Klemperer, recalled Anja Silja in 2008, “was always flirting, even at the Festival Hall concert – perhaps that was why many people who came to see it said that I was smiling and laughing so much. Or maybe it was because he made his long, slow entry on to the podium leaning on me – he was very heavy and it must have taken about five minutes to get there”. She was amused, however, that when it came to “the serious business of music, he forgot all about women”. She found the concert “a much more intense experience – also because we had James King there”. From the recording sessions she remembers that they had to retake the Holländer/Senta duet “about six times because Klemperer always stamped loudly at some point or did something else that made noise that in those days couldn’t be edited out”. A visitor to rehearsals was George Szell. Klemperer addressed him as “young man” (he was 11 years Klemperer’s junior), presented Silja to him as “my fiancée” and, doubtless to impress Szell, conducted a whole rehearsal standing up, something he then normally never did. Anja Silja’s début as Senta had been, famously, replacing Leonie Rysanek at Bayreuth in 1960 (she was just 20), and followed her summoning to an audition on the Wiesbaden stage accompanied by Bayreuth’s current Holländer maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch and attended, at first secretly, by Wieland Wagner. Although Silja had known about the role since the age of 10, instructed by her opera-loving (and amateur singing) grandfather, “it was the only role by Wagner that I had never studied because I didn’t like it”. Wieland was intrigued by what he heard and saw of Silja but took some time before writing to Sawallisch: “I’ve thought this matter through again really thoroughly: we should risk it with your Lolita. It’s true that her timbre is neither sensational nor of ‘international’ star quality but she’d fit the staging like a glove…”. Despite this auspicious start, Silja always felt ambivalent about Senta. “It’s definitely the first Wagner part you give up – it’s a ‘ wischenfach’ role between all the voices: there’s coloratura, then there’s very quiet and very low singing”. There was a world of difference between the swift, light tempi of a Holländer under Wolfgang Sawallisch – he was one of the ‘Latin maestros’ that Wieland so favoured in his desire to rid Bayreuth of excessive traditional German baggage – and the ‘much slower’ tempi of vintage Klemperer. “Yes”, remembers Silja, “it was very different to what I was used to but I feel nowadays that I like it better – there’s more substance”. The Observer of March 1968, in its review of the concert, obviously agreed: “From the opening bars of the overture, one was plunged into a world where man was at the mercy of wind and water, and against this tumultuous background there unfolded a story, not of cosy sentimentality and true love, but of an obsessive and selfdestructive passion that can only be consummated in annihilation”.
Extract from the booklet note Mike Ashman, 2008
“The most remarkable aspect of the performance… remains the empathy between Klemperer, Silja and Adam. Adam's Act 1 monologue seizes the dramatic high ground, but Silja raises the stakes still further with an electrifying account of Senta's Ballad, ad the long duet which ends Act 2 has rarely been as intense and eloquent as it is here.”
“Thanks to Testament, we now have the Royal Festival Hall performance, as broadcast by the BBC, to put alongside the Abbey Road recording (above – made by EMI at the same period) which might be justifiably deemed one of two or three great readings of the score on CD. The two main characters are taken by the same singers, Theo Adam and Anja Silja. Martti Talvela and Annelies Burmeister can also be heard on both sets. The main difference is in the tenor department. James King, rather than Ernst Kozub, would probably have sung Erik in the studio if Decca had been willing to release him, and although this is a notoriously unrewarding part – especially when it has to be acted as well as sung – King's distinctive tonal combination of purity and weight was certainly a bonus in the Festival Hall, just as Kenneth Macdonald makes a fine Steersman. The most remarkable aspect of the performance nevertheless remains the empathy between Klemperer, Silja and Adam. Adam's Act 1 monologue seizes the dramatic high ground, but Silja raises the stakes still further with an electrifying account of Senta's Ballad, and the long duet which ends Act 2 has rarely been as intense and eloquent as it is here. Live performance always brings risks: there is a split brass note early in Act 1, and Talvela loses his way briefly a little later on. But Klemperer's love of the music's raw edges and robust rhythms is evident throughout. Even at the stately tempo he adopts the Act 3 sailor's dance is so strongly projected that the tension never sags for a moment, and Klemperer's eccentric devotion to the threeact version of the score is far less damaging than it would be in a performance of lower voltage. The recorded sound also comes up pretty well in this remastering. This extraordinarily 'live' reading of Wagner's windswept score now has the edge, even over the admirable studio alternative.”
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Karajan - Beauty As I See It - A Film By Robert Dornhelm
On the occasion of Von Karajan’s 100th birthday, this is the definitive documentary of his life and works.
To commemorate Herbert von Karajan's 100th birthday, this 90 minute film documentary will cast the light on the entire complexity of the Karajan phenomenon. While the film will treat the main stations in his career, it will above all undertake the attempt to uncover the true, personal essence of his unique artist behind the public figure. The film is directed by the Oscar nominee Robert Dornhelm.
From the archives of Unitel which was for over twenty years Karajan's production home a wealth of partly unpublished material such as interviews, rehearsals and current statements, will give rise to the portrait of a man who was full of contradictions and remained a mystery until his death. The film, cast in an essay-like narrative form, and not subdivided into purely biographical chapters, explores topics that are important for understanding Karajan's work and personality. Interviews featured include those with Eliette, Isabel and Arabel von Karajan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, Rene Kollo, Christa Ludwig, Brigitte Fassbaender, Gundula Janowitz, Sir Simon Rattle, Mariss Jansons, Joachim Kaiser and Helmut Schmidt.
“Dornhelm tells a good story… Even the most dedicated Karajan follower is likely to come across some unfamiliar footage from the assemblage of DG and Unitel videos and old TV documentaries, which are interspersed with some authoritative and often critical talking heads.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“…the performance of the Water Goblin is rewarding. Clearly, Kreizberg has a way with Dvorák, but he seems to have lost it in the Sixth.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2008 ****
“Kreizberg here demonstrates what a fine orchestra the Netherlands Philharmonic is, even rivalling the Royal Concertgebouw in the refinement and precision of the playing……Kreizberg’s approach is generaly to adopt a
steady speed and to allow warmly expressive phrasing within that tempo. Another outstanding disc from the enterprising PentaTone company.” Edward Greenfield, Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“Kreizberg here demonstrates what a fine orchestra the Netherlands Philharmonic is, even rivalling the Royal Concertgebouw in the refinement and precision of the playing. Symphony No 6 in D major in many ways reflects Dvorák's admiration for Brahm's Second Symphony... Yet Kreizberg's reading consistently brings out the fact that not a bar could have been written by any other composer but Dvorák.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“Kreizberg's reading consistently brings out the fact that not a bar could have been written by any other composer but Dvorak.” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition ***
The works on this recording focus on a singular genre created by a singular composer. The kind of piece Charles Ives called a ‘set’ is usually a larger work made by putting together independently-written smaller pieces. The First Orchestral Set, variously titled Three Places in New England and A New England Symphony, is one of Ives’s great tributes to his roots. Put together around 1913-14 from material going back years, it is typically Ivesian in that each movement has an underlying program. Like the other sets, the Second has a slow-fast-slow pattern and a visionary hymn-based finale. The unfinished Third Orchestral Set was the only set Ives planned as a whole from the beginning. It may stand as the most profound discovery of the many and ongoing efforts to reconstruct Ives’s incomplete works. This is its first complete performance and recording
“Well recorded, idiomatic performances all round - a real Ives discovery.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“James Sinclair leads excellent performances. The Malmo Symphony sounds comfortable in the American idiom, and the recording is spacious, sweet sounding in the strings…You should have the Naxos regardless of what other Ives recordings you have.” American Record Guide
“This is a fascinating release that offers Ives's three Orchestral Sets for the first time. The curtain is raised with the first of them, ThreePlaces in New England, in its original version – this stands somewhere between the CountryBand March and the later, more familiar ThreePlaces. At this stage there's no piano part and the conflicting march rhythm in 'Putnam's Camp' is missing as well as its dissonant opening. Both the First and Second Sets are vintage Ives, with his unforgettable reaction to the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the First World War at the end of the Second Set. But the novelty here is the Third Set. The first two movements come from sketches edited by David Gray Porter. The opening Andante has a structure similar to Central Parkin the Dark with typical Ives chords and a texture building to a crisis with something left hanging softly at the end. The second movement is called 'During Camp Meetin' Week: One Secular Afternoon'. This again is Ives's idiosyncratic territory with lots of quotations including 'Columbia the Gem of the Ocean' twice and a four-part hymn about the Day of Judgement – not so secular after all? Completing works by Ives has become an industry that the composer would have welcomed. The perhaps over-extended last movement of this Third Set, realised by Nors Josephson, at times sounds like Varèse, although it begins and ends softly. Well recorded, idiomatic performances all round – a real Ives discovery.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
After the enormous success last year of their recording of Bach Motets (476 5776), the Hilliard Ensemble turn their attention to music of the English Renaissance and specifically, works by three 16th century composers, Tallis, Tye and Sheppard. While Christopher Tye might be branded one of the lesser-known figures of the English Renaissance, and John Sheppard perhaps the more esoteric, Thomas Tallis stands as the most important and accomplished musician of the Tudor period. All three, however, were masters of polyphony, associated with the Chapel Royal.
The music here is not a sampling of the (much-recorded) music for the new Prayer Book but a survey of the earliest examples of the impact of reform on musical composition, namely from the last decades of Henry VIII’s reign. The works of Tallis, Tye and Sheppard are alternated and contrasted throughout this beautifully constructed recital, recorded, like many of the Hilliard Ensemble’s CDs, in the splendid, crystal-clear acoustics of the Sankt Gerold monastery in the Austrian Alps. Tallis has long been an inspirational figure for the Hilliards, who had a huge success with their recording of his Lamentations of Jeremiah (833 3082) in 1986 - one of their first ECM New Series discs - and also brought his music into their collaboration with Jan Garbarek on Mnemosyne (465 1222).
“The ensemble is flawless and the sound reproduction crystalline.” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 ***
“The Hilliards here return to familiar territory with a programme of Tallis, Tye and Sheppard. While the territory may be familiar, however, not all of its landmarks are, and neither is their disposition – this is an extremely well organised disc, surveying the impact that the musical aspects of the Reformation had in the first instance on English composers (what David Skinner aptly describes as 'that musicologically grey period in the last decades of Henry VIII's reign'). Thus, while all the works by Tallis (Inieiunio et fletu, Te lucis ante terminum, Audivivocem and Salvator mundi, the latter given a particularly beautiful performance) are well known, they are set in the context of much more recondite material. The rarities from Sheppard include the early Gaudete celicole omnes, whose constant flow almost suggests at times a kind of English Gombert, and later, clearly Henrician works, such as the marvellously luminous hymn Eternerex, altissime. The music by Tye includes Omnesgentes plaudite, which may perhaps be considered relatively known, but the four sections of the Missa sine nomine from the Peterhouse partbooks will probably be unknown even to most connoisseurs of this period, precisely on account of the missing voice. Hopefully these beautifully blended performances will help to change this state of affairs, for it is an extremely impressive work, heralding the new, compact and more declamatory style with consummate skill. An outstanding release.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“…beautifully blended performances…” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
Anne-Sophie Mutter’s first Bach recording for DG couples his Concertos BWV 1041 and BWV 1042 with the world-premiere recording of the Concerto commissioned by her from Sofia Gubaidulina, the Russian composer who regards Bach as her greatest source of inspiration
Mutter gave the premiere performance of Gubaidulina’s Concerto at the 2007 Lucerne Festival and will record the work with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at the beginning of 2008
For the Bach Concertos Mutter reunites with the Trondheim Soloists, with whom she recorded the Vivaldi Four Seasons album that has sold more than 350,000 copies.
The combination of Bach and Gubaidulina will appeal to lovers of Bach and instrumental music in general as well as to listeners interested in discovering something new. It also offers a unique marketing angle for the specialist music press as a follow-up Mutter’s 2006 Mozart project
“Gubaidulina has her own very personal musical identity, and the concerto's strategies for playing off heights against depths, lament against affirmation, are very powerfully realised. This darkly inviting music is splendidly performed. You'd expect the Mutter/Gergiev combination to be combustible, and there is certainly no reticence or half-measures in the way the music's expressive core, its play with visions of hell and heaven, is exposed.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“In tempus praesens is certainly one of Gubaidulina's most striking and impressive works of recent years. Mutter's performance of this stunning piece, undoubtedly one of the finest violin concertos to emerge in the past 30 years, is absolutely mesmerising. Her Bach, too, is charismatic.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2008 *****
“the violin concerto written for her by Sofia Gubaidulina in 2006-7. In a single movement running for about 32 minutes, it shows the composer's concern to make a direct and immediate impact, avoiding complicated materials but using very expansive forms. It's possible to sense the kind of allusions to Mahlerian archetypes that are no less prominent in Shostakovich or Schnittke. Yet Gubaidulina has her own very personal musical identity, and the concerto's strategies for playing off heights against depths, lament against affirmation, are very powerfully realised. The risks of rambling, improvisatory musing are triumphantly avoided, and the work's final stages appear to bring starkly opposed images of extinction and rebirth into a strongly ambivalent conclusion that both affirms and questions resolution. This darkly inviting music is splendidly performed. You'd expect the Mutter/Gergiev combination to be combustible, and there is certainly no reticence or half-measures in the way the music's expressive core, its play with visions of hell and heaven, is exposed. Gestures towards traditional consonant harmony stand out strangely, and dancelike patterns are clearly not going to survive for very long in a context where brooding and turbulence are the principal qualities. The resplendent recording celebrates the score's rich colouring while never allowing the solo line, played with all this performer's natural theatricality and poise, to lose its prominence. Maybe, at one particularly stark climax, the hammered rhythmic repetitions in the orchestra seem over-emphatic. But urgency rather than reticence drives Gubaidulina's thought, and this performance never lets you forget it. It would have been good to hear these performers in Gubaidulina's other major work for violin and orchestra, Offertorium. Instead, the pair of Bach concertos speak of a distant musical world in which stability and spontaneity achieved an extraordinary conjunction. The performances are neat, tidy, dispatched with elegance and vigour. Yet they reinforce the gulf that musically separates then from now, and all- Gubaidulina discs are not as common as they should be.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“The new piece is nicely complemented by two of Bach's violin concertos, in which Mutter is partnered by the Trondheim Soloists, whose performing style is a hybrid between modern techniques and period ideas: they use baroque bows but on metal stringed instruments...It's the Gubaidulina that will sell the disc to the composer's admirers.” The Guardian, 3rd October 2008 ***
Milford’s compositions fall into three main periods – apprenticeship, maturity, and what one might call ‘deeper maturity with experimentation’ – which can be identified with stages in his life.
This CD showcases piano music and songs from across four decades of Milford’s prolific and varied career, providing examples of all three periods of his musical development.
The youthful expectation and promise of the 1920s is captured here in My Lady’s Pleasure – exquisite folk dances for piano.
The happy maturity Milford found in the 1930s, shown in the more complex stylistic development of Prelude, Air and Finale The darkness that descended upon Milford in the 1940s and ’50s, brought on by war and personal tragedy, culminated in his eventual suicide in 1959 – a period represented on this CD by the moving Swan Songs.
“Listening to this collection, in which simplistic piano music is mingled with settings of Hardy, Blake and Robert Bridges, it's hard to pin down Milford's style, which often seems as if it has been deliberately simplified to make the music accessible to amateur performers.” The Guardian, 16th May 2008 **
“The piano works so deftly essayed by Raphael Terroni on this useful issue date from the 1920s and '30s – a happy period in Milford's life, which was soon to be blighted by the death (in a road accident) of his beloved five-year-old son Barnaby, followed by poor health, crippling selfdoubt and three suicide attempts. Reputation Square is a deliciously poised arrangement of a set of six hornpipes. Finer still are the bright-eyed Jenifer's Jingle (sic), ruminative and pastoral My Lady's Pleasure and the Prelude,Air and Finale, the latter a highly inventive, rewardingly serene and (above all) subtly integrated triptych which suggests that exploration of some of Milford's as yet unrecorded largescale compositions might prove beneficial. Although the influence of Finzi and Warlock is inescapable, the strongest of Milford's song-settings – notably 'The Colour' (the second of the Four Hardy Songs from 1939) and the unpublished set of nine Swan Songs (1948-51) – possess a frequently captivating melodic charm and directness of expression to which many will rightly respond, especially when contralto Phillida Bannister sings with such infectious commitment and tangible projection. Terroni, too, accompanies with watchful sensitivity, and there can be no complaints about either Michael Ponder's truthful production or Peter Hunter's assiduously detailed notes. This generously filled anthology deserves every success.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
Recorded in Dallas's superb Meyerson Hall by Grammy-winning Producer/Engineer Adam Abeshouse.
“… the performances… fly off the page with verve and confidence, rhythmic precision and real style. The slow movement of the Concerto in particular is wonderfully characterised, all smokey blues with decadent solos from the muted first trumpet. Strongly recommended.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“It's rare enough to have all four Gershwin works for piano and orchestra on a single disc but rarer still for each one to come near or top of the class. First, and unusually enough, McDermott and her (British) conductor do Gershwin the courtesy of playing all the scores uncut and observing his dynamics and performance instructions to the letter. Typical of their meticulous attention to detail is the first bar of the coda (allegro con brio) in the Concerto's first movement, almost always played forte but marked (and rendered here) piano by the orchestra, mp by the soloist, allowing a crescendo over the following eight bars. A small point, maybe, but it is what the composer asked for and is all the more effective. Such preparation would mean little, though, if the performances did not fly off the page with verve and confidence, rhythmic precision and real style. The slow movement of the Concerto in particular is wonderfully characterised, all smokey blues with decadent solos from the muted first trumpet. The Dallas strings lend a Hollywood swoon to the big tunes in the famous Rhapsody and the Concerto while the remaining two pieces are more coherent and convincing than in the hands of some far more famous names. Strongly recommended.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
After a highly acclaimed 3-disc traversal of Villa-Lobos’ 9 Bachianas Brasileiras, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) takes on the Choros by the same composer, in a cycle supervised by the orchestra’s artistic director John Neschling. In the Choros, composed between 1920 and 1929, Villa-Lobos’ point of departure is the Brazilian popular genre called choro, and he described his Choros as a synthesis of ‘the different modalities of indigenous and popular Brazilian music’, adding that the word ‘serenade’ gives an approximate idea of what Choros is. This vagueness was probably intentional – Villa-Lobos wanted to catch the improvisatory aspect of the genre, and as a result the works are very varied. The cycle includes brief solo pieces, chamber settings and full-length works for large symphony orchestra, with or without solo instruments or choir, as exemplified by the first volume of this series, released in February 2008. This received a Diapason d’or in the French magazine Diapason, and a review that described the performance of No.7 – for seven players – ‘a lesson in agogic freedom’ and the monumental No.11 – for piano and orchestra – ’a master-piece that opens up onto an almost infinite acoustic universe’, applauding the ’extraordinary interpretation’ by Cristina Ortiz and the orchestra. Volume 2 includes the first of the Choros, for solo guitar, as well as No.4 for three horns & trombone, but also three large-scale orchestral works, adding further facets to this fascinating and kaleidoscopic cycle.
“Villa-Lobos's textural inventiveness is a constant delight in both [Choros 8 & 9] and the São Paulo Symphony's performances under John Neschling exploit it to maximum effect.” The Guardian, 25th July 2008 ****
“After the excellent previous volume this successor - as well played as ASV's still incomplete rival survey - augurs well for what will presumably be the final instalment.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008
“How many Chôros are there? Fourteen numbered examples (with two claimed as “lost”), two Chôrosbis, a Wind Quintet en forme de Chôros and a con- cluding (!) choral-and-orchestral “Introduction to the Chôros”, all more or less from the 1920s. No 6 (1926), which opens this second volume of BIS's survey, and No 9 (1929) may not have been written down until 1942 in time for their Rio premieres. Villa-Lobos was unreliable about many details of his work and these would not be unique in his output in being created only when performances finally materialised. Whenever it was set down, the Sixth is a hugely engaging, if sprawling, orchestral fantasia and like the Eighth (written and premiered between 1925 and 1927) and Ninth, was scored for large orchestra using exotic local percussion instruments. The Eighth is far more barbaric in character, tailored for the fad for primitivism then fashionable in Paris (where it was written), with parts for two pianos. Yet this is no concerto in disguise; although the first is a melodic soloist, the second is deployed as a percussive instrument and both orchestrally. BIS provides a clear balance. Neschling and the São Paulo SO have the edge in the Ninth, which lies expressively between Nos 6 and 8. Separating these difficult orchestral works come the First for guitar (1920-21) and Fourth for brass (1926). There have been crisper performances of the latter, but Fabio Zanon's of the well known First is really rather good, languid and wistful, the tempi vibrantly elastic. This fine disc augurs well for what will presumably be the final instalment.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010