In memoriam Maestro Maazel, Sony Classical re-releases the “Maazel Great Recordings” 30-CD Box to honour his great work. During his career, he conducted more than 150 orchestras in some 5,000 opera and concert performances. He served as general manager and artistic director at the Vienna State Opera and conducted the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, the first American to do so in both cases. He also served at the Radio Symphony of Berlin, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic.
Finland's Jean Sibelius is perhaps the most important composer associated with nationalism in music and one of the most influential in the development of the symphony and symphonic poem. Sibelius was born in southern Finland, the second of three children. His physician father left the family bankrupt, owing to his financial extravagance, a trait that, along with heavy drinking, he would pass on to Jean. Jean showed talent on the violin and at age nine composed his first work for it, Rain Drops. In 1885 Sibelius entered the University of Helsinki to study law, but after only a year found himself drawn back to music. He took up composition studies with Martin Wegelius and violin with Mitrofan Wasiliev, then Hermann Csillag…
Jack Renner and Robert Woods dared to aim high, think big and take risks. In 1977, they had the audacity – and the funding – to hire the Cleveland Orchestra and music director Lorin Maazel to launch their company, TELARC Records. Their debut album, Direct from Cleveland, was the first modern-day direct-to-disc long-play recording of a symphonic ensemble, and it put the small company on the audiophile map.(Simeon Louis Sandiford, SoundStage!2Network)
Lorin Maazel usually is a very good Strauss conductor, and he's at his best in these live recordings. He launches Don Juan with considerable gusto, and only the quiet passage before the famous horn theme sounds as if it could move a bit more purposefully forward. The orchestra plays extremely well, as it does in Death and Transfiguration, an interpretation full of excitement and (at the end) exaltation, and without a trace of the affectation that sometimes mars Maazel's work. The truth is, he has such a fine podium technique that it sometimes seems he does things because he can, rather than because he should–but not here. This performance, and the smoldering, sultry, deliciously trashy Salomé's Dance, are the disc's highlights. The Rosenkavalier Suite closes the program in ebullient fashion, though the music itself isn't quite so much fun as the other items on the program. The live sonics are good, a touch raw at the climaxes, but very acceptable. I do wish, though, that the applause had been edited out. Recommended.
This was one of the first digital version (the very first?) of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto and remains pretty competitive though perhaps not a first choice. Kremer's playing is surely polished and technically impressive; the phrasing is wonderful and the tone beautiful. Still, it is unfortunately a little short on charm and expressive depth - Tchaikovsky's concerto isn't really the most appropriate vehicle neither for classical restraint nor almost curmudgeonly introspective approaches; it is peripatetic grand drama and passion and heart-on-sleeve through and through and despite Kremer's sweetness of tone he never manages to scale the heights or plunge the emotional abysses of the music.
"Between 1972 and 1982 Maazel was Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra and between 1973-79 made a series of recordings for Decca – all of which are collected here.
The repertory includes many orchestral spectaculars and Decca’s first recording in Cleveland, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, is one of the very best and a recording which has achieved reference status. “…. The precision of The Cleveland Orchestra is little short of miraculous… the recording is one of Decca’s most spectacular, searingly detailed but atmospheric too.”
Lorin Maazel's early recordings are the ones collected here and they are his finest work. Maazel was always a gifted conductor but as he aged he had a tendency to slow his tempi substantially, which I find conveys a somewhat diffuse and unfocused quality to his interpretations. His early work, however, is incisive, dramatic, beautifully articulated and well-textured. He extracts wonderful performances from his orchestras, with a special ability to make woodwinds and strings combine to magical effect.
Maazel's performances appear not only on audio recordings but on film - he was the conductor for film versions of Don Giovanni (Joseph Losey's award-winning adaptation, mentioned below), Carmen and Franco Zeffirelli's interpretation of Otello.
Although primarily known as a conductor, Maazel was no stranger to composition himself, arranging material from Wagner's Ring Cycle into a 75-minute suite, The Ring Without Words, and composing an opera based on George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; and as if this were not enough, he was also an accomplished violinist (see below for a recording of his performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons)…