Barenboim is an excellent Wagner conductor, and it's a pity his ongoing series of Wagner operas is often forced to make do with less than splendid voices. All the more reason, then, to enjoy this excellent disc of overtures and preludes, all of which are played to the hilt by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and recorded in sound of superb amplitude.
On one end of the continuum, there is Dvorák's Concerto in B minor for cello and orchestra, a composition that is among the composer's best known and has become a cornerstone of the instrument's repertoire. On the other end, the Piano Concerto in G minor, a work that had difficulty garnering acceptance even during the composer's lifetime and is still looked upon with less favor than other concertos written in the same period.
Pairing evergreen works by Dvorak and Mussorgsky, this superb video from Belvedere featuring the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the incomparable Mariss Jansons is a musical feast. Ever since its world premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall on December 15, 1893, Dvorak's American-flavored Symphony No.9 has been a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire. Similarly, thanks to Ravel's superb orchestration, Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is a perennial audience favorite.
Otto Klemperer was born on 14th May 1885 in Breslau, Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland) and died on 6th July 1973 in Zurich and hence next year we mark 40 years since his passing. Although disfigured by a stroke suffered whilst a brain tumour was being removed he became a world-renowned conductor whose recordings became and remain touchstones for the EMI catalogue.
Few other composers’ music enjoys such enormous popularity and is as frequently performed on stages worldwide and recorded as that of Antonín Dvořák. And it is the symphonic works that are connected with his name most often.
Karl Böhm's Beethoven is, on balance, the best complete cycle available from Deutsche Grammophon. This will come as a surprise to many, given the fact that the label relentlessly promotes performances by Herbert von Karajan (three complete cycles!) and Leonard Bernstein, but for quality of playing, as well as superb sound, these versions are just about unbeatable. And at a "twofer" price, the complete set on three pairs of discs is a terrific value. –David Hurwitz
This is one of the greatest recordings of the famous Ninth Symphony. It has long been overshadowed by Karajan's three recordings for the same label, as well as Bernstein's version with the same orchestra. But put them all on your CD player and compare, and this is the one you'll be coming back to. Böhm was the least glamorous of conductors, but he approaches the Ninth with messianic zeal and a fanatical gleam in his eye. The opening movement is a cataclysm, the sublime slow movement never loses its contemplative flow, and everyone involved simply sings and plays the pants off of the finale. If the final minute or two doesn't pull you right out of your seat, nothing will. Grab it while you can at this "twofer" price. It's a steal. –David Hurwitz
Before his emergence as one of the greatest musical figures of the 19th century, Richard Wagner wrote a series of overtures that chart his early compositional development. The two high-octane Concert Overtures reflect his Beethovenian and Classical lineage, whereas the overture to the historical tragedy König Enzio reveals a greater sense of melancholy and nobility. Heroism is the key to his first opera, Die Feen, while his second, Das Liebesverbot, is saturated in beguiling Mediterranean colour. Siegfried Idyll, a surprise birthday gift for his second wife, Cosima, is a tender and intimate celebration of scenes of family life.