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Schoenberg: Gurrelieder and Verklarte Nacht
Recent releases of broadcast performances by the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski on the Guild Historical have proved enormously successful and have received glowing praise from the critics worldwide. In this remarkable double-album we bring together two of Stokowski's momentous performances - one live, one studio - of the music of Arnold Schoenberg. It is a little-known fact that Stokowski was the only conductor to perform all of Schoenberg's orchestral music during the composer's lifetime, and he conducted the world premieres of two of the composer's greatest works - the Violin Concerto and the Piano Concerto. In 1961, he led a truly overwhelming account of Schoenberg's great 'Gurrelieder', of which Stokowski had given the US premiere in 1932; nine years before, he made this fabled recording of 'Verklaerte Nacht' with a hand-picked orchestra. The result is an issue of the highest importance, and the booklet notes are by Stokowski himself.
“McCracken enters strongly into the role...he always sings very expressively, with excellent enunciation, and he has the necessary power and even harshness for his contributions...[Rankin] is a magnificent Wood Dove, plangent and authoritative, with sombre vocal colouring. In smaller role Forbes Robinson, then in his prime, gives a dramatic vignette as the Peasant; John Lanigan is a memorably bitter Klaus-Narr.” International Record Review, June 2012
“It is a pleasure to hear Gré Brouwenstijn in such thrilling, confident voice as Tove. The chorus is magnificent but often occluded in a mush of sound. Insofar as we can hear it, it is clear that Stokowski brings this mighty, majestic work to a rousing close.” MusicWeb International, June 2012
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2013 marks the centenary of the first performance of Schoenberg’s – if not the early 20th century’s – essay in gargantuism. The forces involved were unprecedented: in addition to the soloists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, two tenors, bass and speaker) there were three male-voice choirs and an eight-part mixed choir; and the 150-piece orchestra included 25 woodwind, 11 percussion, 4 harps and 80 strings. In 1903 he had even been compelled to ask the Waldheim–Eberle Press to prepare him some special 48-stave manuscript paper. The reception at the first performance was overwhelming: the ovation lasted fifteen minutes; the composer’s denigrators were silenced, and many members of the audience wept. The title means 'Songs of Gurre', referring to Gurre Castle in Denmark, scene of the medieval love-tragedy revolving around the Danish national legend of the love of the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag (spelt Waldemar by Schoenberg) for his mistress Tove, and her subsequent murder by Valdemar's jealous Queen Helvig.
Its performances and recordings have attracted some of the world’s finest dramatic sopranos – among them Susan Dunn and Jessye Norman, and here, Sharon Sweet. In a survey of this work, Gramophone magazine selected this, Claudio Abbado’s recording as the finest ever made. It was, then, only available for digital download, and is now, after an absence of several years, returns to the CD catalogue in a year which also celebrates Abbado’s 80th birthday.
“… Abbado's interpretation, is the most Expressionistically detailed of all. The textures shimmer and then glint to reveal Schoenberg's' own sea-change in orchestral writing over a decade … Abbado and the Viennese live dangerously – and when day breaks and that prickly cactus Schoenberg finally blooms, they are unrivalled in splendour.” Peter Quantrill, Gramophone Magazine
Scheduled for release on 15 July 2013. Order it now and we will deliver it as soon as it is available.
Schoenberg: Gurrelieder & Verklärte Nacht
"In another show stopping event, Zubin Mehta gave an incandescent rendering of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with the IPO. In addition to his prowess as an operatic conductor, Mehta excels in the repertoire of Mahler, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. He clearly feels a great affinity for Gurrelieder, which he has conducted previously with the IPO and, as I recollect, it was the last work he conducted as he concluded his 13 year tenure with the New York Philharmonic". Dr. Irving Spitz
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Live Recording: 60th anniversary-concert of the Symhonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, 22./23.09.2009, Munich Philharmonie
Schönberg's mammoth opus concurrently proved his greatest public success – the Gurrelieder, premièred in 1913. No less than 150 orchestra musicians, five vocal soloists as well as three great German radio choruses populated the stage of the Munich Philharmonie in the Gasteig in October of 2009. The performance, marking the Symphonieorchester's 60th anniversary and led by Chief Conductor Mariss Jansons, was grandiose, the audience and press response – appropriately exuberant. To this day, the late romantic sound images, which seem not to fit in with the hackneyed cliché of twelve tone composer Schönberg (he first began concerning himself with this technique much later), directly stir every listener, and anyone who loves Strauss and Mahler should definitely not miss out on the Gurrelieder.
Documentation of a concert marking the 60th anniversary of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
Only available DVD of the Gurrelieder.
Including bonus material (introduction to the work, interviews).
Outstanding soloists: Deborah Voigt, Mihoko Fujimura, Stig Andersen, Herwig Pecoraro and Michael Volle.
2.0 PCM Stereo
5.0 DTS Surround
Region Code 0
Booklet: German, English including the libretto
“The core of this superbly well-balanced reading is as passionately dramatic an account of the 'Song of the Wood Dove' as you could hope to hear, with mezzo Mihoko Fujimura marvellously incisive and engaging...Brian Large's cast experience with tele-filming concerts pays off in that viewers should never feel nudged into noticing things which might better pass them by. At the same time, we're given vivid evidence of the large forces involved” Gramophone Magazine, July 2011
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Recorded as part of the orchestra's ongoing 'Vienna - City of Dreams' concert programme, the latest release in Signum Records' ongoing series with the Philharmonia Orchestra is Schoenberg's choral and symphonic masterpiece Gurrelieder, performed live with Philharmonia Voices, City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and other star soloists, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen. September 21st is the release date for this SACD/CD hybrid recording which is a double disc release in surround sound and stereo. A few weeks later, ‘City of Dreams’ comes to an end when Salonen conducts Berg's opera Wozzeck, also at the Royal Festival Hall. Epic, opulent and often challenging, Gurrelieder made a decisive opening statement for ‘Vienna: City of Dreams’. Written between 1901 and 1911 it progresses from swooning post-Tristan Romanticism to stark, violent Expressionism, and even introduces Schoenberg's revolutionary Sprechgesang. As The Independent said in its review: "In a little under two hours, the 19th century ended and the 20th began … should City of Dreams continue in this fashion, it will be unmissable." Future plans for Philharmonia/Signum releases conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen include: Mahler's 6th and 9th symphonies, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Stravinsky's Firebird and Janácek's Sinfonietta.
"How fitting that the opening concert of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Philharmonia series City of Dreams: Vienna 1900-1935 should conclude with the mightiest wake-up call in all music … Schoenberg's scoring at its most fantastical - was despatched with great virtuosity." The Independent 4 Stars
"Vienna - City of Dreams… looks set to be one of the musical highlights of 2009 if Esa-Pekka Salonen's sensational account of Schoenberg's seminal Gurrelieder at the Festival Hall last weekend proves typical. … It was a brilliant, bold and generous masterstroke to open the festivities with Schoenberg's song-symphonic epic… Salonen charts Schoenberg's journey with an unerring command of his vast forces" The Sunday Times
“…exciting, lucid, wonderfully well-proportioned, and recorded in stunning sound the final hymn to the rising sun would lift the most morbidly lethargist out of their chair.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2009
“The Signum engineers have performed miracles to match and convey those of Schoenberg's prodigious orchestration. The 90 male voices divided by 16 parts in the Wild Hunt is around a third the number that Schoenberg had in mind but they are a convincingly rowdier bunch than Ozawa's Tanglewood Festival Chorus at almost the same hectic stampede... Nor need the Philharmonia fear competition: they play superbly...” Gramophone Magazine, March 2010
“Sometimes less is not more. More is exhilarating. ... the music-making was superb ... And what terrific soloists!” The Times
“The opening songs have a featherweight transparency, the interludes a natural fluency … and the choral climax transmits a properly ecstatic, pantheistic glow” Financial Times
“Salonen cracks into Schoenberg’s stacked layers of activity and strikingly schizophrenic mood shifts, revealing clarity and sonic grandeur. His soloists are top-notch too. Essential listening.” Classic FM Magazine
“This is a voluptuous, feverish and thrilling performance, characterised also by the clarity of vision and texture that have always been Salonen’s hallmarks.” Sunday Times ****
“The narrator... is the great German actor Barbara Sukowa, and as a consequence, the climactic Wild Hunt of the Summer Wind is about as heart-rending as it can possibly get.” The Guardian, 9th October 2009 ****
“Dramatically realised here by the Philharmonia under Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gurrelieder is a fascinating work which illuminates the development of Schoenberg's compositional style.” The Independent, 25th September 2009 ****
“...you can hear why it was critically acclaimed for the quality of the soloists, the impact of the choruses, and above all the playing of the Philharmonia – from transparent impressionistic textures to vast, bone-crunching climaxes. It’s an exhilarating journey from illicit love to redemption, and the sense of live adrenaline only increases the impact of Schöenberg’s score.” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 18th December 2009
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“This 'Gurrelieder is grand opera. It might even be thought of as "modern Wagner" and, in fact, sounds more Wagnerian in terms of sound, styling, and phrasing than any reading I've heard. It is a performance of passion, intensity, and seething drama, with electricity surging through every fiber... Much of the success of this recording comes from the spectacular sound, whose presence, clarity and power, especially in the lower reaches of the orchestra, are exactly what this complex work needs” American Record Guide
“Gielen's conducting never sits back...he has real choral weight and a closely observed Fool (Gerhard Siegel, a true Mime) to lend distinction” Gramophone Magazine, March 2010
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Ethel Semser (Tove), Nell Tangemann (Waldtaube), Richard Lewis (Waldemar), John Riley (Bauer), Ferry Gruber (Klaus), Morris Gesell (Sprecher)
Choeur et Orchestre de Nouvelle Association, Rene Leibowitz
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“On the evidence of this superb performance we've quite clearly been underestimating Robert Craft. Precision and finely moulded detail are evident throughout, at least as clearly as in Chailly's and Rattle's accounts, but in Craft's case one is no less often aware of sumptuous richness, passionate eloquence and satisfying orchestral weight. He's also more prepared than rivals to adopt broad tempos and expressive rubato. Despite a few tiny reservations it a more thrilling account than either of the rivals mentioned above, and carries something of the excitement of a live performance.
Stephen O'Mara has the sort of voice you associate with Wagner's Siegmund, but with a fine sense of line and sufficient variety of dynamic to open out stirringly at climaxes. There have been more expressive Toves than Melanie Diener, but not many who are so firm-voiced and steady.
Jennifer Lane is an excellent Wood Dove, dramatic and expressive, David Wilson-Johnson a grippingly vehement Peasant, while anyone who thinks of Martyn Hill as a typically understating English tenor will be astonished by his Klaus- Narr, which is vividly acted and firm of voice. In his 83rd year Ernst Haefliger is an extraordinarily lively, urgent Speaker. The chorus are inspiritingly full-voiced, singing out like heroes.
Yet most of the memorable moments of this performance are Craft's and the Philharmonia's: the wonderfully glittering chamber textures of the penultimate scene, the passion and savagery of the orchestral interlude that heralds the death of Tove, the tumultuous power of the 'wild hunt'. Gurrelieder has been exceptionally fortunate on disc in recent years, but this recording (whose sound is often magnificently full and spacious) need fear none of its rivals.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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“This vast cantata, a direct descendant of Wagnerian music-drama, was for the turn-of-the- century musical scene the ultimate gorgeous sunset. Schoenberg's forces are, to put it mildly, extravagant. As well as the six soloists and two choruses, the orchestra sports such luxuries as four piccolos, ten horns and a percussion battery that includes iron chains; and so complex are some of the textures that, to achieve a satisfactory balance, a near miracle is required of conductor and recording engineers. Decca has never been mean with miracles where largescale forces are concerned and this set is no exception.
Chailly gives us a superbly theatrical presentation of the score. The casting of the soloists is near ideal. Susan Dunn's Tove has youth, freshness and purity on her side. So exquisitely does she float her lines that you readily sympathise with King Waldemar's rage at her demise. Siegfried Jerusalem has the occasional rough moment, but few previous Waldemars on disc have possessed his heroic ringing tones and range of expression. And Decca makes sure that its trump card, the inimitable Hans Hotter as the speaker in 'The wild hunt of the summer wind', is so tangibly projected that we miss not one vowel or consonant of his increasing animation and excitement at that final approaching sunrise.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Brigitte Fassbaender reigns supreme [as Waldtaube]...Susan Dunn is a vivdly drawn Tove...Best of all, there's finally a Waldemar who measures up to his part: Siegfried Jerusalem, who can sing the role as well as the notes.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2010
“Sigefried Jerusalem as Waldemar is not only warm and firm of tone, but imaginative too. Susan Dunn makes a sweet, touchingly vulnerable Tove, while Brigitte Fassbaender gives darkly baleful intensity to the message of the Wood-dove. Hans Hotter is a characterful speaker” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
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Gesell (Morris), Gruber (Ferry), Lewis (Richard), Riley (John), Semser (Ethel), Tangemann (Nell)
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