Swan Lake was the first of Tchaikovsky's three great ballets– works which added a new level of depth and sophistication to what had been a purely superficial art form. Today the music is so well-known and popular that it's impossible to comprehend the difficulties the composer experienced at early performances. Audiences found the music "too symphonic," and the dancers were put off by the prominence given to the orchestra which, they felt, distracted ballet fans from the action on stage. Of course, all of these supposed "defects" are precisely what we admire about the music today, and this elegant but exciting performance reveals the music in all of its glory.
This 2008 live recording with the London Symphony Orchestra is Valery Gergiev's 2nd complete recording of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo & Juliet, the 1st being a 1991 Philips release with the Kirov Orchestra. This performance, like his 1st, is notable for its refinement & lyricism. It's perhaps surprising that Gergiev, known for the wildness & ferocity of his performances of other Prokofiev works, like The Fiery Angel, shows such restraint here. Gergiev clearly understands the ballet as a work in which Prokofiev, writing originally for the Bolshoi, a theater known for its conservatism (although that production was canceled), tailored his score to follow in the tradition of the 3 great Tchaikovsky ballets.
The third in the Glass’ trilogy of operas about men who changed the world in which they lived through the power of their ideas, “Akhnaten”‘s subject is religion. The Pharaoh Akhnaten was the first monotheist in recorded story, and his substitution of a one-god religion for the multi-god worship in use when he came to power was responsible for his violent overthrow. The opera describes the rise, reign, and fall of Akhnaten in a series of tableaus. Libretto (Egyptian, Arcadian, Hebrew, and language of the audience) by the composer in association with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel and Richard Riddell. Vocal text drawn from original sources by Shalom Goldman.
This compilation covers 20 years of live recordings made by conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky and the then-named Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra for Erato. Mravinsky led that orchestra for nearly 50 years, from 1938 until his death. His last recording was that of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 12, made in 1984, found on Disc 3 here. His interpretations of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky were highly regarded, so it's not surprising that several of their symphonies are here. There are also symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven in this set; tone poems by Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky; and orchestral excerpts from operas by Wagner, Glinka, and Glazunov. The final disc contains a rare recording of a rehearsal led by Mravinsky, something few outsiders were ever allowed to witness. Even though he was an elder statesman of Russian music at the time of these recordings, there is still precision and energy in his interpretations.
This 6CD set contains 100 tracks from the catalogues of EMI Records, EMI Classics and Virgin Classics of recordings by the London Symphony Orchestra under some of the world’s greatest conductors and with a number of famous soloists.
In collaboration with Giovanni Antonini, Riccardo Minasi and Maurizio Biondi, Cecilia Bartoli restores the sound and spirit of Norma in a landmark Decca recording based on the opera’s original sources. Cecilia Bartoli leads a fabulous cast in Decca’s groundbreaking new recording, which presents Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma in a form that is complete with the exquisite mix of vocal and instrumental colours that Bellini intended for his ‘tragic opera’.
Most of the familiar orchestral versions of Richard Wagner’s operatic music were arranged either by him or his followers in the 19th century, so the Overture & Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser & the Prelude to Act III from Lohengrin have long been performed in these special concert formats. But the main work of this SACD is the 1993 suite arranged by Henk de Vlieger, Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest, which is a fresh adaptation of the key moments from Wagner’s final music drama. The work was commissioned by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, after de Vlieger, the ensemble’s percussionist, had successfully arranged music from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen into a similar orchestral vehicle for them. Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest was premiered on RCA in 1997 by Edo de Waart, & Neeme Järvi leads the 2nd recorded performance on this 2010 release on Chandos.