Colin Davis is arguably the finest Berlioz conductor in the world; both of his recordings of Les Troyens are magnificent and elsewhere he's rarely bettered. His winning streak continues with this live performance with the LSO of Harold in Italy and the ballet music from Troyens. Tabea Zimmermann's solo viola is as grand, brilliantly flavorful, and picturesque as the LSO's playing; and the entire performance swift and rhythmically propulsive is simply fantastic.
Colin Davis’s 1969 recording remains a landmark event, the first time this grand opera of Meyerbeerian length, spectacular éclat and Wagnerian artistic ambition had found its way complete onto LP. It effectively changed views about Berlioz the opera composer and orchestral genius and has for many remained the yardstick by which all later performances have been judged. Although studio recorded, it was based on the Covent Garden casting of the day – Jon Vickers’s heroic Aeneas and Josephine Veasey’s voluptuous Dido – with a couple of Frenchmen to boost the ranks of lesser Trojans and Carthaginians…
Spanish pianist Joaquin Achucarro performs Brahms' Piano Concerto No 2, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis, at St Luke's Hall, London. Also included is a solo performance filmed amongst the paintings of the Goya Gallery at the Prado Museum in Madrid.
This is a delightful recording from a conductor more closely allied than any other to Berlioz's music. With Berlioz the devil is always in the detail; he was an extraordinary orchestrator and capable of writing unidiomatically for instruments–especially the woodwinds–in order to get exactly the sound he wanted. Or rather, sounds, for the whole texture is made up of many layers. Davis understands this as if by instinct, and draws some beautiful playing from the instrumentalists without ever losing sight of the whole picture. It has been said that the French style of phrasing is all foreplay and no climax: the singers bring this teasing quality to their long, flowing lines but with a charmingly English home-counties blush too. Elsie Moris's light tone is a perfect match for Peter Pears' cool, silvery voice in this respect - and the choir too makes a good full sound without ever getting too heavy. The two discs also include some other gems from the pen of this most idiosyncratic of composers.
Götz Friedrich’s controversial Tannhäuser production from 1978 scandalized the Bayreuth old guard while revealing Tannhäuser’s revolutionary qualities to a new age of Wagner lovers.This brilliantly iconoclastic production, superbly sung and conducted, ushered in a new age of Wagner interpretation. Choreography of the ‘Bacchanal’ by John Neumeier and set design and costumes by the international well known stage designer Jürgen Rose. A superb cast led by Spas Wenkoff as Tannhäuser, Gwyneth Jones as Venus as well as Elisabeth and Bernd Weikl as Wolfram.
Covent Garden’s 2003 production of The Magic Flute , designed by John F. Macfarlane, directed by David McVicar, and conducted by Sir Colin Davis, is magnificent from a strictly musical standpoint. More than that, it’s vastly entertaining. The comedic elements of the story integrate far more comfortably than is often the case with Schikaneder’s high-minded (if vague) theme of a quest for enlightenment, particularly in the second act. Visually, the production is a feast, yet it doesn’t distract from the music. The intention was to maintain an 18th-century feel but to play freely with that aesthetic…
Originally recorded in the 1960s using modern instruments, a good-sized chorus and standard A-440 concert pitch, this is not a Messiah for fanatics of historically informed performances. On the other hand, Sir Colin Davis strikes an intelligent compromise between conventional forces and an awareness of Baroque performance practice that holds up remarkably well after three-plus decades. Textures and articulations are light, tempi are quick (sometimes too quick for soloists' maximum comfort) and ornamentation is not only permitted but encouraged. Moreover, this is a note-complete Messiah, except for an odd cut in the Da Capo of "He was despised," that chooses among the differing versions of various numbers with good results. Orchestra and choir execute the familiar music with superb precision and diction. The soloists, all English, give committed, idiomatic performances of their numbers, though as mentioned above, they occasionally seem taxed in their florid music.