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Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Mahler: Symphony No. 5


All Mahler scholars have agreed from the very start that Gustav Mahler embarked on an entirely new path with his Fifth Symphony. Even for his immediate contemporaries, such as the conductor Bruno Walter or the music critic Paul Bekker, the Fifth marked the beginning of a new creative phase, and Mahler himself was also keenly aware of this – which is why he was all the more upset by the fact that his work was not understood at its premiere in Cologne in October 1904 and, even later, met with a largely negative reception. In 1905, following an unsuccessful performance in Hamburg, the composer complained: "The Fifth is an accursed work. No-one understands it.” It was only after Mahler’s death in May 1911 that people slowly began to appreciate the piece. The Fifth ranks today as one of Mahler's most popular symphonies. This is due in part to Luchino Visconti's 1971 film adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella ‘Death in Venice’, which used the symphony’s world-famous Adagietto to great effect: the movement enjoyed unanimous approval from the very start, and has now advanced to become Mahler's ‘greatest hit’ and the most famous work in his entire oeuvre. In its structure, the symphony does not follow the classic four-movement form, but presents us with five movements in three sections. Conceptually, Mahler relies on methods he had already tried and tested in the work’s great predecessors, the Second and Third Symphonies. The centerpiece of the work is a lengthy scherzo full of grotesque humour, inspired by Jean Paul, while its resting-point is the Adagietto, which certainly bears many of the hallmarks of Mahler's slow movements. The harsher sound of this symphony ushered in a new creative phase for Mahler – one that he developed further in the Sixth. The maximum use he makes of the tonal means available already clearly anticipates the Ninth, in which he begins to abandon tonality altogether and encompass the transcendental aspect of the music. This Munich concert event of March 2016, now released as a CD by BR KLASSIK, is an outstanding interpretation of one of the most important compositions of the international symphonic repertoire of the early 20th century.

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Handel: The Occasional Oratorio, HWV62

Handel: The Occasional Oratorio, HWV62

World premiere recording of the Oratorio according to the Neue Hallische Handel edition, Herkulessaal , Munich, 11.02.2017


Julia Doyle (soprano), Ben Johnson (tenor) & Peter Harvey (baritone)

Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks & Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Howard Arman

For his Occasional Oratorio, composed in 1746 in an age of personal and political upheaval, Handel made generous use of much of his own earlier material, and this resulted in something quite close to an anthology: a choice collection of his most beautiful and most famous pieces – a 'Best Of', as it were. The Messiah librettist Charles Jennens complained loudly that the oratorio was "a triumph for a victory not yet gain'd", and that its libretto, by a certain Newburgh Hamilton, was an "inconceivable jumble of John Milton and Edmund Spenser". Nevertheless, the Occasional Oratorio offers the modern listener magnificent and largely familiar melodies, highly virtuosic Baroque arias, moving choruses and, above all, a magnificent Late Baroque sound that, in this extremely compact score, is quite unique. Audiences at the time probably considered this to be 'Handel at his best', and today's public doubtlessly shares that opinion. This virtuoso and colourful interpretation, recorded recently on February 11, 2017 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz, was an exemplary success, delighting the audience and the trade press alike. Howard Arman conducted the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Akademie für Alte Music Berlin with its historically informed performance practice, and a line-up of highly talented English soloists. This concert recording is also the world's first recording of the Occasional Oratorio according to the historically researched and edited score of the Neue Hallische Handel edition.

“Julia Doyle sings with quicksilver suppleness…Peter Harvey’s diction, vocal suavity and persuasive authority are all spot-on. Ben Johnson’s perfect enunciation, husky timbre and fulsome projection remind me of Robert Tear. The Bavarian Radio Choir always have plenty of discipline and articulacy, with only rare hints of Teutonic vowels. They sing with robust muscle in the bellicose music.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2017

“Conductor Howard Arman uses fairly modest forces, with the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks comprising of 43 singers. Performing with an elevated quality, the choir delivers full-toned singing in a constantly rewarding performance marked by a compelling unity and unaffected expression in the text.” MusicWeb International, September 2017

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Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Live-Recording: Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig, 15. – 17.06.2016


Gerhild Romberger (contralto)

Augsburger Domsingknaben, Frauenchor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Bernard Haitink

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony still ranks today as one of the greatest and most powerful creations of the Late Romantic period. The huge symphony, longer and more monumental than the others and containing texts from the collection of poems by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim entitled “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”, was composed over a period of four years from 1892 to 1896, and especially during the summers of 1895 and 1896, which Mahler spent at the Attersee in Austria. Following performances of several individual movements of the symphony, the complete work was premiered on June 9, 1902, at the 38th “Tonkünstler Festival” in Krefeld. Mahler conducted the Städtische Kapelle Krefeld and Cologne’s Gürzenich Orchestra at this exciting event. It was one of his greatest successes, and his contemporaries were deeply impressed. Between 1902 and 1907, the composer conducted his Third Symphony a further 15 times.

Of the six powerful movements, the slow fourth one requires not only a large orchestra but also a mezzo-soprano solo for a setting of the “Midnight Song” (“O Man! Take heed!”) from Friedrich Nietzsche's poetical-philosophical "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," while in the cheerful fifth movement the mezzo-soprano soloist is joined by a children’s choir and a female chorus for the song Es sungen drei Engel from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn". The symphony is a huge challenge for all its performers, and this concert recording of June 2016 has a prestigious line-up: guest conductor Bernard Haitink with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Augsburger Domsingknaben and the Frauenchor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; the solo parts are sung by Gerhild Romberger.

“Haitink has long been regarded as one of our least egocentric and interventionist conductors, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that more keenly than on this recording...throughout the long first movement in particular, there’s a sense that the music is simply being allowed to unfold itself organically rather than being driven too hard.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 6th January 2017

“The opening horn unison arrests and promises much, Mahler’s Third delivered with the long view typical of Bernard Haitink. He doesn’t sensationalise the music…the remaining five movements, naturalistic and divine, receive superior outings – poetic, eloquent, picturesque, as agile and athletic as required. The posthorn solo during the third movement is especially magical…as ever from Bavarian Radio, the orchestra and the sound are exemplary.” Classical Ear, 17th April 2017 ****

“Haitink seems just a pure conduit for the music.” Hi-Fi News, May 2017

“a perfect beauty of a performance, natural sound matching natural evoution and every solo perfectly intoned” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 *****

“While the performance feels most engaged when the music is in repose, the inner movements are more than adequately eloquent. The excellent posthorn solos in the third are credited to Martin Angerer…Gerhild Romberger has an old-fashioned contralto-ish timbre in the Nietzsche setting…the choirs sound lovely in the fifth movement and the finale has always been a Haitink speciality, plainly spoke and all the more moving for it.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

Presto Disc of the Week

6th January 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - May 2017

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Mariss Jansons conducts Richard Strauss

Mariss Jansons conducts Richard Strauss

The 100th release of BR-KLASSIK Label!


Strauss, R:

Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24


At the age of just fifteen, the budding composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) lost his way during a summer hike on the Heimgarten in the Bavarian Alps, and ended up in a thunderstorm. The next day, he fantasized about the experience on the piano. - Twenty years later, that memory had matured into a concept describing a one-day hike in the form of a symphonic poem, and in 1915 – a further fifteen years later – Strauss finally completed his masterpiece. The hike begins in the darkness before dawn, and after sunrise the ascent goes through a forest, past a stream and a waterfall, through meadows and pastures, and up to a glacier. The hiker then loses his way, and after several risky moments arrives at the summit, where he also experiences a vision. The weather then suddenly worsens, and the descent is accompanied by heavy rain and fierce thunderstorms. The eventful day - summarized in just sixty minutes of music - ends with a sunset, and darkness returns.

"An Alpine Symphony" is probably Strauss' most famous symphonic poem. Its content is easily understandable, and the work became especially well-known for its gigantic orchestra. The music is far from heavy-handed, however, with many of the passages orchestrated like chamber music. Like a kind of greeting from the Bavarian Alps, as it were, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and its chief conductor Mariss Jansons have placed this masterpiece, and the music of Richard Strauss in general, on the programme of their forthcoming tour of Asia in late 2016. The live recording of “Alpine Symphony” concerts planned for October 2016 in Munich’s Philharmonie im Gasteig is enhanced on this latest CD from BR-KLASSIK by the addition of Strauss’ symphonic poem "Death and Transfiguration", first performed in 1890; the recording here is of concerts performed in Munich in February 2014. – We thus have two very recent interpretations of two of this great German composer’s most important tone poems on one CD.

Live-Recording Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig 10.2016 (Alpine Symphony); 02.2014 (Death and Tr.)

“A highly desirable album performed by an orchestra who knows this music so well.” MusicWeb International, 18th January 2017

“The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra bring a burnished, polished sound to every strand of Strauss's kaleidoscopic score, and BR-Klassik's engineering is a marvel of presence, clarity and detail.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

“Jansons holds the tension throughout as part of a sensitive, deeply-thought reading to leave the listener in a reflective mood…the music provides a moving experience.” classicalsource.com, April 2017 *****

“Beauties, thrills (heroic trumpets) and – appropriately – highs abound in Jansons’s unerringly symphonic approach that journeys and paints pictures and does so compellingly” Classical Ear, 11th April 2017 *****

“Live recordings…with character and excitement. The Alpine Symphony storm is impressively gutsy.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 ****

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Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Live-Recording: Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig, 20./21.10.2016


Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony is primarily regarded as the composer’s reaction in the summer of 1908 to the diagnosis of a heart ailment, which he received just before writing the first sketches for the work. Mahler was deeply distraught and cannot have known how few years he still had left to live. His processing and exploration of his life experiences, and of valedictions, the meaning of life, death, salvation, life after death and love, always took place in and through his music. The Ninth Symphony was composed between 1909 and 1910 in Toblach, in a kind of creative frenzy, and was first performed in Vienna on June 26, 1912 by the Vienna Philharmonic, under the baton of Bruno Walter. Mahler had already died on May 18, 1911, and was no longer able to experience the premiere of his last completed work. Willem Mengelberg, the first ardent conductor of the composer’s works, wrote in his score: "Mahler's soul sings its farewell!" Mahler's Ninth Symphony represents the culmination of a development process. The progressive chromaticism and maximum utilization of the tonal are here taken to their limits - and, for the first time, beyond them. Indeed, the two movements that frame the work, in particular, depart from the tonal entirely, pointing clearly to the dawn of a new musical epoch. Alban Berg even called this symphony "the first work of New Music". The Munich concert event of October 2016 is now being released on CD by BR-KLASSIK – it is an outstanding interpretation of one of the most important compositions of the international symphonic repertoire of the early 20th century.

“Mariss Jansons here directs a memorable live account of Mahler 9, drawing stunning playing of considerable intensity from his Bavarian orchestra. Immaculately prepared, as usual, I admire Jansons’ masterly control of tempo, dynamic and scale. Beautifully recorded too at the Philharmonie, Munich” MusicWeb International, March 2017

“Mahler’s Ninth is wonderfully rich in nuance in this recording. The playing of the BR-Orchester under Mariss Jansons is filled with emotion, and yet never threatens to let sentimentality gain the upper hand. This has a great deal to do with the thoroughly musical care taken by Jansons, who is never swept away by the symphony’s programme.” FonoForum, April 2017 *****

“As ever, Mariss Jansons produces an exquisitely moulded performance, with every transition beautifully managed, and every dynamic scrupulously observed. The orchestra plays with refinement.” Daily Telegraph, 25th March 2017 ***

“Mariss Jansons’s Munich Mahler scores highest for warmth, intelligence and emotional centredness.” Classical Ear, 23rd March 2017 ***

“I can’t think of a Ninth with less neurasthenic edge and a more inviting legato character. The playing [is] of predictable finesse…its restrained expressivity and cultured sound provide easeful balm for difficult times” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“What is special is the care [Jansons] the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the engineers have taken with the quieter music: those haunting, shadowy transitions in the Andante; those remote, blanched contrapuntal episodes in the finale. And the final fade-out must surely be among the most fine-spun on record” BBC Music Magazine, June 2017 ****

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Andris Nelsons conducts Dvořák

Andris Nelsons conducts Dvořák


Dvorak:

Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 'From the New World'

Live-Recording, Herkulessaal, October 2010

The Hero's Song, Op. 111

Philharmonie, April 2012


Andris Nelsons is a private student of Mariss Jansons. Andris is one of the most highly regarded young conductors and is under serious consideration as a potential successor to several blue-ribbon chief conductor positions.

This release presents a live recording of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 from the Munich Herkulessaal and Dvořák A Hero’s Song, Op. 111 from the Philharmonie im Gasteig, recorded in 2010 and 2012.

“The Nelsons fire and lustre are on full display in the live recordings on this Dvorák disc with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, a top-class band with a glow of its own...Yet it takes more than immaculate playing to bring a chestnut to life. Here there’s such freshness in Nelsons’ phrasings, such lyrical pungency and dramatic attack, that the piece became blissfully young: a new world indeed.” The Times, 29th March 2013 ****

“Both performances convey a great deal of what is so special about Nelsons as an interpreter, and of the excitement he can generate on the podium. It's quite something to bring such freshness to the New World Symphony, whether it's in the sense of wonder with which he phrases the first movement's second subject, or the edge-of-seat drama he brings to the finale” The Guardian, 4th April 2013 ****

“At every stage in this performance, the listener is compelled to reappraise a familiar masterpiece. All in all, this is a stunning interpretation with constantly rewarding orchestral playing, as well as excellent recorded sound.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2013 *****

“it finds Andris Nelsons drawing the most sumptuously refined, pungently characterful and bracingly alert response from the Bavarian RSO. His is a no-holds-barred conception of powerful expressive scope, intrepid incident and obvious affection...A very strong recommendation.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2013

“it feels as if the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra has established a special rapport with Nelsons. Marshalling his sections with conspicuous assurance Nelsons leads a performance of innate energy and vibrancy. It feels a notch or two above the routine standard of playing that [the New World] often produces.” MusicWeb International, 6th August 2013

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - July 2013

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Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

Live-Recording, Munich, Philharmonie, October 2014


Misha Didyk (Herman), Tatiana Serjan (Lisa), Larissa Diadkova (Countess), Alexey Shishlyaev (Tomskij and Plutus), Alexey Markov (Yeletzki)

Kinderchor der Bayerischen Staatsoper & Chor and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Mariss Jansons

In its history as a concert orchestra, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks has also devoted itself on numerous occasions to opera, under such eminent conductors as Rafael Kubelik and Leonard Bernstein. Chief conductor Mariss Jansons also maintains the tradition, for example with concert performances of Russian operas such as "Eugene Onegin". BR-KLASSIK now presents the 2014 live recording in Munich's Philharmonie im Gasteig of the semi-staged performance of Tchaikovsky's late masterpiece "The Queen of Spades". With great connoisseurship, Mariss Jansons has brought together a group of singers for this performance in original Russian who are all native speakers of the language, and very familiar with the work. They include Misha Didyk as Hermann, Tatiana Serjan as Lisa, and Alexey Markov as Prince Yeletsky.

Booklet: in German & English

Libretto: in German, Russian & English

“Didyk’s voice is not intrinsically beautiful, but its throaty, bottled-up sound suits this dark, brooding role well...His encounter with Diadkova’s Countess in her boudoir...chills the blood. Tatiana Serjan has a big, vibrant soprano and offers a Lisa in the grand Russian style. The supporting parts, including Alexey Shishlyaev’s bluff Tomsky, are all brilliantly taken, but this is Jansons’s set: his conducting is edge-of-the-seat stuff.” Sunday Times, 13th September 2015

“Hearing as refined and lustrous an orchestra as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra play Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score is a treat in itself...[Didyk's] confrontation with Larissa Diadkova’s terrific Countess (beautifully paced and detailed by Jansons), is impressive and never topples over into hysteria.” The Guardian, 10th September 2015 ****

“Serjan is a vibrant, fearless Lisa...Hers is a voice with plenty of ‘blade’ when required, yet she can shade it beautifully...[Didyk] surprises with his baritonal depths here as Herman, as well as a ringing top...Diadkova’s Countess happily relies more on secure vocal technique than scary histrionics and Oksana Volkova is a rich-voiced Polina.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Opera

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - Awards Issue 2015

BBC Music Magazine

Christmas Choice

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2016

Opera Finalist

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Pärt: Live

Pärt: Live


Pärt:

Collage on B-A-C-H

Robert King

Seven Magnificat Antiphons

Peter Dijkstra

Cecilia, vergine romana for mixed choir and orchestra

Ulf Schirmer

Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten

Ulf Schirmer

Litany

Marcello Viotti


Arvo Pärt, who was born in Estonia in 1935, has succeeded in bringing sacred music back to a broader audience, and away from the confines of the church service, more than almost any other contemporary composer. The meditative character of his works, and his return to the simplest and most basic musical forms, convey moments of intense spirituality. Even before his emigration from the Soviet Union to Austria and then to Germany, Pärt had already invented what he termed the tintinnabuli style of composition (from the Latin word for a bell). He produced an early and important example of this style in 1977 with the "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten", scored for string orchestra and bell, and it is also a key feature of the three great choral works that form the greater part of this new BR-KLASSIK CD "Arvo Pärt: Live", namely the "Seven Magnificat Antiphons" for mixed choir a capella, the large-scale oratorio "Cecilia, vergine romana" for mixed choir and orchestra, and the vocal work „Litany – Prayers of St John Chrysostom for Each Hour of the Day and Night” for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra. Also included on this CD is the "Collage on B-A-C-H" for strings, oboe, harpsichord and piano. Composed in 1964, before Pärt's aesthetic reorientation, it is one of his most famous works. Despite its radical reduction of means of expression, Pärt's music demands the greatest care in execution from those performing it – and this has been masterfully realized in the present recording by the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, whose combined and homogenous sound is a direct result of their regular cooperation. Ulf Schirmer, Marcello Viotti und the choir's current artistic director Peter Dijkstra here demonstrate their deep familiarity with the subtle sound-world of Arvo Pärt.These live recordings were made at Munich concerts in July 2000, February and December 2005, and January and October 2011, all of which received public and critical acclaim.

“A highly desirable collection.” MusicWeb International, June 2017

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Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'

Live Recording, Munich, Herkulessaal 26.–27.06.2014


The music of Gustav Mahler, the Late Romantic composer on the threshold of modernity, has been a firm part of the repertoire of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks ever since the early 1960s, when the orchestra's Mahler tradition was established by its former chief conductor Rafael Kubelik. BR-KLASSIK has already released Mahler's First (as part of an audiobook CD) and Seventh Symphonies with Mariss Jansons, as well as the Ninth with Bernard Haitink. The young Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is making his debut here on the BR-KLASSIK label with Mahler's First Symphony. He is one of the most important representatives of a younger generation of conductors and, since his European debut in 2004, has already conducted such renowned orchestras as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic. Yannick Nézet-Séguin is currently chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Booklet contains original symphony programme explanations by Mahler.

“The Bavarians, with their long experience of performing Mahler, deliver superbly precise and expressive playing for their guest conductor…the performance of the finale in particular marries discipline with power and impetus, bringing the symphony to a rousing conclusion…there’s a lot to admire in this new recording” Gramophone Magazine, May 2016

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Duruflé: Requiem & Respighi: Concerto Gregoriano

Duruflé: Requiem & Respighi: Concerto Gregoriano


Duruflé:

Requiem, Op. 9

Okka von der Damerau (mezzo), Ljubomir Puškari (baritone), Max Hanf (cello)

Respighi:

Concerto gregoriano


Henry Raudale (organ)

Munchner Rundfunkorchester, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Ivan Repušić

Ivan Repušić, the new chief conductor of the Munich Rundfunkorchester, devotes his first CD on BR-KLASSIK to works by the composers Maurice Duruflé and Ottorino Respighi, both of whom took a major interest in the melodies and harmonies of Gregorian chant. The French composer Duruflé’s “Requiem" is based on the Gregorian "Missa pro defunctis", the Latin Mass for the Dead, and the Italian Respighi, in his "Concerto Gregoriano", used Gregorian chant as a source of inspiration for the harmonious sound of the concerto and for the song-like treatment he gives to the solo violin. Maurice Duruflé's “Requiem” became especially well-known. Its first performance in 1947 was one of the high points of his career; the work not only helped to establish Duruflé as a successful composer but also brought him fame far beyond the borders of France. This self-contained, homogeneous and contemplative composition is based on themes from the Gregorian Mass for the Dead. In his work, Duruflé succeeded in fusing Gregorian chant, Baroque polyphony and colourful orchestration into a unified whole, and the spiritual, inward-looking character of the chants harmonises most effectively with the composer’s personal style. The impact of Gregorian chant on the composer Ottorino Respighi was “like an addiction”, and it had a vast influence on his work. Elements of it can be heard in almost all the works he composed after 1920. One reason why these puristic melodies, in conjunction with the harmony of the ecclesiastical modes, fascinated him so much was that they represented the greatest possible contrast to the overheated, chromatically refined harmonies of the Verists and the post-Wagnerians. Becoming increasingly atonal was never an option for Respighi; it was in the archaic and austere character of Gregorian chant, and in ancient melodies, that he recognised the greatest innovative potential.

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