The Prague Philharmonic choir join over a dozen others who have recorded Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, a work once thought the special property of the Russian choirs who are, of course, prominent in the lists. The Czechs sing it without a cantor, and more as a concert work than some of the others do. Though they take the famous scale in the Nunc dimittis, descending to a profound B flat, in their stride, they are not as sonorous as some others, and their particular contribution is to sing the music lightly and flexibly, with a lively response to the words. They have excellent sopranos, safe in intonation when attacking the exposed high entries in thirds which are a feature of the music, and a good tenor for the three numbers that involve him as a soloist. The Magnificat, with all its tempo changes and shifts of register, is expressively done, as are the light rhythms of ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord’.
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (15 May 1567 (baptized) – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, singer and Roman Catholic priest.
Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the heritage of Renaissance polyphony and the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque. Monteverdi wrote one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo, an innovative work that is the earliest surviving opera that is still regularly performed. He was recognized as an innovative composer and enjoyed considerable fame in his lifetime.
What a versatile artist Steven Isserlis is. Having made his name as a sympathetic interpreter of a wide variety of romantic and modern music, here he shows he can be just as persuasive in eighteenth-century repertoire. His stylistic awareness is evident in beautiful, elegant phrasing, selective use of vibrato and varied articulation, giving an expressive range that never conflicts with the music’s natural language. In the cello concertos he is helped by an extremely sensitive accompaniment, stressing the chamber musical aspects of Haydn’s pre-London orchestral writing. The soft, intimate sonority at 3'06'' in the first movement of the D major is a typical example. The Adagios are taken at a flowing speed, but Isserlis’s relaxed approach means they never sound hurried. The Allegro molto finale of the C major Concerto, on the other hand, sounds poised rather than the helter-skelter we often hear. In his understanding of the music, Isserlis is a long way ahead of Han-na Chang, whose version places the emphasis on fine, traditional-style cello playing. Mork’s vivacious, imaginative performances characterize the music very strongly, but my preference would be for Isserlis’s and Norrington’s lighter touch and greater refinement.
The 'Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major, K 364/320D' is one of those refined works that is so well written that it exudes genius. Composed for violin, viola, and orchestra the work is a conversation with the two instruments with a beautifully woven tapestry of comment for the orchestra. Violinist Midori and violist Nobuko Imai are not only well paired in technique and virtuosity, they find a compatibility of discourse that is refreshingly fine. Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester with grace and sensitive collaboration. The work is a complete success. The Philip Wilby reconstruction of the accompanying concerto for violin and piano is a fine little piece, if not in the same realm as the Sinfonia Concertante. The performance of this uneven work makes up for the inconsistencies that arise when sonatas are adapted for orchestra. Midori again focuses on her pliant, clear technique and is matched by Christoph Eschenbach's piano role as well as his conducting. It is a minor work played in a major manner.