Fierrabras is a three-act German opera with spoken dialogue written by the composer Franz Schubert in 1823, to a libretto by Josef Kupelwieser, the general manager of the Theater am Kärntnertor (Vienna's Court Opera Theatre). Along with the earlier Alfonso und Estrella, composed in 1822, it marks Schubert's attempt to compose grand Romantic opera in German, departing from the Singspiel tradition.
Every major conductor, and most not-so-major ones, comes around to recording Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but not so many do it as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strings. And let’s face it, you won’t find a period-instrument ensemble that plays with anything like this level of polish. The fact is, Szell’s conception of Mozart was not terribly far from “period” sensibilities: restrained use of vibrato, incisive rhythms, crisp ensemble, lively tempos, but also a welcome degree of warmth to the sound and of course incredible ensemble discipline and some of the best players on the planet. And he had real period instruments, meaning performers who owned top quality old violins and bows, not inferior modern reproductions of them. The result is as lovely a performance of Mozart’s perennially delicious Serenade as we are ever likely to hear.
Interrelated traditions of keyboard and lute playing that flourished in German-speaking lands in the age immediately predating the invention of music printing have fascinated us ever since our very first encounter with the surviving repertoire that originated from these traditions. Fifteenth-century music for keyboard and plucked stringed instruments is without doubt an exciting area in the early history of European instrumental music, but one paradoxically seldom visited by performers and thus virtually unknown to the wider public. Many pieces are recorded here for the first time, and it is our hope that the present disc may contribute to restoring the remnants of a once flourishing and highly refined art to the place they deserve in the awareness of music lovers.