as ever; its virtuosity can be taken for granted along with its sumptuous tonal refinement, and in Strauss Karajan has no peer. As a recording the 1983 disc is very good indeed. The famous opening has greater intensity in the 1973 version, and you may prefer its marginally greater warmth and glow of the strings. The DG engineers adopt a slightly closer balance on the later recording, which has greater range and impressive detail, particularly in the bass. Both Don Juans are fine performances, too. To sum up, Karajan’s classic 1973 account holds sway.

-- Gramophone

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"Karajan's 1974 DG analogue version of Also sprach Zarathustra is coupled with his vividly characterized performance of Till Eulenspiegel and a thrillingly ebullient Don Juan, plus his powerfully voluptuous account of Salome's Dance. The Berlin Philharmonic plays with great fervour (the timpani strokes at the very opening are quite riveting) and creates characteristic body of tone in the strings..."

-- Penguin Guide

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The readings from Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic are exquisitely played and splendidly recorded. Von Karajan's way with the music is supple, suave, and dashingly characterful, and his tempos are faultlessly judged. The orchestra is at its best, remarkable for the silky transparency it brings to the texture and the fascinating detail of the solo work--not least, the flute solos by James Galway, then a member of the BPO. The recording has been optimally transferred and presents a solid image.

-- Ted Libbey

More reviews:

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Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, lieder, tone poems and other orchestral works. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism.

***

Herbert von Karajan (5 April 1908 – 16 July 1989) was an Austrian conductor. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century. He made a large number of recordings and was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records. He was admired and also criticized for his over polished sound of the orchestras he conducted.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Richard Strauss - Also sprach Zarathustra; Ein Heldenleben (Fritz Reiner)


Information

Composer: Richard Strauss
  • (01-09) Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
  • (10-15) Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Date: 1954
Label: RCA

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Review

More classic interpretations from the RCA Living Stereo SACD series. Richard Strauss could almost have designed his scores as sonic spectaculars, and the bright light of RCA’s recordings helps paint these works in almost psychedelic fashion. Both works on this disc are divided by the composer into named sections, all of which are individually tracked here for ease of reference.

Reiner’s Also sprach is miraculous not only because of the luscious sound picture it presents, but also for a structural grasp that ensures the piece at no moment sprawls. There is hiss accompanying the subterranean opening, but there is also a palpable sense of anticipation. Sunrise is mightily impressive – yet is that a touch of wow in the organ afterglow immediately following it?.

Magnificent strings populate the ‘Unseen world’ – the close-miking only emphasises their intimate murmurings. But for evidence of Reiner’s affinity for Strauss one need only point to ‘Of joys and passions’.

The sheer discipline of this performance is remarkable, but so is Reiner’s ear for colour. ‘The convalescent’ is darkly presented, so that when light comes, it really glistens at around four minutes into this track. Some of the sparkles of the following section could almost come from the pen of Rimsky-Korsakov!

Ein Heldenleben is a remarkable essay in self-aggrandisement. Reiner makes sure the hero we encounter is bold and fearless. The spiky, nit-picking critics, heard this close up, are an intimidating lot. His wife, though, is altogether more complex – heard, of course, in the form of the solo violin, here the truly excellent John Weicher.

Predictably perhaps, the Battle Field is one of the utmost carnage, with mechanistic rhythms and the quasi-atonal elements emphasised. Perhaps the ascending trumpet line could have been more of an agonised cry, but the rhythmic unison at 5’24 (track 13) and the ensuing, forceful octave outcome carry real structural weight. The close of the work has all of the harmonic and textural repose necessary - which is a lot, considering the histrionics of the Battle. This Hero does indeed achieve peace as he retreats from the earthy plane.

-- Colin Clarke, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Dec04/Reiner_Strauss.htm
http://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-10912
http://www.amazon.com/Strauss-Also-Sprach-Zarathustra-Heldenleben/dp/B000003FE9
http://www.amazon.com/Also-Sprach-Zarathustra-Ein-Heldenleben/dp/B0002TKFQI

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Richard Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, lieder, tone poems and other orchestral works. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism.

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Fritz Reiner (December 19, 1888 – November 15, 1963) was a prominent Hungarian-born conductor of opera and symphonic music in the twentieth century. He emigrated to the United States in 1922 and reached the pinnacle of his career as the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and early 1960s..

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Ottorino Respighi - Concerto gregoriano; Concerto all'antica (Andrea Cappelletti)


Information

Composer: Ottorino Respighi
  1. Concerto gregoriano, for violin & orchestra: I. Andante tranquillo
  2. Concerto gregoriano, for violin & orchestra: II. Andante espressivo e sostenuto
  3. Concerto gregoriano, for violin & orchestra: III. Finale (Allelulia): Allegro energico
  4. Concerto all'antica, for violin & orchestra: I. Allegro
  5. Concerto all'antica, for violin & orchestra: II. Adagio non troppo
  6. Concerto all'antica, for violin & orchestra: III. Scherzo: Vivace - Tempo di minuetto - Vivace

Andrea Cappelletti, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra
Matthias Bamert, conductor

Date: 1993
Label: Koch Schwann


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