There are many apocryphal stories in the classical-music world, but the one in which Frederick the Great challenged Bach to improvise a six-part fugue on a theme of the king's own invention is true, and The Musical Offering was, after a period of further reflection, the result. As with all the works of Bach's later years, the work is both great art and a "teaching piece," which shows everything that he thought could be done with the king's theme. The Trio Sonata based on the theme is the only major piece of chamber music from Bach's last decades in Leipzig, and that makes the work and essential cornerstone of any Bach collection. This performance, led by Neville Marriner, is both polished and lively, and very well recorded. At a "twofer" price, coupled with The Art of Fugue, it's the preferred version of the work on modern instruments.
If you want a good sampling of Copland's orchestral works, then this 2-CD compilation comes highly recommended, with excellent performances of works such as Appalachian Spring, Quiet City, El Salón México and others. (Presto Classical)
An acclaimed Italian guitar virtuoso and composer, Mauro Giuliani, along with Fernando Sor, was one of the last great classical proponents of his instrument until its revival in the early twentieth century. He studied counterpoint and the cello, but on the six-string guitar he was entirely self-taught, and that became his principal instrument early on. Italy abounded with fine guitarists at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Carulli remains the most familiar today), but few of them could make a living because of the public's preoccupation with opera. So Giuliani embarked on a successful tour of Europe when he was 19, and in 1806 he settled in Vienna, where he entered the musical circle of Diabelli, Moscheles, and Hummel. He solidified his reputation with the 1808 premiere of his Guitar Concerto in A major, Op. 30, and was soon heralded as the greatest living guitar virtuoso. Even Beethoven noticed Giuliani, and wrote of his admiration for him. Perhaps to return the favor, Giuliani played cello in the 1813 premiere of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
Mozart Double Piano Concertos is Arthur and Lucas Jussen’s first orchestral recording, featuring two of the most famous works composed for two pianos. Ever since they performed for the Dutch queen in 2005 at the ages of just 12 and 8 years old and becoming the first Dutch artists to sign with the historic Yellow Label, Deutsche Grammophon, the Jussen brothers are regarded as something of Dutch national treasures.
Tchaikovsky's four suites for orchestra don't have the structural heft or the emotional impact of his seven symphonies, but they are lovely. For the listener who savors the Russian composer's specific sound world but is not in the mood for being emotionally overtaxed, these suites are just the thing. The first two are collections of character pieces, the First with its Divertimento and Intermezzo, the Second with its Valse and Danse baroque. The later two are more substantial, the Third with its extended series of Variations, and the Fourth with its heartfelt homages to Mozart. This is ideal light Tchaikovsky.
– James Leonard, AllMusic.com
The Symphony in C is an early work by the French composer Georges Bizet. According to Grove's Dictionary, the symphony "reveals an extraordinarily accomplished talent for a 17-year-old student, in melodic invention, thematic handling and orchestration." Bizet started work on the symphony on 29 October 1855, four days after turning 17, and finished it roughly a month later. (…) The symphony was immediately hailed as a youthful masterpiece on a par with Felix Mendelssohn's overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, written at about the same age, and quickly became part of the standard Romantic repertoire. It received its first recording on 26 November 1937, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Walter Goehr.
Sir Neville Marriner leads his Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in a blockbuster recording of eight of Franz von Suppé's exciting overtures. From the more famous ones, such as Light Cavalry and Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna, to lesser known works, this CD is full of unforgettable melodies and suberb playing.