I have a personal criterion for judging sopranos in modern recordings of any role that Maria Callas excelled in: If you can beat Callas, you are gold. And despite her achievements in bel canto roles (most of which I find uninteresting, either dramatically or as music), I still think that Callas’s greatest gift to the world of opera, particularly opera in Italy, was to point out to the entire country and the world how much more there was in roles like Elvira in I Vespri Siciliani, Cheribini’s Medea, Iphigénie in this opera, and yes, even Lady Macbeth than had been previously thought.
Long admired for her powerful playing and respected as a champion of new music, Anne-Sophie Mutter is the recipient of numerous pieces composed especially for her by the leading contemporary masters. Henri Dutilleux wrote his nocturne for violin and orchestra, Sur le même accord, for Mutter, and this live, world-premiere recording of the debut performance demonstrates why composers trust her with their music.
Igor Stravinsky The Complete Columbia Album Collection is an unprecedented reissue of the complete recordings of his works that Igor Stravinsky made for CBS/American Columbia, bringing together for the very first time on CD all of the mono "Stravinsky conducts Stravinsky" recordings issued in the 1940s and 1950s alongside the more familiar stereo remakes from the 1960s, as well as all the authorized performances that Stravinsky's assistant Robert Craft conducted for the label in the composer's presence, after age and infirmity had restricted his own ability to do so.
Works of Igor Stravinsky is a massive set: 22 CDs of performances of Rite of Spring, Petrouschka, L'Histoire du soldat, Symphony in E-Flat, The Rake's Progress and more under the direction of the composer, with additional performances by his disciple Robert Craft under Stravinsky's supervision, and a disc (the Sympony in E-Flat disc, actually) that includes recordings of rehearsals and Stravinsky discussing his own music.
During Riccardo Muti s 19-year tenure as La Scala s music director, his relationship with the Filarmonica della Scala extended beyond the opera pit. The seven-CD set Riccardo Muti conducts Italian Masters celebrates their shared Italian heritage with a mixture of much-loved Verdi overtures, modern classics from Nino Rota ( uniformly stunning AllMusic Guide) and enticing works from the turn of the century by the likes of Casella, Martucci and Busoni (on an album successful in every respect , according to Gramophone). Busoni s Turandot Suite (like the orchestral works also released here by operatic composers Ponchielli, Catalani and Puccini) is perfectly suited to an orchestra and conductor at home in both dramatic and symphonic repertoires. How is it possible for so attractive, witty and artful a work to lay neglected for so long? enthused Gramophone.
Riccardo Muti chose to celebrate his 75th birthday with a programme at the 2016 Salzburg Festival featuring two masterworks from the Austro-German tradition that had both been premiered by the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of their respective composers: Bruckner’s Symphony No.2 and R. Strauss’ Orchestral Suite Der Bürger als Edelmann. Alongside celebrated pianist Gerhard Oppitz is violinist Rainer Küchl, on the eve of his retirement from the Wiener Philharmoniker following a remarkable 45 years of service.
The Sixteen, bright stars of the Baroque, have plenty to say on 20th-century repertoire (witness their excellent Britten series on Collins). Underpin them with the BBC Philharmonic and it might seem a magic formula. Ives’s unearthly The Unanswered Question holds few problems for instrumental players weaned on Maxwell Davies – no more than do the brilliant wind roulades of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Deft BBC teamwork and a chamber articulation to woodwind and brass helps this Koussevitzky-commissioned masterpiece to shed its often hammy ‘big band’ sound, creeping closer to the subtle, leaner sonorities of his later choral works. It gains. The singing varies. Too many dynamic shifts sound prosaic or under-prepared; fortes are forced, with muddy results. The vocal blend (happier in lower voices) can seem haphazard and colours the Tippett, where the men’s roars – contrast the lovely, sensual soprano solo – seem crude. Get this disc, instead, for the rare, late Poulenc – his New York-commissioned Sept répons. It is a curiously under-recorded devotional work, bleeding with pathos yet pumping energy, its exoticism enhanced by slightly breathy, tender solos, and scintillatingly sung with just those crucial missing qualities of awe and freshness. A million times more refined than what goes before.
“…Riccardo Muti conducts Don Pasquale in Ravenna - a great celebration for everyone.” This press quote from the Italian music magazine Il giornale della musica hit the mark exactly. Watching this realistic, young and vital production, directed by the 21 year old Andrea da Rosa and listening to a high potential and unspent young cast, you feel how powerful, charming and timeless this score by Donizetti is. This production was recorded during the Ravenna Festival in the gorgeous and patriarchal Teatro Dante Alighieri, in December 2006. Maestro Riccardo Muti shows one more time, what it means to perform an Italian opera with a young and professional Italian cast – an outstanding and breathtaking performance and really, "a great celebration for everyone".
Betrayal and forgiveness are the themes of this complex opera: Amelia's betrayal of her husband, Renato (she is having an affair with Riccardo. governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony), and the betrayal and assassination of Riccardo by a group of conspirators. The libretto is better integrated than most of Verdi's operas written before Otello and Falstaff. It was originally about an historic incident, the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden, but Roman censors, nervous about royal assassinations, forced the absurd relocation of the opera to colonial Boston. The music is prime middle-period Verdi, less spectacular than Il Trovatore, Rigoletto or La Forza del Destino, but it is warmly, richly expressive. It requires and rewards exceptionally good voices, and it gets them in this production. Outstanding work by Muti helps make this one of the best Verdi recordings ever made. –Joe McLellan