Pierre-Laurent Aimard continues to present a repertoire for the piano that is never less than imaginative and is always compelling. The Dvorák Piano Concerto is rarely heard, not because it lacks beauty or inventive scoring for both piano and orchestra, but because the piece has gained the reputation of the 'Tristan' of concertos. Enter Pierre-Laurent Aimard and all of that changes.
Glyndebourne has wisely preserved the best of Melly Still's literal,cluttered and ugly 2009 staging; its world-class soundtrack;.Dvorak's operatic masterpiece is in Belohlavek's bones, and he gets a thrilling and luminous account of the ravishing score from the LPO on virtually flawless form. It is the most central European of london's symphonic bands, and certainly equals, if not surpasses, the idiomatic Czech Philharmonic on rival sets conducted by Vaclav Neumann (supraphon) and Charles Mackerras (Decca). Ana Maria Martinez's Rusalka-more warm -blooded than Gabriela Benackova , less self-indulgent then Renee Fleming-gives one of the most ecstatic acounts of the famous Song to the Moon on disc.
Despite what the Gramophone says, I think this is the best digital Fidelio available. If you bought Harnoncourt's superb Beethoven cycle with the same orchestra, you will know what to expect: sharp tempos in early XIX Century fashion, and sensational orchestral playing. But there is also warmth and humanity in Harnoncourt's vision. This set reminds me of my favourite Fidelio: the Ferenc Fricsay recording in DG with Rysanek, Haefliger and DFD. Charlotte Margiono has the right voice for Leonore and gives an outstanding performance. The rest of the cast is also excellent.
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, truly merits the adjective "tragic"; it was written after the deaths of two of the composer's children in succession, and his grief rolled out in great, Verdian waves. There are several strong recordings on the market, including an earlier one by conductor Jiří Bělohlávek himself, but for the combination of deep feeling, technical mastery from musicians and singers who have spent their lives getting to know the score, and soloists who not only sound beautiful but are seamlessly integrated into the flow, this Decca release may be the king of them all. To what extent was the strength of the performance motivated by Bělohlávek's likely fatal illness (he died days after the album entered the top levels of classical charts in the spring of 2017)? It's hard to say, although he also delivered top-notch performances of Dvorák's Requiem in his last days. The members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir sing their hearts out in the gigantic, shattering opening chorus, which has rarely if ever had such a mixture of the impassioned and the perfectly controlled. Sample the chorus "Virgo virginium praeclara" to hear the magically suspended quality Bělohlávek brings out of the singers in lightly accompanied passages.
An imaginative mixture of the popular and the unusual. Barber’s only quartet has at its heart the famous Adagio for Strings: the latter is an arrangement of the second of the quartet’s two movements. That Adagio – which here benefits not only from the unfamiliarity of the chamber original but also from the Duke’s sensitively understated approach on their first recording for Collins Classics – is here surrounded by some captivating faster music (including a brief return to the opening Molto allegro’s ideas). And Robert Maycock’s excellent booklet notes hint at what those famous seven minutes of slow, sad passion in particular could really be said to be about: young homosexual love in the Austrian woods. Thirty years later, in 1966, another American in Europe, and still in his twenties, wrote his first string quartet, though it’s unlikely to be a direct reflection of love, this time in Paris.
Telemann's connection with Darmstadt is typical of a composer who cast his net widely on the path to becoming Germany's most acclaimed composer. Appointed to his Frankfurt post in 1712 Telemann was shrewd enough to realize that to 'get on' he needed to write music for the best. In instrumental terms, he was lucky enough to be based less than 20 miles from the Darmstadt court of Ernst Ludwig VII, a music-loving nobleman who had at his disposal a fine orchestra of musicians, many recruited from Paris, trained by the court Kapellmeister, Johann Christoph Graupner (known largely through his turning down the cantorate at St Thomas's Leipzig before Bach was reluctantly found to be an acceptable choice).
'Dimitrij' was presented in several different versions during the composer's lifetime. It was premiered in 1882, with cuts and revisions occuring in the 1886 piano reduction. The work was further revised in 1894 (this version premiered in Prague in that year), however the final performances in Dvořák's lifetime (in Plzeň in 1904) consisted of the first version combined with the third act in the second version.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his period orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, never recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, and this 2016 Sony release is their only recording of the Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, made almost ten months before the conductor's death. Harnoncourt planned for this to be his last recording before his retirement, so it inevitably has the feeling of a valedictory performance, and one can also hear it as the orchestra's warm tribute to its leader and his sterling musicianship.
Though written barely 20 years apart, Dvorák's Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations draw their inspiration from two entirely different epochs. Dvorák's lush, Romantic concerto has hints of Czech motherland and even adaptations of his own previous works. The accompaniment is densely scored with tutti sections that could easily be right out of one of his symphonies.