Here is a really lovely performance of Ein Heldenleben, perfectly recorded in Frankfurt’s Alte Oper. From the very first note—that rich ocean-liner steam whistle signifying a voyage through life—it’s satisfying—if, that it is—you like things a bit understated. You are sitting about row “K,” and the orchestra is laid out before you at a slight distance. Listeners familiar with the many videos of this orchestra on YouTube will not be disappointed at the fine balances and purring nature of the sound. This is a satiny, swift reading, gently beautiful, supple and romantic in an undemonstrative way. It reminds me of Reiner’s and Kempe’s versions, both of which bring the piece home similarly at around 45 minutes.
A Crop of Recordings XIII: Richard Strauss, Hans Rott, Alberto Ginastera, Robert Schumann, and Gabriel Fauré
This is a groundbreaking recording—and a wonderful one! I first became aware of Elektra on an old Fritz Reiner/Inge Borkh LP of excerpts. The unusual violence of Strauss’s harmonies appealed to my teenage ears. Not long after, Georg Solti taped the complete opera, though without, I felt, the same crushing power from the podium as Reiner. But the sound of the orchestral score remained with me, and I always hoped someone would put together a suite. It’s taken 54 years in my case—but here it is!
D’INDY Symphony No. 2. Souvenirs. Istar. Fervaal: Prelude • Jean-Luc Tingaud, conductor; Scottish National Orchestra • NAXOS 8.573522 (80:03) As I soak-in timeless Wagnerian caresses from D’Indy’s Fervaal Prelude, it strikes me I’d be happy in D’Indy’s rather…
A Generous Collection of Works by Marie Jaëll from the Centre de Musique Romantique Française (Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice)/Ediciones Singulares
Lovers of nineteenth-century music will want to know about the remarkable work of the Centre de Musique Romantique Française. The Center, founded in 2009, is run primarily by scholars from France but is located in Venice, at the Palazetto Bru Zane. It engages in research—and provides financial support—for concerts, opera performances, print publications, and numerous recordings. Many of these recordings are multiple-CD sets that come with a small hardbound book containing—in French and English—informative essays and sung texts and translations. The Center organizes these CD/book combinations into three categories: “French Opera” (11 releases so far), “[Composer] Portraits” (3 releases), and “Prix de Rome” (6 releases—compositions written by student composers at the Paris Conservatoire, such as the young Debussy). All the CD/books are produced and published by the Center itself, but Amazon.com and other record distributors tend to refer to them, instead, by the name of the firm that manufactures the book: Ediciones Singulares (El Escorial, Spain).
DVOŘÁK Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 and Op. 72 Complete • Antal Dorati, conductor; Minneapolis Symphony • MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE 4343842 (68:00) It would be hard to suppose people don’t dance with so much vigor as in the past, but you’d…
This CD has already become a favored and frequented member of my collection. Chandos has a long and successful history of recording the BBC Philharmonic, but this is the first recording I’ve encountered from their new venue in MediaCity, Salford. I’m happy to report that the transparency, fine balances and smooth listenability of the old Studio 3 are alive and well in the new facility. And the performances, under recently appointed Music Director Juanjo Mena, are as idiomatic and atmospheric as one could hope for.
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1. 4 Ballades • Paul Lewis (piano), Daniel Harding, conductor; Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra • HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902191 (70:09) Call me a fool for love, but I’ve been listening raptly to this CD for days without…
“If only I had known it could be done like this!” So enthused Brahms the first time he heard Dvořák’s Cello Concerto—then as now probably the greatest work for cello and orchestra ever written. “If only Brahms could hear this performance,” I’m tempted to say! Thomas Dausgaard seems to have a musical green thumb. Touch something and it springs to life with unexpected flips of energy and color—Schubert and Schumann Symphonies with his Swedish Chamber Orchestra only among the most recent successes.