The Australian guitarist John Williams has long been universally recognized as a true master , to quote the Guardian. The centrepiece of Sony s new reissue of his Bach recordings is formed by the Suites for solo lute. Also contained on these 4 CDs are Williams s inspired transcriptions of the E major Violin Concerto (with the English Chamber Orchestra), preludes and fugues, chorales and movements from various suites. John Williams is a superb technician, wrote MusicWeb International, and justifiably deserves the accolades heaped on him during his long career. His rendition of these works is most authoritative and executed with admirable fluidity.
The new box contains no fewer than three different Williams recordings of that most popular of all guitar works, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez – from 1964 with the Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, from 1974 with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra, and from 1983 with Frémaux and the Philharmonia Orchestra – plus a performance of its much-loved Adagio in Williams’s celebrated 1993 “Seville Concert”.
This disc is a far cry from the typical fare we’ve come to expect on the shelves around the Christmas season. The inclusion of Bach’s sublime Cantata 63 and Mendelssohn’s Vom Himmel hoch give the disc a year round appeal. Vaughan Williams’ joyful The First Nowell is a veritable feast of well loved carols and the London Philharmonic Choir together with soloists Lisa Milne and Christopher Maltman exude Christmas cheer.
Nothing new about this concept; music inspired by, or transcriptions of, the music of Bach. But surely this never gets tired. The young Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar has collected many of the “usual suspects” as well as some charming rarities. In the former category there are the great Liszt works, including an essentially literal transcription for piano of a prelude and fugue originally for organ, and his masterful melding of the Baroque and the high Romantic in his grandiose tribute to the Master by using German notation to make a melody of the letters of his name…
Since the pianist Hannes Minnaar got the third prize awarded to him in 2010 during the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, his star - nationally and internationally - is rising. In 2010 his first CD appeared. In 2013 - the year he made his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - his second CD appeared: Bach Inspirations…
As before with the St. Matthew Passion, star director Peter Sellars succeeded in creating a staging which made the spiritual and dramatic content of the Passion story even more intensive. The New York Times also praised the “brilliant and energetic” playing of the orchestra, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the “haunting, almost unsurpassable singing of all those involved.”
In November 2004 a new name caused listeners to prick up their ears on the international orchestral scene: under Claudio Abbado’s artistic guidance the Orchestra Mozart came into being. It combines both young instrumentalists on the threshold of a first-rate career as well as eminent chamber musicians such as Danusha Waskiewicz, Alois Posch, Jacques Zoon, Michaela Petri, Ottavio Dantone, Mario Brunello, Alessio Allegrini, Jonathan Williams and Reinhold Friedrich. As with his famous Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Abbado hand-picked an ensemble to his liking, this time one of early- and Baroque-music specialists, all masters in their field.
The two works on this disc perfectly illustrate a particular type of secular cantata, the so-called ‘dramma per musica’. In such works the libretto is constructed dramatically, and the singers embody various roles, such as gods and other characters from antiquity, and allegorical figures. The parallel with opera is apparent, although the ‘drammi per musica’ do without any scenic element. Bach primarily used the form in works intended for princely tributes or academic festivities: educated audiences could be expected to recognize the characters and literary traditions involved. Both cantatas recorded here are ‘academic’ cantatas, composed in honour of eminent members of the faculty at the University of Leipzig.