Fans of the string quartets by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn should by all means try this disc of string quartets by George Onslow. British-born and Bohemian-trained composer spent most of his career in France, and aside from their tonal language and their four-movement structure, his quartets have little in common with his German contemporaries. In fact, they have little in common with the music of his French contemporaries, who concentrated mostly on stage works. But in these overwhelming persuasive performances by the Quatuor Diotima, Onslow's quartets come across as fully formed, wholly confident, and enormously expressive works. There is tremendous power in the fast movements: the rip-roaring Scherzo, from his D minor Quartet, Op. 55; immense pathos in the slow movements: the heartbreaking Andante con variazioni from the E flat Quartet, Op. 54; and awesome intensity in the opening movements: the monumental Allegro maestoso ed espressivo from the C minor Quartet, Op. 56.
The Beethoven Triple Concerto is a strange work, with the most important–-or at least prominent–-solos given to the cello; it is the instrument which introduces each movement. The remarkable Martha Argerich wisely allows Mischa Maisky to shine in his solos and leading position, but her contribution is anything but back seat. Her customary virtuosity is everywhere in evidence, and, in a way, she turns the piano into the spinal column of the work, with the violin and cello playing around her. Every time Maisky is about to lapse into a mannerism which might detract–-too much sliding, a dynamic slightly exaggerated–-Argerich brings him back, and both of them play with handsome tone. Capucon's violin is recorded a bit stridently (this was taped live in Lugano), but his playing is equally stunning. Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky leads the orchestra matter-of-factly until the final movement, when he catches the proper fire. In the Schumann A minor concerto Argerich is wonderful the solo passages and a fine partner in orchestrated ones and she really makes much of both the lyrical runs and the dance-like passages in the last movement. Recommended.
Shostakovich's Symphony No.8 was written in the summer of 1943, and first performed in November of that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated. Many scholars have ranked it among the composer's finest scores. Some also say Shostakovich intended the work as a ''tragedy to triumph'' symphony, in the tradition of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler. This release in Praga's Reminiscences series of audiophile SACD remasterings features an historic live recording from 1961 featuring Mravinsky leading the Leningrad Philharmonic.
Krenek's symphony no 3 is a full-sized symphony at nearly forty-five minutes, in three movements, the first about twenty-four minutes long. Even so, this symphony is much more modest in length or requirements than the Second. The three movements are (1) Andante sostenuto; Allegro deciso (2) Adagio molto (3) Allegretto comodo. The style of the symphony is an updated version of Gustav Mahler's, including the sudden intrusion of a banal tune at a moment of crisis close to the end of the first movement. By comparison with the Second Symphony, this is a much more orderly and logical work. The outlines of the forms of its movements are clear, and the work is cyclic (materials from earlier movements are used in later ones). At the end the mood and material for the opening returns.
: This is a transfer from analog cassette tape to digital. A very rare opportunity to hear a young Virssaladze. My intention in posting this is to give our Russian friends the opportunity of listening to one of their co-nationals on a South American Tour in Buenos Aires during 1976. The announcer is the official Radio Municipal de Buenos Aires broadcast from the theatre on the day of the concert.
Starting the second half of our great Beethoven series, Boris Berezovsky returns with the Fourth Piano Concerto and Beethoven's own version of the Violin Concerto arranged with the piano as the solo instrument. Boris's earlier contributions to the series have been very well received indeed, and the Russian virtuoso has more up his sleeve. The works on this seventh volume in this series originates from a particularly fruitful time in Beethoven"s career as a composer, around the same time as his fourth and fifth symphony and the Razumovsky quartets. He continues to expand the formal boundaries for the concerto, and the result is of course some of the most fantastic music ever written.
The Aeolian Quartet's epic cycle, originally released in the Seventies, was one of the gramophone's major contributions to Haydn's cause. Listening to the performances anew I find they have lost none of their freshness: they were based on the latest research, and the playing itself is always intelligent and thoughtful, with Emanuel Hurwitz's sweet-toned violin-playing a great asset throughout. (Misha Donat)