This 53-CD set is more than the sum of its parts. While not all the performances and recordings are top-notch, the overall quality is very high and as a historical overview of a label known for its sonic as well as musical merits, it's full of treasures. The Mercury sound at its best is vivid and still sounds remarkable and many of these recordings - such as the marches, show tunes and orchestral showpieces conducted by Frederic Fennell - demonstrate this amply. But it's not all lollipops by any means.
This 50-CD collection of analogue albums aims to represent the heyday of Philips’ passion for great natural sound – the Stereo Years. There was a firm belief within the label’s team that recording technique was there to serve the music - the Musicians had their own views about how any given piece should be interpreted and how it should sound; the recording team’s job was to grasp that vision and make it a reality. This recording philosophy, combined with great artistry and visionary repertoire policy, created a special chapter in the history of classical music recordings that still inspires artists, sound engineers and collectors alike.
This wide-ranging collection provides an overview of Carlo Maria Giulini's collaborations with London s most distinguished orchestras, including his beloved Philharmonia Orchestra. Released in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the conductor's birth in 2014, this 17-disc set showcases the sheer quality and breadth of Giulini's recorded legacy, and includes reverential and deeply-felt readings of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann; thrilling performances of overtures by Verdi and Rossini; and vivid and colorful Debussy, Ravel, Falla and Stravinsky, all led with the utmost flair and commitment.
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.
Josef Myslivecek dropped out of university at the age of sixteen, and along with his twin brother became an apprentice to the family millers’ business. In 1758 both became journeymen, and in 1761, master millers. It was soon after this that Myslivecek decided to devote himself to music. He studied organ and composition and in 1763 left Prague for Venice where he studied operatic composition. He immediately became known as ‘Il Boemo’ (The Bohemian) because his name was impossible for the Italians to pronounce. Myslivecek’s first opera was staged in 1766 and a further opera was produced a year later for the birthday of the King of Naples, but despite this early success and the enormity of his output (which included concertos, a quantity of chamber music, some forty-five symphonies, oratorios and nearly thirty operas), Myslivecek died in abject poverty, in Rome, at the age of fifty-four.
The London symphonies, sometimes called the Salomon symphonies after the man who introduced London to Joseph Haydn, were composed by Joseph Haydn between 1791 and 1795. They can be categorized into two groups: Symphonies No.93 through 98, which were composed during Haydn's first visit to London, and Symphonies No.99 through 104, composed in Vienna and London for Haydn's second London visit.
The popular and critically admired Chandos recordings of John Field’s expressive cycle of Piano Concertos are brought together for the first time as a limited edition 4-CD set and released at the price of only 2 CDs. A major forerunner of the Romantic school of pianism that culminated in Chopin, Dublin-born pianist and composer John Field had scarcely received his due until Chandos released the performances of the Piano Concertos by fellow countryman, Miceal O’Rourke.
Denys Darlow conducts a fresh stylish performance with his London Handel Festival forces, recorded live at the Royal College of Music. Textures are clean and rhythms light and resilient, with James Bowman in the title-role leading a consistently reliable team. (Penguin Guide)
Despite no doubt dedicated performances, this recording of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto, Sonatina, and Toccata are distinctly disappointing. Part of the responsibility for this is pianist Alberto Portugheis, who plays with plenty of panache but not enough power and nowhere near enough precision. Part of the responsibility is conductor Loris Tjeknavorian, who leads the London Symphony Orchestra in a tepid accompaniment to the Piano Concerto with especially grave ensemble and intonation problems in the slow movement. Part of the responsibility is AVS, which gives Portugheis, Tjeknavorian, and the LSO distant and dismal recorded sound. But most of the responsibility is the incontrovertible fact that William Kapell recorded the Khachaturian Piano Concerto at the height of his powers and, after that awesome achievement, any merely dedicated performance cannot help but sound distinctly disappointing.