Wolfgang Muthspiel is an Austrian guitarist, composer, and founder/owner of Material Records. His intuitive, probing style has made him a celebrated, in-demand sideman since the 1980s. He has worked with Gary Burton, Youssou N’Dour, Gary Peacock, Dave Liebman, Paul Motian, and dozens more.
2014 marks a year of celebration recognizing the 150th birthday year of the German late-Romantic orchestral, operatic and lied master composer, Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Arabella (premiered 1933, Dresden) was the last of the half dozen Strauss works to feature a libretto by the great Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal. This production, from the most recent Salzburg Easter Festival is, after Capriccio, the second of three Richard Strauss operas C Major is releasing in honor of the composers birth, life and work. The star-laden cast includes soprano Renèe Fleming, baritone Thomas Hampson, Albert Dohmen (Covent Garden, Wiener Staatsoper, MET) and Gabriela Beaková (Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden). With Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden, the music of Richard Strauss is in the best of hands. (ORF) Thielemann gets the best out of the cast…especially Renée Fleming with her luxurious soprano.
Piano Man Experience is a concept show of the greatest songs that have marked history. The greatest hits of Elton John, Billy Joel, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Michael McDonald, Jamie Cullum, Claude Leveill, Michel Legrand. Also, the greatest songs ever written on the piano from the Beatles to Richard Marx, including Marc Cohn, Sarah MacLachlan, Stevie Wonder and many others.
Partenope is mature Handel, and belongs in the top flight of his stage works. A comedy from 1730, which was first rejected as too frivolous by the Royal Academy of Music in London, the text had been set 20 years earlier by Caldara for an opera that had been a major influence on the young Handel. The tone is light and the action - all disguises and cross-dressing, with everyone ending up with the right partner - is swift moving; there are relatively few extended arias but a number of ensembles, as well as the obligatory sinfonia and march for the battle scene at the beginning of the second act. This performance under Christian Curnyn hits the right spot from the very start. There are no outstanding performances, but a whole collection of first-rate ones - Rosemary Joshua in the title role of the queen with so many admirers, Hilary Summers as the princess Rosmira, Kurt Streit as Emilio, the one prince who doesn't get the girl. (Andrew Clements)
Although highly productive and respected in his lifetime as a composer of Lieder, Robert Franz (1815–92) has since become a peripheral figure in music history. One reason may be that he avoids dramatic contrasts and instead aims at an emotional ambiguity: ‘My representation of joy is always tinged with melancholy, whilst that of suffering is always accompanied by an exquisite sensation of losing oneself’, he once wrote to Liszt. As a consequence his music appeals to those who are able ‘to admire the nuances of a charcoal drawing without longing for the colours of a painting’, to quote from Georges Starobinski’s liner notes to this recording. As they began to explore the songs of Franz, Starobinski and the baritone Christian Immler were moved by their findings to devise a programme which includes 23 of the composer’s often quite brief songs. Using the poet Heinrich Heine as their guiding star, they present these – all Heine settings but from different opus groups – in the form of two ‘imagined’ song cycles.