Fritz Wunderlich's lyricism, boundless musicianship and exquisite diction made him one of the great tenors of the 20th century. In September 2016, DG will commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death with the release of Complete Studio Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, a comprehensive 32CD box set of sacred works, opera and operetta, lieder and popular song. The collection includes Decca, Philips and Polydor recordings as well, several appearing internationally for the first time.
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Janis backed by one of the greatest symphonies ever assembled (the 50's/60's Chicago Symphony under the baton of the micromanaging Fritz Reiner) put together in short a legendary and frenzied performance of the Rachmaninov Concerto No. 1. I wish I could stop there, but unfortunately this recording was coupled with a stale performance of the No. 3.
While not technically awful, Jascha Heifetz's 1955 recording of Brahms' Violin Concerto with Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony is still close to unbearable. By 1955, Heifetz's once sinewy tone had tightened, his once supple technique had hardened, and his once warm interpretation had grown cold. With the never sinewy, supple, or warm Fritz Reiner, Heifetz creates a performance of Brahms' lyrical masterpiece that grates on the sensibilities.
Sweet Creep includes the lyricism of prior release Dad Country with an added air of hopefulness. Recorded in Jim James' (of My Morning Jacket) makeshift hilltop studio in Montecito Heights, Sweet Creep reverberates with the feeling of sunny vistas. From album opener Are You Thirsty to the summer-crushy 'Humidifier', Sweet Creep is a freshly-signed lease on life. Jonny throws himself into the new album by stripping things down to the essentials. He gathered Nashville's Joshua Hedley and Dawes' Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith and recorded the whole album in three days. The fresh air, freedom from studio pressures, and strong cups of tea all mix into the music, with ATVs briefly heard in the background and two senior tortoises listening at Hedley's feet as he fiddles away.
The complete cantata recordings of a Bach conductor who defined performance standards of these works in his day, newly remastered and compiled together for the first time on CD. In the generation of Bach interpreters before Karl Richter who brought his cantatas to an international audience, the name of Fritz Lehmann stands out: and indeed might still have eclipsed Richter but for his early death in 1956, at the age of just 51 and significantly just before the stereo era would move recorded music into a new era. Lehmann’s recorded legacy is nonetheless significant on its own terms, made mostly for Deutsche Grammophon and encompassing the Brahms’s German Requiem, and a Christmas Oratorio which he was recording at the time of his death, completed by Günther Arndt and now reissued by Eloquence (4827637).
Alessandro Scarlatti’s St John Passion was the first Passion setting written in seventeenth-century Italy. Scarlatti treats the role of the Evangelist (composed in the mezzo-soprano register) in highly unusual fashion, giving his narrative numerous emotional passages. The Voice of Christ (bass) is invariably haloed by a string accompaniment.
These pre-Chicago recordings of Fritz Reiner with the Pittsburghers is a reminder of his greatness as a conductor. It also restores to the catalog his recordings of some composers he wasn't closely identified with. Shostakovitch, for example, wasn't a regular on Reiner's studio schedule, but should have been, for this Sixth bristles with sardonic wit and energy. The Kodaly Dances, of course, were right up Reiner's alley, and get a smashing performance. The shorter works too, are first class, especially the Bart243;k Hungarian Sketches and another Reiner calling card, Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon Overture. Weiner's string Divertimento is charming, but the real prize may be Glinka's Kamarinskaya, given a peformance that shimmers and glistens with delicacy and life. Sony's restoration of the 1945-1947 recordings is faultless.