Presto News - 23rd November 2009

Kirsten Flagstad

Kirsten Flagstad was one of the greatest dramatic sopranos of the twentieth century. Born in Norway in 1895 she spent nearly half her singing career performing only in Scandinavia, and she was nearly forty when she first achieved world fame following her debut performances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where she was immediately hailed as one of the ‘supreme singers of the century’.

Kirsten Flagstad
Kirsten Flagstad

She was signed immediately to HMV and Victor and proceeded to make a number of recordings, but it was only songs and arias, and the quality of recording available at the time did her magnificently expansive and majestic voice scant justice. She remained in America until 1941 when her return to Nazi-occupied Norway and her husband (who was by then a member of the Norwegian Nazi Party) could have easily signalled the end of her international career. After the war she was fifty, which for most singers may be a good time to call it a day, and the Nazi connection did her reputation in some countries - particularly America - no favours at all. However, her voice was still in outstanding form and she quickly won over any doubters. Her recording contract was renewed, and with the coming of LPs she was at last able to record some complete operas, including the now famous Tristan und Isolde with Wilhelm Furtwangler in 1952. She finally officially retired from the operatic stage in 1953 at the age of fifty-eight.

In practice she remained active in Scandinavia for the next few years and contributed a final Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung for a Norwegian broadcast and recording in 1956. This you’d have thought had to be the very end, but in fact it was just the beginning of a remarkable final chapter in her life, as soon afterwards she met the influential Decca producer John Culshaw and soon became a Decca artist!

Culshaw was of course the engineer behind Georg Solti’s pioneering Ring Cycle which began in 1958, and Flagstad was engaged to sing the role of Fricka. As Culshaw describes in his subsequent book ‘Ring Resounding’ the sixty-three year old Flagstad made quite an impression:

“At about 16.20 that afternoon we made our first test of the opening of the second scene and when Flagstad sang her fist line – ‘Wotan ! Gemahl! erwache!’ – the entire orchestra turned round to gape in amazement, so extraordinary was the authority and power of her voice”

During these final years she also recorded Gluck’s Alceste, the first and third acts of Die Walküre (in stereo) and a number of songs, scenes and arias. These recordings have just been re-issued by Australian Eloquence and show that her voice was still firm and as miraculous as ever.

You can view all these fascinating late Decca recordings here.

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

New Releases

23rd 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.

Maxwell Davies: Taverner

Fretwork, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta Voices, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts & New London Children’s Choir, Oliver Knussen

To mark Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 75th birthday NMC issue the long-awaited release of his seminal opera, Taverner.

This release is of the landmark 1997 BBC recording featuring an astonishing line up of the cream of British contemporary music interpreters, alongside specialist period instrument ensembles Fretwork and His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, conducted by Oliver Knussen. Although what is now known about the 16th-century English composer John Taverner differs considerably from the plot of this opera, the piece is both a fascinating study of an artist as a man for all seasons and an extraordinary indictment of the horrors inflicted on humanity by religion, or religious zealotry.

This is Peter Maxwell Davies’ first release on the NMC label.

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Brian: Symphony No. 1 'Gothic'

BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Chorus, BBC Choral Society, City of London Choir, Hampstead Choral Society, Emanuel School Choir & Orpington Junior Singers, Sir Adrian Boult

It was the composer and BBC producer Dr. Robert Simpson who took up the cause of Brian’s music in the early 1950s, starting with Brian’s Eighth Symphony – the first of his symphonies that the composer had ever heard – which Sir Adrian Boult conducted for a BBC broadcast in February 1954. Over the years Simpson worked towards a performance of The Gothic, the ultimate goal by reason of its huge dimensions and the forces involved. The symphony’s world première was a semi-amateur performance at Central Hall, Westminster on 24 June 1961 conducted by Bryan Fairfax. But its first fully professional rendition was the performance captured on these discs, mounted by the BBC Third Programme, broadcast live and – accompanied by a considerable fanfare of publicity including a short film about Havergal Brian shown on BBC2 – given in the Royal Albert Hall under Sir Adrian Boult on 30 October 1966, in the presence of the 90-year-old composer.

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Dvorak - Symphony No. 9

Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR, Roger Norrington

Roger Norrington and his historically sensitive orchestra turn to the music of Dvorak, beginning with the composer’s most famous symphony. Norrington and company provide a performance as exciting as discovering a New World. The programme is completed by a surprising performance of Dvorak’s popular “Carnival” Overture.

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Bach Complete Cantatas Vol 1-22 (Complete)

Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, Ton Koopman

Between 1999 and 2006, the legendary baroque music specialist Ton Koopman brought together a stunning array of singers to record the complete cantatas of J S Bach alongside his own Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir. Released originally mostly in 3CD sets, this wonderful cycle is now being made available by Challenge Classics in its entirety. The 67 separate CDs have now been gathered together in a box with a booklet that includes a complete tracklisting and information about each recording.

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Van Cliburn in Moscow

Van Cliburn (piano), Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kyrill Kondrashin

Many of these recordings have never been available on CD. Melodiya’s aim is to demonstrate the panorama and range of Cliburn’s performances. They have selected from their archive, those recordings with the best technical and artistic merit. Included are works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Grieg and Debussy.

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A Festival of Ballet

This magnificent 50CD box set of ballet recordings from the catalogue of EMI Classics is the most extensive collection of its kind ever assembled. The booklet contains a new 2000 word note written by esteemed ballet critic of the Financial Times, Clement Crisp, as well as a complete index for over 150 ballets that are included in this 50CD set.

I Love Ballet

These two richly-filled CDs provide a perfect introduction to the joys of ballet music. Many of ballet's greatest hits and favourites are included: highlights from Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia, Romeo & Juliet, Giselle, Les Sylphides, Sylvia , Cinderella, La Fille mal gardée, Gayaneh (the soaring theme from the BBC TV drama The Onedin Line) and the charming Tales of Beatrix Potter.

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Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - DVD

Falk Struckmann (Hans Sachs), Ain Anger (Veit Pogner), Adrian Eröd (Sixtus Beckmesser), Johan Botha (Walther von Stolzing), Michael Schade (David) & Ricarda Merbeth (Eva), Orchestra & Chorus of the Vienna State Opera, Christian Thielemann

The 2008 reprise of the evergreen Otto Schenk staging with an overwhelming cast, perfect for all Wagner traditionalists. Conductor Christian Thielemann deserves a great deal of the credit for fashioning a multi-faceted drama that is anything but black-and-white in its musical depiction of the characters. Since his Bayreuth Festival debut in 2000,Thielemann has established himself as one of the world's leading Wagner conductors. Among the vocal surprises of this live recording is Adrian Eröd as Beckmesser. Eröd is on a par with the great Wagner baritone Falk Struckmann as Hans Sachs, who injects earthy humour into his role while building a tender rapport with Ricarda Merbeth's Eva. As Walther von Stolzing, Johan Botha is pure tenor gold.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 21st November 2009

Building a Library - Bruckner: Symphony No. 5 in B flat major

First Choice

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim

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First Choice

(as part of the complete symphonies)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim

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Disc of the Week

Simon Keenlyside & Malcolm Martineau

Songs by Schubert, Wolf, Fauré and Ravel

Live recording from the Wigmore Hall.

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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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