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Wagner - The Copenhagen Ring
Johan Reuter (Wotan), Michael Kristensen (Loge), Sten Byriel (Alberich), Randi Stene (Fricka), Stephen Milling (Fasolt), Christian Christiansen (Fafner), Anne Margrethe Dahl (Freia), Hans Lawaetz (Donner), Johnny van Hal (Froh), Bengt-Ola Morgny (Mime), Susanne Resmark (Erda), Djina Mai-Mai (Woglinde), Ylva Kihlberg (Wellgunde), Hanne Fischer (Flosshilde)
Stig Fogh Andersen (Siegmund), Gitta-Maria Sjöberg (Sieglinde), Stephen Milling (Hunding), Irene Théorin (Brünnhilde), James Johnson (Wotan), Randi Stene (Fricka)
Stig Fogh Andersen (Siegfried), Irene Théorin (Brünnhilde), Bengt-Ola Morgny (Mime), James Johnson (Der Wanderer), Steen Byriel (Alberich), Christian Christiansen (Fafner),Susanne Resmark (Erda), Gisela Stille (Waldvogel)
Stig Fogh Andersen (Siegfried), Irene Théorin (Brünnhilde), Peter Klaveness (Hagen), Guido Paevatalu (Gunther), Sten Byriel (Alberich), Ylva Kihlberg (Gutrune), Anette Bod (Waltraute), Djina Mai-Mai (Woglinde), Elisabeth Meyer-Topsøe (Wellgunde), Ulla Kudsk Jensen (Flosshilde), Susanne Resmark (1. Norn), Hanne Fischer (2. Norn), Anne Margrethe Dahl (3. Norn)
Royal Danish Opera, Michael Schønwandt
Production by Kasper Bech Holten
Seven-DVD set of Wagner’s gargantuan Ring Cycle – the celebrated, critically-acclaimed production at the Royal Danish Opera, come to be known as the Copenhagen Ring. Striking, memorable and controversial staging by Kasper Bech Holten. The action, experienced as an extended flashback, presents Wagner’s epic as a family saga from a feminist perspective. The production is visually stunning, disturbing and at times explicit.
“The first of several wonders in this new set… is the intuitive performing skill of a genuine house ensemble. …Copenhagen has achieved a class Ring with just one guest, James Johnson's Walküre/Siegfried Wotans. Moreover, if Stockholm is the Venice of the north, the Royal Danish Orchestra must be the Vienna Philharmonic of the north with its forward, rich woodwind timbres (a Nielsen sound, wholly suitable for Nibelung music) and cool-sweet string tone, the whole integrated, balanced and paced with a Kempe-like swiftness and attention to rhythmic detail by their chief Michael Schønwandt. ...the visual editing is busy, justifying allusions to the hand-held operation rediscovered by Danish art cinema directors. It gives the films a breathless close-up quality, the absolute inverse of the accustomed best-seat-in-the-stalls approach. Kasper Bech Holten's production... is... costumed and situated between (approximately) 1920 and the 1990s, and - through ever-ingenious lateral thinking - finds latter-day equivalents for Wagner's geography, properties and dramatic violence. In addition to the sheer zip of performance and filming, the sound picture is warm, resonant and true, the English subtitles... give an unsually revealing and detailed insight into Wagner's text, and, winningly, the "extra" item consists of a discussion between the stage director and his country's opera-loving head of state.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“Vocally, the main players are formidable, with Iréne Theorin’s accurate and tireless Brünnhilde an even match for Stig Andersen’s genuine Heldentenor contributions...Klaveness does not supply an ideal bass gravitas for Hagen but he’s quite the nastiest exponent of the role one could encounter. This is a wonderful Ring to watch as well as to listen to, a must-have for Wagnerians anywhere.” Opera
“superbly acted, more than decently sung and executed with a technical bravura that puts recent London stagings to shame” Sunday Times
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Nelson Freire plays Debussy
Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire is among the truly great living musicians. His recordings and live performances receive rapturous critical acclaim, and his remarkable musicianship continues to captivate the critics and charm the musical world. Freire has a special affinity with Debussy's music and his magical style perfectly suits these luminous works.
“Nelson Freire, the legendary Brazilian pianist and longtime musical partner of Martha Argerich, turns to Debussy. In the accompanying notes he confesses to a special empathy for Debussy and you will be hard pressed to find a recital of comparable warmth, affection and finesse. Here, there is no need for spurious gestures and inflections; everything is given with a supreme naturalness and a perfectly accomodated virtuosity that declare Freire a master pianist throughout. When have you heard 'Voiles' given with a greater sense of its mystery or witnessed playing throughout Book 1 of the Préludes more delicate, rapt and precise? There is lightly worn fantasy and expertise in 'La sérénade interrompue' and the direction Profondément calme (dans une brumedoucement sonore) is distilled into something close to perfection. Always Freire 'evokes rather than spells out' and has one every heard a more subtle or engaging way with 'Dr Gradus ad Parnassum' (from the Children's CornerSuite). Clair de lune, added, as it were, as an encore, is dreamy and magically remote, making you long for further Debussy from this artist. Decca's sound is warm and brilliant.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“…Nelson Freire… confesses to a special empathy for Debussy… and you will be hard pressed to find a recital of comparable warmth, affection and finesse. When you have heard "Voiles" gives with a greater sense of mystery… or witnessed playing throughout Book 1 of the Préludes more delicate, rapt and precise? Clair de lune, added, as it were, as an encore, is dreamy and magically remote...” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“The Brazilian takes on Debussy favourites (Preludes: Book 1, Children's Corner and Claire de Lune) with his usual dazzling clarity. Impressive in his keyboard scope, he offers moments of engaging insight. But while his note-striking is pure and brilliant, elsewhere Freire has a somewhat meaty approach, the detached perfection and button-brightness occasionally jarring with the more poetic, subtle ripples of Debussy's music.” The Times, 7th February 2009 ***
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Dvorák & Herbert - Cello Concertos
For his second solo recording, after his critically acclaimed recording of Haydn’s Cello Concertos (which inaugurated his exclusive recording contract with VC in 2003), Gautier Capuçon tackles Dvorak’s masterpiece for cello (his only cello concerto), and couples it with that of an unfortunately under-reputed composer of the era.
Gautier Capuçon is accompanied by Paavo Järvi who directs the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, to which Paavo Järvi has is music director since September 06.
Dvorák wrote the concerto while in New York for his third term as the Director of the National Conservatory after having listened to Victor Herbert’s (a fellow teacher at the Conservatory) second cello concerto in 1894. Up till then Dvorák had always refused, stating that the cello was a fine orchestral instrument but totally insufficient for a solo concerto.
Victor August Herbert (February 1, 1859 – May 26, 1924) was a cellist, conductor and composer of light opera. His Cello Concerto is a new asset to Virgin Classics’ catalogue. Quite rarely recorded, it isn’t today available on either VC’s or EMI Classics’ catalogue - Julian Lloyd Webber’s recording with Charles Mackerras and the London Symphony Orchestra on EMI isn’t available at this date.
‘Gautier Capuçon plays the cello with the control and wisdom of a much older musician. The lightness of his touch and the consistent clarity of his bow strokes are quite admirable in themselves, but when combined with an uncanny sweetness of tone in the higher registers they are breathtaking.’ Gramophone
“Gautier Capuçon's account of the Herbert that makes the bigger impression. He captures the work's rhapsodic ambitions and the lyrical charm of its slow movement perfectly, whereas his reading of the Dvorák seems a bit withdrawn and underpowered. Anyone wanting a definitive recording of the Dvorák has plenty to choose from elsewhere, but for the Herbert this version just about has it all.” The Guardian, 6th February 2009 ***
“Gautier Capuçon gives a richly lyrical and sympathetic account of Herbert's Concerto, reaching heights of eloquence in its beguiling slow movement and revelling in the virtuosity of the latter parts of the finale.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2009 ****
“…Gautier Capuçon gives distinctive, characterful and intense performances of both works, well supported by Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt orchestra, especially strong in its brass section. In the Dvorák the fruity-toned Frankfurt horn gives a beautiful account of the great second-subject melody... In the exposition with soloist, Capuçon takes that section a fraction faster and the result is magical. As in the Herbert the slow movement is deeply elegiac, while the incisive finale leads to a dedicated account of the beautiful epilogue.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“Though the name of Victor Herbert is nowadays associated above all with Broadway musicals like Naughty Marietta, Herbert was in fact a multi-talented musician, one of the world's leading cello virtuosos of the time and the composer of two cello concertos which greatly influenced Dvorák in the United States to write his supreme masterpiece.
That makes this coupling of Dvorák's Cello Concerto with the second and finer of Herbert's an apt one, and Gautier Capuçon gives distinc- tive, characterful and intense performances of both works, well supported by Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt orchestra, especially strong in its brass section.
In the Dvorák the fruity-toned Frankfurt horn gives a beautiful account of the great second-subject melody even though it is dangerously slow. In the exposition with soloist, Capuçon takes that section a fraction faster and the result is magical.
As in the Herbert the slow movement is deeply elegiac, while the incisive finale leads to a dedicated account of the beautiful epilogue. Altogether a version of this much-recorded work which stands comparison with any in the catalogue, made the more attractive by the coupling.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Thomas Quasthoff sings Haydn Italian Arias
Thomas Quasthoff’s great artistry needs no introduction. Here he follows up his much-raised Bach Cantatas recording with another project perfectly suited to his dark-hued, flexible voice. In anticipation of the forthcoming Haydn year – the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death falls in May 2009 – Quasthoff turns his attention to the Viennese master’s considerable operatic output, with an album of arias drawn from both Haydn’s comic and serious operas.
Making its Deutsche Grammophon debut on this album is the Freiburger Barockorchester, the internationally acclaimed period-instrument ensemble which regularly collaborates with Quasthoff and many other leading artists. This is music of the highest calibre. Haydn’s operatic works are a real rarity and with Thomas Quasthoff as their champion this will be one of the most unusual and intriguing albums of the year. It is a must-have for lovers of period-instrument performance, opera and baroque music – as well as for all those touched by Quasthoff’s musicianship.
The album release is timed to tie in with the first of 4 UK appearances which Quastoff will make during 2009 at London’s Barbican Centre.
“…Thomas Quasthoff… puts a great deal into his performances, characterising the texts, especially the jovial or intendedly comic ones, with relish.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2009 ****
“Quasthoff's performances are vividly imagined and splendidly sung. He characterises each role with relish… Quasthoff's top register - brighter and more tenorish than a decade ago - rings out freely in a mock-heroic number for the foppish braggart Perucchetto in La fedeltà premiata, portrayed to the life by Quasthoff. Quasthoff has done a still-neglected corner of Haydn's output proud, and the rhythmically lively Freiburg period band match him all the way in colour and gusto.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“'These arias are glorious music that give me more pleasure each time I sing them,' enthuses Thomas Quasthoff of his Haydn anniversary recital encompassing 11 roles from nine operas.
Judging the arias by Mozartian standards (unfair, but hard to avoid when the idiom is so similar), we might feel that Haydn's response to character and dramatic situation can occasionally seem too amiably non-committal. Far more often, though, Quasthoff's encomium is well justified, whether in the sharp comic portrayals of assorted dolts, lechers and buffoons, the sepulchral solo for the Stygian ferryman Caronte (Orlando Paladino), or the graceful cantabile arias for Creonte from the London opera L'anima del filosofo. If Haydn's operas are alien territory for you, the range and inventiveness of these arias (plus one duet) may come as a surprise.
Quasthoff's performances are vividly imagined and splendidly sung. He characterises each role with relish. As ever, he savours the sound and sense of the words, greedily gobbling up his consonants in the song of the gluttonous monk Calandro (L'incontro improvviso). In serious mode, he brings a gravely eloquent legato to the numbers for Caronte and Creonte, and commands both the height and the depth for the fine, dignified arias from Armida and L'isola disabitata.
Once or twice Quasthoff's softer singing sounds unsupported, starved of natural resonance.
Nit-pickers might also point to moments where he coarsens his tone in the name of dramatic intensity. But these are minor provisos.
Quasthoff has done a still-neglected corner of Haydn's output proud, and the rhythmically lively Freiburg period band match him all the way in colour and gusto.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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City of the two peaces: Heavenly peace and Earthly peace
Fanfare of Jericho, 1200 av. B.C.
I Heavenly Peace:The Prophets of the Apocalypse and of the Last Judgment
2 The Sibylline Oracles (3rd century B.C.)
Jewish sources, Aramaic music
3 Introduction (Ney & percussion)
4 The Koran: Bismi Al.là ar Rahman (7th Century)
Fatihah Sura I, 2-7. Sufi sources
5 Postludium (qanun)
6 Revelation VI, 12-3 Audi pontus (12th century)
corresponding to the Cathar Gospel of Pseudo-John V
7 Postludium (medieval harp)
II Jerusalem, Jewish city, 1000 BC-AD 70
King David makes Jerusalem the capital of the unified kingdom of Judah and Israel
8 Shofars call
9 Prayer for Jerusalem
10 Instrumental dance
Liberation of the city by Maccabeans, 164 B.C.
11 The Peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122) - The Psalms of King David (10th Century B.C.)
12 Rabbi Akiva goes to Jerusalem Talmud, Makkot 24b
13 Song of Exile (Psalm 137, 1-6)
Destruction of the Temple and Diaspora,A.D. 70
14 Instrumental lament (shofars)
III Jerusalem, a Christian city, 326 - 1244
(Hymn to the Virgin at the foot of the Cross)
Attributed to Emperor Leo VI, 886-912
Queen Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine is in Jerusalem,A.D. 326
16 Fanfare "Pax in nomine Domine"
17 Pope Urban II, First call to the Crusade, 1095
Recited text in French
18 Crusaders' song: Pax in nomine Domini
Marcabru (1100-1150) - 1st Crusade
19 Crusaders' song: Chevalier, mult estes guaritz, 1146
Anonymous 12th Century - 2nd Crusade
20 Conductus : O totius Asie - Anonymous (s. XIII)
21 Planctus " Pax in Nomine Domini "
The Crusaders lose Jerusalem to Saladin Instrumental
Iva Jerusalem, a city of pilgrimage, 383 - 1326
22 The Dome of the Rock - Ibn Battuta (1304-ca.1377)
23 Zionida: Beautiful city, delight of the world
Judah Ha-Levy (1075-1141)
IVb Jerusalem, city of pilgrimage, 383 - 1326
Cantiga de Santa Maria: Offondo do mar tan châo
Alfonso X the Wise (1121-1284) CSM383
V Jerusalem,Arabic & Ottoman city, 1244-1917
Arabic city, 1244 - 1516
2 Prelude (Oud)
3 The Koran, Sura XVII, 1-Mohammed ascends to heaven from the Temple Mount
4 Danse of the Soma
5 Sallatu Allah - Arabic tradition
Ottoman city, 1517 - 1917
6 Makam Uzäl Sakil "Turna"
Ottoman mss. of Kantemiroglu (17th century)
7 Suleyman the Magnificent's dream, 1520 legend
Recited text in Turkish
8 Warrior's march (Anonymous Ottoman)
The Ottoman Conquest of Jerusalem, 1517
VI Jerusalem, Land of Refuge & Exile, 15-20thC
9 Palestina hermoza y Santa - Anonymous Sephardic
10 Palestinian Lament - Anonymous
11 Andouni Armenian Lament, 1915 - Anonymous
12 El male rahamim (Hymn to the victims of Auschwitz),
1941 Historical recording by Shlomo Katz, 1950
13 Funeral March Instrumental
VII Earthly peace: a duty and a utopia.A plea for peace
14 Instrumental Dialogue
15 A plea for peace in Arabic
16 Adonay Prayer for peace in Hebrew
17 A plea for peace in Armenian
18 Da Pacem (Gregorian)
Dialogue of songs
19 Apo xeno meros (in Greek) - Anonym (Oral Tradition)
20 Ghazal (in Arabic)
21 Ghazal (in Hebrew)
22 Ghazal (Palestine)
23 Siente Hermosa (ladino)
24 Apo xeno meros (in Greek) Gregorian Chorus
25 Durme, hermoza donzella (ladino)
26 Ghazal (in Arabic, Greek & Hebrew)
27 Ghazal (instrumental, Morocco)
28 Final Ensemble (tutti)
29 Final fanfare "Against the barriers of the Spirit"
Begoña Olavide, Lior Elmalich, Muwafak Shahin Khalil, Razmik Amyan, Lluis Vilamajó, Marc Mauillon
A hommage to Jerusalem and an invocation to peace
"This project was conceived as a hommage to Jerusalem, the city endlessly built and destroyed by man in his quest for the sacred and for spiritual power. Through the power of music and words, this fruit of the passionate and committed collaboration of musicians, poets, researchers, writers and historians from 14 nations, as well as Alia Vox and the CIMA Foundation teams, has become a fervent invocation to Peace. A Peace born out of a dialogue based on empathy and mutual respect is, despite the enormous difficulties involved, a necessary and desirable path forward for all concerned. It is a goal that is both urgent and imperative, one which can help humanity to overcome its ancestral fears and follies, thus preventing countless innocent victims and untold futile siffering. Jerusalem is more than a holy city: it is a symbol for mankind, continuing to remind us all in this 21st century of the great difficulty in living together. Without peace, no human life is possible." Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall, Unesco ‘Artists for Peace’, Bellaterra, Autumn 2008
Invited musicians: Yair Dalal (oud); Dvir Cohen, Erez Shmuel Mounk (perc); Yagel Harel (shofar); Wabab Badarne (qanun); Usama Abu Ali (flutes, ney); Kaled Abu Ali (chant); Razmik Amyan (chant); Gaguik Mouradia (kamancha); Dmitris Psonis (santur, morisca, percussions); Omar Bashir (oud); Fahmi Alqhai (viol); Mutlu Torun (oud); Driss El Maloumi (chant, oud); Khaled Arman (rebab); Siar Hashimi (darbouka); Al-Darwish (Sufi group of Galilee); Les trompettes de Jéricho; La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI (Andrew Lawrence-King, Pedro Estevan, Arianna Savall, Pierre Hamon, Montserrat Figueras...).
“…that Sarajevan chant lies at the wounded heart of this whole brilliant enterprise. Sung with just the faintest hint of vibrato by Montserrat Figueras, it segues into a haunting Palestinian lament by Mufawak Shahin Khalil, which is followed by an Armenian lament by Razmik Amyan, after which we hear the awe-inspiring cadences of Auschwitz survivor Shlomo Katz. Recorded in 1950, this chant for the victims of Nazism has no whiff of vengefulness: like the whole of this majestic interfaith enterprise, it is quite simply an affirmation of humanity.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2009 *****
“A lot of care has been taken in the historical shape, the repertoire and the artists - it's a territory where early music and world music meet to create beautiful and powerful performances.” Evening Standard
“Using a kaleidoscopic blend of musicians, Savall takes the listener on a pilgrimage through time and space. The emphasis on slow-burning chants creates a sense of claustrophobia at times, but the sheer ambition of the project is little short of breathtaking.” Sunday Times, 8th February 2009 ***
“Jerusalem may not bring world peace any closer, but you’ll never read the Gaza headlines in quite the same way again.” The Times
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Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5
“As usual, the forces wielded in this live recording from Caracas approach the gargantuan: they include 17 trumpets, 15 trombones and a mere 96 strings. And again the playing quality is exceptional. Brass shining like gold; velvet, purring double-basses; gambolling woodwinds; killer percussion; violinists with 20 fingers, never afraid whatever the speed.” The Times, 6th February 2009 ****
“The playing packs a passionate punch, the aching pangs of the first movement delivered with palpable anguish, the outbursts charged with hot-blooded fury. Dudamel's pacing of the andante slow movement might tax any solo horn-player's reservoir of breath, but the youngster allotted the part here takes it mellifluously in his stride.” The Telegraph, 18th February 2009
“Though Gustavo Dudamel's achievements with his remarkable young Venezuelans may be one of the musical wonders of our time, their charisma seems to work far better live than on disc. The collection released last year was a wonderful memento of the Simón Bolívar's performances of the same pieces in concert, but their earlier recording of Mahler and Beethoven symphonies with Dudamel had been much less convincing. Though this latest Tchaikovsky release has moments of huge excitement, it doesn't begin to compete with the finest accounts of the Fifth Symphony already available. Predictably, perhaps, it's the finale of the symphony that shows Dudamel and his orchestra at their best, when they generate tremendous intensity; but until then it moves in fits and starts. The orchestral fantasy Francesca da Rimini fares no better, with the slower music under-characterised and other sections too brassily assertive. Dudamel's army of fans will get over it, of course, but he's a more satisfying interpreter than he allows himself to be here.” The Guardian, 6th March 2009 ***
“A sinewy, uninhibited Tchaikovsky Fifth - you'd expect nothing less from this source. Dudamel and his young players feed on one another; the exchange of energy is extraordinary. As for the finale… the allegro vivace comes off the starting-blocks at such a blistering pace as to register a nanosecond of disbelief that such a tempo is even possible. But the real disbelief is still to come. To better this account of Francesca da Rimini you need to go back to Stokowski or Bernstein's underrated Israel Philharmonic recording. As if the descent into Dante's inferno isn't intense enough - Dudamel's pacing of this lengthy introduction is quite masterly - the whirlwind at its core glows white hot with astonishing virtuosity displayed from every department.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“These are remarkably well-played accounts of the E minor symphony and Francesca da Rimini for a youth orchestra” Sunday Times, 8th March 2009 ***
“A sinewy, uninhibited Tchaikovsky Fifth – you'd expect nothing less from this source. Dudamel and his young players feed on one another; the exchange of energy is extraordinary. Tchaikovsky's impulsive changes of tempo feel more naturally impetuous while the phrasing is directly reflected in the sound: just listen to the yearning second theme of the Allegro con anima and the way that the sheen on the violin sound intensifies with the release.
But as with their famous Prom a few years back, it's not just the fireworks but the inwardness of this performance that brings the biggest surprises. The great Andante cantabile horn theme (so soft and consoling) emerges almost imperceptibly from the somnolent harmonies of the lower strings at the start of the movement.
It's like discovering Romeo and Juliet before the unwelcome dawn – the atmosphere is extraordinarily charged. And what sweep the Simón Bolívar string-players lend the second theme, not least in the climactic return. As for the finale – well, there's nothing like headstrong youngsters to reignite an old favourite: the allegrovivace comes off the starting-blocks at such a blistering pace as to register a nanosecond of disbelief that such a tempo is even possible.
But the real disbelief is still to come. To better this account of Francesca da Rimini you need to go back to Stokowski or Bernstein. As if the descent into Dante's inferno isn't intense enough – Dudamel's pacing of this lengthy introduction is quite masterly – the whirlwind at its core glows white hot with astonishing virtuosity displayed from every department. Then the loveliest of all Tchaikovsky's lyric creations brings a limpid melancholy from the solo clarinet – truly times of happiness recalled in misery.
And though Dudamel's tempo rubato in the string-led approach to the climax may not be as abandoned as Bernstein's, it's still pretty brave.
Hearing is believing in the coda as the trombones and trumpets tumble into the abyss.
Exciting? Deliriously so.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Schubert - Schwanengesang & Songs After Seidl
The eminent lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien is represented on disc with more than a hundred and twenty titles. His recordings of the German Romantic Lied repertoire have been highly acclaimed by public and press alike and have received many major international awards. He recently began a new long-term collaboration with Challenge Classics, the first fruit of which was a recording of Schubert’s “Schöne Müllerin” with pianist Michel Gees, (CC72292).
On this recording of another of Schubert’s great lieder cycles, “Schwanengesang”, he is joined by the highly-regarded pianist Andreas Staier.
Written in August 1828 shortly before his death, the 14 songs by Franz Schubert given the collective title of “Schwanengesang” by his publisher Tobias Haslinger are in reality made up of two sets. There are seven songs on texts by Ludwig Rellstab and six on texts by Heinrich Heine in a common manuscript along with a single Lied, Die Taubenpost, on a poem by his friend Gabriel Seidl (D 965 A). Die Taubenpost is perhaps Schubert’s last song, possibly even his last complete composition of all, although Der Hirt auf dem Felsen was apparently also written in October 1828. The Viennese poet Gabriel Seidl was the source of a whole series of poetic texts that Schubert set to music between 1826 and 1828. Some of these were solo lieder and some were polyphonic songs.
“…an outstanding performance. …deeply engaged robustly expressive singing whose rhythmic rigour and details of phrasing and articulation reveal an exciting commitment to this great cycle. …with Staier's fortepiano providing a wonderful mixing and misting of the tonal palette in songs like 'Die Stadt', the performances are also graced with an exceptionally lively and well-balanced recording.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 *****
“Planning a CD programme around Schwanengesang is always tricky. The vastly experienced duo of Christoph Prégardien and Andreas Staier here come up with a solution as satisfying as any.
They preface the quasi-cycle with the bleak, windswept Rellstab setting Herbst, which Schubert unaccountably omitted from the Rellstab sequence that opens Schwanengesang. Then, at they end, they follow Die Taubenpost – always in danger of jarring after the Weltschmerz of the Heine group – with other, complementary, Seidl settings, ending with the blissful nocturnal homecoming of Im Freien.
Prégardien's dulcet tenor, subtly and gracefully deployed, is heard to advantage both in these Seidl songs and in Schwanengesang. Where so many singers seem to 'think' the whole collection in the minor key, as it were, Prégardien is eagerly expectant in 'Liebesbotschaft' and sings a smiling, seductive 'Fischermädchen'. His 'Ständchen', taken at an easy, mobile tempo, is likewise all caressing charm, while 'Abschied' is blithely insouciant, the wistfulness of the final verse lightly touched – and how well the delicate, slightly veiled sonorities of Staier's fortepiano complement the voice, here and elsewhere.
In the anguished Heine songs Prégardien's less extreme style than, say, Peter Schreier, is scarcely less moving, whether in the rhythmically incisive 'Der Atlas' (where the fortepiano's percussive resonance brings uncommon clarity to Schubert's quasi-orchestral textures), or an 'Am Meer' of aching tenderness, the final stab of pain all the more affecting for being understated.
'Die Stadt', taken at an unusually urgent tempo, emerges in a single grim sweep, with the fortepiano's sustaining pedal creating a mysterious haze impossible to replicate on a modern grand.
Prégardien occasionally adds discreet, graceful embellishments to his lines, especially apt in 'Ständchen'. While it is absurd to speak of an outright 'winner' in such a crowded field, Prégardien and the ever-illuminating Staier join the roster of indispensable Schwanenengesang recordings.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Prégardien's dulcet tenor, subtly and gracefully deployed, is heard to advantage both in these Seidl songs and in Schwanengesang. Where so many singers seem to "think" the whole collection in the minor key, as it were, Prégardien is eagerly expectant in "Liebesbotschaft" and sings a smiling, seductive "Fischermädchen". ..."Abschied" is blithely insouciant, the wistfulness of the final verse lightly touched - and how well the delicate, slightly veiled sonorities of Staier's fortepiano complement the voice, here and elsewhere. While it is absurd to speak of an outright "winner" in such a crowded field, Prégardien and the ever-illuminating Staier join Schreier, Hotter, (EMI, 10/94) Fischer-Dieskau, 1962 vintage (EMI) and Brigitte Fassbaender (DG) on my roster of indispensable Schwanengesang recordings.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
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Live Recording 13 July 1973
Carlos Kleiber conducted Der Rosenkavalier in the most famous opera houses all over the world, but nowhere as much as at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. These performances justifiably remain in the audiences' memory, as proven by this recording of a 1973 festival performance. A year after the première of this Munich production, the performances had become that of a perfect ensemble: the different vocal characteristics of the various singing personalities also inspired Kleiber to bring to light other details of the score: the blackness and the seriousness of the bass Karl Ridderbusch as Baron Ochs is made all the more intense by the almost threatening quality of the orchestra, and even more refreshing by the purposefully performed comic punchlines; the wise melancholy of the Marschallin is celebrated by Claire Watson and Carlos Kleiber with equally shadowed quality and accentuation; the vocal freshness and natural impetuosity of Lucia Popp as Sophie and Brigitte Fassbaender in the title-role match Carlos Kleiber's direction in its unrestrained vigour.
“So what is especially magical? The energy, the attention to the stage drama in the music (not least its wit), the pacing - "fast" compared with Karajan but with a wonderful rubato that allows for real pointing and emotion but owes more to Kleiber's natural instincts... than Viennese so-called tradition... Long-term Munich resident Claire Watson has done little finer on disc and is well "aged" in relationship to Fassbaender's tour de force Octavian (she makes a good youth throughout and a laugh-aloud Mariandel) and Popp's sweet but never vacant Sophie.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“This performance from 1973 is notable for its extraordinary textural clarity, in this densest of scores, and its rhythmic vitality. The vocal hero of the occasion is Brigitte Fassbaender as Octavian, her rich and creamy voice bringing her presence vividly before us. Lucia Popp is a classic Sophie, too, pure of voice but determined of purpose.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2009 ****
“It's taken over 35 years but at last we have a professional audio transfer of Kleiber leading the opera that probably meant more to him than all others. If you're not yet a convert, or a doubter, cut to the chase: go from track 18 of disc 3 (the great Trio) and you'll hear why the Munich Festival audience cannot wait to start clapping some of the most attentively sculpted Strauss conducting, traditional romance mixed with savouring of those still ear-bending harmonies, since, well, Clemens Krauss and a certain Erich Kleiber .
So what is especially magical? The energy, the attention to the stage drama in the music (not least its wit), the pacing – 'fast' compared with Karajan but with a wonderful rubato that allows for real pointing and emotion but owes more to Kleiber's natural instincts (and his father's) than Viennese so-called tradition – and the slim textures.
Under Kleiber the opera sounds like what its creators sought to do – follow Elektra in a different vein, not retreat from it, either musically or dramatically.
In retrospect we might call this Kleiber's first favoured Rosenkavalier cast which, like the second (Lott, van Otter, Bonney – DG), was led by its ladies. Long-term Munich resident Claire Watson has done little finer on disc and is well 'aged' in relationship to Fassbaender's tour deforce Octavian (she makes a good youth throughout and a laugh-aloud Mariandel) and Popp's sweet but never vacant Sophie. But did Kleiber ever find an Ochs to match his girls? As with Ridderbusch here, he tended to trim their traditional excesses but never quite put enough in its place. The so-called 'supporting' roles are energetically taken by an evidently fired-up house ensemble.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Conductor Iván Fischer, a nominee for the 2008 Classic FM Gramophone Award for Artist of the Year, co-founder and Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has been responsible for creating a vibrant orchestra with an enviable international touring profile which appears at all the major venues and festivals of the world.
As a guest conductor Fischer works with the finest symphony orchestras of the world. He has been invited to the Berlin Philharmonic more than ten times, every year he leads two weeks of programs with the Royal Concert-Gebouw Orchestra. Besides his contract with the NSO of Washington, he works regularly with leading US symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra.
“There is a unique purity and transparency in Mahler’s 4th Symphony. The enchanting sleigh bells take us to his inner child, to his dreams of angels, fairy tales, angst and pure, divine love. This child-like symphony needed a different orchestra: no dark tuba, no heavy trombones, no large arsenal of massive brass. A chamber orchestra in fact, where the clarinets act as mock trumpets, the solo violin tunes his strings sharper in order to scare us and the lightness of the whole orchestra lifts us up to his lovely, childish vision of paradise.” Iván Fischer
“What no one will deny is the amazing unanimity and precision of the playing here and the superlative quality of the sound engineering. …the Scherzo goes wonderfully well, with solo violin and clarinets in particular excelling themselves. In the finale, Fischer achieves novelty chiefly through understatement, mindful of the need to avoid coyness at all costs. Miah Persson is ideally cast and as she invokes Saint Martha...it's as if we're transported to a small village church, the organ made tangible in the exquisite treatment of the accompanying instrumental texture.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
“…Fischer's feeling of the Symphony's supple architecture, his ability to caress a phrase or point out a delicious colour without losing the sense of the larger flow, make this one of the most musically satisfying recordings to appear in a long time - worthy to put beside the great Jascha Horenstein / Margaret Price 1970 version, but in spirit wholly individual.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2009 *****
“Unlike some heavy-duty Mahlerians, Fischer and his wonderful Budapest band don’t overplay the nightmarish episodes. In the opening movement, Fischer lingers on exquisite instrumental detail without halting the music’s momentum. The soprano Miah Persson is angelic in the finale.” Sunday Times
“It's a provocative, iconoclastic performance, and highly recommended.” The Guardian, 13th March 2009 *****
“What no one will deny is the amazing unanimity and precision of the playing here and the superlative quality of the sound engineering. But how to read a work that can feel brittle as well as heart-warming and graceful? Despite Iván Fischer's eminently sane and central pacing overall, he courts controversy with inconsistencies of tone between (and individualised inflexions within) the four movements.
Some maestros choose between neo-classical modernity and old-world Gemütlichkeit. Fischer gives us both and more: he gives us instability.
Rather than taking his cue from the opening bars in which the jingling sleigh bells might be construed to lose their way, Fischer mixes them down, introducing his own eccentric nuance a fraction later. He permits an oasis of exquisite repose just before the movement's final flourish yet much of the rest is unsettling. While details unearthed are revelatory – often linear, maybe functional, certainly more than merely illustrative – the quest can seem obsessive, at odds with the sense of ease indicated by the composer.
Make no mistake however, the playing has character and conviction, the divided violins enhancing transparency albeit at some expense of weight and blend. Less self-regarding or at least less wilful since the idiosyncrasies are intrinsic, the Scherzo goes wonderfully well, with solo violin and clarinets in particular excelling themselves.
The slow movement is just a little pale, as if Fischer were deliberately avoiding the calculated sublimity and cushioned string tone associated with big-band performances of late Beethoven. The gates of Heaven are flung open with a great blare, possibly a bit much for home listening but replicating the immediacy of the concert hall. In the finale, Fischer achieves novelty chiefly through understatement, mindful of the need to avoid coyness at all costs. Miah Persson is ideally cast and as she invokes Saint Martha it's as if we're transported to a small village church, the organ made tangible in the exquisite treatment of the accompanying instrumental texture. This is just one of countless imaginative touches on an exceptional hybrid SACD.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Jean-Marie Leclair - Sonatas
Following his acclaimed ECM recordings of sonatas by Biber, Schmelzer and Veracini and his no less lauded rendering of the complete unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas by Bach two years ago, English baroque violinist John Holloway once again joins forces with his excellent partners Dutch cellist Jaap ter Linden and Danish harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen for an album of strikingly beautiful, yet little known chamber music from the baroque era.
Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764), who laid the foundations for the French violin school, was a particularly interesting figure. He trained as a dancer, lacemaker, violinist and composer and was active in several European cities such as Torino, Lyons, Paris, Amsterdam and Kassel. He was murdered in Paris under never fully detected circumstances. As a composer he was a master of mixed styles, providing a rare synthesis of Italian and French traits, of melodic beauty and dancelike vivacity. John Holloway has chosen sonatas from his “classical” period – a selection from the Troisième Livre de Sonates, op 5 – in which Leclair had gained a perfect balance of proportion, lightness, expressiveness, contrapuntal art and virtuosic display.
The sixth recording for ECM by John Holloway, it was made at the monastery of Sankt Gerold in the Austrian Alps. More information on the violinist can be found at www.johnholloway.org.
“Holloway and his experienced continuo players relish the pleasing combination of Italian brilliance with French melodic grace. Of particular charm are the movements marked 'Aria': these singable and dance-like pieces, sometimes wistful and a little melancholy, as in that belonging to the A major Sonata, are played with delicacy and restraint.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2009 ****
“Choosing five sonatas from what he believes to be Leclair's finest collection, and, along with his colleagues, performing them with deep understanding and expressive finesse, John Holloway makes a persuasive case for the French violinist as a major figure of 18th-century music. The concluding "Chaconna" of Sonata No 4, with its elaborate independent cello part, comes as the climactive point of this spirited interchange. All three players captured unerringly each movement's rhetorical style, and are sensitive to the many expressive details of harmony and melody, while remaining natural and unaffected. Holloway's violin rings out sweetly, especially in the higher register, his playing a model of the selective use of vibrato for expressive effect.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
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