This 6CD set contains 100 tracks from the catalogues of EMI Records, EMI Classics and Virgin Classics of recordings by the London Symphony Orchestra under some of the world’s greatest conductors and with a number of famous soloists.
Elgar’s Violin Concerto has a certain mystique about it independent of the knee-jerk obeisance it has received in the British press. It probably is the longest and most difficult of all Romantic violin concertos, requiring not just great technical facility but great concentration from the soloist and a real partnership of equals with the orchestra. And like all of Elgar’s large orchestral works, it is extremely episodic in construction and liable to fall apart if not handled with a compelling sense of the long line. In reviewing the score while listening to this excellent performance, I was struck by just how fussy Elgar’s indications often are: the constant accelerandos and ritards, and the minute (and impractical) dynamic indications that ask more questions than they sometimes answer. No version, least of all the composer’s own, even attempts to realize them all: it would be impossible without italicizing and sectionalizing the work to death.
The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), founded in 1904, is the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. It was set up by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra because of a new rule requiring players to give the orchestra their exclusive services. The LSO itself later introduced a similar rule for its members. From the outset, the LSO was organised on co-operative lines, with all players sharing the profits at the end of each season. This practice continued for the orchestra's first four decades.
As a composer of orchestral music, Alexander Scriabin is best known for his last two idiosyncratic symphonies, the Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, which are essentially symphonic poems, not symphonies in the conventional sense. The Symphony No. 1 (1900) and the Symphony No. 2 (1901), however, are more recognizable as symphonies in their multiple-movement forms, and their durations are comparable to the expansive symphonies of Scriabin's contemporary, Gustav Mahler. They also share the post-Romantic tendency toward Wagnerian harmonies, rhapsodic melodies, and lush orchestration, which, in Scriabin's case, were developed to express heightened emotional states and mystical transcendence. This 2016 double SACD by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra presents each of the symphonies on its own disc, and the high-quality multichannel sound is ideal for bringing across the subtle nuances of tone color and the shifting of dynamics that are characteristic of his style.]
Joseph Haydn, often referred to as 'The Father of the Symphony', has an enormous 109 of these works to his name. Within his vast oeuvre of symphonies is a group of 12, written between 1781 and 1795, which are known as the 'London' symphonies, composed during or for his two visits to the English capital. Brimming with inspiration and character, the 'London' symphonies contain many of the legendary moments of Haydn's works, including the drumroll opening of No.103, the ticking of the clock in the Andante of No.101, the jubilant sound of the triangle in the finale of the 'Military', and that arresting interjection of the timpani in the 'Surprise'. This collection brings together these wonderful works, each of which contributed to Haydn's crafting of the symphonic form that would later be taken up by none other than his pupil and friend, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra was formed by Adam Fischer in 1987 with the express purpose of performing the works of the revered composer.
London Baroque offers another installment in its ongoing European Trio Sonata series, this time devoted to 18th-century Italy; as with the ensemble’s previous efforts the program features generally excellent performances of lesser-known repertoire. Ten years ago I reviewed a similar 18th-century Italian program by this same group titled “Stravaganze Napoletane”, also on BIS, and was generally impressed with the performances–except for one piece: Domenico Gallo’s Sonata No. 1 in G major.
This set of Annie Fischer’s complete EMI recordings represent her during a particular decade, when she had made her European reputation. These recordings helped spread that reputation and increased her prominence among pianists. As studio recordings, they form an unusual part of Fischer’s legacy – during most of her time as a performer, she avoided recording studios as she did not believe in playing in a studio without the presence of an audience. She shared this view with her eminent colleague Sviatoslav Richter, who said of her, ‘Annie Fischer is a great artist, imbued with a spirit of greatness and genuine profundity.
Regular performances in some of the world's most prestigious venues have confirmed Florilegium's status as one of Britain's most outstanding period instrument ensembles. Florilegium has established a reputation for stylish and exciting interpretations of music from the Baroque era to the early Romantic revolution and since its formation, Florilegium's performances have received outstanding critical acclaim around the world.