What kind of music could be better suited for the Berliner Philharmoniker’s legendary annual Waldbühne concert than Czech music? It’s always passionate and full of verve and sure to lift everyone’s spirits. Only very rarely does a young talent ascend to ‘world stardom’, but one of the few who can be considered an international superstar while still belonging to the new generation of conductors is Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He presents the much-loved Vlatava (Moldau) as well as Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony and Violin Concerto with the wonderful Lisa Batiashvili on the violin.
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.
This fine recording of Dvorák's Cello Concerto by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey with Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is as generous, honest, and compelling as the music itself. Wispelwey has a rich, ringing tone that can ride over orchestral tutti fortes yet still sound fully present in intimate pianissimos. He also has an elegant technique that can accomplish anything the work asks without calling undue attention to itself. These qualities allow him to lean into the work's powerful drama and aching lyricism without dividing his attention. The commanding Fischer leads the rich-toned Budapest Festival Orchestra in an accompaniment as musically interesting and dramatically significant as the solo part.
One of the most acclaimed musicians of his era, Toscanini was a conductor of the "old school" - aristocratic, perfectionistic and something of an autocrat on the podium. After a brief flurry of interest in Fascism in the 1910s, he rapidly became disillusioned with the movement and indeed became a personal rival of Mussolini, repeatedly antagonising him through acts of artistic defiance such as refusals to open concerts with the Fascist anthem Giovinezza.
Eventually he fled Italy for the United States, becoming the first conductor of the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he pioneered radio broadcasts and recordings that made him a household name in America until his retirement at the age of 87. He gave the premiere performances of several major works, including Barber's Adagio for Strings and the American premiere of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony.
Klaatu gained international attention by remaining hidden for two albums, the first of which was rumoured to be a hidden Beatles reunion album. Their first album 3:47 EST indeed was superb enough to qualify as a Beatles album, with some very skilful songwriting, excellent production and splendid execution. One could fault their inspiration, since they are definitely Beatles-esque, but they manage this better than any other group ever had or has since this album. By the time their stunning follow-up album Hope was released, it was clear they were not the Beatles, but nevertheless the songwriting, execution and inspiration remained flawless…