One hates to admit it, but at this point in his career, pianist Maurizio Pollini is no longer a Mozart player. Although a supreme virtuoso, a passionate intellectual, and a consummate artist, Pollini has grown too brilliant, too intense, and too calculating for Mozart. Pollini's tone is crystalline, his textures are transparent and his tempos are perfect in this breathtaking 2005 recording of the G major and C major piano concertos, but it all seems too cold and too objective. Although he is also directing the Wiener Philharmoniker from the piano, this doesn't seem to encumber Pollini's virtuosity in any way; indeed, he appears to enjoy the challenge, audibly coaxing more force from the musicians' playing.
Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major for violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon, Hob. 1/105, is among his most recorded works, and among his most utterly joyful. But it has rarely reached the heights of ebullience achieved in this historical-instrument reading by the small British ensemble Arcangelo and its conductor, Jonathan Cohen. The list of things to be enthusiastic about is long, but it begins with the differentiation of the instruments in the solo passages, with the period oboe and bassoon of Alfredo Bernardini and Peter Whelan, respectively, having the depth of texture to stand up to the brilliant Stradivarius violin and Guarneri cello of Ilya Gringolts (a renowned soloist in his own right) and Nicolas Altstaedt.
The title of this exceptional disc, “Night Music”, should not be taken to mean that the performances are in any way dark, mysterious, droopy, sluggish, or otherwise conventionally “nocturnal”. Rather, the term evokes its 18th century musical meaning: a time for fun, relaxation, parties, entertainment both indoors and out, and of course, romance. Indeed, “Romantic” is perhaps the best way to describe these virtuosic, impulsive, and extravagantly expressive performances by the inimitable Andrew Manze and his team of crack “authentic-instrument” players.
Mozart's comic opera tells the story of Belmonte, a Spanish Nobleman, who arrives at a Turkish palace in search of his beloved Konstanze who has become part of Pasha Selim's harem. Together Belmonte and Konstanze plan her escape. Filmed at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1988, Georg Solti conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House. Deon van der Walt and Inga Nielsen star. “Solti's effervescence and warmth inspire a splendid cast, especially Nielsen's unusually desperate, passionate Constanze and antagonists Moll and Watson. Richly comic and brilliant sung.” - BBC Music Magazine
The 'Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major, K 364/320D' is one of those refined works that is so well written that it exudes genius. Composed for violin, viola, and orchestra the work is a conversation with the two instruments with a beautifully woven tapestry of comment for the orchestra. Violinist Midori and violist Nobuko Imai are not only well paired in technique and virtuosity, they find a compatibility of discourse that is refreshingly fine. Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester with grace and sensitive collaboration. The work is a complete success. The Philip Wilby reconstruction of the accompanying concerto for violin and piano is a fine little piece, if not in the same realm as the Sinfonia Concertante. The performance of this uneven work makes up for the inconsistencies that arise when sonatas are adapted for orchestra. Midori again focuses on her pliant, clear technique and is matched by Christoph Eschenbach's piano role as well as his conducting. It is a minor work played in a major manner.
Rafael Kubelik was one of the 20th century's most brilliant and charismatic conductors, yet under-appreciated because of his reluctance to embrace the "star" system. Here he is seen working with the great orchestras of Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam, and featured in a bonus biographical documentary acclaimed for "stylish camera-work and a counterpoint of image, word and music reflecting Kubelik's spontaneity, exuberance, trust in emotion, and ability, even in tailcoat, to retain his warmth and humanity" (Süddeutsche Zeitung).