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.
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).
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.
The performances heard on this recording by the superstar duo of violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Martha Argerich do not exactly form a discrete group: the first work, Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105, was recorded live in 1998, while the rest consists of 2016 studio recordings. The 1998 performance, however, was part of a concert in Saratoga Springs, New York, that provided the stimulus for the joint recording. The Schumann sonata performance was not released at that time, and the rest of the program expands on the music it presents. It's nice to have the Schumann, which has a good deal of tension and energy. As for the rest, it's hard to point to a clear decline in the skills of either of the septuagenarian performers.
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.