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.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra join forces once again in the latest instalment of their exploration of Mendelssohn’s symphonies. Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 5, commonly known as the ‘Reformation’ Symphony, was written in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg confession – a seminal event in the Protestant Reformation. Allusions to the symphony’s title and inspiration can be heard throughout the music itself; the Dresden Amen is cited by the strings in the first movement whilst the finale is based on Martin Luther’s well-known chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’). Coupled with this are two of Mendelssohn’s overtures, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Ruy Blas, both of which were inspired by literary works. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, based on two short poems by Goethe, depicts the journey of sailors at sea with a still adagio opening ultimately giving way to a triumphant homecoming. Completing the album, the overture Ruy Blas was commissioned by the Leipzig Theatre as an overture to Victor Hugo’s tragic drama of the same name.
This second volume of miscellaneous chamber works contains all of the music that is not a formal quartet, quintet, or sextet. In includes the piano trios, the wonderful Terzetto for two violins and viola, works for solo instrument and piano, pieces for piano four-hands, and all of those little, undefinable works, some of which (such as the Bagatelles for two violins, cello, and harmonium) are magnificent.
Rafael Kubelik was one of our foremost interpreters of Dvorak and other great Czech composers such as Smetana and Janacek. His critically acclaimed 1960's Dvorak symphony Deutsche Grammophon cycle was reissued several years ago as a budget-priced collection.
Two glorious Czech masterpieces are presented on this 2014 release from Alpha, performed on period instruments by the exceptional Anima Eterna Brugge, directed by Jos van Immerseel. Considering that Antonín Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World" was completed in 1893, and Leos Janácek's Sinfonietta dates from 1926, and the period instruments movement mostly has been concerned with Baroque and Classical era works, original instrumentation might strike some listeners as odd. Yet performances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries called for instruments that differ substantially in construction and tone quality from modern models, and the variety of timbres was much greater with handmade instruments than the homogenized sounds of today's mass-produced woodwinds and brass.
A genial conductor with a particular gift for French music, Charles Munch extended the Boston Symphony's glory years (begun under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky) into the early 1960s. Munch was so venerated that conservative Bostonians even declined to fuss over rumors that he was having an affair with his niece, pianist Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer; they wrote it off as part of his romantic French nature. Paradoxically, Munch was not precisely French. He was born in Alsace-Lorraine, which at the time (1891) was controlled by Germany and has long hovered between two cultural worlds. Munch himself benefitted from both French and German musical training, and his first important musical posts were in Germany…
“I do not know precisely what is my destination: however, I do know that 1 evening, after for the 1st time hearing a symphony by Beethoven, I became feverish & ill. As soon as I recovered, I became a musician.” Thus Richard Wagner described the enormous impression that Beethoven’s music had made on him in his novelette Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven (a pilgrimage to Beethoven). Although it is difficult to separate fact & fiction in this novelette, Beethoven’s music did indeed exert a major influence on the life of the young composer. Wagner was 17 years old when he 1st heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a work which was to play a central role during his entire life, & which he was, for instance, to conduct in 1846 at the opening of the Festival Theatre in Bayreuth.