There are many apocryphal stories in the classical-music world, but the one in which Frederick the Great challenged Bach to improvise a six-part fugue on a theme of the king's own invention is true, and The Musical Offering was, after a period of further reflection, the result. As with all the works of Bach's later years, the work is both great art and a "teaching piece," which shows everything that he thought could be done with the king's theme. The Trio Sonata based on the theme is the only major piece of chamber music from Bach's last decades in Leipzig, and that makes the work and essential cornerstone of any Bach collection. This performance, led by Neville Marriner, is both polished and lively, and very well recorded. At a "twofer" price, coupled with The Art of Fugue, it's the preferred version of the work on modern instruments.
Cherubini’s major sacred works are generally quite marvelous. The two Requiems have a distinguished history on disc. Toscanini recorded the C minor, Markevitch the D minor, and my colleague David Vernier praised the recent release of the C minor piece on Carus. They are both truly excellent: grave and austere, but also dynamic, moving, and well worth hearing. The same is certainly true of the large-scale Masses: the Missa solemnis in D minor and E major and the Mass in F are especially memorable. Their grandeur never strains for effect and is always leavened with the composer’s Italian lyricism. Cherubini may not have been well-treated by history, but he knew what he was doing.
An acclaimed Italian guitar virtuoso and composer, Mauro Giuliani, along with Fernando Sor, was one of the last great classical proponents of his instrument until its revival in the early twentieth century. He studied counterpoint and the cello, but on the six-string guitar he was entirely self-taught, and that became his principal instrument early on. Italy abounded with fine guitarists at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Carulli remains the most familiar today), but few of them could make a living because of the public's preoccupation with opera. So Giuliani embarked on a successful tour of Europe when he was 19, and in 1806 he settled in Vienna, where he entered the musical circle of Diabelli, Moscheles, and Hummel. He solidified his reputation with the 1808 premiere of his Guitar Concerto in A major, Op. 30, and was soon heralded as the greatest living guitar virtuoso. Even Beethoven noticed Giuliani, and wrote of his admiration for him. Perhaps to return the favor, Giuliani played cello in the 1813 premiere of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
Set in classical antiquily, Mozart’s "Il re pastore" tells of the thwarted love of Aminta (the innocent ‘shepherd king’ of the title) for the well-born Elisa, and that of the nobleman Agenore for the deposed tyrant’s daughter Tamiri. No less a figure than Alexander the Great resolves these conflicts of private passion and public status. First performed in Salzburg in 1775, Sir Neville Marriner conducts a top international cast in this 1989 production of the opera from Salzburg’s Landestheater.
Chandos Records is delighted to present this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the enduringly popular song cycle Sea Pictures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, a peerless Elgarian who this year was awarded the prestigious Elgar Society Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the composer’s music. In Gerontius the soloists are Stuart Skelton, David Soar and Sarah Connolly, who also sings in Sea Pictures. This recording was made in the days leading up to their triumphant live performance of Gerontius in April of this year in which Skelton was praised as ‘the ideal tenor for the role of Gerontius’, Soar described as ‘an implacable, dark sounding Priest’ and Connolly, ‘a consummately polished Angel’ (The Guardian).