Believed to have been composed between August 1775 and January 1777, the Concerto In E Flat Major for two pianos technically counts as being the tenth of Mozart's twenty-seven concertos, that huge and prodigious body that would set the standards for all piano concertos from Mozart's time forward. Although it is not performed with the same frequency as his later works (especially the final eight concertos, 20-27), this "Double" piano concerto, believed to have been composed by Mozart for performance by him and his sister Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), is nevertheless a fascinating experiment of Mozart's, one that requires a pair of solid keyboard virtuosos to do (and for the composer's Seventh piano concerto, you needed three soloists).
Haydn's Paukenmesse, Hob.XXII:9 from 1796, was the first work he composed to honour the name day (8th September) of the Princess Maria Hermenegild. The name of Paukenmesse’ (Kettledrum Mass) stems from the employment of timpani in the Agnus Dei; evocative of hearing the advance of the enemy. At the time of composition the French armies had occupied the state of Styria in southeast Austria.
Of the two oratorios Haydn wrote in his old age The Creation is the more dramatic and immediate while The Seasons is more idyllic. It’s also a good deal longer, which to some extent explains why The Creation is regularly performed while its country cousin is a comparatively rare visitor to the concert hall. There is no denying that the later work contains a lot of good music and has a more folksy character; Austrian folk music is never far away. It is also has a more leisurely pace with long stretches of admittedly beautiful but slow and restrained music. There are moments of drama also, for example the end of part II, Summer (CD1 tracks 16 – 18), where in the recitative the soloists build up the tension. This describes how the air changes, the sky turns black, “the muted roar from the valley that announces the furious tempest”. We hear the timpani murmuring in the distance and suddenly lightning flashes, the thunder rolls and the people (the chorus) are dismayed and frightened. Harnoncourt makes the most of this, rhythmically alert and backed up by the excellent Arnold Schönberg-Choir. Suddenly the thunderstorm is over, the sun looks out again and the soloists and the choir rejoice.
This is exceptional. There are certainly many different valid ways to perform the Missa solemnis, but it's hard to imagine they will surpass this outstanding version…The Royal Concertgebouw is on absolutely top form…As for the soloists, it is hard to recall a Solemnis quartet who blend so well while retaining their mesmeric individuality. (BBC Music Magazine)
Despite what the Gramophone says, I think this is the best digital Fidelio available. If you bought Harnoncourt's superb Beethoven cycle with the same orchestra, you will know what to expect: sharp tempos in early XIX Century fashion, and sensational orchestral playing. But there is also warmth and humanity in Harnoncourt's vision. This set reminds me of my favourite Fidelio: the Ferenc Fricsay recording in DG with Rysanek, Haefliger and DFD. Charlotte Margiono has the right voice for Leonore and gives an outstanding performance. The rest of the cast is also excellent.
Telemann's connection with Darmstadt is typical of a composer who cast his net widely on the path to becoming Germany's most acclaimed composer. Appointed to his Frankfurt post in 1712 Telemann was shrewd enough to realize that to 'get on' he needed to write music for the best. In instrumental terms, he was lucky enough to be based less than 20 miles from the Darmstadt court of Ernst Ludwig VII, a music-loving nobleman who had at his disposal a fine orchestra of musicians, many recruited from Paris, trained by the court Kapellmeister, Johann Christoph Graupner (known largely through his turning down the cantorate at St Thomas's Leipzig before Bach was reluctantly found to be an acceptable choice).
Pierre-Laurent Aimard continues to present a repertoire for the piano that is never less than imaginative and is always compelling. The Dvorák Piano Concerto is rarely heard, not because it lacks beauty or inventive scoring for both piano and orchestra, but because the piece has gained the reputation of the 'Tristan' of concertos. Enter Pierre-Laurent Aimard and all of that changes.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his period orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, never recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, and this 2016 Sony release is their only recording of the Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, made almost ten months before the conductor's death. Harnoncourt planned for this to be his last recording before his retirement, so it inevitably has the feeling of a valedictory performance, and one can also hear it as the orchestra's warm tribute to its leader and his sterling musicianship.
Because Mozart's earliest symphonies are performed less often than the later masterpieces and are consequently underrepresented on disc, Nikolaus Harnoncourt's period performances with Concentus Musicus Wien may have an added value beyond sheer musical excellence. Much has been written about how these works are miraculous manifestations of the young Mozart's genius, and their consistently high quality obviates criticism for their few shortcomings. But these symphonies really do sound magical and even startling in Harnoncourt's vital renditions, and Concentus Musicus delivers them with boisterous enthusiasm and full bow, with absolutely no precious Rococo affectations. Brisk tempi, tight ensemble playing and the clear timbres of original instruments contribute to the authenticity of the performances, but these may count less than the gusto, humor, and freshness that the musicians display in each work. The woodwinds and horns are especially robust and earthy, and Harnoncourt draws out their distinctive colors and striking rhythms to contrast them more effectively with the strings. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's sound is immaculate, without doubt the best the label can offer, and the acoustics of Kasino Zögernitz are ideal for balance and resonance.(Blair Sanderson)