This is a very fine delivery of these dances in their original 4-handed version. As many collectors will be aware, there are quite a few examples of composers initially writing works for the piano in various formats. This might be for solo piano (Ravel’s Alborada or La Valse for example), for two pianos (Rachmaninov’s Symphonic dances for example) or for two pianists at one piano such as here or as in the Brahms Hungarian Dances. In all these cases the original piano version was not written as a practice version for an orchestral version.
Apart from his popular Canciones negras, written more than half a century ago, the compositions of the now 87-year-old Montsalvatge (in 1999) have made little impact on the musical public in general: many of his works remain unrecorded – the opera Puss in Boots, the Indian Quartet, the five Invocaciones al Crucificado and the virtuoso Harpsichord Concerto, to name only four. But there are two Montsalvatges – one with a more traditional manner, and a later more trenchant, experimental and individual. From his earlier period comes the Sinfonia Mediterranea, composed three years after the Canciones negras; its lack of fashionable ‘modernity’ tempted him at one time to consider rejecting it completely. I’m glad he didn’t, for it’s an attractive (if slightly overlong), warmly romantic work that includes melodies of a popular cast.
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, truly merits the adjective "tragic"; it was written after the deaths of two of the composer's children in succession, and his grief rolled out in great, Verdian waves. There are several strong recordings on the market, including an earlier one by conductor Jiří Bělohlávek himself, but for the combination of deep feeling, technical mastery from musicians and singers who have spent their lives getting to know the score, and soloists who not only sound beautiful but are seamlessly integrated into the flow, this Decca release may be the king of them all. To what extent was the strength of the performance motivated by Bělohlávek's likely fatal illness (he died days after the album entered the top levels of classical charts in the spring of 2017)? It's hard to say, although he also delivered top-notch performances of Dvorák's Requiem in his last days. The members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir sing their hearts out in the gigantic, shattering opening chorus, which has rarely if ever had such a mixture of the impassioned and the perfectly controlled. Sample the chorus "Virgo virginium praeclara" to hear the magically suspended quality Bělohlávek brings out of the singers in lightly accompanied passages.
Copernicus is one of the few artists to play behind the Iron Curtain back in 1989. This is a live concert DVD from his show at Praha Slavia Stadium on June 17th, 1989. This concert drew on tracks from the first three Copernicus' albums: "Nothing Exists," "Victim of the Sky," and "Deeper."…