Renata Scotto shows an amazing flexibility and control. Her Caro nome is one to be heard many times. She reaches a high D and decrescendo's to an incredible ppp. I felt the aria drug a little in tempo, but the gorgeous sound more than made up for it. As Rigoletto, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has the vocal power demanded by the score. Too often he sounded as if he was delivering a recital of Leider. A smooth velvet sound was his mark throughout. In his duets with Gilda, this payed off handsomely. Even in his dealings with the courtiers after Gilda's abduction he showed us a rarely seen Dietrich blustery side.
The conventional view of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices puts them among the encores and etudes violinists use to hone their skills and show off their prowess. But Julia Fischer regards them primarily as expressive works that are as rich in lyricism and emotional color as they are in advanced techniques, and her 2010 Decca album shows her considered approach to the music. There's no doubt about Fischer's impressive abilities, which are apparent from hearing the first Caprice, and all the trickiest double- and triple-stops, bowing styles, and various means of articulation that are included in this fantastic work reveal her phenomenal gifts. But as amazing as Fischer's performance is for sheer technique, it is highly pleasurable because of her polished musicality and firm control of every nuance that is either overt or suggested in the music. The notoriously difficult Caprice No. 6, which Fischer plays con sordino, has a special ghostly quality that makes it much more ethereal and Romantic in character than an exercise in playing trills. Even the ever-popular Caprice No. 9, and that favorite of composers of variations, the Caprice No. 24, have a freshness and vitality that come directly from Fischer's genuine feelings, not merely her dazzling skills. Decca's sound is crisp and clean, so the full range of the violin's timbres and dynamics come through without studio boosting. Highly recommended.
A new recording of a work as often recorded as the Concerto for Orchestra should offer something unusual, as well, and this disc does. Kossuth, a 20-minute symphonic poem, was the 22-year-old composer's first major orchestral composition. The conception owes much to Richard Strauss and the style to Liszt, but there are plenty of hints of material that show up in his mature works. The Village Scenes is a particularly exciting choral-orchestral expansion of a work originally for voices and piano, and the Concerto of course, is enormously popular.