Alfred Schnittke's Second Concerto Grosso is a different creature than his First. While the 1977 Concerto Grosso No. 1 for 2 Violins, Strings and Keyboards is a lithe, vicious, often comical work, the Second, finished five years later, is a weightier affair. The soloists are now violin and cello; the Baroque band is now a full orchestra with electric guitar, drum kit, and brake drum; there are four large movements rather than six smaller ones; the entire work is imbued with an air of sincere tragedy, albeit with mud on its shoes. Schnittke dedicated the work to its premiere soloists, husband-and-wife duo Oleg Kagan (violin) and Natalia Gutman (cello); famed for their flawless ensemble, the couple inspired in Schnittke a musical air of companionship – a single soul in two instruments.
In 2015 the Berliner Philharmoniker dedicated an evening of their renowned Easter Festival in Baden-Baden to one of the most famous and beloved of German composers, Ludwig van Beethoven. Together with Bernard Haitink, a universally acclaimed authority on the works of that composer, they performed Beethoven’s exquisite expression of nature, his Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral”. They were joined for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto by Isabelle Faust, whose interpretation of the work has enjoyed widespread acclaim.
The production and video direction are by British film-maker Ken Russell who puts his own stamp on the production. Russell told an interviewer he felt the plot was "silly" so he turned Marguerite into a young nun, eliminated the Walpurgis Night ballet, had Marguerite use sign-language for Valentin's deaf-mute children, and had Mephistopheles disrespectfully urinating in the stoup in church. However, the overall effect is visually engrossing, the vivid sets and costumes by Karl Toms are effective. And the singing is outstanding. Tenor Francisco Araiza handles the title role with confidence. Ruggero Raimondi, while he may not have the impressive lower register of many devils of the past, is a superb actor. Soprano Gabriela Benackova is in magnificent voice as the innocent Marguerite, and other major roles are impressively sung.
Double Tony Award winning stage director Desmond McAnuff’s production, hailed by the New York Times as “rich with ideas and theatrically daring”, presents Faust as an atomic scientist inhabiting a dark world shot through with Cold War resonances. Alongside Kaufmann, a typically gold-standard Met cast includes the “phenomenal” Rene Pape as Mephistopheles and the “ideally-suited” Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite. Star conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin draws an “elegant, darkly textured performance” from the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.
Considered by many music historians as one of the most important group out of Germany, Faust were certainly ahead of their time. They took their music to unsuspecting heights somewhere in between Can, Velvet Underground, Neu, LA Dusseldorf or Henry Cow but also much farther and can be considered as founding fathers of the Industrial Rock. Having made their debut in 71 in Hamburg, Faust will never stop their groundbreaking and will be always one step ahead of everybody else including the groups above mentioned and are the prime example of Rock In Opposition (RIO) along with Henry Cow. Faust is definitely not for the faint-hearted person and can only be recommended in small doses because it is very dangerous for the sanity of the average proghead.
This is French opera at his best, before this authentic style was gone: beautiful silver tones from a now lost period. I bought this record more than 40 years ago and it is still unpassed.
I can´t believe this recording isn´t in the catalogue anymore ,Montserrat Caballé , Giacomo Aragall and Paul Plishka , et al are fantastic . Anyone who owns this recording surely understands my enthusiasm about it .
In response to a commission from Count Troyer, who wanted a work closely modelled on Beethoven’s famous Septet op.20, Schubert – despite his fervent admiration for the older composer – resolutely struck out on his own by delivering an . . . Octet. While the enlarged forces opened his path towards symphonic writing, examination of the form and expression reveals a much more accomplished and personal composition than has generally been recognised by commentators. Isabelle Faust and her partners, enthralled by what is an exceptional work in every respect, offer us a new interpretation of it on period instruments.