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Haydn - Symphonies Nos. 88-92
“Rattle offers Haydn writ large, imposing in concept even in the relatively reserved No 89. The trumpet and timpani interjections in the otherwise hymning slow movement of No 88 are startlingly forceful. Strength of interpretative character and virtuoso playing are in abundance everywhere, no more so than in No 90 - horns ringing in C alto-that ends in a manic Allegro assai.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
“To hear this great music played by an orchestra of the calibre of the Berlin Philharmonic is a rare treat indeed. These are all highly polished performances, with particularly delightful accounts of the rustic trios in the minuets of Nos 88 and 89.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ****
“Rattle exudes the most dashing élan you could imagine. He tingles with meticulous devotion to his task. And he understands how to make Haydn’s music smile. The musical surprises in which Haydn took such delight cannot come as a surprise to Rattle, of course - and yet he gives that impression, with evident pleasure to boot. One can sense that he absolutely loves this music. Haydn is dear to his heart - and to his intellect too” Berliner Morgenpost, February 2007
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Tüür - Symphony No. 4 'Magma'
World Premiere Recording
“Glennie is at her most charismatic in Magma, an intoxicating physical score; the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi not only supports her blow for blow but plays the entire programme with a palpable sense of passionate conviction. Virgin's recording is of demonstration standard, the climaxes in Magma frequently awe-inspiring.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 *****
“Though written for Evelyn Glennie, who takes the solo percussion part with superb aplomb, this really is a symphony rather than a flashy, beefed-up concerto. It stays just on that side of the divide everywhere except in the brief cadenza at approximately the half-way mark.
The other three works on this disc feel similarly substantial and born of inner necessity...Tüür is currently well represented on CD, but this new disc is probably the most rewarding devoted to his music, no doubt partly because performances and recordings are first-class. If the prospect of challenging, granite- hewn musical invention has any appeal, then this is a must.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Orchestral Choice - August 2007
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Hartmann - Concerto funebre
Making her recording debut for Hyperion in this disc of important repertoire is the spectacular young Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova (b1985). Alina’s many concert appearances throughout Europe have earned her the highest praise, and, as Richard Morrison wrote in The Times, she is ‘destined to be a force in the classical music firmament for decades to come … you feel that you are getting the music straight from the composer’s quill’.
“She is Russian, 23, and a scorchingly good violinist. This is her CD recital debut; always a testing occasion, but especially for young violinists. What repertoire should be chosen? … Ibragimova has chosen the third route, towards serious and neglected repertory … Hartmann had his youthful
iconoclasms, but the agony of the Second World War brought out the tragic artist in him … [Concerto funebre] To the adagio section she brings passion without mawkishness; and the control wielded at high altitudes is phenomenal … Ibragimova is marvellously sturdy and exact, especially
when making perilous leaps from exposed places. And she plays with such commitment and feeling … as for her next disc, the doors are wide open. But whatever Ibragimova plays, it’ll be worth hearing” The Times
“Crisply and incisively argued … musicianship of the highest order” International Record Review
“Hard on the heels of Orfeo's marvellous mid-price issue of Schneiderhan's gripping performance of the Concerto funebre, Ibragimova's fiercely clear-eyed account - alive to the music's expressive demands as well as its dynamic markings (some of which Schneiderhan and Gertler are less scrupulous with) - faces stiff competition but need not fear comparison with any of the dozen or so rival accounts. Her technique is formidable to say the least...” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
“…the Concerto funebre for violin and strings has established itself as Karl Amadeus Hartmann's most familiar work…the way in which the Britten Sinfonia support and enfold their young soloist's beautifully nuanced and textured playing is a model of close-knit ensemble playing, and the natural, detailed sound picture captures all of that give and take.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007 ****
“It is such an obvious idea to combine Hartmann's Concerto funebre (1939, rev 1959) with the four unaccompanied works from 1927 that it's surprising that no company has thought of it before now. The Suites and Sonatas are not well known, not even being performed until the mid-1980s. Hartmann composed them while still a student with his mature style some years away, yet their muscularity, contrapuntal and harmonic élan and the sense of self-belief they exude show them to be products of a for- midable, free-thinking creator. Ibragimova proves an ideal exponent, her tempi free and elastic (and mostly quite quick). Her fluency and flexibility pay great dividends time and again, as in the First Suite's central Rondo or concluding Ciaconna or the Second Suite's second span, Fliessend. Hyperion's sound-picture is natural.
Ibragimova's fiercely clear-eyed account of the Concerto funebre– alive to the music's expressive demands as well as its dynamic markings – faces stiff competition but need not fear comparison with any of the dozen or so rival accounts. Her technique is formidable to say the least and if marginal preferance is for Isabelle Faust (Harmonia Mundi), Ibragimova is on her shoulder, although Hyperion's couplings and recording quality, to say nothing of the excellent Britten Sinfonia, deserve a share in the plaudits. Recommended.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Tony Palmer’s Film about Maria Callas
30th Anniversary Edition
with Franco Zeffirelli, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, Aristotle Onassis, Graziella Sciutti, Luchino Visconti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Arda Mandikian, Nicola Rescigno, Nadia Stancioff, Nicola Rossi Lemeni, Lord Harewood, Sir John Tooley, John Copley, Jacques Bourgeois, Madame Biki, Elvira Di Hidalgo, Arianna Stassinopoulos, Michel Glotz & Polyvios Marchand
There are so many astonishing facts about Maria Callas...
First, she was born not in Greece but in Manhattan and went to school there. Second, considering her colossal influence and in contrast to the pumped-up, preposterous, overpaid pipsqueak divas of today, her actual international career was tiny - 18 years at most. Third, and in spite of her reputation, her cancellation record was the lowest of any great singer of her day. Fourth, she rarely looked at the conductor during an opera, simply because she could not see him - she was very short-sighted, and often appeared (partly as a result) to be in a trance while on stage. Fifth, she was betrayed by most of those intimate with her throughout her life, and eventually abandoned by many of those who should have known better and who claimed to have loved her. Sixth, she died almost penniless - even her grotesquely rich long-time lover, Onassis, whose marriage to Jackie Kennedy she only discovered by watching the 6 o'clock news, had invested her money in half a cargo boat, which sank. Paradoxically, although she died 30 years ago, her records today outsell every other recorded classical artist, and single handedly keep EMI Classics afloat. Last, hers was not the most beautiful voice of her time, as she frequently admitted. Some days it worked; other days it just didn't.
In the end, those who met her in Paris in the seventies agree that she was one of the loneliest, most desperate of women they had ever encountered, slowly drugging herself to death. "Every day, thank God, is one day less", she told Di Stefano. A summons to tea (for half an hour at most) often lasted until the early hours, with the guest or guests pleaded with not to leave.
It was pathetic and horrible, but it was Callas. It was always Callas, and that was the secret and the magic. We witness on stage a broken woman who sings nakedly from her heart, about herself and her life, who acts with such incredible power and unashamed truth that we stagger back before what we know, in our hearts, is all of her. No artifice here; no vulgar posturings to which her absurd imitators - and there are many - aspire. Gheorghiu, Battle, Garrett - they cannot touch her hem. Maria - just a woman, who often spoke of Callas in the third person, in trouble, asking, begging sometimes, for our understanding and our love. She deserves it, because there was no greater singing actress in our time. And she was only 53 when she died.
“Palmer managed to interview practically everyone who had played an important (and even unimportant) part in her life from her earliest times in Greece until her sad demise in Paris in 1977. …Palmer is adroit at linking the various strands of her life together into a fascinating biography but he also displays the faults in his other musical films of too often allowing speech to interrupt Callas's appearance as a singer in opera and concert, so that, infuriatingly, arias are chopped up into irrelevant soundbites. Still, there is enough here of her wonderful Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini to inform any newcomer what a truly unique artist she was.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
“Tony Palmer's documentary, originally released in 1987, was made with admiration but also, more importantly, with knowledge and insight. The interview subjects were well chosen and they remain informative about a complex artist and an equally complex woman. Palmer's film represents a wonderful overview of its subject and many well-lit close-ups. It's not be missed.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007 *****
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The Maw Quartet was commissioned by the University of Warwick and is played by the Coull Quartet who
premiered the work to celebrate their 21st Anniversary in 1995.
“The Coull Quartet have often played Nicholas Maw's Third Quartet since giving its premier in 1995, and this recording - in exceptionally lucid sound - testifies to their mastery of its tricky technical details and their sensitivity to its expressive character.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
“Britten's last quartet has been lucky in its recordings… With the Coull there's a sense of searching and effort, which suits the pain of the music more than the complete technical assurance of the Belcea Quartet… In the final bleak Passacaglia, the Belcea seem almost over-optimistic, while the Coull expose the raw nerve-endings with their less blended sound and rubato. The Maw also ends with a Passacaglia, though it's much richer in texture than Britten's, passionate rather than resigned. The Coull respond to all the facets of the work - it was written for them - and, like the Britten, it's warmly recorded.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007 ****
“The Coull Quartet have often played Nicholas Maw's Third Quartet since giving its premiere in 1995, and this recording – in exceptionally lucid sound – testifies to their mastery of its tricky technical details and their sensitivity to its expressive character.
It begins in a spirit of restless lyricism which builds compellingly, eloquence and drama intensifying in ways which place the music firmly in the tradition of Berg and Bartók without any hint of abject dependency. The work is crowned by a concluding passacaglia which creates tension from the superimposition of contrasting layers of texture before reaching a climax with a unison line for all four players, a moment of revelation which subsides into a regretful resolution.
The chordal material at the end hints at the opening of Maw's later opera Sophie's Choice, and this is one reason why the ideal coupling for the quartet would have been the recent string sextet in which Maw uses material from the opera. The sextet probably wasn't complete when this recording was planned, however, and the Coull have chosen a quartet, Britten's Third, which has certain stylistic and formal features in common with Maw's.
Despite some lack of necessary rawness in the second and fourth movements, this is an admirable account, and particularly successful in projecting the chaconne finale as music constantly on the verge of breakdown. The Britten has been much recorded, and several other performances are as impressive as this one. Even so, its presence does nothing to reduce the feeling that this is an outstanding release.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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John Taverner, the most outstanding English composer of his time, was appointed Informator Choristarum of Cardinal College, Oxford in 1526, with the charge of establishing the foremost choral institution in the land. He succeeded magnificently and the tradition continues to this day at what is now known as Christ Church, Oxford, with acclaimed director Stephen Darlington, renowned for his strength in 16th century choral music, at the helm. Darlington and his forces – 16 boys and 12 men, unchanged since the 1520s – pay homage to their predecessor with a programme of his liturgical music written at Oxford. While there, Taverner had to write music to be performed virtually round the clock and he rose to the challenge using great imagination. He wrote innumerable memorable melodies, with an unprecedented emotional range and a sophisticated sense of drama. His music was astonishingly modern for its time, and in its richness remains much so today.
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford has a special and distinctive place within the great English choral tradition as it uniquely serves both an Oxford college and a diocese. With an unbroken, continuous tradition of glorious music-making for nearly five hundred years, today the choir is renowned for its vibrant sound and artistic versatility, qualities that have been praised throughout the world from Sydney to Rio de Janiero, Tokyo to New York, Helsinki to Paris. Apart from their Oxford duties and international tours, the Choir has been heard by millions on the Mr. Bean soundtracks and Vicar of Dibley TV theme tune.
Recorded at the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford, England, 15 –17 November 2006
“Taverner's Mass is the chef d'oeuvre of the greatest composer of his time, yet it has never before been recorded by the kind of liturgical choir which he had in mind; this is a courageous and significant act of reclamation.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
“Stephen Darlington gives majestic shape to this monumental work, effectively drawing out the imperturbable tread of the 'Gloria tibi Trinitas' cantus firmus. The choir produces a sound of blistering intensity…” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ***
“The Choir of Christ Church could hardly have made a more ambitious return to recording after their valuable but variable series of Nimbus Tavener Vocal 1157 discs. Taverner's Mass is the chef d'oeuvre of the greatest composer of his time, yet it has never before been recorded by the kind of liturgical choir which he had in mind; this is a courageous and significant act of reclamation. Courageous, because Taverner's demands of phrase and melodic continuity are more subtle, but no less daunting in their own way, than those presented by Palestrina and Gombert. Performing at written pitch helps.
Stephen Darlington and his choir aren't afraid of a few dirty edges around the sound; this is a world away from the hygienic surfaces of the Gabrieli Consort or from the shapely halo of King's, Cambridge. The Christ Church trebles have a full-frontal attack to a phrase that is more commonly heard from middle-European choirs.
That makes it more susceptible to the glare of the microphone, but the recording itself dares to go in closer than Nimbus ever did. The risk largely pays off in tutti passages of startling immediacy, contrasted with more solo verse sections than is usual (to rest tired voices?). Some distended cadences leave you wondering whether they can possibly have the puff to sustain them. Sometimes they can't (at the end of the first paragraph of the Sanctus); often they can (the 'Hosanna' at the end of the famous Benedictus).
The motets are no less individual in concept and execution, including a cheeky but winning slide in Mater Christi; like the rest of the disc it will divide opinion, but it demands to be taken seriously.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Terezín / Theresienstadt
Four Songs to the Text of Chinese Poetry (Theresienstadt-Series)
Pratele (Die Freunde)
Sonata for Solo Violin
Ich weiß bestimmt, ich werd Dich wiedersehn
Vsechno jde! (Anything Goes!) 'Terezin March'
Pod destnikem (Under an Umbrella)
Taube, C S:
Ein jüdisches Kind
Berjoskele from Drei jiddische Lieder (Brezulinka), Op. 53
Claire Vénus... (Sonnet V) from Six Sonnets de Louize Labané, Op. 34
On voit mourir... (Sonnet VII) from Six Sonnets de Louize Labané, Op. 34
Je vis, je meurs... (Sonnet VIII) from Six Sonnets de Louize Labané, Op. 34
Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt
Und der Regen rinnt
On this CD, von Otter has chosen a project with a serious and historically significant background. She interprets pieces written in the Theresienstadt concentration camp by a group of Jewish composers who were imprisoned there and yet managed to foster a rich cultural life even under the most extreme conditions. Most composers were later murdered in Auschwitz.
“…despite all their suffering, the music that was written and performed there expresses a strong will to live and attests to the power of the creative spirit… Such feelings are omnipresent in this beautifully recorded recital performed with wonderful sensitivity and immediacy by singers Anne Sofie von Otter and Christian Gerhaher and their highly responsive instrumental partners.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2007 *****
“The music on this CD is beautiful, some of it comic, some of it elegiac, all of it almost unbearingly touching. All these composers were incarcerated in the concentration camp at Terezín in what is now the Czech Republic. One survivor, the pianist Alice Herz-Sommer has written: "Music allowed many inmates to bare their hearts...even in the darkest corners of the earth...it was, at least for the moment, a liberation." The songs by Ilse Weber and Karel Svenk are in the cabaret style, deceptively jolly tunes, overlaid with bitter irony in the words. Anne Sofie von Otter sings them with exquisite tenderness; Bengt Forsberg at the piano and Bebe Risenfors on guitar accompany lovingly. The three best-known composers whose works have survived from Terezín are Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann. Krása's Three Songs on texts by Rimbaud, Ullman's Six Sonnets and Haas's Four Songs on Chinese Poetry are all major works that change the perspective of the history of the German Lied. Christian Gerhaher sings the Krása and Ullmann with noble spirit.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
Critics Disc of the Year - December 2007
BBC Music Magazine
Disc of the month - October 2007
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Handel - Italian Cantatas Volume 2 - Cantatas for Marchese Ruspoli
“Volume 1 of this series, featuring Invernizzi, was an award-winning hit, but this collection of Handel's early cantatas, fabulously sung by Galli, is better still.” Sunday Times Records of the Year
“Galli has a stylish approach, agile in fast movements, ornaments decorating rather than distorting Handel's lines. She is though, so bound up in the anguish of unrequited love, the common thread, that I longed for a moment of sustained line. Every note is a separate jewel, beautifully cut, but detached from those around it.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2007 ***
“…the Italian ensemble… deliver delectable performances at an unmatched level of thoughtful preparation, penetrating programming and artistic interpretation.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
“Once again La Risonanza deliver delectable performances at an unmatched level of thoughtful preparation, penetrating programming and artistic interpretation. This instalment contains five cantatas, four of which were composed in 1707 for Handel's principal Roman patron the Marquis Ruspoli (the origins of Notte placida e cheta are less clear). All of these pieces have been recorded before but never quite like this. Roberta Invernizzi is on sparkling form in the hunting cantata Diana cacciatrice and La Risonanza play with spirited elegance. The lion's share of the programme is sung by Emanuela Galli: Armidaabbandonata receives a performance that surpasses all previous versions (no mean feat – the discography includes good performances by Ann Murray, Emma Kirkby and Véronique Gens). Galli sings with intensely dramatic conviction yet never at the expense of poetic style or good taste, and is equally convincing whether revealing the eloquence of Armida's broken heart or conveying the viciousness of her anger at Rinaldo. Fabio Bonizzoni nurtures performances that illustrate the rhetorical power in Handel's music without ever over-egging the pudding: for instance, Galli's expression of the core question in Tu fedel? tucostante? is wonderfully convincing, and the softly duelling violins in 'Zeffiretti, deh! venite' are nothing short of perfection.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
(also available to download from $11.00)
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Live Recordings 1950/1951
“…possibly the most compelling recorded performance of Max Reger's only surviving piano concerto… The performance marries drama with poetry in an ideal proportions: Erdmann's timing is just about perfect, his impulsive attack at the wilder climaxes precisely what the work needs.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2007
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