Presto News - 2nd November 2009

Felix Mendelssohn

As we enter the penultimate month of 2009 I realise that I have one major composer anniversary yet to cover this year – that of the bicentenary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47). Mendelssohn was a child prodigy. He gave piano and organ concerts from a very early age and was also a prolific composer. Between the ages of 12 and 14 he wrote his twelve string symphonies, and was only 15 when he wrote his first full symphony (no. 1 in C minor, Op. 11). However, the first evidence of the real extent of his genius came the following year when he wrote his famous Octet and followed this up the year later with his Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. Arguably these two works show far more individuality and greatness than anything Mozart produced when he was a similar age.

Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn

It seems that after these early successes Mendelssohn’s compositional style never really developed as one would have expected and he become known as quite a conservative composer, particular when compared to his contemporaries like Berlioz and Liszt. While this no doubt helped make him both popular and successful during his lifetime it was also probably one of the reasons why he fell out of favour later in the nineteenth century where he remained for a long time.

Although Mendelssohn wrote in a variety of forms and in a number of different genres I would say the two things that I most admire and love about his music are his chamber music and his remarkable scherzos. His String Quartets, String Quintets, Piano Trios and String Octet are some of his finest works and display a composer in complete mastery of the genre. They also contain more emotional intensity than some of his other works (a criticism often directed at Mendelssohn), particularly the last String Quartet (No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80) which was written after the death of his sister Fanny. Mendelssohn’s scherzos are something unique in the history of music. They demonstrate a fairy-like touch – full of imagination and fleetness of foot. Best known are those from the Octet and the Midsummer Night's Dream incidental music (written in 1842, some sixteen years after the Overture), but a similar compositional style is found in some of his last movements as well – notably the ‘Italian’ Symphony and the Violin Concerto.

There is no shortage of good Mendelssohn recordings to choose from and you can explore them all from our Mendelssohn page here, but to get you started here are the building a library recommendations for the three main works mentioned above.


BBC Radio 3 Building a Library top Recommendations

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Mendelssohn - Octet

(coupled with the Piano Sextet)

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

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Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Judi Dench, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa

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Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80

Elias String Quartet

Chris O'Reilly - chris@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

2nd November 2009

This is just the pick of the recent releases. The New Releases and Future Releases pages are always available for browsing all the new and forthcoming releases.

Bryn Terfel - Bad Boys

Bryn Terfel (tenor), Anne Sofie von Otter & Balcarras Crafoord, Swedish Radio Choir & Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paul Daniel

Bryn Terfel, a gentle man in real life, recruits a gang of “bad boy” characters from opera and musicals to serenade us with tunes from the sinister side of the bass clef. Thoroughly convincing as villains you would not want to meet alone in the dark, Bryn Terfel wields a full, wide ranging bass-baritone ever in service to dramatic instincts rare in any era Bad Boys delivers an original concept sure to seduce the media, wow the classical crowd and exert powerful mass appeal. No singer morphs from Don Giovanni to Mack the Knife to Sweeney Todd with Terfel’s devilish ease – Bad Boys is a delightful box of mixed (dark) musical bonbons.

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Schubert - String Quintet and String Quartets 14 and 15

Belcea Quartet

The Belcea Quartet has added three late masterpieces by Franz Schubert to their impressive discography on EMI Classics: the Quartet in D Minor ‘Death and the Maiden’, the Quartet in G Major D887 and the sublime String Quintet in C Major with Valentin Erben of the Alban Berg Quartet as the second cellist.

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Rossini - Colbran, the Muse

Joyce DiDonato, Orchestra dell' Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma, Edoardo Muller

After the success of her first Virgin Classics recital – Furore, arias by Handel – Joyce DiDonato turns to the composer whose heroines first brought her to international stardom: Gioacchino Rossini.

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Rachmaninov & Medtner Piano Concertos

Yevgeny Sudbin (piano), North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, Grant Llewellyn

With his second concerto disc, Yevgeny Sudbin celebrates the close relationship between two great Russian composers: Sergei Rachmaninov and Nikolai Medtner. Medtner would encourage his more famous colleague during the latter’s bouts of self-doubt, while Rachmaninov early on recognized Medtner’s unique gifts, pronouncing him the ‘greatest composer of our time’. The most sincere testament to their friendship is embodied in these two concertos, which the composers dedicated to one another.

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York Bowen - The Piano Sonatas

Danny Driver (piano)

The recent revival of York Bowen’s music, very much spearheaded by Hyperion, has spawned a plethora of new recordings of his compositions, and won him many new admirers. Among the new releases, this disc of Bowen’s piano sonatas is a uniquely important collection. It contains three premiere recordings, including two recordings of previously unpublished sonatas performed (with special permisson) from the manuscripts. It is thus the first ever recording of the complete sonatas – an unmissable opportunity for piano enthusiasts.

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Schubert Live - Volume 2

Imogen Cooper (piano)

Imogen continues her exploration of Schubert’s late piano music with the second volume in her ongoing series for Avie, recorded live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Her selection for Volume Two reflects the public appetite, in the late 1820s, for shorter piano pieces, which resulted in Six Moments Musicaux, D780 and Four Impromptus, D 935. Even the publisher of Schubert’s G major Sonata, D894, described the work as a ‘Fantasy, Andante, Menuetto and Allegretto’, knowing that marketing the work as individual character pieces would generate healthier sales.

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Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 104 (complete)

Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Dennis Russell Davies

This 35 disc box set is the only brand new and fully digital recording of the complete symphonies of Haydn. Performed by the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester (Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra) and conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, the recordings were done live in connection with concerts of the whole cycle. The series received fantastic reviews by the press, and The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra was awarded the European Chamber Music Prize in 2008.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (DVD)

Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, Mariusz Kwiecien & Ildar Abdrazakov, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet, Marco Armiliato (conductor) & Mary Zimmerman (director)

Having dazzled opera audiences from St. Petersburg to L.A. as Lucia, Anna Netrebko triumphantly returns to the Metropolitan Opera in this touchstone coloratura role. Mariusz Kwiecien’s Enrico delivers theatrical truth with a matchless baritone, the luster of polished mahagony.

This Met performance of director Mary Zimmerman’s “imaginative staging . . . And nuanced portrayals” (Times) is a tour de force of music and theatricality.

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Puccini: La Bohème (Blu-ray)

Anna Netrebko (soprano) & Rolando Villazón (tenor), The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bertrand de Billy

Following its commercial run in cinemas just before Christmas last year, this film version of Puccini's classic opera La Bohème features two of opera’s biggest superstars, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, in the roles they have performed to live audiences all over the world.

Already released on DVD last year, this version on Blu-ray has been widely demanded and stands a good chance of becoming one of the best selling classical Blu-ray titles of the year.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 31st October 2009

Building a Library - Schubert: String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, D804 'Rosamunde'

First Choice

(coupled with String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 'Death and the Maiden')

Takács Quartet

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Disc of the Week

Unknown Britten

Northern Sinfonia, Thomas Zehetmair, with Sandrine Piau, Rolf Hind, Michael Collins …

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09-Jan-2012 -Mariusz Kwiecień
02-Jan-2012 -Fritz Kreisler
26-Dec-2011 -The year ahead and our latest new development
19-Dec-2011 -Two legendary performances
12-Dec-2011 -Maurizio Pollini plays Chopin
05-Dec-2011 -Christmas roundup
28-Nov-2011 -Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony
21-Nov-2011 -Duetti da Camera: Philippe Jaroussky & Max Emanuel Cencic
14-Nov-2011 -Bruckner and Mahler from Haitink and Pappano
07-Nov-2011 -Haydn from the Takács Quartet
31-Oct-2011 -Sublime Schubert from Paul Lewis
24-Oct-2011 -Franz Liszt
17-Oct-2011 -The Decca Sound
10-Oct-2011 -Pavel Haas Quartet the big winners at the Gramophone Awards
03-Oct-2011 -Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts from Paul McCreesh
26-Sep-2011 -Handel – Agrippina & Germanico
19-Sep-2011 -Wagner’s Flying Dutchman starts PentaTone’s 10th anniversary celebrations
12-Sep-2011 -Schubert's Schwanengesang from Padmore and Lewis
05-Sep-2011 -Gergiev and the LSO conclude their Mahler cycle
29-Aug-2011 -BIS - Maxim Rysanov, Sibelius and a special offer
22-Aug-2011 -Sublime Ravel from Ibragimova and Tiberghien
15-Aug-2011 -Gustavo Dudamel
08-Aug-2011 -Brahms/Schoenberg from Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker
01-Aug-2011 -Lucia from the Mariinsky
25-Jul-2011 -Bayreuther Festspiele
18-Jul-2011 -Benjamin Grosvenor
11-Jul-2011 -Rossini’s William Tell
04-Jul-2011 -Bach Motets from Herreweghe
27-Jun-2011 -Sublime Vivaldi from Nathalie Stutzmann
20-Jun-2011 -Beethoven’s Fidelio from Abbado and Kaufmann
13-Jun-2011 -Byrd’s Complete Consort Music
06-Jun-2011 -Vaughan Williams’s The Garden of Proserpine
30-May-2011 -Beethoven's Diabelli Variations from Paul Lewis
23-May-2011 -New DVDs from Glyndebourne
16-May-2011 -Martha Argerich
09-May-2011 -Handel's Ariodante
02-May-2011 -Daniel Barenboim plays Chopin and conducts Tchaikovsky
25-Apr-2011 -Fliter and Ibragimova excel in Beethoven
18-Apr-2011 -Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini
11-Apr-2011 -Lully’s Bellérophon
04-Apr-2011 -Mining the archives
28-Mar-2011 -Rachmaninov's Second Symphony
21-Mar-2011 -Suk's Asrael Symphony
14-Mar-2011 -Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
07-Mar-2011 -Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts
28-Feb-2011 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
21-Feb-2011 -Lisa Batiashvili - Echoes of Time
14-Feb-2011 -Kate Royal: A Lesson in Love
07-Feb-2011 -Simon Rattle's new Mahler 2
31-Jan-2011 -Percy Grainger
24-Jan-2011 -Arne: Artaxerxes
17-Jan-2011 -Handel and Strauss from Dessay and Damrau
10-Jan-2011 -Nielsen Symphonies from Colin Davis and the LSO
03-Jan-2011 -The Genius of Mozart
27-Dec-2010 -The year ahead
20-Dec-2010 -Sheet Music now online, and other recent developments
13-Dec-2010 -Robert Schumann
06-Dec-2010 -Vivaldi Operas - Ottone in Villa and Ercole
29-Nov-2010 -Christmas Releases
22-Nov-2010 -Bach Cantatas - the Gardiner pilgrimage
15-Nov-2010 -Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
08-Nov-2010 -Schubert: Piano Duets
01-Nov-2010 -Verdi's Otello from the LSO and Colin Davis
25-Oct-2010 -The Three Baroque Tenors
18-Oct-2010 -Dame Joan Sutherland
11-Oct-2010 -Bach's Violin Concertos from Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque
04-Oct-2010 -Gramophone Awards announced last Friday
27-Sep-2010 -Jonas Kaufmann: Verismo Arias
20-Sep-2010 -Wagner's Parsifal from the Mariinsky and Gergiev
13-Sep-2010 -Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte from René Jacobs
06-Sep-2010 -Puccini's forgotten masterpiece - La Rondine
30-Aug-2010 -Santiago a cappella
23-Aug-2010 -Elīna Garanča goes Spanish
16-Aug-2010 -Rued Langgaard - Music of the Spheres
09-Aug-2010 -Gramophone Awards - The Finalists
02-Aug-2010 -50 Years of the Grosses Festspielhaus Salzburg
26-Jul-2010 -Gustav Mahler
19-Jul-2010 -Sir Charles Mackerras
12-Jul-2010 -Beethoven - Paul Lewis and the BBC Proms
05-Jul-2010 -A Russian Sibelius cycle
28-Jun-2010 -Ronald Brautigam's Beethoven
21-Jun-2010 -Carlos Kleiber
14-Jun-2010 -Handel's Berenice
07-Jun-2010 -Channel Classics
31-May-2010 -Alfredo Casella
24-May-2010 -Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues from Melnikov
17-May-2010 -The multi-talented Julia Fischer
10-May-2010 -Nimbus
03-May-2010 -Leonard Bernstein's Omnibus Broadcasts
26-Apr-2010 -Frédéric Chopin
19-Apr-2010 -Wagner Lohengrin - BBC Awards
12-Apr-2010 -Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
05-Apr-2010 -Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia and Joyce DiDonato
29-Mar-2010 -Romantic Piano Concertos
22-Mar-2010 -Robin Ticciati and Brahms' Choral Works
15-Mar-2010 -Mozart Symphonies from Mackerras - Volume 2
08-Mar-2010 -Bernard Coutaz and Harmonia Mundi
01-Mar-2010 -Thomas Adès
22-Feb-2010 -Strauss: Alpine Symphony
15-Feb-2010 -Handel: Giulio Cesare and the Brockes Passion
08-Feb-2010 -Debussy and the Prix de Rome
01-Feb-2010 -Testament
25-Jan-2010 -BBC Music Magazine Awards Shortlist
18-Jan-2010 -Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
11-Jan-2010 -Bach for Violin and Voice
04-Jan-2010 -A Ring cycle for the 21st Century
28-Dec-2009 -Anniversaries - 2009 and 2010
21-Dec-2009 -Richard Farrell
14-Dec-2009 -Thomas Tallis's Secret Garden
07-Dec-2009 -El Sistema
30-Nov-2009 -Christmas Releases
23-Nov-2009 -Kirsten Flagstad
16-Nov-2009 -Nikolaus Harnoncourt
09-Nov-2009 -Two important Elgar rarities
02-Nov-2009 -Felix Mendelssohn
26-Oct-2009 -Cecilia Bartoli and the world of Castratos
19-Oct-2009 -Winterreise from Padmore and Lewis
12-Oct-2009 -Tchaikovsky's Moscow Cantata
05-Oct-2009 -The Quatuor Ebène and the Gramophone Awards
28-Sep-2009 -Unknown Britten
21-Sep-2009 -Australian Eloquence
14-Sep-2009 -Julia Fischer plays Schubert
07-Sep-2009 -Bach Cantata bargain of the year
31-Aug-2009 -Rattle conducts Brahms
24-Aug-2009 -Bruckner from the Concertgebouw
17-Aug-2009 -Gramophone Awards 2009 - Finalists
10-Aug-2009 -Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
03-Aug-2009 -The Vivaldi Edition
27-Jul-2009 -Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes
20-Jul-2009 -Sir Edward Downes
13-Jul-2009 -Brilliant Classics
06-Jul-2009 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
29-Jun-2009 -Britten's homage to Purcell
22-Jun-2009 -The Three Tenors
15-Jun-2009 -Penguin Rosettes and Building a Library
08-Jun-2009 -Masterclasses
01-Jun-2009 -Gergiev at the Mariinsky
25-May-2009 -Two recent re-discoveries light up Martinu year
18-May-2009 -Idomeneo from René Jacobs
11-May-2009 -A&R and Kate Royal's Midsummer Night
04-May-2009 -Chandos Records - 30 years young
27-Apr-2009 -Rachmaninov Preludes
20-Apr-2009 -20 Years of NMC
13-Apr-2009 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
06-Apr-2009 -Shostakovich 11 from the RLPO
30-Mar-2009 -BIS and the Sibelius Edition
23-Mar-2009 -Haydn - 'The Father of the Symphony'
16-Mar-2009 -George Frederic Handel
09-Mar-2009 -Bach's Brandenburg Concertos
02-Mar-2009 -Angela Gheorghiu in Puccini's Madama Butterfly
23-Feb-2009 -The world's most celebrated violins
16-Feb-2009 -Copyright to be extended
09-Feb-2009 -A feast of Early Music
02-Feb-2009 -Sarah Connolly gets Purcell year off to a flier
26-Jan-2009 -Monteverdi as you've never heard it before!
19-Jan-2009 -Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin put Platti firmly on the map
12-Jan-2009 -Hamelin proves his real class with Chopin
05-Jan-2009 -Lindsays lead the bargains
29-Dec-2008 -Jerusalem - in search of peace
22-Dec-2008 -Looking ahead - Handel, Haydn and more
15-Dec-2008 -2008 - A great year for DVDs
08-Dec-2008 -Top new Christmas recommendations
01-Dec-2008 -Richard Hickox
24-Nov-2008 -The World's Great Orchestras, and Euros and US Dollars now accepted
17-Nov-2008 -Lost manuscripts continue to be found
10-Nov-2008 -Haydn's String Quartets
03-Nov-2008 -Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony
27-Oct-2008 -Contemporary Music
20-Oct-2008 -Sir Peter Moores
13-Oct-2008 -Vivaldi in a new light
06-Oct-2008 -Americans in Pyongyang
29-Sep-2008 -Paul Lewis and the Gramophone Awards 2008
22-Sep-2008 -Songs her mother taught her
15-Sep-2008 -Vernon Handley
08-Sep-2008 -Zig Zag and the Atrium Quartet
01-Sep-2008 -Gramophone Awards nominations
25-Aug-2008 -Beautiful Messiah and Exquisite Morales
18-Aug-2008 -Great Pianists of the Past
11-Aug-2008 -Classical Television Broadcasts on the Internet
04-Aug-2008 -Chloë Hanslip and the unfamiliar
28-Jul-2008 -Leopold Godowsky and the virtuoso pianist
21-Jul-2008 -Linn Records
14-Jul-2008 -Vaughan Williams
07-Jul-2008 -Olivier Messiaen
30-Jun-2008 -Reginald Goodall's revelatory 'Mastersingers'
23-Jun-2008 -The French Baroque - 200 Years of Versailles
16-Jun-2008 -Bach Fugues from Onyx and the Emersons
09-Jun-2008 -New DVD page and Special Offer
02-Jun-2008 -Time to re-evaluate Miaskovsky
26-May-2008 -Superb Scholl sings Dowland and his circle
19-May-2008 -Fiesta! - Dudamel and the Venezuelans
12-May-2008 -The Guarneri Piano Trio and the label Praga
05-May-2008 -A La Bohème for all
28-Apr-2008 -Beethoven and Period Instruments
21-Apr-2008 -The Jerusalem Quartet
14-Apr-2008 -Nigel Kennedy
07-Apr-2008 -Paul Lewis's Beethoven
31-Mar-2008 -Ingrid Fliter
24-Mar-2008 -Mel Bonis
17-Mar-2008 -Stunning new Haydn Creation from Paul McCreesh
10-Mar-2008 -Hilary Hahn plays Schoenberg and Sibelius
03-Mar-2008 -Rattle and Gergiev on Mahler
25-Feb-2008 -Handel Organ Concertos
18-Feb-2008 -Late Mozart Symphonies
11-Feb-2008 -Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project
04-Feb-2008 -Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel
28-Jan-2008 -Undeservedly neglected music - John Marsh and Juan de Araujo
21-Jan-2008 -New Bach Cantatas page
14-Jan-2008 -Composers' Own Recordings
07-Jan-2008 -Francis Xavier and Jordi Savall
31-Dec-2007 -50 Years of Harmonia Mundi
24-Dec-2007 -Last thoughts on 2007, first on 2008
17-Dec-2007 -Discs of the Year
10-Dec-2007 -Stockhausen
03-Dec-2007 -25 Years of the Compact Disc
26-Nov-2007 -Pacini and the importance of first performances
19-Nov-2007 -Christmas music worth hearing
12-Nov-2007 -The forgotten Maria
05-Nov-2007 -Why composers marked repeats
29-Oct-2007 -Bach B minor Mass from Suzuki
22-Oct-2007 -New Mahler 8 from Pierre Boulez
15-Oct-2007 -Lucerne Festival Orchestra
08-Oct-2007 -Julia Fischer and the Gramophone Awards
01-Oct-2007 -Mozart - Don Giovanni from René Jacobs
24-Sep-2007 -Natalie Clein and the Elgar Cello Concerto
17-Sep-2007 -Joshua Bell
10-Sep-2007 -Luciano Pavarotti
03-Sep-2007 -Kate Royal
27-Aug-2007 -Gramophone Awards - finalists revealed
20-Aug-2007 -Exciting new baroque rediscovery - Conti's David
13-Aug-2007 -Venezuelan Youth Orchestra the envy of the world
06-Aug-2007 -Music's Best-kept Secrets
30-Jul-2007 -Haydn - the most underrated great composer
23-Jul-2007 -Beethoven Piano Sonatas
16-Jul-2007 -BBC Proms 2007
09-Jul-2007 -Elin Manahan Thomas
02-Jul-2007 -Open minds and superb Bernarda Fink
25-Jun-2007 -Excited by another batch of re-issues?
18-Jun-2007 -Composer Works lists now published
11-Jun-2007 -Padmore and Bostridge sing Handel
04-Jun-2007 -Elgar's Enigma Variations
28-May-2007 -Still suffering some seventy years on?
21-May-2007 -Buying Opera on CD or DVD
14-May-2007 -Debussy's new champion
07-May-2007 -Schütz's Legacy
30-Apr-2007 -Mstislav Rostropovich
23-Apr-2007 -Missed Opportunities
16-Apr-2007 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
09-Apr-2007 -The way we listen
02-Apr-2007 -Too much Mozart?
26-Mar-2007 -Harpsichord or Piano?
19-Mar-2007 -Strauss's Four Last Songs
12-Mar-2007 -The importance of government support
05-Mar-2007 -Do today's musicians all sound the same?

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