Rafael Kubelik's highly chromatic, poetic Mahler recordings have been staples in Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue since their inception. Tempos overall tend to be quicker than the norm, yet never at the expense of glossing over the composers renowned wealth of inner details. Many Mahler aficionados still regard Kubelik's readings here of the Symphonies No. 1 and No. 7 as reference recordings. Distinguished soloists include Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Mathis, Norma Proctor, Franz Crass, and Julia Hamari. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as the various outstanding choirs employed throughout the cycle couldn't be more in sync with Kubelik's inspired visionary interpretations.
The music of Brahms held an important place in Sir John Barbirolli's repertoire and these recordings of the symphonies, made with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1966 and 1967, stand as one of the peaks of his discography. Barbirolli's relationship with this music is rooted in his time as an orchestral cellist, and these performances are notable for their rich, ripe sonorities and expansive warmth. This Japanese SACD reissue features the 2011's EMI Remaster.
My first reaction was to wonder whether we had not passed saturation-point for recordings of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Over a dozen are currently available, of which any one of those mentioned above should satisfy the needs of even an insatiable Mahlerian. All are performances on insight, executed in majestic style, and several are available on CD. Now comes Sinopoli to add to the pile. Remembering colleagues' reviews of his London performances of Mahler, I put this recording on the turntable with misgivings. But I have to report that I now gladly make room for this remarkable performance alongside my other favourites. It does not displace them, but it complements them.
Part of the art of conducting seems to me to lie in the ability to make the listener attend afresh to familiar music, to reveal new or different facets. This is what Sinopoli does here, and whatever may go on in the concert hall (I have not heard him there), in the recording studio, judging by this release, the most certainly does not miss or misjudge the spirit of the music.
The Beethoven set includes the first two piano concertos (No. 1 in two versions, one with cadenzas supplied by Glenn Gould) together with Beethoven’s only completed opera in its final version: Fidelio. He always had a strong and fervent view of freedom and its resonance still rings true today nearly two hundred years since its first performance.