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Beethoven - Symphony No. 4
The concert which Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic gave in London’s Royal Festival Hall on the evening of Saturday 27 April 1985 was their first in England for four years. In May 1981 they had played Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony in the Royal Festival Hall and given an unforgettable concert of music by Bach, Mozart and Richard Strauss in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. London had not been included in the orchestra’s itinerary in its centenary year in 1982 and for much of 1983-84 Karajan and the orchestra had barely been on speaking terms. Since the centenary year had been something of a high water mark in this hitherto sensationally successful 27-year partnership, the breakdown in relations came as something of a shock to the musical world. There were times in 1984 when it looked as if the two parties would go their separate ways; finally, a reconciliation was effected in the late summer of that year ahead of a scheduled tour of Japan and South Korea. The Krach was ostensibly over the appointment of a new clarinettist but there were other factors too, not least Karajan’s advancing years and stirrings among a contingent of mainly younger players keen to assert their independence and exploit the financial strength which the orchestra’s sky-high reputation now conferred on them. Throughout his life, Karajan had been noted for his extraordinary mental and physical prowess. Now in his mid-70s, he was troubled by a painful and ultimately irreversible spinal condition that had nearly cost him his life in the winter of 1975-76. He had soldiered on but even his energies were finite. In April 1985, he had invited Klaus Tennstedt to share the conducting burden at the Salzburg Easter Festival. ‘It was good to have Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, happily reunited after a prolonged disagreement, pay their first visit to the Festival Hall – an event said to have caused prices of black market tickets to reach astronomical heights,’ wrote Peter Stadlen in the Daily Telegraph. The audience was clearly shocked to see how frail Karajan had become as he edged towards the rostrum. (He himself likened his experience of walking unaided in his later years to stepping on sheet ice.) The Times reported a slight stumble in the advance, at which point ‘the applause hiccupped in a breathless unison’. Yet once settled on the podium, Karajan was, as ever, fully in control, master of all he surveyed. Extract from the booklet note © Richard Osborne, 2008
“For anyone lucky enough to have secured a ticket few orchestral concerts have remained so vividly in the memory as the one given by Karajan's incomparable Berlin Philharmonic in London's Royal Festival Hall on April 27, 1985.
The surprises began with the conductor's own physical frailty. Edging unsteadily towards the rostrum and propping himself up against the railing, he adopted the peculiar posture that enabled him to remain upright and in command notwithstanding a debilitating spinal condition.
In truth the Beethoven was and is a gift to his many detractors. With the maestro unwilling or unable to lift his arms, the band turns in its patented imitation of a gramophone record. Surfaces are immaculate but it's like being trapped in a pudding without air in the texture. Phrases, even whole sections glide by with no intake of breath and the first two movements in particular may induce feelings of claustrophobia in younger listeners. They should persevere.
No superlatives can convey the inevitability, conviction and sweep of Karajan's Heldenleben which makes even this notoriously shrill-sounding venue resound in glory. The original BBC sound team of producer Misha Donat and balance engineer John McCulloch capture a paradoxical sonority, rich yet transparent, 'lambent in its beauty, never cloying or opaque' as described by Richard Osborne in his characteristically generous booklet-notes. The battle scene may be slow but was it ever more incisively chronicled? The Strauss at least is indispensable.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Karajan's Beethoven Fourth was recorded when the Berlin Philharmonic came to London in 1985. Its excellent speaks for itself and the coupling is equally memorable.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
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Bizet - L' Arlésienne Orchestral Suites
Marc Minkowski, one of the most outstanding conductors of our time, has joined naïve for a long-term collaboration during which he will be surveying the music of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart, among others. The first in this series of recordings features the works of Georges Bizet performed on instruments of the period. It brings an original approach to the music from two of his masterpieces, L’Arlésienne and Carmen.
In 1872, Bizet composed the incidental music for Daudet’s theatre play L’Arlésienne. Following the huge success of this music, he composed a suite for orchestra based on the best pieces included in the original incidental music. In 1879, four years after Bizet’s death, his friend Guiraud arranged a new orchestral suite, mainly based on Bizet’s music, but also adding new quotes from the incidental music. In 2007 Marc Minkowski selected the best pieces from the original incidental music and conceived his own fascinating suite. The program is completed with the Prelude” and three “Entr’actes” form Carmen.
“To hear Bizet played on period instruments, and in the hands of musicians steeped in the French repertoire, gives special pleasure...Iit is rare to hear the purely orchestral movements of Bizet’s operatic masterpiece delivered with such flair, colour and authentic flavour: Minkowski’s Musiciens give us a truly Mozartian approach, as the composer would have wished, to music all too often overlaid with anachronistic verismo dynamism. In the Girl from Arles music...the delicacy and brilliance of the playing evoke the unique Provençal atmosphere of Daudet’s play as vividly as the Carmen music depicts Spain. Minkowski catches to perfection the swagger and exhilaration of the famous Farandole [in both its settings]” Sunday Times, 25th May 2008 *****
“Minkowski has a ball with these suites, relishing their rich sonorities and glorious melodies, while at the same time investing them with a serious-minded sensitivity. The L’Arlésienne suites have rarely sounded so genuinely moving...The choral singing is splendid and the playing of Les Musiciens du Louvre alternates sparkle with delicacy of colour and feeling, while the recording and sumptuous packaging are first-class. This is now a clear first choice on virtually all counts for those wanting a disc combining music from Carmen and L'Arlésienne.” Gramophone Magazine
“I find it hard to know what to praise most, the vivid, taut rhythms of the various marches and dances… the sensuous orchestral colours of the quieter moments, of the passion that suddenly erupts… in the L'Arlésienne overture.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2008 *****
“Couplings of the Carmen and L'Arlésienne suites have long been a favourite, and Minkowski's new disc has the best of all worlds in demonstrating a Beechamesque flair (the opening cymbal crash of the Carmen Suite is immediately arresting) and in including three suites from L'Arlésienne, their content well thought out and lovingly prepared. They consist of the familiar First Suite (as Bizet designed it), the Second, arranged after the composer's death by Ernest Guiraud, including the borrowed Menuet from La jolie fille de Perth, and a third suite of excerpts from the original score. The collection is a delight, not least because of the beautifully elegant orchestral playing.
Minkowski's choice of tempi and crisp pointing of the woodwind are admirable – in the first Entr'acte from Carmen, for instance, and the Minuet which follows. The Farandole too, is given a splendid lift by Minkowski's virtual double-dotting, while the flute solos in both Carmen and L'Arlésienne all have a delicious delicacy. There is much pleasure too, from the sensitive phrasing and the light and shade of the playing. L'Arlésienne's famous Adagietto is very affecting at the slower pacing, and it touchingly returns before the final reprise of the exuberant Farandole, heard first with men's voices and then full choir in imitation.
” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“The orchestral playing is first-rate in every way, with an especially delicate contribution from the flutes...The Carmen Suite is vivaciously colourful and, throughout, the recording is of demonstration quality.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
BBC Music Magazine
Orchestral Choice - June 2008
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Music for Wind Band
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Beethoven - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
'For me Beethoven is like a god. I worship him, and I admire his music. It always produces very deep emotions in me when I'm conducting it or playing it on the piano.' (Mikhail Pletnev)
“…there were times when I genuinely wondered if even five stars wasn't insulting to playing of such glorious playful penetration. …the next minute Pletnev does something that makes you howl with disbelief.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2007 ***
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Buxtehude - Harpsichord Works 1
Opera Omnia 1
La Capricciosa - 32 Variations on the ‘Bergamasca', BuxWV 250
Suite in C, BuxWV 230
Suite in F, BuxWV 238
Suite in D, BuxWV 233
Courant simble in A minor, BuxWV 245
Suite in E, BuxWV 235
Aria: More Palatino, Variatio 1 – 12, BuxWV 247
Suite in C, BuxWV 228
Gigue Suite in G, BuxWV 242
Suite in C, BuxWV 226
Suite in A, BuxWV 243
Suite in D, BuxWV 234
Suite in D, BuxWV 232
Suite in D [ed. E. Roger, 1710]
Suite in C, BuxWV 231
Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BuxWV163
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J. S. Bach - Cantatas Nos. 170, 82 & 159
“this group of cantatas ought to be in every collection, and the recordings (mid-1960s) are of Decca's best vintage quality.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
“Three magnificent solo cantatas from an equally impressive trio of singers at the height of their powers - Vergnügte Ruh for soprano, Ich habe genug for bass-baritone, and Sehet, wir gehen hinauf for tenor. Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields provide warm accompaniment.” David Smith, Presto Classical
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Recorded at Servatiuskirche auf dem Streichen, Chiemgau
Wen-Sinn Yang (violoncello)
Sound - Wilhelm Meister, Executive Producer - Korbinian Meyer, Directed for TV and Video by Ruth Käch
Recording Date: 2005
Place of recording: From the Servatiuskirche auf dem Streichen, Chiemgau
Running Time: 175 min
Picture Format: 16:9
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Menu Languages NTSC: GB
Subtitle Languages NTSC: F, GB, SP
(also included are two CDs with the complete audio recording of the suites)
“There's real feeling in his music making, a sense of genuine connection with the spirit of the music ... his cello sings with almost human expressiveness” Classics Today
“…the austere visual dimension can have the effect of focusing one's listening, not least as the interior of the 12th-century Servatiuskirche auf dem Streichen at Chemgau makes a fitting backdrop both for the music and for Yang's vision of it. Just as the church manages somehow to be both beautiful and austere, so Yang is unafraid to let fundamental full tone achieve a powerful sonority in places, while at the same time keeping his readings light with some adroitly detailed articulation.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2006
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“A sizzling account of Borodin's Polovtsian Dances is the centrepiece here. Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture is equally electrifying, yet there is tenderness, too, in Musorgsky's Khovanshchina Prelude. Solti fires up vintage LSO/Kingsway Hall performances.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2006 *****
“This arrangement by Rimsky-Korsakov (the serene ending to the piece is nowhere to be found in Mussorgsky's original, and actually uses music from his opera Sorochintsy Fair) is the version [of Night on a Bare Mountain] most familiar to many. Georg Solti conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in a vivid performance full of heaving lower strings and snarling brass.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, September 2014
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