Presto News - 22nd December 2014
Presto Personal Favourites from 2014
We feel very lucky at Presto that we get to listen to so many amazing recordings; unfortunately there are just too many discs for us to be able to feature in our weekly newsletter.
As this is a somewhat lean time of year for new releases, therefore, we thought that this week we would do something slightly different, and get each of our editorial staff to choose a disc from the past year that we really loved, but which we simply didn't have the space to write about at the time of release.
So, here are some overlooked gems that you may have missed this year; we hope you'll want to explore them and maybe make a new discovery or two! Finally, it only remains for us to wish you a Merry Christmas from everyone at Presto!
Following up on the release of their widely acclaimed St Matthew Passion in 2012, Sir Simon Rattle and his Berliners again teamed up with director Peter Sellars and a crack team of soloists for another ‘ritualization’ – this time of Bach’s earlier passion setting the St John.
As with the St Matthew it is a superb cast led by the evangelist of Mark Padmore, and the chorus – performing from memory – deliver great drama with powerful singing combined with appropriate actions and gestures.
It is an incredibly passionate and committed performance, and will cast new light and understanding on this great work even to those who feel they know it backwards already. Super-deluxe packaging, containing two DVDs and a bluray, it is not to be missed.
Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245
Mark Padmore (Evangelist), Roderick Williams (Jesus), Camilla Tilling (soprano), Magdalena Kožená (mezzo), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Berliner Philharmoniker, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Sir Simon Rattle
Teodor Currentzis is now two-thirds of the way into his Mozart opera trilogy with MusicAeterna, and with some maverick tempos, surprising casting and flamboyant continuo contributions, it’s proving to be a real love-it-or-loathe-it affair: I’m firmly in the former camp, and their Cosi fan tutte (released on Sony in September) has been one of the most exhilarating listens of my year. It’s not so much the individual performances that make this recording special for me (there are more sumptuous Fiordiligis on disc than baroque specialist Simone Kermes, though Christopher Maltman’s volatile Guglielmo and Malena Ernman’s voluptuous Dorabella are first-class), but the sheer impetus and imagination of the whole ensemble. Right from the raw opening chords, Currentzis and co. really unlock the vital (and often savage) energy at the heart of the work, and made me discover new marvels in a score I thought I knew inside-out!
Mozart: Così fan tutte, K588
Simone Kermes (Fiordiligi), Malena Ernman (Dorabella), Anna Kasyan (Despina), Kenneth Tarver (Ferrando), Christopher Maltman (Guglielmo), Konstantin Wolff (Don Alfonso), MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis
I must admit that I had never actually heard any of Wagner’s solo piano music, and so it was a pleasure to come across this wonderful 2-CD set from Welsh virtuoso Llŷr Williams. Brief pieces such as the Zürich Waltzes and a Song without Words are set alongside more substantial works such as the Sonata for the Book of Mrs M.W. and Albumblatt for Mrs Betty Schott.
These original pieces are interspersed with some of the operatic transcriptions made by Franz Liszt, including extracts from Tristan und Isolde and Tannhäuser, all immaculately played. Even more impressive are two pieces arranged by Glenn Gould from Götterdämmerung and Die Meistersinger, which both involve Williams overdubbing himself with a second piano part: the depth of sound that this allows is really quite breathtaking.
Finally, Williams gives us his own transcription of three scenes from Parsifal, which is easily the equal of any of Liszt’s arrangements. A fine collection from an extraordinary pianist.
Wagner without Words
Llŷr Williams (piano)
Caldara’s La concordia de’ pianeti (The Harmony of the Planets) is a hidden gem of a piece by a composer who was in his day more famous even than JS Bach! Written to celebrate the name-day of Empress Elisabeth (the wife of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI) and setting a text that to modern eyes seems fawningly sycophantic, it depicts in music a discussion by various Greek gods of the numerous virtues of the Empress - her beauty, her modesty, her wisdom etc.
Andrea Marcon and La Cetra Barockorchester bring out the lively and varied colours in Caldara’s score, which I found often to be reminiscent of Handel at his most Italianate; the soloists are characterful and committed in their various heavenly roles. Definitely worth a listen – and a great ambassador for Caldara’s music in general!
Caldara: La concordia de’ pianeti
Veronica Cangemi, Delphine Galou, Ruxandra Donose, Franco Fagioli, Daniel Behle, Carlos Mena, Luca Tittoto, La Cetra Barockorchester, Andrea Marcon
Download - download options available for this item (Download not available in all countries)
Presto Recommends – Felix Mendelssohn
David listens to recordings of the works of Felix Mendelssohn, one of the best-known and best-loved Romantic composers of all. Chiefly known today for his Old Testament oratorio Elijah and for his Violin Concerto, which has become a firm favourite with audiences and performers alike, he also wrote five symphonies, numerous piano pieces and a considerable volume of church music.
You can browse through all David’s choices here.
Presto Interview – Carols from Cambridge to Cambridge
With an extensive background in English cathedral and collegiate music-making himself, including a spell at St John's College Cambridge, John Robinson is the perfect person to take these carols "from Cambridge to Cambridge" and perform them on the other side of the Atlantic.
You can read the full interview here.
The Presto Team - firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent Boxed Sets
No new releases this week, so instead we thought you might be interested in our pick of the best boxed sets from the past few months that you may have missed out on. All of the items mentioned below are featured in our current boxed set promotion, where we're offering up to 50% off the full price. Click here to see more details of the promotion.
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-32 (Complete)
Maurizio Pollini (piano)
Maurizio Pollini’s Beethoven Sonatas cycle has reached completion after nearly forty years. This 8-CD box stands as a monument of artistic achievement, and a remarkable testimony to an artistic partnership between pianist and record label that goes back more than forty years.
Sir Neville Marriner: The Argo Years
Sir Neville Marriner celebrated his 90th birthday on 15th April 2014. Decca has taken this opportunity to honour his achievement on record with a treasure trove of Argo jewels from his early recording days with the chamber orchestra he founded in 1958, The Academy of St Martin in the Fields. The 28 CD box spans the years 1964-1981, and includes a bonus CD of the first recordings from 1961.
Carlo Bergonzi: The Verdi Tenor
Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, who died this year aged 90, epitomised the grandeur and lyric style of Verdi. This commemorative box includes all his best-known Verdi recordings, including six operas and two recitals. Bergonzi recorded all the major Verdi roles; his 1974 recording of 31 major arias from every Verdi opera (CDs 14-16 in this collection) won multiple awards at its time of release, and is frequently referred to as a peerless achievement.
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Castor & Pollux (complete operas)
Les Arts Florissants, William Christie
Jean-Philippe Rameau owes some of his current popularity to the passionate advocacy of William Christie: this set presents the critically-acclaimed Rameau recordings he made for Harmonia Mundi in the 1980s and 1990s. Its selection of opéra-ballet, tragédie lyrique and harpsichord pieces on 10 CDs, many unavailable for some time, highlights the multiple facets of Rameau's oeuvre.
CPE Bach - The Collection
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Ton Koopman and others
This 13-CD box presents a survey of CPE Bach's works, performed by some of the most renowned musicians in the world of historically informed performance, including Gustav Leonhardt, Ton Koopman, Bob van Asperen, Philippe Herreweghe, and Alan Curtis, whose recording of the Rondos for fortepiano appears on CD for the first time.
Maria Callas Remastered: The Complete Studio Recordings (1949-1969)
Maria Callas (soprano)
This 69-CD deluxe set contains all the studio recordings that Maria Callas made for both EMI/Columbia and the Italian label Cetra between 1949 and 1969, comprising 26 complete opera recordings and 13 recital albums. Each recording has been painstakingly remastered in 24-bit/96kHz sound at Abbey Road Studios, using the original tapes.
The Originals Box - Legendary Recordings
Conductors including Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Rafael Kubelik, Carlos Kleiber, Eugen Jochum and many others
A 50-CD collection celebrating the 20th anniversary of THE ORIGINALS series, featuring the bestselling items from the series’ history, with artists such as Kleiber, Karajan, Kubelik, Wunderlich, Böhm, Rostropovich, Argerich, Pollini, and many others.
Charles Rosen - The Complete Columbia and Epic Album Collection
Charles Rosen (piano)
Besides establishing himself as one of the most influential musical writers of the 20th century, Charles Rosen remained a world-class pianist of exceptional musical insight and formidable if unostentatious virtuosity. Many of his most highly praised discs slipped out of circulation and became collectors’ items. Here, in his complete recordings for Epic and Columbia – most of them newly remastered from the original analogue tapes – we can trace Rosen’s development from early on in his recording career to the years of his highest maturity.
Copyright © 2002-17 Presto Classical Limited, all rights reserved.