Staatskapelle Berlin

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Angel), Andrew Staples (Gerontius), Thomas Hampson (Priest/Angel of the Agony)

Staatskapelle Berlin, Staatsopernchor, RIAS Kammerchor, Daniel Barenboim

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

‘Barenboim's long association with, and love for, Elgar has effectively made it part of his musical DNA’ Gramophone

‘Barenboim made this a Gerontius of transcendental splendour’ Financial Times concert review

‘If anyone can make a case for Elgar outside Britain, and without special pleading, it's Daniel Barenboim, returning to conduct this British composer's works’ New York Times

“Staples is a young-sounding and affecting Gerontius…he uses his vulnerability to good effect…Wyn-Rogers sings with great feeling and intensity and an always vivid response to text…Hampson is hugely authoritative in his priestly exhortations…Barenboim’s Berlin choirs are both sensitive and impressive, and refreshingly true in intonation…So plenty to savour…I know I shall be returning to if often and with great pleasure.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

“A Gerontius of staggering power and terrible beauty...Barenboim’s reading plays up the work’s affinity to Parsifal, and even to the fire-and-brimstone sound-world of Verdi’s Requiem - the apocalyptic vision of God is the most terrifying and transcendent I’ve ever experienced...The sweetness of Staples' timbre doesn't preclude the strength needed for the work’s climactic moments.” Presto Classical, 14th July 2017

“a must-hear release thanks to his big-boned, romantic conducting and the magnificent playing and singing of his Berlin forces...this is Barenboim’s set, which places Gerontius as a mainstream European masterpiece.” Sunday Times, 20th August 2017

“The best parts of this recording are exactly those passages when this superb orchestra gives the impression of floating into celestial regions...Even when his pacing is unconvincing, there’s a gripping integrity and intensity to Barenboim’s approach...Barenboim’s account will takes its place alongside Elder’s (Hallé) and Britten’s (Decca) on my shelf marked “essential deathbed listening”.” The Times, 21st July 2017 ****

Presto Disc of the Week

14th July 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Decca - 4831585

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Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos

Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos


Sibelius:

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47

Tchaikovsky:

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here, and Katherine's interview with Lisa Batiashvili here.

Lisa Batiashvili and Staatskapelle Berlin under Daniel Barenboim’s baton present an unforgettable version of Tchaikovsky’ and Sibelius’ violin concertos, two of the most beloved, passionate and demanding pieces for violin and orchestra

This album celebrates a happy and consolidated collaboration of one of the finest violinists of our times with one of the best orchestras of the world and the legendary pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim

Ten years ago Daniel Barenboim initiated Berlin's open-air "State Opera for All" concert on the historic Bebelplatz. With more than 40,000 spectators each year, it attracts a larger audience than any other classical concert in Germany. In each of the last four years the guest soloist has been Lisa Batiashvili, who on each occasion has performed one of the world's great violin concertos: Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky in 2015 and in this year Sibelius

"I absolutely love Sibelius' violin concerto. I have the feeling it's really a part of my life and of my musical story, because so many things happened around this concerto in my life. The first most important was the final of the Sibelius Competition in 1995 where I performed this concerto for the first time with the orchestra." – Lisa Batiashvili

As the youngest-ever participant of the Sibelius Competition, Lisa immediately managed to win the second prize – a jump-start to a lightning career

As Lisa recalls, her musical partnership with Daniel Barenboim started over the phone: "Barenboim heard me for the first time during a television broadcast of the Sibelius Concerto with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Shortly afterwards he rang me up to congratulate me and ask me if we could perform the piece together."

"I feel that this time with Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin, we brought a lot of new insights to it in some ways, even though the ground feeling for me for the piece will always stay the same." – Lisa Batiashvili This version of the Sibelius Concerto brings back a fresh approach to the famous score, by being as true and faithful to the score as possible, and by avoiding all the known and repeated traditional playing conventions and habits.

This album is the first ever recording of Tchaikovsky's famous and romantic violin concerto for both, Lisa Batiashvili and Daniel Barenboim. "It was a big surprise to me to hear that he had never recorded Tchaikovsky and it makes it even more special for me. I have the feeling that we really worked on it very closely, because that was my strongest experience with that piece – just to work it with him…"

The Guardian stated about Lisa's performance with Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin at the Royal Festival Hall in 2015: "Lisa Batiashvili was the ferocious soloist in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, intense in the first movement, luminous and heartfelt in the second, scintillating in the quickfire finale. It was a faultless performance, enthralling and electrifying."

“These are both unbelievably impressive accounts of two cornerstones of the repertoire, and it's been a delight to listen to them. In a video interview talking about these pieces and this recording, Barenboim describes how Batiashvili's playing is full of emotion whilst avoiding sentimentality, and speaks straight to the heart: I couldn't agree more.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 18th November 2016

“Everything feels ‘in the moment’, a quality of improvisation like music created in the playing of it. Her musicality always comes with an element of surprise...This is concerto-playing of the very highest order...Every familiar phrase somehow manages to sound both authoritative and newly discovered...a delight from start to finish.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“outstanding, insightful performances...The Sibelius soars and sings in the first movement, and dances in the finale with a rare agility. As for Barenboim, he gives the orchestral parts the depth and scope of symphonies: the climax of the first movement of the Sibelius will knock you flat.” The Guardian, 24th November 2016 *****

“Batiashvili focuses on poetic intimacy in this deeply thoughtful performance.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2017

Presto Disc of the Week

18th November 2016

Presto Discs of 2016

Winner

GGramophone Awards 2017

Finalist - Concerto

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - January 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Concerto Choice - April 2017

DG - 4796038

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Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Berlin Philharmonie, 2010


Gustav Mahler’s colossal Ninth Symphony, the culmination of the Austrian composer’s achievements, in a landmark live performance from the Berliner Philharmonie. This concert formed part of The Mahler Project: Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, two friends and very different world-class conductors, tackling all nine completed symphonies of Mahler with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Before embarking on this journey Barenboim and Boulez entered into a long period of reflection and discussion. For the accompanying documentary, director Christoph Engel compiled a rich selection of statements, conversations and musical excerpts by both conductors that provides a guide to the world of Mahler’s towering symphonies.

BONUS: THE MAHLER PROJECT - Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez working on the symphonies of Gustav Mahler.

Running Time Total: 101 mins

Concert: 79 mins / Bonus: 22 mins

Picture 16:9, HD

Sound DVD: DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo

Subtitles Bonus: English, German

“An impulsive first movement with forensic attention to the grim reapers of the wind section…and a series of scarifying climaxes, the last and biggest of which is truly a ride to the abyss…[this] reading is the more radical for its ‘life is too short’ urgency. The playing is predictably superb” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2016

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C Major - 750408

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Elgar: Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55

Elgar: Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55


Daniel Barenboim continues his acclaimed Elgar series with the landmark First Symphony. These new issues mark the first time that indefatigable maestro Barenboim has returned to recording Elgar’s symphonic works since the 1970s.

This recording is the latest step in maestro Barenboim’s Elgarian journey with the Berlin Staatskapelle, following on from well-received performances of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, the Cello Concerto (recorded live with Alisa Weilerstein for Decca), and Elgar’s Second Symphony – about which the Guardian wrote: “The surging, unquenchable energy of this account is obvious from the opening bars, which are borne on an irresistible flood of sound from the Berlin Staatskapelle…”

This album was recorded live at Berlin’s renowned Philharmonie, with the Berlin Staatskapelle and leading Elgarian record producer Andrew Keener.

Barenboim is a passionate Elgarian, counting The Dream of Gerontius as one of his favourite works. As a young man he worked regularly with Sir John Barbirolli, one of the greatest of all Elgar conductors and who was Jacqueline du Pré’s partner in the classic EMI recording of the Cello Concerto.

Barenboim’s latest Decca release follows his hugely successful Beethoven project of 2012, 2013’s Verdi Requiem, and Elgar’s Second Symphony in 2014.

“In its voicings and especially in its gradations of string tone, the performance seems to fix Elgar’s orchestral writing even more firmly into the context of post-Wagnerian romanticism than before... while the slow movements sometimes acquire a Brucknerian spaciousness.” The Guardian, 23rd March 2016 *****

“Barenboim’s long association with, and love for, Elgar has effectively made it part of his musical DNA...And because he is a master he has somehow communicated all of that, both in practical and spiritual terms, to an orchestra for whom it is relatively unfamiliar. That is the really startling achievement here and it manifests itself in playing that is as exciting as it is nuanced.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2016

“Barenboim sets subtly different tempos for passages that often run directly on from each other, but he also pushes round corners at which other conductors linger…the Staatskapelle Berlin sustain it convincingly. The detail is always audible, even through the flowing full orchestra…Barenboim has certainly made this symphony his own” BBC Music Magazine, July 2016 *****

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Orchestral

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2016

Decca - 4789353

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Brahms: The Piano Concertos

Brahms: The Piano Concertos


Brahms:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15

Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83


This album was recorded live at the Berliner Philharmonie in September 2014 with high critical acclaim of the performances. Not only the common South American roots of both artists but also the precise and energetic playing of Barenboim and the “volcanic” temperament of Dudamel make them a “Dream couple”.

Barenboim himself has a very high opinion of Dudamel which he expressed after one of the concerts: “Whenever I had to play myself, I was able to count on him completely. And when I didn’t have to play, it was a joy to see how well he works with the orchestra. I’m well placed to make this observation as I’ve been playing these concertos since 1958.”

After his successful album together with Yuja Wang, this is Dudamel’s second recording as conductor with a soloist.

The second Piano Concerto with its four movements is one of the longest and most demanding concertos ever written and the final Allegretto grazioso features one of the most carefree movements that Brahms ever wrote and which is also notable – in Alfred Brendel’s words – for its “unsurpassable pianistic perversions”.

“The second concerto is the more convincing; the first in D minor never really recovers from Dudamel’s leaden treatment of the opening tutti...The B flat concerto has its moments of self-conscious point-making too, but the sense of sweep and wholeness about the performance generally overrides them, and the searching account of the slow movement shows Barenboim and his orchestra at their best.” The Guardian, 13th August 2015 ***

“Like all great Brahms interpreters, Barenboim gives the music space…[the Berlin Staatskapelle] produces a Brahms sound of rare depth and beauty under the direction of Barenboim's chosen collaborator Gustavo Dudamel. Some of the quiet playing has to be heard to be believed.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2015

“The sheer grandeur and character of the interpretations is breathtaking...Barenboim clearly still has volcanic power in his fingers, but also the ability to soliloquise poetically and hauntingly in quieter passages. The Staatskapelle players match that with some beautiful sounds...On the other hand, there’s a crushing heaviness at times.” The Times, 28th August 2015 ***

“[these accounts] capture on the wing a vibrant partnership between grand maestro at the piano and young lion on the podium…occasional moments of unexpected magic flair up, such as the vibrant exchange between piano and cellos in the second movement of [the Second Concerto], and I defy anyone to breathe during its slow movement in the minutes before the return of the cello solo (whose player, incidentally, deserves a credit, but doesn't get one).” BBC Music Magazine, November 2015

DG - 4794899

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Verdi: Il Trovatore

Verdi: Il Trovatore


Anna Netrebko (Leonora), Gaston Rivero (Manrico), Plácido Domingo (Il Conte di Luna), Marina Prudenskaya (Azucena), Adrian Sampetrean (Ferrando), Anna Lapkovskaja (Ines)

Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim

Filmed live in Berlin, Anna Netrebko and Plácido Domingo star in one of Verdi’s greatest operas, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.

Il Trovatore is without question one of Verdi’s most dramatic masterpieces – as well as one of his most melodic and including the irresistible ‘Anvil Chorus’ and the tenor showstopper ‘Di quella pira’.

Anna Netrebko makes her debut as Leonora, triumphing in a uniquely demanding role for a Verdi soprano and one she will sing again at the 2014 Salzburg Festival.

Adored for his legendary performances in the title role, Plácido Domingo here sings the baritone role of the troubador’s arch-rival, the aristocratic Count di Luna.

Celebrated film-maker Philipp Stölzl, well-known for his groundbreaking video collaborations with Rammstein and Madonna, directs his first Verdi opera, creating an extraordinarily powerful visual and visceral theatrical experience, unlike any other production of the opera.

The roles of the troubadour and the gypsy Azucena are taken by Uruguayan tenor Gaston Rivero and Russian mezzo-soprano Marina Prudenskaya.

STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1

Picture Format: 16:9 / NTSC

Filmed live in High Definition

Subtitles: Italian, English/German/French/Spanish/Chinese/Korean

“Netrebko gives a completely authoritative performance. Although her shaping of Verdi's vocal lines is not especially individual, she has voice to spare and nothing sounds beyond her...[Domingo] sounds rather tired at the start but his still majestic tenor-baritone, boosted by an undimmed ability to command the stage, comes good by the end.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

“Netrebko’s intense Leonora, Marina Prudenskaya as a fabulous, freaked-out Azucena and a sturdy and stylish Manrico from Gaston Rivero generate really throat-gripping drama and eventually unbearable pathos. Any Trovatore staging simply needs to frame and enable the music, and this one does that.” Opera Now ****

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Summer Opera Sale

DG Unitel - 0735132

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Verdi: Il Trovatore

Verdi: Il Trovatore


Anna Netrebko (Leonora), Gaston Rivero (Manrico), Plácido Domingo (Il Conte di Luna), Marina Prudenskaya (Azucena), Adrian Sampetrean (Ferrando), Anna Lapkovskaja (Ines)

Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim

Filmed live in Berlin, Anna Netrebko and Plácido Domingo star in one of Verdi’s greatest operas, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.

Il Trovatore is without question one of Verdi’s most dramatic masterpieces – as well as one of his most melodic and including the irresistible ‘Anvil Chorus’ and the tenor showstopper ‘Di quella pira’.

Anna Netrebko makes her debut as Leonora, triumphing in a uniquely demanding role for a Verdi soprano and one she will sing again at the 2014 Salzburg Festival.

Adored for his legendary performances in the title role, Plácido Domingo here sings the baritone role of the troubador’s arch-rival, the aristocratic Count di Luna.

Celebrated film-maker Philipp Stölzl, well-known for his groundbreaking video collaborations with Rammstein and Madonna, directs his first Verdi opera, creating an extraordinarily powerful visual and visceral theatrical experience, unlike any other production of the opera.

The roles of the troubadour and the gypsy Azucena are taken by Uruguayan tenor Gaston Rivero and Russian mezzo-soprano Marina Prudenskaya.

STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Picture Format: 1080i/60i High Definition / 16:9

Filmed live in High Definition

Subtitles: Italian, English/German/French/Spanish/Chinese/Korean

“Netrebko gives a completely authoritative performance. Although her shaping of Verdi's vocal lines is not especially individual, she has voice to spare and nothing sounds beyond her...[Domingo] sounds rather tired at the start but his still majestic tenor-baritone, boosted by an undimmed ability to command the stage, comes good by the end.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

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Region: all

Summer Opera Sale

DG Unitel - 0735133

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Elgar: Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 63

Elgar: Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 63


Following his critically-acclaimed Elgar Cello Concerto recording with Alisa Weilerstein, Barenboim turns to the symphonies. The Second Symphony is released first, in a 2013 recording with the Staatskapelle Berlin. The First Symphony will follow in 2015.

“To hear an orchestra with such a distinctive central European sound playing Elgar, and relating his music so securely to the wider late-romantic tradition, is one of the disc’s great pleasures.” Andrew Clements, The Guardian (of the Cello Concerto recording)

“Barenboim and the musicians plunge into the Second’s ardours and wistful ways as if to the manner born. We quickly realise we’re not listening to a British orchestra: the timbre of the horns alone transports us far from Elgar’s Malvern hills. Yet the central European sounds only help to link the symphony with the European traditions that nurtured Elgar’s art.” The Times, 9th May 2014 ****

“This is a superb, in fact I feel justified in calling it a great, Elgar Two. It's difficult to know where to start in listings its excellences...But one must start and finish with Barenboim's interpretation...this is a marvellously full-blooded reading of the Symphony, full of drama and passion...This must be one of the finest performances currently on offer.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2014 *****

“The surging, unquenchable energy of this account is obvious from the opening bars, which are borne on an irresistible flood of sound from the Berlin Staatskapelle...Every department of this fabulous orchestra seems to make a telling contribution to this performance at some point or other, and it's as much a triumph for the Staatskapelle as it is for its conductor” The Guardian, 22nd May 2014 *****

“The gorgeous, silken string playing is something exceptional for Elgarians, but there is also plenty of Edwardian swagger in the brilliant rondo and majestic finale. A glorious disc” Sunday Times, 29th June 2014

Building a Library

First Choice - March 2015

Decca - 4786677

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Schubert: Lazarus, D689

Schubert: Lazarus, D689


Carola Nossek, Ingeborg Springer, Eberhard Buchner

Berliner Singakademie, Staatskapelle Berlin, Dietrich Knothe

Schubert’s oratorio Lazarus is unfinished (part of the 2nd and the complete 3rd act are missing), and that may account for its relative obscurity. A great shame, as Lazarus is one of Schubert’s most original and forward looking dramatic works. It contains music of great beauty and power, its structure highly innovative, as it is one continuous dramatic development without the distinction between recitative and aria.

A most welcome reissue from the Berlin Classics catalogue of this neglected masterwork, featuring a superb all German cast, with the great Eberhard Büchner and Ingeborg Springer. The famous Berliner Singakademie and the Staatskapelle Berlin are conducted by choral specialist Dietrich Knothe.

Booklet contains extensive liner notes on the composer and his music.

“There's fascinating writing in Schubert's unfinished sacred drama, and Knothe's recording has aged well. The orchestral performance is excellent, the singing less so.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2014 ****

Summer Opera Sale

Brilliant Classics - 94704

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Elgar & Carter: Cello Concertos

Elgar & Carter: Cello Concertos


Bruch:

Kol Nidrei, Op. 47

Carter, E:

Cello Concerto

Elgar:

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85


The much-anticipated album from a brilliant young American cellist marks one of the most exciting Decca Classics debuts in many years.

The conductor Daniel Barenboim has been a fervent supporter of Alisa Weilerstein’s extraordinary talent since he accompanied her in Elgar’s Concerto as part of the 2010 Europa Concert in Oxford, broadcast on TV across Europe. Together, they have made a recording of searing intensity.

Elgar’s Concerto is paired with a contemporary masterpiece by the doyen of American composers, the late Elliott Carter, who passed away on November the 5th at the age of 103, whose work has often been championed by Barenboim.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Weilerstein avoids nostalgia [in the Elgar] and produces instead an account that is full of passion, grief and nobility of feeling...Her interpretation [of the Carter], at once remarkably expressive and a continuous display of headlong, high-pressure virtuosity, seems to me to outrank the existing recorded versions...a thoughtfully-constructed and thought-provoking programme.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2013 *****

“Her Elgar is not as wayward as du Pre...but it's still remarkably impressive...[in the Carter] Weilerstein, who starts on her own, as in the Elgar, brings the same immaculate tonal control to bear...Kol Nidrei is a fine vehicle for Weilerstein's gorgeous tone.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2013

“within the first seconds [of the Elgar], we know that Weilerstein speaks with her own voice. The muscular bowing, the sound’s depth and warmth in the opening bars: you couldn’t ask for a more characterful beginning...[The Carter] might seem as removed from Elgar as the man in the moon. Not so...with Weilerstein giving her heart and soul to Carter’s constantly evolving filigree line we’re always aware of the concerto’s singing voice.” The Times, 1st February 2013 ****

“To hear an orchestra with such a distinctive central European sound playing Elgar, and relating his music so securely to the wider late-romantic tradition, is one of the disc's great pleasures. Weilerstein's approach is impressively bold and big-boned, even if she seems – for now – more comfortable with the concerto's rhetoric than its intimacy” The Guardian, 14th February 2013 ****

“This is a precious disc, and certainly not in the pejorative sense. Weilerstein plays with robust vigour, but a heart-stopping moulding of phrase. She brings to the Elgar concerto... a portamento beautifully judged and asserted in a brand-new, old-fashioned way (no contradiction!).” Sunday Times, 17th February 2013

“Very ably accompanied, it is very much Weilerstein’s ascendant star which will sell this performance [of the Elgar] to you...[the Carter] is indeed a work which demands focus to appreciate, but the flow of the music has its own sense of inevitability and architectural logic, and there are plenty of magical moments to prickle the senses.” MusicWeb International, 29th April 2013

“Technically Weilerstein is flawless throughout...what a fine work [the Carter] is! Carter’s ear for sonorities and harmonies is endlessly inventive, but what surprised me was how lyrical the work is: he really enables Weilerstein to show off the cello’s capacity for beautiful, elegiac phrases.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 4th February 2-13

Presto Disc of the Week

4th February 2013

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2013

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - February 2013

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014

Recording of the Year & Concerto Award Winner

Decca - 4782735

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