Mieczyslaw Karlowicz: Stanislaw i Anna Oswiecimowie (Stanislaw and Anna Oswiecim), Op. 12
Stanislaw and Anna of Oswiecim, Op. 12
Mieczyslaw Karlowicz: Lithuanian Rhapsody, Op. 11
Lithuanian Rhapsody, Op. 11
“What a fine composer Mieczyspaw Karpowicz might have become, had he not died at the age of 32 in an avalanche in the Tatra mountains. He had already produced a clutch of symphonic poems in a post- Wagnerian style, strongly pantheistic in outlook and, in the case of Stanispaw and Anna ofOs´wiecim, with a dash of illicit love thrown in. These luxuriant works set him broadly beside such near-contemporaries as Rachmaninov, Zemlinsky or Suk, and there are even signs in the 'Song of Eternal Being' (third and last of the Eternal Songs) of an individuality that might one day have become as powerful as Janácek's. This is, for the most part, sultrily ecstatic music, that hangs fragrantly or ominously in the air and seems to be constantly about to break through to some visionary realm. Even the relatively jaunty Lithuanian Rhapsody eventually turns wistful in a rather moving way. If you've a taste for lush late-Romanticism but haven't yet encountered Karpowicz, you've a treat in store, not least because these are fine performances. His music has never been more than fleetingly represented in the catalogue. Back in 1990 there was a two-disc Chant du Monde compilation of the symphonic poems from the Silesian Philharmonic; but their courageous efforts are easily outclassed by the BBC Philharmonic and Yan Pascal Tortelier, as is the recording by Chandos's customary rich sound-stage.”
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The 'Triumphant' Berlin Concert on CD for the First Time
“Claudio Abbado began his career with Mahler and has been conducting the composer for his entire professional life. The Ninth and, above Orchestral Mahler 704 all, the Seventh, have consistently brought out the best in him. Abbado's previous recording of No 9, taped live in Vienna, is now only available in his boxed set of the complete symphonies (DG, reviewed on page 625). Much acclaimed as an interpretation, its airless sound wasn't to all tastes. This account is another multi-miked extravaganza with sonic shortcomings that are immediately apparent. The opening bars establish a wide open sound stage (complete with hiss) that implodes with the appearance of the harp. That harp is always on the loud side, trumpets are almost always too reticent, the bass feels synthetic and there are troublesome changes of perspective. None of which is enough to nullify the obvious sincerity and conviction of a performance that simply gets better and better as it proceeds. This really is live music-making (the last big first movement climax at 16'54" isn't together), but the inner movements are beyond reproach, ideally paced and characterised and superbly realised. The finale is content to plumb the depths in its own way – as sensitive as any of its celebrated rivals if without the point-scoring you may be used to. Where some interpreters feel bound to choose between structural imperatives and subjective emotions, proffering either proto-Schoenbergian edginess or late Romantic excess, Abbado has the confidence to eschew both the heavily saturated textures of his predecessors and the chilly rigidity of some of his own 'modernist' peers. Instead, his unaffected warmth allows everything to come through naturally. There remains something self-effacing about his musical personality. And yet there's sunlight – and a certain tenderness – in this account of the Ninth that you won't find anywhere else, a fluency and ease that's something to marvel at. For those put off even now by the composer's supposed vulgarity, Abbado's readings constitute a convincing demonstration of the music's integrity. The awed silence that greets the expiration of the Ninth may or may not be stage-managed, but it seems genuine.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Bo Holten and the excellent Aarhus Symphony Orchestra include here a collection of Delius works inspired by Norway, a country to which he was specially attracted. His first major visit was in 1887 during a summer vacation while studying at the Leipzig Conservatory, when he spent more than six weeks joyfully exploring fjords, moors and mountains. Later that year his Leipzig contemporary, Christian Sinding, introduced him to Grieg, for whom as a Christmas present Delius wrote Sleigh Ride, a piano piece buried for many years that finally surfaced in the composer's orchestration in 1946 long after his death. It's a jolly little piece, not at all Delian in style, that by rights should have been a popular hit from the start; here it's given a delightful, lightly sprung performance. The Five Songs from the Norwegian were written the following year in 1888 in gratitude for Grieg's intervention with Delius's father over giving him an allowance so as to devote himself to composition. Dedicated to Grieg's wife, they're charming pieces, setting poems by Bjornsen and others that Grieg himself had set, and are here made the more seductive in Bo Holten's sensitive orchestrations, with Henriette Bonde-Hansen the fresh, pure-toned soprano. The most ambitious Delius work inspired by Norway is The Song of the High Hills, the most substantial item on the disc. Though Beecham recorded it in the days of 78, it has been curiously neglected on disc when over its 25-minute span it offers some of the most hauntingly atmospheric music that Delius ever wrote, notably in the passages for wordless choir. Holten conducts a beautiful, refined performance which keeps the music moving, never letting it meander, building to powerful climaxes thrillingly recorded. With a wide dynamic range the sound is evocatively atmospheric, not least in the offstage choral passages.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Few possess the spiritual, emotional and physical stamina required for a successful interpretation of Messiaen's transcendent. Recorded on the back of a series of well-received concert performances, Steven Osborne's new account certainly demonstrates these qualities in abundance.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2002
“There are a number of recordings of Vingt Regards available, most of them very good indeed. Even the finest, though, provoke very slight reservations: an occasional suspicion of hurry in Pierre-Laurent Aimard's outstanding account, a few misjudgments in Roger Muraro's, and so on. There are no such reservations about the reading by Steven Osborne, who's revealed as a pianist of exceptional gifts. Messiaen's widow, Yvonne Loriod, invited Osborne to study the work with her after she heard him playing other music by her late husband. One can hear throughout not only her influence but, even more, the qualities in his playing that led her to make the offer. His command of sonority is prodigious: if you've never been able to take Messiaen's talk about the 'colour' of particular chords seriously, then Osborne's playing may change your mind. He also has a remarkable dynamic range. These two qualities combine to provide both clarity and a tremendous climax in the virtuoso quasifugal textures of No 6 ('By Him was everything made') and, at the other end of the spectrum, to make perfect sense of Messiaen's description of the opening bars of No 17 ('The Gaze of Silence'): 'the music seems to emerge from silence as colours emerge from the night.' Nor is he insensible to the fact that some of the Regards are frankly showy. No 10 ('Gaze of the Spirit of Joy') is dazzling; No 16 ('Gaze of the Prophets, the Shepherds and the Magi') is barbarously colourful. Perhaps most significant of all, he finds in No 15 ('The kiss of the child Jesus') not only the sweet quietness of its opening but the spectacular Lisztian display of its later pages. The recording is ideally responsive to the wide range of sound he draws from the instrument.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“A performance of commanding virtuosity, deep poetry and ravishing colour” Gramophone Magazine