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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Reinhold Glière; Alberto Ginastera - Harp Concertos (Rachel Masters)


Information

Composer: Reinhold Glière; Alberto Ginastera
  1. Glière - Harp Concerto in E flat major, Op. 74: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Glière - Harp Concerto in E flat major, Op. 74: II. Tema con varizioni
  3. Glière - Harp Concerto in E flat major, Op. 74: III. Allegro giocoso
  4. Glière - Concerto for Coloratura Soprano & Orchestra, Op. 82: I. Andante
  5. Glière - Concerto for Coloratura Soprano & Orchestra, Op. 82: II. Allegro
  6. Ginastera - Harp Concerto, Op. 25: I. Allegro gusto
  7. Ginastera - Harp Concerto, Op. 25: II. Molto moderato
  8. Ginastera - Harp Concerto, Op. 25: III. Liberamente capriccioso - Vivace

Rachel Masters, harp
Eileen Hulse, soprano
City of London Sinfonia
Richard Hickox, conductor
Date: 1992
Label: Chandos
http://chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%209094

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Review

If you are decadent enough to have your CD sound piped through to the bathroom, this is the kind of disc you would surely enjoy there. As JBS noted in reviewing the reissued performances on mid-price Decca, Gliere's concertos are unashamed Easy Listening. Composed in 1938, though most of it could have been written 50 or more years earlier, the Harp Concerto is anodyne and ingratiating throughout—and absolutely irresistible if you are in the mood. Rachel Masters is every bit as fluent an exponent as Osian Ellis, and the generous acoustic of All Saints Church, Tooting allows every note to hang deliciously in the air.

The Concerto for coloratura soprano is another mellifluous and undemanding piece. Undemanding for the listener, that is; for the soprano it is a merciless examination of breath control and intonation, with no consonants to articulate, no vowels to colour the sound, and no text to guide the interpretation. Eileen Hulse sails through with scarcely a hint of distress, she even adds some phrases not in the printed Kalmus score, taking her up to an exquisite E in alt (from 2'33'', bars 140 to 155 in the second movement). It's a pity her final top F fractionally overshoots, but in general I prefer her sensitively blended chamber-music approach to the blowsier operatic delivery of Dame Joan Sutherland (who opts for the lower octave at the end). Neither singer can avoid parts of the faster second movement sounding like a castrato version of The Laughing Policeman.

Gliere's lush late romanticism and Chandos's house-style recording are a marriage made in heaven. But Ginastera's 1956 Concerto is another matter. A colourful display piece, thoroughly Latin American in feel and with a particularly attractive Bartokian Night-Music central movement, its style is generally about half-way between that composer and Bernstein. Much of the scoring is quite heavy when the harp is not playing, and in this instance some of the colours tend to run in the acoustic wash. Having said that, this is another crisp and rhythmically alert performance from soloist and orchestra alike, completing a marvellously enjoyable disc.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2000/nov00/Glieremultiple.htm
http://www.classical-music.com/review/gliereginastera
http://www.amazon.com/Gliere-Concerto-Orchestra-Coloratura-Ginastera/dp/B000000AQ5

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Reinhold Glière (11 January 1875 [O.S. 30 December 1874] – 23 June 1956) was a Russian composer of German-Polish ancestry. His 3rd Symphony 'Ilya Muromets', première was in Moscow in 1912, was widely performed, in Russia and abroad, and earned him world-wide renown. 'Ilya Muromets' demonstrates the high level of Glière's artistry: modern tonal language, massive Wagnerian instrumentation and long lyrical lines.

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Alberto Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was an Argentine composer of classical music. He is considered one of the most important 20th-century classical composers of the Americas. Ginastera's works often integrate Argentine folk themes in a straightforward fashion, while works in the later periods incorporate traditional elements in increasingly abstracted forms.

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Rachel Masters has been Principal Harp of the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 1989, having previously freelanced in London with many other orchestras and ensembles. As a young musician she performed widely as a soloist, and has an extensive discography of works by Alwyn, Britten, Debussy, Ginastera, Glière, Mozart and Ravel.

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - String Quartets; Souvenir de Florence (Borodin Quartet)


Information

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

CD1:
  • (01-04) String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11
  • (05-08) String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 22
CD2:
  • (01-04) String Quartet No. 3 in E flat minor, Op. 30
  • (05-08) String Sextet in D minor "Souvenir de Florence", Op. 70

Yuri Bashmet, viola & Natalia Gutman, cello (Op. 70)
Borodin Quartet
Mikhail Kopelman & Andrei Abramenkov, violins
Dmitri Shebalin, viola
Valentin Berlinsky, cello
Date: 1978-1980
Label: EMI (recorded by Melodiya)

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Review

Fourteen years ago JW reviewed recordings of the Tchaikovsky quartets made by the 'old' Borodin Quartet (EMI SLS889, 9/74—nla). That set also included the early Quartet Movementin B flat, which completes Tchaikovsky's works of any significance for string quartet. But the present issue already has two very well filled CDs—or cassettes and LPs if you prefer—and represents a good bargain in terms of playing time. The 'new' Borodin Quartet made their analogue recordings in 1978-80 and the quality is very good, with a fairly generous studio-type acoustic, plenty of presence and a good deal of warmth.

Only the First Quartet, the one with the famous Andante cantabile slow movement, seems to have achieved any real popularity. Written in 1871, when Tchaikovsky was still in his early years as a serious composer, it has an attractively spring-like quality of romance, with lots of good tunes and not too much depth of feeling. The Second Quartet written three years later, plumbs greater depths in its first movement and in the Andante, both of which have a predominating mood of introspection, even melancholy. But a busy Scherzo, with intriguingly irregular rhythms, and an energetic finale provide good contrast. The Third Quartet was written in memory of Tchaikovsky's friend Ferdinand Laub, who had led the Quartet of the Russian Musical Society which gave the premiere of the First Quartet. Here each movement is serious in character, but not too sombre or depressing. It's a great pity that the Second and Third Quartets are not played more frequently, since in common with the betterknown Souvenir de Florence, where Tchaikovsky recaptures the First Quartet's serenity, now expressed with a mature self-assurance and mellowness, they are immediately attractive and maintain a high quality of invention. The quartet medium seemed to put a curb on the emotional excesses which are present in some of Tchaikovsky's larger-scale works: the expression of feeling has a clean, direct quality, and there are no neuroses.

In all three quartets the Borodin play with an easy authority and what seems to be perfect style. There are no obvious interpretative quirks, there's nothing showy to get between the music and the listener, and it is evident that these musicians are thoroughly immersed in the authentic Russian tradition of playing Tchaikovsky's music. Technically and tonally they are first rate, and they combine well with the two excellent extra players in Souvenir de Florence. I very much enjoyed all these performances.

-- Gramophone

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (25 April/7 May 1840 – 25 October/6 November 1893) was a Russian composer who wrote some of the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky's life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. His homosexuality considered a major factor.

***

\
Borodin Quartet is a string quartet that was founded in 1945 in the then Soviet Union. It is one of the world's longest lasting string quartets, having marked its 70th anniversary season in 2015. The quartet had a close relationship with composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who personally consulted them on each of his quartets. They also performed with the pianist Sviatoslav Richter on many occasions.

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Ludwig van Beethoven; Jean Sibelius - Violin Concertos (Zino Francescatti; David Oistrakh)


Information

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven; Jean Sibelius
  1. Beethoven - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61: I. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Beethoven - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61: II. Larghetto
  3. Beethoven - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61: III. Rondo. Allegro
  4. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: I. Allegro moderato
  5. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: II. Adagio di molto
  6. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: III. Allegro, ma non tanto

(1-3) Zino Francescatti, violin
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Bruno Walter, conductor
(4-6) David Oistrakh, violin
Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy, conductor
Date: 1961 (1-3), 1959 (4-6)
Label: Sony Classical

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Review

This is not the most orthodox of couplings. Sony must have been struggling against the 'usual suspects'. How easy it would have been to match up Oistrakh's Philadelphia Sibelius with his Tchaikovsky - both with Ormandy and the Fabulous Philadelphians. Instead Oistrakh is harnessed to Francescatti and his Tchaikovsky is with Gilels/Mehta on another Sony Essential.
Francescatti is well up to the challenge of the Beethoven at all levels and turns in a good performance. He is delicacy personified and makes the violin sing without undue vibrato. This effect is aided by Bruno Walter whose smiling song lofts the music to sun-drenched pastures. To hear unselfish mutuality at play listen to 1.01 in the finale.

The Sibelius tape is only a couple of years older and yet the hiss is noticeably more pronounced. Oistrakh gives a very fine performance partnered by a doughty Sibelian who had within ten years before this recording visited Sibelius in Järvenpää. The unmistakable gruff stamp of authority can be heard from the very first bars of the allegro ma non tanto. In fact the details and flair of this interpretation call out time after time. I have never heard those scudding-thudding violins with such clarity as at 3.19 in the finale until I heard this version.

Two superb recordings getting long in the tooth but only giving the game away in the discreet hiss in the Sibelius and in the peripheral surface bleaching of string sound opulence in the Beethoven.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Sibelius-Concertos-Essential-Classics/dp/B0000027OR

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Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. He is one of the most famous and influential of all composers, and a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 7 concertos and 32 piano sonatas.

***

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.

***

Zino Francescatti (August 9, 1902 - September 17, 1991) was a French virtuoso violinist. A violinist of outstanding technical ability, his performances and recordings continue to be fondly remembered and highly regarded. He performed on the celebrated "Hart" Stradivarius violin of 1727, which he sold upon his retirement in 1976.

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David Oistrakh (September 30 [O.S. September 17] 1908 – October 24, 1974) was a renowned Soviet classical violinist. He is considered one of the preeminent violinists of the 20th century and the dedicatee of numerous violin works, including both of Dmitri Shostakovich's violin concerti, and the violin concerto by Aram Khachaturian. Oistrakh's playing was not so much marked by brilliance, but by richness, lyricism, roundness of tone.

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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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Reinhold Glière - Symphony No. 3 ''Ilya Muromets'' (JoAnn Falletta)


Information

Composer: Reinhold Glière
  1. Symphony No. 3 in B minor "Ilya Muromets", Op. 42: I. Wandering Pilgrims (Ilya Muromets and Svyatogor)
  2. Symphony No. 3 in B minor "Ilya Muromets", Op. 42: II. Solovey, the Brigand
  3. Symphony No. 3 in B minor "Ilya Muromets", Op. 42: III. At the Court of Vladimir, the Mighty Sun
  4. Symphony No. 3 in B minor "Ilya Muromets", Op. 42: IV. The Heroism and Petrification of Ilya Muromets

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Date: 2014
Label: Naxos
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.573161

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Review




This is an important recording for several reasons. First, it contains the finest version yet recorded of Glière’s epic Third Symphony, “Il’ya Muromets”. Second, it defines once and for all how the piece is supposed to go. In order to understand this latter point, we need to take a moment and review the work’s history on disc.

The symphony’s most famous early recording was Hermann Scherchen’s, a mono Westminster release that wasn’t very good, and more to the point, came from a conductor too erratic to be taken seriously as a definitive interpreter of, well, anything (fun though he often was). After Scherchen, recordings such as Ormandy’s and Stokowski’s presented the music heavily cut, thus contributing to the legend of the work’s monstrous length and musical prolixity. Aside from a hard to find, rather crude Russian recording featuring the USSR Symphony under Nathan Rakhlin, that is where matters stood for many years.

At the dawn of the digital age, Harold Farberman made the first modern recording of the symphony for Unicorn. That version got a lot of attention, first, because it was one of the first digital LPs ever released, and second, because Farberman presented the piece uncut. Unfortunately, Farberman was famous for playing just about everything at half the normal tempo (Mahler too). His recording lasted more than 90 minutes spread over two discs, and further contributed to the myth of the symphony as a bloated monstrosity. This was the situation until two recordings, Edward Downes on Chandos and Donald Johanos on Naxos, showed that the complete piece could be played in about 70 minutes, or about the same length as  a traditional performance of Beethoven’s Ninth or Mahler’s Fifth–long, but not absurdly so.

Those were good performances: the Downes handsomely recorded but a touch characterless, the Johanos more exciting but edgily played by the Bratislava orchestra and somewhat thinly engineered. Until now, that was the reference recording for the symphony. Now, finally, we have a superbly played, viscerally exciting, richly engineered recording that proves that the symphony does indeed “work” as a coherent piece of music. What are the qualities that make this recording special?

First, Falletta takes the first movement’s lengthy introduction at a naturally flowing tempo that creates a palpable feeling of anticipation. It leads to a swift allegro that presses forward without letup, lending the movement an unusual degree of inevitability and coherence. The Andante, which can sound almost suffocatingly, sickeningly thick, has plenty of atmosphere but again a welcome feeling of forward movement and a refreshing transparency of texture. The scherzo always works, and this one glitters brilliantly, with Solovey the Brigand’s shriek in the central section making an appropriately alarming impression. Best of all, Falletta offers a truly exciting, hell for leather account of the finale, easily the best yet recorded. The climactic petrification of Il’ya Muromets is overwhelmingly powerful, setting up the quiet coda as an inevitable and satisfying conclusion.

Now I am not going to suggest that the symphony is concise or pithily argued, but this interpretation makes better sense of it than any previous version, and it’s also engineered with the vividness and impact necessary to do the playing full justice. The myth of the music’s awkward gigantism and formal diffuseness has been debunked, with the perhaps paradoxical result that the symphony’s true stature has grown proportionately.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/gli%C3%A8re-symphony-no-3
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2014/Mar14/Gliere_sy3_8573161.htm
http://www.classical-music.com/review/gli%C3%A8re-symphony-no-3
http://classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=12102
http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/n/nxs00041blub.php
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalcdreviews/10617368/Gliere-Symphony-No-3-IlyaMuromets-review.html
http://www.audaud.com/2014/09/gliere-symphony-no-3-ilya-muromets-buffalo-philharmonic-orch-joann-falletta-naxos-audio-only-blu-ray/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/gli%C3%A8re-symphony-no-3-ilya-muromets-mw0002610259
http://www.amazon.com/Gliere-Symphony-No-Ilya-Muromets/dp/B00HFDKTC4

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Reinhold Glière (11 January 1875 [O.S. 30 December 1874] – 23 June 1956) was a Russian composer of German-Polish ancestry. His 3rd Symphony 'Ilya Muromets', première was in Moscow in 1912, was widely performed, in Russia and abroad, and earned him world-wide renown. 'Ilya Muromets' demonstrates the high level of Glière's artistry: modern tonal language, massive Wagnerian instrumentation and long lyrical lines.

***

JoAnn Falletta (born February 27, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American classical musician and orchestral conductor. She is currently the music director of Virginia Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic. She has also served as music director of the Long Beach Symphony and of the Women's Philharmonic Orchestra (San Francisco). Falletta has recorded over 70 albums.

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Sleeping Beauty (Antal Doráti)


Information

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

CD1:
  • (01) The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: Introduction
  • (02-06) The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, Prologue
  • (07-14) The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, Act I
  • (15-18) The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, Act II
CD2:
  • (01-08) The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, Act II (continued)
  • (09-24) The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, Act III

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Antal Doráti, conductor
Date: 1981
Label: Philips
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4461662

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Review

Antal Dorati's famous Mercury recordings of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet (1962 stereo) and Swan Lake ballet (1954 mono) have been issued on CD (Mercury 432 750 and 462 950, respectively). The former is with the London Symphony, the latter with the Minneapolis Symphony. Dorati's complete Minneapolis Symphony recording of Sleeping Beauty doubtless will soon appear on silver disc, an event eagerly anticipated by followers of the Living Presence series. (NOTE: a private label has issued the Dorati/Minneapolis Sleeping Beauty - see REVIEW).

Dorati apparently was in the process of re-recording all three ballets with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. His superlative Nutcracker, recorded in 1975, has been issued in a Philips Duo album (442 562). Unfortunately Dorati never got around to recording Swan Lake in Amsterdam, but he did record Sleeping Beauty, recording one of the three acts a year beginning in 1979. The CD issue (Philips 420 792) took three full-priced CDs, with a total playing time of 2:45:38, a rather expensive investment for the collector, as the performance wouldn't quite fit onto two CDs and there was no filler. Philips now has issued this outstanding performance in their budget-priced Duo series, which includes a truncated version of Gerald Norris' fine notes from the original. That isn't all that is abbreviated. It would have been possible to get the entire performance onto two CDs if they had made a very awkward break between sides, so to avoid this they have eliminated the 5:15 Entr'acte from Act II. For most listeners this will be an appropriate trade for the convenience of having the rest on just 2 CDs, and at bargain price. Dorati's Sleeping Beauty is a brilliant, imaginative performance, with superb orchestral playing. Considering that the recording was made over a three-year period, miking and production are remarkably consistent, with a broad spaciousness and low- frequency impact not heard in many Concertgebouw recordings. Highly recommended, in spite of the omission of 5 minutes of the original issue.

-- Robert BensonCLASSICAL CD REVIEW

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Tchaikovsky-The-Sleeping-Beauty-Op/dp/B0000041BY

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (25 April/7 May 1840 – 25 October/6 November 1893) was a Russian composer who wrote some of the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky's life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. His homosexuality considered a major factor.

***

Antal Doráti (9 April 1906 – 13 November 1988) was a Hungarian-born conductor and composer who became a naturalized American citizen in 1943. Over the course of his career Doráti made over 600 recordings, mostly for Mercury and Decca. Doráti became especially well known for his recordings of Tchaikovsky's music. He was the first conductor to record all three of Tchaikovsky's ballets and "1812" Overture.

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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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Reinhold Glière - Symphony No. 2; Violin Concerto (Yondani Butt; Yuko Nishino)


Information

Composer: Reinhold Glière
  1. Violin concerto in G minor, Op. 100
  2. Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 25: I. Allegro pesante
  3. Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 25: II. Allegro giocoso
  4. Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 25: III. Andante con variazioni
  5. Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 25: IV. Allegro vivace

Yuko Nishino, violin (1)
Philharmonia Orchestra
Yondani Butt, conductor
Date: 2002
Label: ASV

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 8 / SOUND QUALITY: 7

Gliere began composition of his unfinished violin concerto shortly before his death in 1956, a fact that comes as somewhat of a surprise considering it sounds considerably less “modern” than some of his earlier compositions (i.e., the Symphony No. 3 from 1910). Completed and orchestrated by Lyatoshinsky, the concerto constitutes a throwback to the lyrical-romantic style of Mendelssohn but also sounds markedly influenced by the Glazunov concerto. Thus, the solo writing is in the echt-19th century virtuoso vein, which seems to present no significant challenge for Yuko Nishino, who delivers the part with the requisite showmanship as well as a certain infectious ardor.

Those familiar with Gliere’s massive, phantasmagorical Third Symphony “Ilya Murometz” may be surprised by the pared down melodic style and harmonic palette of his Symphony No. 2. The first movement begins with a bold, commanding statement of what will become a main motto theme, and the rest of the movement maintains this stark, angry tone. However, the music becomes quite colorful at the climax of the development (as well as the slow movement’s magical central section), where we hear intriguing pre-echoes of the later symphony. Conductor Yondani Butt illuminates the music’s tragic grandeur, taking care to underline the insistent motto theme whenever it appears (most notably when the horns repeatedly hammer it out in the first-movement climax). Overall, Butt’s version has more raw energy than Edward Downes’ BBC Philharmonic performance, even if it lacks the latter’s polished finesse. ASV’s dry, close recording is less pleasing than the fuller, more spacious Chandos sound.

-- Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday

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Reinhold Glière (11 January 1875 [O.S. 30 December 1874] – 23 June 1956) was a Russian composer of German-Polish ancestry. His 3rd Symphony 'Ilya Muromets', première was in Moscow in 1912, was widely performed, in Russia and abroad, and earned him world-wide renown. 'Ilya Muromets' demonstrates the high level of Glière's artistry: modern tonal language, massive Wagnerian instrumentation and long lyrical lines.

***

Yondani Butt (January 13, 1945 - August 28, 2014) was an orchestral conductor who was born in Macao of Chinese parentage. He studied music at Indiana University and the University of Michigan and also has a PhD in chemistry. Butt was also a composer.

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Romeo & Juliet; Francesca da Rimini; Festival Coronation March (Evgeny Svetlanov)


Information

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  1. Francesca da Rimini, symphonic fantasia after Dante, Op. 32
  2. Romeo and Juliet, fantasy overture after Shakespeare
  3. Festival Coronation March

Russian State Symphony Orchestra
Evgeny Svetlanov, conductor
Date: 1993
Label: Canyon Classics

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Review

Just listen to the conclusion of Francesca da Rimini, and you’ll be spoiled forever. This scorching conclusion surely evokes the flames of hell that Tchaikovsky had in mind. Most of the performances here, digital remakes from the early 90s that first appeared on Canyon Classics, and not the usual Melodiya versions, belong in the same league. They are extremely well recorded, and explosively exciting, especially that Francesca and Romeo and Juliet. Happily the Serenade for Strings, while certainly on the hot and heavy side, holds a measure of elegance in reserve for the second movement Waltz and the perky finale. 

The only relative disappointment here, believe it or not, comes in the 1812 Overture, a piece that you would think Svetlanov would figuratively kill. Well he does do that, but in the wrong way. Too few performances take Tchaikovsky at his very noisy word and play the piece as he actually wrote it. Svetlanov gets the bells going at the appropriate place, then leaves them ringing all the way through to the final bar. Why? What’s the point? It’s very annoying. He also takes the final march at an oddly dragging tempo. But this single caveat aside, these performances are powerful to the nth degree, and no Tchaikovsky lover will be able to resist them.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (25 April/7 May 1840 – 25 October/6 November 1893) was a Russian composer who wrote some of the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky's life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. His homosexuality considered a major factor.


***


Evgeny Svetlanov (6 September 1928—3 May 2002) was a Russian conductor, composer and though less well-known, a pianist. Svetlanov was particularly noted for his interpretations of Russian works – he covered the whole range of Russian music. He was principal conductor of the USSR State Symphony Orchestra (now the Russian State Symphony Orchestra) from 1965 to 2000.

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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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