Presto News - 3rd October 2011

Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts from Paul McCreesh

Dating from 1837, Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts was one of the composer’s most important works. He had always wanted to compose a setting of the Requiem text so when he received a commission he threw himself into the project with much enthusiasm. Its first performance earned the still relatively young composer much prestige (if not money) and although he only performed it twice more in his lifetime, he later said that if all but one of his works were to be consumed in a terrible fire, this would be the one he would save.

So what makes it such an amazing work and why is the new recording out today from Paul McCreesh and his Anglo-Polish musicians such essential listening?

Paul McCreesh
Paul McCreesh

Well, the scale of the piece is epic: calling for an orchestra including 16 timpani, bass drums, massed gongs and cymbals, four flutes, oboes and clarinets, eight bassoons, 12 horns, a string section of over 100, and a chorus of at least 210 singers. Oh, and did I mention the four separate brass ensembles positioned at the four corners of stage, one of which requires four ophicleides. The sound is immense, and there are one or two moments in this piece where the word apocalyptic does not feel out of place.

Yet despite this, the work has many tender and intimate passages, which feel deeply religious and quite moving. Berlioz demonstrates all his genius in orchestration, with hauntingly plaintive parts like the Quid sum miser (sound samples via the link below) scored for solo cor anglais, solo bassoon and male chorus, and the decision to use unaccompanied chorus for the Quaerens Me in the manner of a 16th century motet provides much contrast and repose compared to what comes before and after it.

Indeed, contrasts seem a central theme in the work, with operatic elements going against the deep religious aspect, high drama against stillness and reflection, and the most earth shattering tuttis against the quietist pianissimos.

Like in many of his works, a successful performance depends significantly on the ability to understand and communicate the composer’s remarkable sense of colour. Frequently scoring instruments in the extremes of their range or asking for unusual playing techniques, Berlioz achieves textures that are truly unique to him.

McCreesh’s orchestra is made up of wind and brass from the UK (Gabrieli players plus extras and members of the Chetham’s School of Music Symphonic Brass Ensemble), strings from Poland (including members of the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra plus extras) and a choir made up of both nationalities. McCreesh has gone to significant efforts to use as many historic instruments as is practically possible, and this contributes significantly to the success of this recording. The variety of colours which the historic brass and percussion instruments achieve is astonishing: natural trumpets with their brilliantly open sound, narrow bore trombones with the clear attack, high and low horns in a wide variety of keys as well as more unusual instruments like French valved cornets and of course the ophicleides. Combined, the sound is noticeably different from modern instrument recordings, and all the more exciting because of it.

The tempos are generally fairly slow and weighty, but it never feels unduly held, and with the wonderfully warm and reverberant (yet still clear) acoustic of the St Mary Magdalene Church in Wroclaw, McCreesh’s speeds work perfectly. The chorus – singing in French Latin rather than the usual Italian Latin – are outstanding, singing beautifully throughout yet with real punch when required.

Released under the name ‘Winged Lion’ as a sort of sub-label on the established Signum records, this is the first of a series of new recordings which the Gabrieli Consort and Paul McCreesh will make, and those like me who so enjoyed their Elijah at the Proms this year will be pleased to know that it has already been recorded and should be released sometime next year.

But plenty of time to enjoy this one first. It comes with my highest recommendation, and I’d really urge you to explore it (particularly as it is in our 30% off offer at the moment!). Sound samples as usual below.

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Berlioz: Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5 (Requiem)

Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh

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

New Releases

3rd October 2011

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.

Anna Netrebko: Live at the Metropolitan Opera

Anna Netrebko (soprano), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus

The forthcoming season marks the 10th anniversary of Anna Netrebko’s debut with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. The new album celebrates this milestone by bringing together her greatest MET moments throughout the past 10 seasons – performances never before issued on record and most never commercially released on any format.

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JC Bach: Missa da Requiem & Miserere

Lenneke Ruiten (soprano), Ruth Sandhoff (alto), Colin Balzer (tenor) & Thomas Bauer (bass), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin & RIAS Kammerchor, Hans-Christoph Rademann

After an acclaimed disc of Johann Ludwig Bach, Hans-Christoph Rademann continues his fascinating exploration of the most famous musical dynasty. Born in 1735, the ‘London Bach’ was the youngest of Johann Sebastian’s sons. He seems to have remained in his father’s shadow until the age of 19, when he had the chance to travel to Italy, very likely to receive guidance from the celebrated Padre Martini, as his (future) friend Mozart was to do some years later. It was in Milan that he wrote the two works recorded here, including an incredible Requiem with a completely unexpected formal design; in matters of style, however, the 22-year-old composer had already laid the foundations of all his later output.

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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 6, 8 & 9

Angela Hewitt (piano), Orchestra da Camera di Mantova

The phenomenal Angela Hewitt embarks upon another Hyperion journey, this time through the piano concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The twenty-seven concertos for piano and orchestra contain some of the composer’s greatest achievements. Concertos Nos 6 and 8, two of the young Mozart’s earliest attempts at the genre, display a perfection of form and an elegant purity. Concerto No 9, the ‘Jeunehomme’, remarkably written in 1777 when Mozart was 21, is considered to be the composer’s first great masterpiece.

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Falvetti: Il diluvio universale

Cappella Mediterranea & Namur Chamber Choir, Leonardo Garciá Alarcón

Il diluvio universale has lain forgotten for three centuries and displays an originality unparalleled in the history of the Italian oratorio. What image is more powerful than the Flood for a composer, choirmaster of a city ravaged by earthquakes and tidal waves? In 1682, this was the theme that inspired Michelangelo Falvetti to write his oratorio, in Messina, Sicily.

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Nicola Benedetti: Italia

Nicola Benedetti (violin), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Christian Curnyn

Nicola Benedetti’s debut album on the Decca label is her first recording of baroque violin repertoire. Recorded in Edinburgh, the album celebrates Nicola Benedetti’s Scottish-Italian heritage as she plays virtuoso Italian masterpieces, accompanied by the leading chamber orchestra of her native country.

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My True Love Hath My Heart: English Songs

Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano) & Malcolm Martineau (piano)

Here the mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on piano, performs four arrangements by Benjamin Britten: three folk songs and one song from an early choral work. Next come eleven songs from the 1920s, which is considered the golden decade for English art songs. The most recent contribution to this disc of English Songs is the surreally retro A History of the Thé Dansant by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, which was published in 1995.

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Vivaldi: Cello Concertos

Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Georg Kallweit

Alongside the famous Quattro Stagioni, La Notte, and so on, Vivaldi wrote no fewer than 27 concertos for the cello – an instrument which at the time was generally limited to playing basso continuo. With the genuine virtuosi he had available to him at the Ospedale della Pietà, the Red Priest played a key role in the emancipation of the cello, which so readily inspired him to invent varied figuration.

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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 & 6

Mariinsky Orchestra, Valery Gergiev

Valery Gergiev is widely recognised as the greatest modern interpreter of Tchaikovsky’s music and the Mariinsky holds a peerless reputation in the repertoire. Together they deliver definitive interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s most popular symphonies. These acclaimed performances were filmed at Salle Pleyel in Paris during January 2010, directed by Andy Sommer.

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Also available on blu-ray.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 1st October 2011

Building a Library - Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor

First Choice

Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini

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Single disc choice

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Rafael Kubelík

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Disc of the Week

Handel: Agrippina, HWV 6

Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Agrippina), Jennifer Rivera (Nerone), Sunhae Im (Poppea), Bejun Mehta (Ottone), Marcos Fink (Claudio), Neal Davies (Pallante), Dominique Visse (Mago Narciso) & Daniel Schmutzhard (Lesbo), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, René Jacobs

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30-Jan-2012 -Britten Violin Concerto
23-Jan-2012 -Beethoven Symphonies from Thielemann and Chailly
16-Jan-2012 -New Year’s Concert from Vienna
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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