To celebrate what would have been Herbert von Karajan's 100th birthday on April 5, 2008, EMI has gathered together all of the conductor's recordings for the label in two super-budget boxed sets. Volume 1 weighs in at an imposing 88 discs and focuses on orchestral repertoire (the second volume consists of vocal and operatic works). The first nine discs encompass Karajan's EMI Vienna Philharmonic sessions…
Decca is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the supreme master of Italian opera Giuseppe Verdi’s birth in matchless style by releasing in February 2013 a 75-CD box containing his entire canon of works.
here's no question that Osmo Vänskä is a true Beethoven conductor. He captures the music's vitality, its eruptive character, and its dramatic syntax as well as anyone on the podium today. He understands the importance of accents, of giving proper weight to Beethoven's bass lines, and of uncovering ear-catching detail without micro-managing the tempo and fracturing Beethoven's large musical paragraphs. The only quibble I have with this performance of the Eroica stems from Vänskä's otherwise admirable deployment of a very wide dynamic range. A couple of times he drops to a "super-duper" pianissimo so quiet that you can barely hear the music, causing it to momentarily lose tension. This only happens a couple of times, most notably at the point of the first-movement recapitulation, and it's so unnecessary given the general excellence of the interpretation that you wonder why he bothers.
Between 1994 and 2011, Pierre Boulez recorded the symphonies and songs of Gustav Mahler for Deutsche Grammophon, and for many listeners these recordings are high points in his catalog, while others regard them as idiosyncratic recordings for specialists. The basis of both views stems from Boulez's meticulous conducting and exacting performance standards, which produce music of extreme lucidity and precision, yet which can also seem overly cerebral and dispassionate. Boulez's approach to Mahler may seem clinical, and this is a reasonable assessment of the way he treats details, textures, timbres, dynamics, and rhythms as indicated in the score, clearly and cleanly, without adding personal touches or interpreting the music through Mahler's biography or his own mythology.
On this extensive release, the Verdi Quartet has taken on quite the task- recording Franz Schuberts complete string quartets. The four musicians brilliantly rise to the task, playing these works with verve and aplomb, and leaving the listener always wanting to hear more from these musicians.
The liner notes of this collection of the complete Dvorák symphonies are at best peculiar and at worst off putting. Rather than focusing on the symphonies themselves, their historical significance, or Dvorák's compositional evolution, they instead concentrate on lauding the conductor, the fame of the orchestra, and the number of albums sold when these recordings were first released. All of this may be more tolerable if the recordings themselves lived up to the hype. But, sadly, they do not. While the performances are certainly adequate, they fail to bring anything new or special to the listener. The earlier symphonies, which are not Dvorák's strongest from a compositional standpoint, are not infused with any extra energy or vitality to make them more captivating to the listener. Sound quality throughout the cycle is often dull; lower instruments such as the basses and tympani sound as if they are playing from under a pillow. Even the more popular latter symphonies (Seven, Eight, and Nine) are simply adequate. The brass playing, particularly in the Eighth Symphony, is frequently not together and the sound quality is unattractive. If listeners are in the market for a complete set of these symphonies, they would do well to consider the set made by the London Symphony Orchestra under Istvan Kertesz instead.
This is a very complete set indeed. It includes all the quartets in the latest edition prepared by Jonathan Del Mar which restores many important markings by Beethoven and which has been done in collaboration with the Endellion Quartet. Both versions of the first quartet or included as well as Beethoven's quartet arrangement of the piano sonata Op. 14 no. 1. the Gross Fuge, both string quintets plus other works for string quartet including the two prelude and fugues.
On the surface, this Ring cycle recording might seem like a poor relation to those by Sir Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, James Levine, and others, or to the live recordings from the 1950s by the likes of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Clemens Kraus, and Hans Knappertsbusch. The very names constitute big guns in opera, and their respective casts are not exactly weak either. Complicating matters further is the fact that Marek Janowski's Ring was originally released by Eurodisc/Ariola, a European-based label that, while huge over there, never had the profile or prestige of Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, orEMI; the fact that it's now on RCA/BMG doesn't exactly help, either, as the latter has lost a good deal of its luster as a major label since the 1980s. But the Janowski Ring also occupies its own place in history…