Joseph Suk's Ripening is one of the most amazing of all post-Romantic orchestral works. It is immensely complex in its structure: a celestial introduction is followed by a cogent progress of scherzos and slow movements, of funeral marches and fugues, all concluded by a serene coda. Yet the work is immediately comprehensible as a musical drama, made clear through the coherence of the thematic and harmonic material. Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic perform like modern-day deities. They fall short of the heights of Talich and the Czech Philharmonic, but Talich gave the work its premiere. Nonetheless, Pesek gives Ripening his very considerable all: his concentration holds the gigantic structure together as a single arch. Plus, his players articulate every instrumental detail, right down to the beatific wordless women's choir at the work's close. Highly recommended.
All three of Brahms’ string quartets appear in this 2-CD set, along with his piano quintet, recorded live at the Vienna Konzerthaus, where Elisabeth Leonskaja joined the members of the Alban Berg Quartett. The ensemble’s name honours the continuity and vigour of Vienna’s long musical tradition, which reached one of its Romantic highpoints with these chamber masterworks, composed in the 1860s and 1870s.
EMI Classics pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and Virgin Classics' string quartet, the Artemis, have joined their formidable musical forces to record two of the most beautiful piano quintets of the Romantic chamber music repertoire. Their collaboration makes for what will certainly be considered a landmark recording, bringing a new vigour to these well-known masterpieces. The programme couples 2 major piano quintets by Brahms and Schumann. Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor Op.34 is the composer's only piano quintet and is considered one of his finest compositions. The work began life as a string quintet, later evolving into a sonata for two pianos, before taking its final form in 1866. Of Schumann's Piano Quintet in E Op 44, Clara Schumann, who premiered it said: "A glorious piece, extremely brilliant and effective. Schumann's sole composition for piano quintet was composed in 1842, a year practically devoted to the composition of chamber works for piano and strings.
From the notes: The two pianists featured in the Flonzaley recordings of piano quintets were amongst the most interesting artists of their time. Both were longtime associates of the quartet, both on and off stage, as well as friends of each other (together they formed a celebrated two-piano team). Harold Bauer [born London, 28 April 1873; died Miami, 12 March 1951) was virtually self-taught as a pianist In his delightful memoirs he wrote of his earliest musical sensations which included a one-man band: "That, to me, was real magic; and I longed unspeakably to grow up and conquer my fear of the sounds, so that I could wield the power they possessed …." It was the opening of Brahms' piano quintet. … [i]Ossip Gabrilowitsch (born St. Petersburg, 7 February 1978; died Detroit, 14 September 1936) was a more orthodox pianist, the supreme keyboard poet of histime. He studied with Anton Rubinstein but also took compositions and theory courses from Navratil, Liadov and Glazunov at the Conservatory in his home city. After winning the Rubinstein Prize in 1894 he had further studies with Leschtizky in Vienna and made his début in Berlin in 1896. He was also a skilled conductor. He was the 'perfect fifth' for the Schumann Piano Quintet, a work which brought out his best qualities. This performance is the secondof two recordings he made with the Flonzaleys… written by Tully Potter
The steady increase in recordings of his music has now established Suk as one of the great musical poets of the early 20th century. Too much is made of his affinities with his teacher and father-in-law, Dvorák; for his own part, Dvorák never imposed his personality on his pupils and Suk's mature music owes him little more than a respect for craft and an extraordinarily well developed ear for orchestral colour. His affinities in the five-movement A Summer's Tale, completed in 1909 – a magnificent successor to his profound Asrael Symphony – reflect Debussy and parallel the music of his friend Sibelius and Holst, but underpinning the musical language is a profound originality energising both form and timbre.
Mackerras's recording joins a select band: Šejna's vintage performance on Supraphon and Pešek's inspired rendition with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; his is an equal to them both and the Czech Philharmonic's playing is both aspiring and inspiring.