Presto News - 5th January 2015
Andris Nelsons conducts Sibelius and Wagner
If you read Katherine’s newsletter last week you may remember that she alluded to an exciting new disc of one of Sibelius’s symphonies. Well, that disc is now available, and what a marvellous recording it is. Here at Presto we’re based close enough to Birmingham that we’ve been able to enjoy many fine performances by the CBSO under conductor Andris Nelsons, and so it was with a mixture of sadness and eager anticipation that we heard he was to leave in order to take up the position of music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in September last year.
The orchestra hasn’t wasted much time in releasing Nelsons’s first recording on its own label, and we are thrilled to announce that, by special arrangement with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, we are able to offer this new disc of Sibelius’s Second Symphony and the overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser to you. I say new; in fact it could hardly be much newer, as the Sibelius was only recorded in November, so it really is hot off the press!
Of course, as Nelsons himself acknowledges, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has had a long relationship with the music of Sibelius – not only did Serge Koussevitzky champion his music, conducting all seven of the symphonies during the composer’s lifetime, but Colin Davis also recorded a complete cycle of symphonies in the 1970s that is still regarded by many as a classic set.
I’m happy to say that this disc definitely continues in this tradition of excellence: this is a performance of great energy, especially in the first movement, which has a huge amount of drive and motion. This is a symphony that has lots of tricky corners for a conductor to negotiate, and Nelsons manages them all with ease; everything seems to flow naturally without any awkward transitions. Similarly, the slow build-up towards the end of the symphony is judged to perfection: the ominously swirling strings and woodwind hand over to triumphant-sounding brass, with the trumpets in particular on top form.
Despite all of this, I think my favourite movement of this performance might be the second: the hushed string passages contrast magnificently with perky woodwind and shattering brass chords, and the pizzicato cellos and basses at the start of the movement are fantastic, leading into a wonderfully desolate bassoon melody.
It’s highly appropriate that Nelsons’s debut disc on the BSO’s own label should include the very first piece from his opening concert – the overture to Wagner's Tannhäuser, which Nelsons says is the piece that made him want to be a conductor when his parents took him to a performance of the opera at the tender age of five. I must say that this is an extremely impressive account: not only is there immaculate string playing, but there’s a lovely woodwind tone throughout. I must have listened to the opening phrase dozens of times, marvelling at the care Nelsons takes over phrasing every single bar.
Similarly, his careful attention to orchestral balance is evident from start to finish: not only can you hear clearly all of the fiendish string passagework (effortlessly despatched by the Boston players), but this must be one of the few performances where the trombones don’t completely obliterate the rest of the orchestra when it is their turn to play the “big tune”!
Judging from the audience reaction at the end of this live performance, Nelsons is already causing quite a stir in Boston, and I have no doubt that there will be many future recordings as impressive as this one. I for one can’t wait to hear more!
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 and Wagner: Tannhäuser Overture
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons
Presto Interview – Hindemith Sonatas with Alexander Melnikov
The Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov has a series of brilliant chamber-music recordings under his belt, and his latest album continues this theme with instrumental sonatas by Paul Hindemith, from the 1930s and 40s.
David spoke to him about this new disc, and about the various instruments that it offers a relatively rare spot in the limelight!
You can read the full interview here.
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James Longstaffe - email@example.com
5th January 2015
Mozart: Horn Concertos
Pip Eastop (natural horn), The Hanover Band, Anthony Halstead
Mozart’s Horn Concertos are perhaps the most popular works ever written for the instrument. This is a collection of all the works Mozart wrote for his lifelong friend, the horn player Joseph Leutgeb. Natural horn player Pip Eastop's technical ability and musical inventiveness are palpable in these hugely enjoyable renditions.
Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer
Terje Stensvold (Der Holländer), Kwangchul Youn (Daland), Anja Kampe (Senta), Christopher Ventris (Erik), Jane Henschel (Mary), Thomas Russell (Der Steuermann), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Andris Nelsons
The Wagner year 2013 brought something special to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's concert schedule. The RCO pulled out all the stops with a concert performance of this Wagner opera. Making his fifth appearance at Bayreuth last summer, Andris Nelsons has certainly earned his spurs as a Wagner specialist.
The Romantic Violin Concerto 18 - Jongen & Lazzari
Philippe Graffin (violin), Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Martyn Brabbins
The Romantic Violin Concerto series reaches the music of Joseph Jongen, a composer more celebrated for his organ music now, but who was equally admired in his day for his orchestral and chamber works. Philippe Graffin performs the Violin Concerto as well as other works for violin and orchestra, and a Rapsodie by Sylvio Lazzari.
Strauss: Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Mariss Jansons
The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Mariss Jansons present two tone poems by Richard Strauss. With Don Juan, the young Strauss secured himself a lasting place in the musical life of Germany. Ein Heldenleben is a work of unshakeable self-confidence in every regard.
Tallis: Ave, rosa sine spinis
The Cardinall's Musick, Andrew Carwood
The Cardinall’s Musick and Andrew Carwood present a further volume of their series of Tallis’s sacred music. This new album contains some of the most sublime music of the entire period, including both English and Latin settings, demonstrating the composer’s mastery of the changing edicts imposed on him from above in this turbulent time.
Anna Netrebko (Iolanta), Sergey Skorokhodov (Vaudémont), Monika Bohinec (Martha), Jun Ho You (Almerik), Lucas Meachem (Robert), Vitalij Kowaljow (René), Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Emmanuel Villaume
Anna Netrebko performs Iolanta, the title role of one of Tchaikovsky’s most passionate, evocative scores and one of opera’s most enigmatic figures. In this live recording, maestro Emmanuel Villaume leads a stellar cast comprising a number of Russia’s biggest opera stars.
Sviatoslav Richter: Complete Decca, Philips and DG recordings
Sviatoslav Richter’s enormous recorded legacy hides hundreds of treasures, many of which are included in this beautiful 51-CD set. Released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth (20th March 2015), the edition encompasses his complete Decca, Philips and DG recordings, including his Sofia Recital as well as his collaborations with Rostropovich, Karajan and Benjamin Britten.
Talbot, J: The Winter's Tale (DVD)
Edward Watson (Leontes), Sarah Lamb (Perdita), Zenaida Yanowsky (Paulina), Steven McRae (Florizel), Federico Bonelli (Polizenes), Lauren Cuthbertson (Hermione), Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, David Briskin
Following his highly popular Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 2011, Christopher Wheeldon's new ballet draws on the same team to create this evocative reimagining of The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s enduring story of jealousy, compassion and forgiveness, with powerful designs by Bob Crowley and a skilful score by Joby Talbot.
Blu-ray version also available here.
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
Saturday 3rd January 2015
Building a Library - Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli
Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly
Disc of the Week
Strauss: Four Last Songs
Anna Netrebko (soprano), Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim
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