At the end of his life, Horowitz had chosen to record for Deutsche Grammophon. The Hamburg label reissues all of its recordings, 6 CDs, commemorating the centenary of the birth of the pianist.
The first new release for ten years from Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado is their first ever album of concertos by Mozart. The legendary pianist and conductor add the sublime music of Mozart to their unrivaled, multi award-winning DG discography of concertos by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Ravel, Prokofiev, Beethoven and Liszt. Both concertos were recorded with Claudio Abbado s Orchestra Mozart, at concert performances at the 2013 Lucerne Festival that had critics searching for new superlatives. The album contrasts two very different works. Written in D minor, the key of the Queen Of the Night and the opening of Mozart s Requiem, the darkly dramatic No.20, K.466 has a stormy, operatic temperament that looks forward eighteen months to the premiere of Don Giovanni. With its majestic and radiant opening and a march famously reminiscent of the Marseillaise, No.25 in C major, K.503 is the culmination of the twelve transcendent concertos Mozart wrote in Vienna between 1784 and 1786. This release is Martha Argerich s first recording of solo concertos by Mozart on Deutsche Grammophon.
Abbado's splendid Petrushka was among the very first CDs to be reviewed in these pages. Robert Layton extended a warm welcome in March 1983. The fact that it appeared with no coupling didn't seem to bother him unduly at the time; I've no doubt that it would today. … The Petrushka is full of sensitive and dramatic detail: I don't know of a more intense account of the poignant scene in Petrushka's tiny backstage cell—all shadow and nervous apprehensiveness. Nor have we seen any more clearly into the elaborate texturing of the outer tableaux (this is the more lavishly scored original version); the tactility of the inner-part writing is constantly arresting. Vividly and imaginatively characterized, these performances are shining examples of Abbado's best work with the LSO. (from the review of the Mussorgsky/Stravinsky reissue DG 423901)
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is best known for the mystical minimalist style he developed in the late 1970s. While pivotal works from this period are included here, this disc's special value is the glimpse it gives of where Pärt was coming from before he simplified his style. His Symphony no. 3 from 1971 contains many premonitions of the austere, quasi-religious music to come: unaccompanied Gregorian chant-like melodies, for example, and the punctuation of bells. But the Symphony also has a wider range of expression, color and dramatic contrasts, sharing a seriousness of purpose with Pärt's later works, but in a manner more akin to Shostakovich.
Bartók's Piano Concertos are among the most difficult ever written; only a piano virtuoso of amazing dexterity, along with a virtuoso orchestra, can play them. Maurizio Pollini is that pianist, and the Chicago Symphony is that orchestra. The pianist's command of the music is consistently impressive, and Claudio Abbado leads the orchestra in extremely close sympathy with the pianist. The result is a set of performances that would be ideal except for two factors. One is that this LP reissue contains only two Concertos, when all three can fit on one CD. The other is that the recording balance so undervalues the orchestra that you can't hear everything. I'd love to hear these artists rerecord the same music with better engineering. –Leslie Gerber
Karl Böhm's Beethoven is, on balance, the best complete cycle available from Deutsche Grammophon. This will come as a surprise to many, given the fact that the label relentlessly promotes performances by Herbert von Karajan (three complete cycles!) and Leonard Bernstein, but for quality of playing, as well as superb sound, these versions are just about unbeatable. And at a "twofer" price, the complete set on three pairs of discs is a terrific value. –David Hurwitz
This is one of the greatest recordings of the famous Ninth Symphony. It has long been overshadowed by Karajan's three recordings for the same label, as well as Bernstein's version with the same orchestra. But put them all on your CD player and compare, and this is the one you'll be coming back to. Böhm was the least glamorous of conductors, but he approaches the Ninth with messianic zeal and a fanatical gleam in his eye. The opening movement is a cataclysm, the sublime slow movement never loses its contemplative flow, and everyone involved simply sings and plays the pants off of the finale. If the final minute or two doesn't pull you right out of your seat, nothing will. Grab it while you can at this "twofer" price. It's a steal. –David Hurwitz
Karl Böhm's Vienna Philharmonic Beethoven cycle is Deutsche Grammophon's best kept secret. Not only is it the finest complete set of Beethoven symphonies in their catalog, it's also far and away the best recorded, and to make matters even more irresistible, it's also the least expensive (it's available on three "twofer" sets). These performances are typical: weighty, intense, powerful, and magnificently played. Listen especially to the (comparatively) neglected Fourth Symphony: if Böhm doesn't convince you that this is major Beethoven, then no one can.
One of the piano's most lyrical contemporary proponents, Murray Perahia was born in New York City. After first sitting down at the piano at the age of four, he entered Mannes College at 17, later graduating with degrees in conducting and composition. At the same time, Perahia spent his summers in Marlboro, Vermont, collaborating with musicians including Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals and the members of the Budapest Quartet; he also studied with Mieczyslaw Horszowski. Upon winning the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972, Perahia gave his first concert at the Aldeburgh Festival a year later, where he met and worked with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, subsequently accompanying the latter in many lieder recitals. Perahia became co-artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1981, a position he held for eight years; his recordings include the complete concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.
Ödön Rácz is a fourth generation contrabassist. Great grandfather and grandfather played in ensembles, his father in an orchestra. The son, born in Budapest in 1981, also chose the same path. He has been a member of Vienna’s State Opera orchestra since 2004 and as such, the successor to his prominent teacher Alois Posch. Rácz studied the orchestral literature with him and Posch is still today his most important role model as an orchestra musician. His idol as a solo musician is also a former Vienna Philharmonic member Ludwig Streicher, whose soloist tracks Rácz follows on this recording. For Streicher, the most prominent contrabassist of his time, the concerti from Vanhal, Dittersdorf and Bottesini were also his declared favourites.