Presto News - 19th May 2014
Sir Simon Rattle conducts Schumann
This coming Friday sees the official launch of the Berlin Philharmonic’s own label – Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings. They’ve decided to launch the label with a lavish set of the complete Schumann Symphonies, conducted by the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Sir Simon Rattle, and recorded live in concerts at the Philharmonie Hall in Berlin last year.
Sir Simon Rattle
The orchestra have a great tradition of performing Schumann, going right back to their very first subscription concert in October 1882. And through Herbert von Karajan, Rafael Kubelik and others, they also have a number of distinguished recordings already in the catalogue, but I was keen to hear Rattle’s take on these symphonies – a musician I much admire, who never fails to conjure a wonderful sound and always has plenty of thoughtful and interesting ideas to portray.
Listening to Rattle’s comments on Schumann in the short video interview (link below), he talks about one of the keys to performing Schumann being that it should sound more like Mendelssohn than like Brahms, as it sometimes does. Listening to these recordings, I have to admit I don’t feel a particularly strong sense of Mendelssohn (especially compared to some of the chamber orchestra versions I’ve heard recently (such as Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s fine recent recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on DG). There is often plenty of weight to the sound and tempos frequently held rather than scampering (as they might in a typical Mendelssohn Scherzo for example). However, I don’t feel that is in any way to the music’s detriment, and where the score calls for real character and humour (such as in the Scherzo of the Second Symphony) the Berliners certainly don’t fail to deliver.
Rattle chooses the first version of the Fourth Symphony dating from 1841, (which in numerical order was actually the second symphony Schumann composed). Interestingly it is the version which Brahms preferred too, and more thinly scored than the later revised version. It works well here, and despite the large orchestra still sounds full of lightness and grace.
Well-thought-out tempo changes and plenty of rubato make for generally very persuasive accounts of all four symphonies. Rattle has clearly thought long and hard about exactly how to bring these works to life with a large symphony orchestra, carefully balancing winds and brass so as not to obscure any other details, but still never afraid to allow them (or for that matter the timpani) to let rip when it is safe to do so – the effect almost blows you away at times.
It is a lovely rich sound, with sumptuous strings and no shortage of impact. The opening of the Rhenish Symphony (No. 3) is stunningly majestic, and there are several moments where I found myself grinning from ear to ear at the sound of the gorgeous singing string section.
In short, there is a huge amount to enjoy here!
The set comes in glamorous packaging, with hardback linen covers. As well as the two CDs, it also contains a Blu-ray disc including both high resolution audio (24-bit, 96kHz), as well as High Definition Video (if you want to watch the performances as well as listen); a download code where you can download ultra-high resolution audio (24-bit, 192kHz); and a free 7-day ticket to the ‘Digital Concert Hall’ – the Berliner Philharmoniker’s video streaming service. With all that in mind, the price (which initially looks a tad pricey when thinking of just two CDs) is actually a pretty great bargain!
Simon Rattle conducts Schumann
Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle
Presto CD – just launched!
We're thrilled to be able to announce the launch of Presto CD – bringing deleted CDs back to life by manufacturing them (under licence from the original record labels) here at Presto. Each disc includes booklets and inlays, and the audio is identical to that of the original CD.
You can read more about Presto CDs, and browse through the first batch of titles, here.
Presto Interview – Chad Hoopes
American violinist Chad Hoopes may be only nineteen years old, but he's already been making his mark and garnering attention. His latest disc juxtaposes the Mendelssohn Concerto with that of John Adams – a less well-known piece but a strikingly original one – and David caught up with him via email to explore the thinking behind this innovative pairing.
You can read the full interview here.
Presto Recommends – Edward Elgar
This week, James has had the pleasant task of selecting the finest recordings of British composer Edward Elgar – perhaps best known for such evergreen favourites as the Enigma Variations, his glorious marches and the Cello Concerto. However, there's a lot more to Elgar than this; mighty symphonies, stirring large-scale choral works, picturesque suites and a small but exquisite chamber output.
You can read James's Elgar recommendations here.
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
19th May 2014
Martha Argerich & Friends: Live from Lugano 2013
Artists including: Mischa Maisky (cello), Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello), & Martha Argerich (piano)
The latest instalment of highlights from the Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival. This is the 11th annual 3-CD set celebrating the musical fruits of a project in which young artists join seasoned performers, including Martha Argerich herself, to explore wide-ranging chamber music and orchestral repertoire, both well-known and rarely heard.
El Maestro: Farinelli
Bejun Mehta (countertenor), Concerto Köln, Pablo Heras-Casado
Pablo Heras-Casado conducts instrumental and vocal music associated with Farinelli, the legendary 18th-century castrato who served as impresario and court musician to the kings of Spain. This new album contains works by Baroque composers and features eight world premiere recordings, including some arias sung by Bejun Mehta.
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Steven Isserlis plays Martinu, Sibelius & Mustonen
Steven Isserlis (cello), Olli Mustonen (piano)
Each of Bohuslav Martinů's three cello sonatas has an entirely distinct character and appears to owe something to extra-musical events. Interspersed with these sonatas are two Finnish works: Jean Sibelius's Malinconia written shortly after the death of his infant daughter Kirsti, and Olli Mustonen's Sonata from 2006. Isserlis and Mustonen have been friends and collaborators for close to twenty years, and now join forces in this exciting and varied programme.
Gluck: La Clemenza di Tito
Rainer Trost (Tito Vespasiano), Laura Aikin (Vitellia), Raffaella Milanesi (Sesto), Arantza Ezenarro (Servilia), Valer Sabadus (Annio) & Flavio Ferri-Benedetti (Publio), L'arte del mondo, Werner Ehrhardt
Christoph Willibald Gluck's La Clemenza di Tito, first performed in Naples in 1752, is an exemplary 'opera seria' and a masterpiece of the genre. This world premiere recording shows the exceptional skills of one of the most influential opera composers of all time and reveals a rather unknown side of this outstanding visionary.
Marie Angel (soprano), Anne Howells (mezzo soprano), Francois Le Roux (baritone), John Tomlinson (bass baritone), The Royal Opera Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Elgar Howarth
This production of Gawain for the Royal Opera House, recorded by BBC Radio 3, was originally released on Collins Classics. The re-issue of this recording was made possible thanks to the generosity of trusts, foundations and individuals who donated to the 2013 Opera Appeal.
Beethoven: String Trios Op. 3 & Op. 8
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Antoine Tamestit (viola) & Christian Poltéra (cello)
Although it is often said that Beethoven's three String Trios Op.9 form the pinnacle of their genre, it would be misleading to dismiss the composer's first attempts as mere preparations. The creative imagination of the young Beethoven is plain to hear in terms of thematic development and formal innovation. This is music which needs a first-class chamber ensemble to be fully realised, and with the Trio Zimmermann that is exactly what is on offer here.
Ernest Ansermet: Russian Music
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ernest Ansermet
A 33-CD collection of Russian music conducted by Ernest Ansermet. The set includes music by Borodin, Glazunov, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and several others.
Mahler: Symphonies 1-9 (complete)
Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado
This 11-CD Mahler box brings together Claudio Abbado’s complete Berlin cycle for the first time. It is regarded as one of the crowning achievements of his final years. Soloists include Anna Larsson, Renée Fleming, Cheryl Studer, Sylvia McNair, Anne Sofie von Otter, Peter Seiffert, Bryn Terfel, & Jan-Hendrik Rootering.
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