Presto News - 31st December 2012
2012 Goodbyes and Discs of the Year
As 2012 draws towards a close I thought I’d take the opportunity this week to reflect a little on the year gone by. It has been another great year for new releases and a year of cheaper and cheaper bargains in the re-packaged boxed set market, but also a year when we seem to have said goodbye to a greater number of musicians and composers than usual.
The most recent of these was the British composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, who produced more than 200 concert pieces, ballets and operas, was at home both in the concert hall and on the cabaret stage, but was best known for film and TV scores, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Murder on the Orient Express and Doctor Who. Sir Richard won a Bafta and was three times nominated for an Oscar. He died peacefully on Christmas Eve in New York, where he had lived for more than 20 years.
As a tribute to some of the musicians and composers who died in 2012, enhancing our lives and giving us so much joy through their talent and artistry, we’ve put together a short video slideshow acting as both a reminder and a chance to reflect. It is accompanied by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (himself one of those we say goodbye to) singing Schubert's moving song Aller Seelen, D343. You can view the video tribute here – we hope you like it. And sincere thanks to EMI for granting us permission to use this wonderful recording.
On a more upbeat note, 2012 also brought us a tremendous wealth of new releases – at least on par with recent years – and at a time when the world economy is in a difficult position, that is no small achievement, and credit must go out to the record labels and artists who work so hard to bring us such gems. Here at Presto we’ve picked what we consider our 100 best titles of the year, and negotiated special prices on them for a limited period.
Looking at the list essentially after we’d picked them it is pleasing to see a real spread of eras, genres, and types of recordings. The wide variety of eras represented ranges from early music of composers like Byrd, Victoria and Mouton (a French Renaissance composer who was new to me this year), through to Contemporary music from composers like Thomas Adès and Einojuhani Rautavaara (whose Second Cello Concerto stunningly played by Truls Mørk was one of my discoveries of the year).
When recording popular works you have to have something genuinely new to say, and that has been the case with a number of recordings this year, including in particular Andreas Staier’s terrific fortepiano recording of Beethoven’s 'Diabelli Variations', and Paul McCreesh’s magnificent Mendelssohn Elijah.
There have also been a number of slightly neglected works by well-known composers which have enjoyed something of a renaissance this year through tremendous new recordings – in particular Valery Gergiev and the LSO’s recordings of the first three Tchaikovsky Symphonies, as well as Vasily Petrenko’s ongoing Shostakovich Symphony cycle on Naxos.
Anyway we’ve listed a notional ‘top 10’ below, and you can explore all 100 of them from our Best of 2012 Special offer page here, and with discounts of up to 30% it is a good time to pick up any you missed.
Wishing you a very happy last day of 2012 and a musically fulfilling 2013.
Chris O'Reilly - email@example.com
2012 Discs of the Year
No new releases this week, so I thought we'd give you a Presto selected top ten of 2012 - all included in the Best of 2012 Special offer.
1612 - Italian Vespers
I Fagiolini, Robert Hollingworth
Following their recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts from 1566, which racked up an astounding array of critical and commercial plaudits, Robert Hollingworth led his maverick ensemble I Fagiolini to similar success in 2012 with a journey unearthing incredible lost works from the late Renaissance and early Baroque: 1612.
Beethoven: Diabelli Variations, Op. 120, etc.
Andreas Staier (fortepiano after Conrad Graf)
As is his custom, Andreas Staier went back to the original manuscript of one of the most famous sets of variations in history: Beethoven’s 'Diabelli Variations'. The results were breathtaking and extraordinary.
Mendelssohn: Elijah, Op. 70
Rosemary Joshua (soprano), Jonty Ward (treble), Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Robert Murray (tenor) & Simon Keenlyside (baritone),
Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo), Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), I Barocchisti, Diego Fasolis
The sensational new album from the world’s best-selling classical artist, Cecilia Bartoli, and a project with international politics, religious conflict, diplomatic secrecy, spying and sensational music at its heart.
Rautavaara: Modificata, Towards the Horizon & Incantations
Truls Mørk (cello), Colin Currie (percussion), Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, John Storgårds
This new recording couples Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s latest concerto works with an orchestral piece from his early Modernist period (Modificata; 1957/2003)
The virtuoso Percussion Concerto Incantations (2008) features the Scottish percussion soloist Colin Currie, who is the dedicatee and première performer of this work. Currie wrote himself the virtuoso cadenza to the final movement.
Rautavaara’s Second Cello Concerto Towards the Horizon (2009) was written for cellist Truls Mørk and plays continuously in one 20-minute movement.
Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies
Sierra Boggess (soprano), Anna Jane Casey (mezzo-soprano), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Maria Ewing (soprano/mezzo), Julian Ovenden (baritone) & David Pittsinger (bass-baritone), The John Wilson Orchestra & Maida Vale Singers, John Wilson
John Wilson and his orchestra have become a regular highlight at the BBC Proms, selling out faster than any other proms and bringing the house down each time. Their second appearance in 2010 was A Celebration of Rodgers & Hammerstein which is recreated on EMI’s second release with the John Wilson Orchestra.
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 15
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko
These two hugely contrasting symphonies come from the opposite ends of Shostakovich’s life and career.
The Second Symphony was written to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bolshevik October Revolution. Its advanced idiom of experimental textures and abstract effects can perhaps be best described as organised musical chaos.
The Fifteenth was Shostakovich’s last symphony and is filled with remarkable contrasts, from the rollicking quotes from Rossini’s William Tell Overture and eerie references to Wagner’s Götterdämmerung and Tristan und Isolde, to the last and perhaps most imaginative of the composer’s symphonic passacaglias.
Stephen Hough's French Album
Stephen Hough (piano)
Exquis! Stephen Hough presents an enchanting programme of French music, played with the filigree perfection and total command of the music’s expressive world that make him one of the most admired pianists of today.
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-3
London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Tchaikovsky’s early trio of symphonies have long lived in the shadow of the three that followed. Following his acclaimed Mariinsky DVD of the final three symphonies, which received Choc de l’annee in France, Valery Gergiev conducts outstanding performances of the earlier works with the LSO.
Vivaldi: La cetra - 12 concerti, Op. 9
Rachel Podger (violin), Holland Baroque Society
There are plenty of jewels in this set, just as in 'La Stravaganza', with even higher technical demands made on the soloist including many, often exotic experimental effects.
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