Presto News - 24th June 2013
Wagner from Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra
A stunning new Wagner disc from Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra to tell you about this week. There is a fair amount of Wagner out in this, his anniversary year – but this disc, mainly of orchestral music, is something really special.
The disc begins with the Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. It’s faster than many you’ll hear and beautifully lyrical (partly helped by the speed). Climaxes are well paced and never over-done while the brass play with a lovely rich sound throughout.
This is followed by Wagner’s symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll, which he wrote as a birthday present for his second wife Cosima in 1870, a year after the birth of their son Siegfried. Traces are heard of the third act of the opera Siegfried (which didn’t premiere until 1876) and the concluding love duet between Siegfried and Brünnhilde. Originally written for a chamber orchestra of just 13 players it is now often heard as it is here, in its much larger orchestral version.
However, Fischer and his Budapest players retain much of the chamber music quality in this recording, with wonderful balance and beautifully characterised wind solos. Fischer’s natural ebb and flow is hugely persuasive, knowing exactly when to push, and to hold, never overdoing the numerous really juicy moments, and creating a performance which is up there with the very best.
Following on are three substantial excerpts from Götterdämmerung – two purely orchestral (Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Funeral March) and then the last twenty minutes of the whole opera (the so-called Immolation scene) where Brünnhilde lights and then rides into the funeral pyre which she has built for her beloved Siegfried, returning the gold to the Rhine and also signalling the end of the reign of the gods.
It is powerful stuff and one of the legendary passages in the operatic repertoire. It is sung here by Petra Lang who, while usually regarded as a mezzo, has no problem with the high notes, displaying laser-sharp accuracy and a thrilling power. But what impresses me even more are the tender moments where her more lyrical phrasing (no doubt much encouraged by Fischer) makes this particularly note-worthy. She has recently recorded the role of Brünnhilde in both Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung in Marek Janowski’s ongoing complete Ring des Nibelungen for PentaTone (both operas due out later this year). On the basis of this recording they’ll be well worth hearing.
Final words must go to the orchestra though who for me make this whole disc so special. I’ve mentioned the individually characterised wind solos already. I also love the string sound. They can do everything! – float, dance, sing, and play with a warmth and ravishingly smooth sound that is to die for. With restrained touches of portamento and beautiful over-arching phrasing (shaped so carefully by Fischer) they are almost without peer.
Meanwhile the brass are also very special. They have a bite where necessary but it is never a harsh sound, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so aware of a brass section’s ability to alter not just the volume of a sustained note, but also the colour and intensity of sound to such a degree. This applies to both individual solos and groups of players, and the effect is terrific.
Finally, as always, Channel Classics’s sound engineers Hein Dekker and Jared Sacks capture all this superbly, in both SACD (if you have the facility to enjoy it) and normal stereo.
To coincide with this release we’re also offering discounts of up to 20% off Ivan Fischer’s back catalogue of recordings. His partnership with the Budapest Festival Orchestra is proving to be one of the most fruitful anywhere in the world over recent years, and there are plenty of outstanding recordings in here to choose from.
Wagner: Opera Excerpts
Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
24th June 2013
Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1-4
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, David Zinman
This cycle of the complete Brahms Symphonies was recorded in April 2010 in the Tonhalle Zurich, famous for its superb acoustical qualities. David Zinman has been Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich since 1995. Under his aegis the orchestra has developed into an outstanding ensemble.
Rossini - Complete Piano Music Volume 5
Alessandro Marangoni (piano)
Rossini’s Péchés de vieillesse or ‘Sins of Old Age’ is a series of volumes of piano works which were the main musical occupation of his last decade. The 24 pieces of volume twelve are of breathtaking variety, including flavours from Bach and Chopin, opera and the music-hall. Some revel in witty dances and bravura pianistic display, and one was written overnight to help a friend out of financial debt.
Schumann & Dvorak: Piano Concertos
Francesco Piemontesi (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiri Belohlávek
Francesco Piemontesi, born in 1983, is one of today’s most-watched pianists. His debut album on Naïve features the Schumann Piano Concerto and the original version of the Dvorák Piano Concerto, a work seldom performed due to its sheer technical difficulty. Conducted by Jiri Belohlávek with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the album was recorded at BBC Maida Vale studios (Dvorák) and live in concert at the Barbican (Schumann) in December 2012.
Benjamin Britten - The Complete Works
Includes all works with opus numbers and all works commercially recorded to date.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth, Decca presents this limited edition box of his complete works, including a new hi-res transfer of War Requiem from the original master tapes. This 65-CD edition includes a 208-page hardback book (with a gallery of original LP sleeves and copious recording session pictures), 4 bonus CDs (including first recordings and rarities never before released on CD, and the War Requiem rehearsal sequence), and a DVD of Tony Palmer’s film on the making of the 1967 recording of The Burning Fiery Furnace.
Richard Strauss: Tone Poems, Vol. 1
South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden and Freiburg, Francois-Xavier Roth
This CD marks the beginning of a new recording cycle of the complete symphonic poems of Richard Strauss as performed by the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg and their principal conductor, François-Xavier Roth. This disc includes Ein Heldenleben and Tod und Verklärung.
Mozart: The Last Symphonies
Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, Philippe Herreweghe
Written in the space of just three months and with unprecedented energy, Mozart’s last three symphonies carry within them the aesthetic ideal of their composer, and thus form an exemplary musical testament. The approach of the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, a pioneering collective among period-instrument orchestras founded and conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, is to explore in depth the sonority and the motor rhythms of the symphonic writing of Mozart at the height of his powers.
Beethoven: Quartets Opus 18, Volume 1
Allegri String Quartet
This third release on the VIVAT label features the world-renowned Allegri String Quartet in the first of their new Beethoven Quartets series. Beethoven’s remarkable Opus 18 quartets are full of energy and variety, optimistic yet passionate, brimming with invention and enthusiasm. The Allegri String Quartet celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2013. Recorded in the well-nigh perfect acoustics of The Menuhin Hall, this disc brings unparalleled clarity and richness to the quartet’s sound.
Meyerbeer: Robert Le Diable (DVD)
Bryan Hymel (Robert), Patrizia Ciofi (Isabelle), John Relyea (Bertram), Marina Poplavskaya (Alice), Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Daniel Oren (conductor)
Director Laurent Pelly breathes new life into Giacomo Meyerbeer’s great spectacle in this colourful new staging for The Royal Opera. The wonderful score includes brilliant arias, dramatic ensembles, rousing choruses and a ballet of ghostly nuns, and with the wavering hero of the title sung by Bryan Hymel this is an unmissable experience.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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