Presto News - 3rd November 2008
Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony
Written between his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony is the only programmatic one he wrote, and the only completed one that is unnumbered. It requires a very large orchestra (including triple wind, two harps, a large percussion section and organ) and is about an hour long. I suppose it is not surprising therefore that you only rarely see it performed in concerts. There are however plenty of fine recordings available and the inspiration behind this week’s newsletter is an outstanding new one recently released on budget label Naxos performed by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under their principal conductor Vasily Petrenko.
Tchaikovsky’s work is based on the poem ‘Manfred’ written by Lord Byron in 1817. The works of Byron were still popular in Russia in the 1860s and 70s and the visit of French composer Hector Berlioz in 1867 performing his own program symphony Harold en Italie seems to have intrigued and inspired a number of Russian composers, among them Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky. It was however another eighteen years - and only after consistent nagging by fellow Russian composer Mily Balakirev – before Tchaikovsky finally got round to writing the Manfred Symphony.
Initially, he considered it to be one of his best compositions, but after a few years had changed his mind and apparently wanted to destroy the score. Thankfully this intention was never carried out, but it is interesting that this love or hate attitude towards the work seems to have carried forward into further generations as well. Toscanini for example considered it the composer’s greatest composition (although this did not stop him making numerous changes and cuts to the score when he performed and recorded it), yet Bernstein apparently referred to it as “trash” and never recorded it.
This new recording on Naxos finds Petrenko and an RLPO on top form. He clearly has a deep understanding of the Russian orchestral sound required for performing this music, with lush - but never over-sentimental - string playing, bright and characterful woodwinds, and a full - but not overpowering - brass section. This combined with his levelheaded approach to the score and careful attention to well-balanced textures make for a winning combination. Very highly recommended.
Tchaikovsky - Manfred Symphony
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd November 2008
Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D minor
Anna Larsson (mezzo), Tiffin Boys Choir, London Symphony Chorus, & London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Gergiev's acclaimed Mahler cycle with the LSO continues with the epic Third Symphony.
"the LSO was all power and perspiration, muscle and machismo. Even in the radiant, hymn-like final movement Gergiev found (and seized upon) hidden storms and stresses" The Times concert review
Pierné - Sophie Arnould (an Opera in one Act)
Sophie Marin-Degor (Sophie Arnould), Jean-Sébastien Bou (Dorval) & Doris Lamprecht (Babet), Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Nicolas Chalvin
Here is a real rarity, but record label Timpani were good enough to send me a copy so I gave it a listen and really enjoyed it. As you would expect from a composer who was also a very fine conductor the orchestration is intricate yet subtle, and the work as a whole is very well crafted. I suppose stylistically it is more 19th rather than 20th century despite being written in 1926, but it is a very fine performance and leaves me hungry for more.
Beethoven - Piano Sonatas, Op. 14 Nos. 1 & 2, Op. 26 and Op. 28
Murray Perahia (piano)
I hesitate to recommend yet more Beethoven Piano Sonatas after the large number of outstanding releases we've had recently, but when the pianist is Murray Perahia it is hard to ignore it. After three years out through injury this is his second new album of the year and he is very much back to his best.
Leighton - Orchestral Works Volume 2
BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Richard Hickox
Richard Hickox conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in the second volume of Leighton’s orchestral works.
BBC Music Magazine wrote of volume 1, “Hickox directs superbly paced and eloquent performances of this fine music.”
Volume 2 presents two large-scale orchestral works, Symphony No.2 ‘Sinfonia Mistica’, which receives its first recording; coupled with Te Deum Laudamus in its orchestrated version.
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Thomas Hampson (baritone) & Stuart Skelton (tenor), San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas
One of today’s most significant recording cycles continues with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony offering another instalment in their award-winning cycle of Mahler vocal and orchestral works, this time tackling the exquisite and mysterious Das Lied von der Erde. The project’s uncommon critical and commercial success have brought the exceptional conductor-orchestra partnership two Grammy Awards and numerous citations throughout the world.
Alessandrini conducts Pergolesi & Scarlatti
Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini
Any new recording by Rinaldo Alessandrini is eagerly awaited and this new release of relatively rare masses by Pergolesi and Alessandro Scarlatti is no exception.
Stunning performances, beautifully sung and played and sure to be another winner.
Beethoven - Cello Sonatas Volume 1
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello) & Angela Hewitt (piano)
Angela Hewitt has taken time out from her impossibly busy solo concert schedule (including her stunningly successful Bach World Tour) to record a dazzling chamber disc with one of the greatest young cellists of today. Daniel Müller-Schott’s rise to fame has been well documented in the world’s press. His fastidious, clean-lined, yet energetic playing is the perfect foil for Angela’s particular artistry.
Wagner: Die Walküre - DVD
Robert Gambill (Siegmund), Mikhail Petrenko (Hunding), Willard White (Wotan), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde), Eva Johansson (Brünnhilde), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle
Simon Rattle's first ever Ring cycle from the annual festival at Aix-en-Provence. This is the first installment to be released and features a stellar cast led by Willard White.
Also available on blu-ray.
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