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Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski

Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski


Bach, J S:

Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Beethoven:

Diabelli Variations, Op. 120

Rzewski:

The People United Will Never Be Defeated!


Igor Levit (piano)

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Following his landmark recordings, "Beethoven - The Late Piano Sonatas" and "Bach - Partitas", both of which has won him international acclaim, Igor Levit is now tackling another three major works: Bach's Goldberg Variations, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, and Frederic Rzewski's Variations on "The People United Will Never Be Defeated".

It is testament to Igor Levit's invention and the command of his repertoire that in one release he is able to combine arguably two of history’s greatest sets of variations for the keyboard, complete alongside a classic of late 20th century piano music by contemporary composer Frederic Rzewski.

Levit comes with great pedigree when it comes to recording the works of Bach and Beethoven, with his 2013 Beethoven disc winning him the BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year 2014 Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award 2014 and the ECHO 2014 for Solo Recording of the Year. His second recording, J.S. Bach’s Six Partitas in 2014, was Gramophone’s Disc of the Month.

“If [the Rzewski] sounds potentially sprawling on paper, in Levit's hands it acquires remarkable coherence and a granite-like majesty...his variety of touch and colours [in the Goldbergs] is such that after the first four variations I found myself checking the booklet to make sure that there wasn't more than one instrument involved: there are sections which sound almost fortepiano-like in their clarity.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 16th October 2015

“few [recordings of the Rzewski] match Levit’s combination of supreme, sometimes breathtaking accuracy and his sustained intensity. The same sense of freshness and discovery runs through his Diabelli Variations...one of the most impressive aspects of the performance as a whole is how Levit holds the different aspects of this massive work in balance” The Guardian, 14th October 2015 *****

“There is, if you care to rationalise, a Russian depth of sound and eloquence of phrasing, tempered by Germanic intellectual grasp...Levit’s musical personality is as integrated and mature as his technique. And both of these are placed at the service of the music’s glory rather than his own.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2015

“[Levit] has the technical virtuosity and insight to make a magnificent display of the [Rzewski] variations...Even if you don’t subscribe to the agitprop politics, enjoy the immense sweep of one of the late 20th century’s greatest piano works...He characterises [the Diabellis] with rambunctious glee, brilliantly incisive and as nimble as a cat on a high wire, while keeping the music’s overall arch in sight...One imagines Beethoven playing it like this — in his dreams, anyway.” The Times, 4th December 2015 *****

“It’s a bold move, placing Mr. Rzewski’s 36 variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” as an equal partner to Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabellis...Yet this urbane, consuming playing makes the argument persuasive. The Bach and Beethoven are very fine: clean and mature. The Rzewski is inspired...The piano and the man playing it become comrades at arms.” New York Times, 2nd December 2015

“In his recording of Bach's variations, Levit moves between Glenn Gould-like velocity, a sharp sense of period style and a delicacy of nuance and pedalling that evokes a different sort of tradition...As for Rzewski's great variations, Levit's attention to detail and tender lyricism reveal the music's nobility, as well as its anger and blistering energy. In all, this boxed set is a tremendous achievement.” The Telegraph, 24th November 2015 *****

“The [Goldberg] Aria sings without affectation as if to emphasise that what follows isn't about the theme but what happens to it...Unstarchy too is Levit's approach to Beethoven's Diabelli Variations...As for the Rzewski, never has 1970s agitprop sounded so compelling...Levit squares up to the exhilarating mix with pitch-perfect acuity and aplomb...Whatever follows, hang on tight: it should prove quite a ride.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2016 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

16th October 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

Winner

GGramophone Awards 2016

Record of the Year

GGramophone Awards 2016

Winner - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - November 2015

Building a Library

Also Recommended - June 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - January 2016

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Sony - 88875060962

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Janacek: Káta Kabanová

Janacek: Káta Kabanová


Elisabeth Söderström (Katya), Peter Dvorsky (Boris), Nedezda Kniplová (Kabanicha), Vladimir Krejcik (Tichon), Libuse Márová (Varvara), Dalibor Jedlicka (Dikov), Jaroslav Soucek (Kuligin), Jitka Pavlová (Glasha), Gertrude Jahn (Feklusha)

Wiener Staatsopernchor & Wiener Philharmoniker, Sir Charles Mackerras

“Charles Mackerras's ... long knowledge of the score has flowered into the richest account of it he has yet given ... he draws wonderful playing from the Vienna Philharmonic ... it is an outstanding operatic recording by any standards ... there is an understanding between conductor and singer, in the collaboration between Mackerras and Miss Söderström that articulates this beautiful and touching opera with unfailing eloquence.” Gramophone Magazine

“Fabulous, surging Vienna Philharmonic playing, Elisabeth Söderström's poignant performance in the title role, and matchless Decca sound all combined to produce one of the truly classical opera recordings.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2012

“Söderström reigns supreme as the neurasthenic heroine of this claustrophobic domestic drama, with sumptuous playing from the Vienna Philharmonic and Mackerras supporting his leading lady with unstinting empathy on this 1977 recording.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, May 2014

Presto Greatest Recordings

1970s

GGramophone Awards 1977

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Decca - Originals - 4757518

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Janacek - The Operas

Janacek - The Operas


Janacek:

Jenufa

Elisabeth Söderström (Jenufa), Eva Randova (Kostelnicka), Petr Dvorsky (Steva), Vaclav Zitek (Sterek), Marie Mrazova (Starenka), Dalibor Jedlicka (Rychtar), Wieslaw Ochman (Laca), Lucia Popp (Karolka)

The Cunning Little Vixen

Lucia Popp (Vixen), Eva Randová (Fox), Dalibor Jedliaka (Forester)

From the House of the Dead

Dalibor Jedlicka (Gorjancikov), Jaroslava Janská (Aljeja), Jiri Zahradnicek (Luka), Ivo Zidek (Skuratov)

The Makropulos Case

Elisabeth Söderström (Emilia Marty), Petr Dvorský (Albert Gregor), Vladimir Krejcik (Vítek), Anna Czaková (Kristina), Václav Zítek (Jaroslav Prus), Zdenek Svehla (Janek Prus), Dalibor Jedlicka (Dr Kolenatý), Jirí Joran (Strjník), Ivana Mixová (Poklízečka), Beno Blachut (Count Haukšendorf), Blanka Vitková (Komorná)

Káta Kabanová

Elisabeth Söderström (Katya), Petr Dvorsky (Boris), Nedezda Kniplová (Kabanicha), Vladimir Krejcik (Tichon), Libuse Márová (Varvara), Dalibor Jedlicka (Dikoj)

Sinfonietta

Taras Bulba


Recorded - Vienna, December 1976 - April 1982

“From the House of the Dead (the 1980 Gramophone Record of the Year) was here recorded for the first time in its proper, original version; and this revealed it as even more of a masterpiece – a work, indeed, to count among the handful of masterpieces of 20th-century opera. The loss of the final chorus, a sentimental addition, is but the most striking of the clarifications: throughout, the sound is sharper, the textures are sparer, and this serves to sharpen the effect and to give the singers more clearly differentiated support. The cast is led, nominally, by Goryanchikov, but the character isn't really the hero of an opera that has no heroes, and in which all are heroes, though Dalibor Jedlicka sings him warmly and well.
The prisoners are skilfully contrasted in Janácek's writing so as to make an apparently random yet actually well-structured group; there isn't a weak performance among them.
The Makropulos Affair does have a heroine, in the tragic figure of Emilia Marty; and here Elisabeth Söderström gives one of her greatest recorded performances. She succeeds amazingly in conveying the complexity of the character, the elegance yet flinty cynicism, the aloofness yet vulnerability, the latent warmth that can flower into such rich expressive phrases and then be reined in with a sense of nervy panic. She's only really alarmed by Prus, the most formidable of the men around her, powerfully sung by Václav Zítek. Mackerras is again masterly. This is a recording to set among great performances of it.
As with From the House of the Dead, there's an essay by John Tyrrell that not only gives the listener the best possible introduction to the opera but is also a contribution to scholarship.
The fillups Mládi and the Nursery rhyme, come from David Atherton's splendid 1981 set of five LPs devoted to Janácek; the Lachian Dances set is a rather less successful companion to Makropulos.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Charles Mackerras's partnership with soprano Söderström produced definitive and superbly recorded studio performances of Kát'a Kabanová, Jenůfa and The Makropulos Case. A must for Janáček fans.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2005 *****

“Sir Charles… has done Janáček proud over the years with these recordings, for which one can only return affectionate thanks and congratulations.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2005

Presto Greatest Recordings

1980s

GGramophone Awards 1977

Record of the Year

GGramophone Awards 1980

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Decca Collectors Edition - 4756872

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Janacek: From the House of the Dead

Janacek: From the House of the Dead


Dalibor Jedlicka (Goryantchikov), Jiri Zahradnicek (Luka Morosoff), Jaroslava Janská (Alyeya), Václav Zitek (Shishkov), Antonin Svorc (Old Prisoner), Ivo Zidek (Skuratov)

Wiener Staatsopernchor & Wiener Philharmoniker, Charles Mackerras

GGramophone Awards 1980

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Decca Operas - 4785790

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Puccini: La fanciulla del West

Puccini: La fanciulla del West


Carol Neblett (Minnie), Plácido Domingo (Dick Johnson), Sherrill Milnes (Jack Rance)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Zubin Mehta

This classic recording dating from 1977 is Gramophone magazine’s top choice for the opera and can now be enjoyed for the first time in full SACD hybrid multichannel sound.

Puccini’s late opera La fanciulla del West bristles with drama and intrigue in this newly remastered classic recording with Zubin Mehta conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House and starring Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Carol Neblett.

“Carol Neblett is a strong Minnie, vocally distinctive and well characterised, while Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes make a good pair of suitors …. Zubin Mehta conducts with real sympathy for the idiom” (Gramophone). And the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs (2003/4) enthused “Domingo sings heroically … but the crowning glory of a masterly set is the singing of Carol Neblett … Full atmospheric recording to match.”

Although recorded in multi-channel sound, these memorable performances have previously been available only in the conventional two-channel stereo format. Using state of the art technology which avoids the need for re-mixing, our engineers have remastered the original studio tapes to bring the performances to life as originally intended: in compelling and pristine multi-channel sound.

GGramophone Awards 1978

Record of the Year

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Pentatone Remastered Classics - PTC5186243

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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123


A powerful, incisive reading that scales the heights of Beethoven's epic vision - James Jolly, Gramophone 1000th issue

“A disc that revealed Gardiner's Beethoven credentials but which also showed off his magnificent Monterverdi Choir as it edged into the 19th century. Another Record of the Year.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008

GGramophone Awards 1991

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

100 Greatest Recordings

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

DG Archiv - 4297792

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Schumann - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3

Schumann - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3


Schumann:

String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 41 No. 1

String Quartet No. 3 in A major, Op. 41 No. 3


“The vividness of the music owes much to these electrifying performances. Amazingly impressive” The Times

“The Zehetmair Quartet's coupling focuses the music's alternating wildness and fragility with altogether unique perception. Theirs is an agitated, combustible and loving view of Schumann, a credible trip into his troubled world that reflects older playing styles not by exaggerating or abandoning vibrato but by constantly varying tone, tempo, bow pressure and modes of attack. Aspects of this trend are usefully exemplified by their handling of the pensive second section of the Third Quartet's third movement, and by the way they negotiate the sudden, bloodless moderato passage that forms the coda of the First Quartet's finale. In the less consistent but more challenging First Quartet, minute variations in pulse and emphasis are consistently engaging, ie they enjoy maximum freedom within the law of the page. Contrapuntal passages that other quartets present as dry or self-conscious – at 2'36" into the first movement of No 1, for example, where the viola takes the initial lead – assume newfound meaning.
These aren't comfortable performances. They pass on cosmetic appeal and would rather grate and rail than pander to surface 'gloss'. So be warned. But they're profoundly beautiful in their truthful appropriation of music that can be both poignant and aggressive. Delicate, too, in places (Mendelssohn with added fibre); in fact more comprehensive as musical statements than most of us had previously suspected. That realisation is due almost entirely to the persuasive powers of these supremely accomplished, and realistically recorded, performances.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2003

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - June 2003

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

ECM New Series - 4721692

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 11 - Scharwenka & Sauer

The Romantic Piano Concerto 11 - Scharwenka & Sauer


Sauer:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor

Scharwenka, X:

Piano Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 82


“A glitteringly worthy addition to the Hyperion series ... Stephen Hough exhibits dazzling flair in showpiece concertos by Sauer and Scharwenka – and plenty of stamina ... Hough plays throughout with exhilarating momentum and dazzling technical address. I doubt whether any CD has so many double octave passages as this, but he never wearies, and his response to both works is as many-sided as the music itself ... Not to be missed, on any account.” Classic CD

“This jewel in the crown in Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series marries flawlessly composer, performance, recording and presentation. Scharwenka's Piano Concerto No 4 is a far cry from his early, ubiquitous success, the E flat minor Polish Dance. Grand, Lisztian ambitions are fulfilled and embellished in writing of the most ferocious intricacy; the tarantella finale in particular throws everything at the pianist, seemingly simultaneously. It's therefore hardly surprising that after early triumphs the Fourth Concerto fell into neglect. At its second performance, given in 1910 with Scharwenka as soloist and Mahler as conductor, it was described as being of a 'truly Dionysian and bewildering brilliancy', a phrase that encapsulates Stephen Hough's astonishing performance. For here is scintillating wit and ebullience. As magisterial as it's eartickling and affectionate, his playing glows with warmth in the third movement Lento, and pulses with the most nonchalant glitter in the finale; one guaranteed to strike down less intrepid and fluent spirits with St Vitus's dance.
Emil von Sauer's First Concerto has a style and content to make even the least susceptible listeners' heads nod and feet tap. The Cavatina is as luscious and enchanting as the finale is teasingly brief and light-hearted. Throughout, haunting melodies are embroidered with the finest pianistic tracery. Once again the performance is bewitching. In the Cavatina Hough's caressing, fine-spun tone and long-breathed phrasing are a model for singers as well as pianists, and in the finale there's a lightly deployed virtuosity that epitomizes his aristocratic style.
Though the spotlight falls unashamedly on the soloist in such music, the orchestra has no small part in the proceedings, and Lawrence Foster and the CBSO are superbly resilient and enthusiastic, with strings that sing their hearts out.
Sound and balance are exemplary. Stephen Heliotis's accompanying notes deserve separate publication for their wit and perspicacity.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“At its second performance given in 1910 with Scharwenka as soloist and Mahler as conductor, it was described as being of a "truly Dionysian and bewildering brilliancy", a phrase that, lifted into our own times, encapsulates Stephen Hough’s astonishing performance” Gramophone Magazine

GGramophone Awards 1996

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Hyperion - The Romantic Piano Concerto - CDA66790

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Martin: Mass for Double Choir

Martin: Mass for Double Choir


Martin, F:

Mass for Double Choir

Passacaille for Organ

Pizzetti:

Messa di Requiem

De profundis


“These are magnificent performances.
Written in 1922, the Agnus Dei being added four years later, the Mass is one of Martin's most sublime compositions. Surprisingly it gains enormously from using boys' rather than female voices. It's a measure of James O'Donnell's achievement with Westminster Cathedral Choir that the gain in purity and beauty is never at the expense of depth and fervour.
This is an altogether moving and eloquent performance, often quite thrilling and always satisfying.
This disc brings us a fine performance by O'Donnell of the Passacaille and the Pizzetti Messa di Requiem, also composed in 1922. The received wisdom is that it is in his a cappella music that Pizzetti is at his finest; in his 1951 monograph Guido Gatti spoke of his setting as 'the most serene and lyrical of all... from Mozart's to Gabriel Faure's'. Serene and lyrical it most certainly is, and it will come as a revelation to those encountering it for the first time.
There is a fervour and a conviction about the Westminster performances of both the Requiem and the 1937 De profundis. The luminous tone this choir produce in both these inspired and masterly works will ring in your ears long after you have finished playing this splendidly recorded disc.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“For connoisseurs of choral music this is an essential buy. Outstanding performances of two rarely heard 20th-century masterpieces.” Classic CD

“The Mass for Double Choir is one of Martin's purest and most sublime utterances. The version from the Westminster Cathedral Choir under James O'Donnell is the most outstanding. The boys produce marvellously focused tone of great purity and expressive power.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

GGramophone Awards 1998

Record of the Year

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

Building a Library

Also Recommended - March 2005

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Hyperion - CDA67017

(CD)

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Grieg - Songs

Grieg - Songs


Grieg:

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 1 'Det syng'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 2 'Veslemøy'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 3 'Blåbær-Li'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 4 'Møte'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 5 'Elsk'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 6 'Killingdans'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 7 'Vond Dag'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 8 'Ved Gjætle-Bekken'

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 1 'Gruss'

Dereinst, Gedanke mein (No. 2 from Seks Sange, Op. 48)

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 3 'Lauf der Welt'

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 4 'Die verschwiegene Nachtigall'

Zur Rosenzeit (No. 5 from Seks Sange, Op. 48)

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 6 'Ein Traum'

En svane (No. 2 from Seks Digte af Henrik Ibsen, Op. 25)

Med en vandlije, Op. 25 No. 4

Fem Digte af John Paulsen, Op. 26 No. 1 'Et håb'

Våren, Op. 33 No. 2

Mens jeg venter (On the Water), Op. 60 No. 3

Barnlige sange, Op. 61 No. 3 'Lok'

Tolv Melodier til Digte af Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, Op. 33 No. 5 'Langs ei Å'

Fra Monte Pincio, Op. 39 No. 1

Hjertets Melodier af H. C.Andersen, Op. 5 No. 1 'To brune Øjne'

Hjertets Melodier af H. C.Andersen, Op. 5 No. 3 'Jeg elsker Dig'

Forårsregn (No. 6 from Seks Digte af Holger Drachmann, Op. 49)


Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo soprano), Bengt Forsberg (piano)

GGramophone Awards 1993

Record of the Year

Presto CD

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

DG Gramophone Awards Collection - 4761815

(Presto CD)

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