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.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Otto Klemperer s death, EMI Classics pays tribute to the incomparable conductor with the release of an extensive edition of 11 luxurious yet affordably-priced boxsets. The second edition of three is available this January. The great symphonies of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are considered to be the last nine together with Nos. 25 and 29. Klemperer s first recordings of these were Nos. 29 and 41 in 1954 followed by Nos. 25, 36, 38, 40 and 41 two years later together with the Seranata Notturna, Eine kleine Nachtmusik and the Adagio & Fugue. He revisited Nos. 29, 38, 39, 40 and 41and Eine kleine Nachtmusik in the 1960 s as well as completing all the other recordings in this 8-CD collection entitled Klemperer Edition: Mozart.
Cherubini’s major sacred works are generally quite marvelous. The two Requiems have a distinguished history on disc. Toscanini recorded the C minor, Markevitch the D minor, and my colleague David Vernier praised the recent release of the C minor piece on Carus. They are both truly excellent: grave and austere, but also dynamic, moving, and well worth hearing. The same is certainly true of the large-scale Masses: the Missa solemnis in D minor and E major and the Mass in F are especially memorable. Their grandeur never strains for effect and is always leavened with the composer’s Italian lyricism. Cherubini may not have been well-treated by history, but he knew what he was doing.
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.
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, written in the aftermath of the deaths of three of his children, is a sober and powerful work, inexplicably neglected and unlike any other work of choral music from the 19th century. Perhaps most performances don't capture its full weight, but this live recording from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mariss Jansons, does so. There are many deep pleasures here. The orchestra's choir is extraordinary: rich yet without a hint of wobble and utterly clear in its sense of the text. Jansons keeps things at a deliberate pace that lets the music breathe and the currents of personal experience rise to the surface. The soloists, none terribly well known, are fine in their individual numbers, but absolutely transcendent in ensembles, nowhere more so that in the sublime "Quando corpus morietur" finale (track 10); there are a couple of other strong recordings of this work, but it seems likely that no one has ever matched this conclusion. The live recording from the Herkulessaal in Munich is impressively transparent and faithful to the spontaneity of the event. A superb Dvorák release.
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.