Five complete operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at budget price in one space-saving set, featuring a twenty-four-page booklet with biographies, detailed listings, and historic photos! Exciting live recordings taped 1949–1974. A stunning array of great artists in Mozart’s most beloved operatic works!
In the 1950s these recordings would have given a very up-to-date impression, I imagine; the playing is extremely clean there's never a hint of sentimental violin slides or over-use of the sustaining pedal. But nearly half a century later, perhaps we're more conscious of the old-world virtues Schneiderhan's beautiful legato bowing and gentle vibrato, Kempff's full, unforced tone, and a flexible approach from both artists, with finely graded ritardandos and subtle variations of tempo.
An early session from German pianist Wolfgang Dauner – one with a sound that's every bit as great as you'd expect from the title! The "dream talk" component here is one that comes from Dauner's gentle, yet modern approach to the keys – one that's clearly learning lessons from 50s modernists like George Russell or Bill Evans, but which is stretching out here in some of the bolder freedoms of the European scene at the time – a precursor to later modes on MPS and Saba, but performed here with a bit more careful restraint. The record's nicely free from some of the overindulgences of some of Dauner's 70s sides, and is an acoustic effort throughout – extremely imaginative, with a "set free" quality that's also never too "out", nor too full of itself – a bit like the best early recordings by Steve Kuhn. Wolfgang's approach to the keys is nothing less than revelatory – and he receives well matched accompaniment from bassist Eberhard Weber and drummer Fred Braceful.
This is a 2004 production of a Handel rarity performed at the beautiful setting of the Schlosstheater Potsdam under the direction of Axel Köhler. Handel's five act opera Teseo was premièred in 1713 at the Queen's Theatre in London. After flopping with his previous work Il pastor fido Handel reverted to the format of his big success Rinaldo and again created an opera with a heroic subject, sophisticated stagecraft and a big orchestra. Teseo has many qualities of the French tragédie lyrique style, such as the five-act structure, big arias in the middle of scenes (meaning that characters do not have to leave the stage after their arias), a secondary romantic couple, many short arias and recitatives and many accompanied recitatives. In 1947 the opera was rediscovered and staged for the first time after Handel's death at the Göttinger Händelfestpiele.
Brian Setzer reconvenes his big band for its first non-Christmas-related set since 2000's Vavoom! Here he rearranges well-known classical themes from Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and others into Vegas-ized Rat Pack-era swing. It's a fun concept that buys the guitarist time by not having to compose new material, even though these arrangements, many of them quite complex, must have taken a while to construct. Setzer's well-received jump version of The Nutcracker Suite from 2002's Boogie Woogie Christmas probably got this ball rolling as Setzer digs the crazy classical beat with a dozen peppy selections that put his impressive guitar skills to use against finger-snapping horn charts.
For her first collaboration with the period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, violinist Isabelle Faust performs the five Violin Concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, along with three shorter concertante works. This is an extraordinary set, for the historically informed performances, the polished sound of the group, the almost palpable presence of the players, which Harmonia Mundi has captured with superior engineering, and for the unrepressed joy in the music. Faust is the center of attention, naturally, and her refined and expressive playing immediately pulls the listener in. These are far from the most demanding concertos in the repertoire, so Faust is less concerned with technical execution than with conveying the pure feeling of the music, which is delightfully buoyant and uplifting. Under the direction of Giovanni Antonini, the group provides warm and sparkling accompaniment that gives Faust all the support she needs, but there's no doubt that she sets the emotional tone for these exquisite recordings. Highly recommended, especially for devotees of Classical style at its finest.