C 887 141 BFor almost 30 years he has been a regular guest at the Vienna State Opera – as also in the current season, performing in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina on its opening night and singing the role of Fiesco in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (one of his other famed roles). The above-mentioned rulers in the operas by these same two composers – Boris Godunov and Philip II (whom Furlanetto will also sing at the New York Met in 2015) – are on the programme of Furlanetto’s new portrait CD in the series “Vienna State Opera Live”. Ferruccio Furlanetto has performed both roles several times at the Vienna State Opera. As a master of vocal characterization and psychological nuance, Furlanetto particularly understands how to give expression to the loneliness of both men – such as here in excerpts from Don Carlos in 1997 and 2001 (conducted by Michael Halász and Vjekoslav šutej) in the duet of the King with the Marquis von Posa (here sung by Carlos Álvarez), in the famous aria “Ella giammai m’amò”, and in the ensuing confrontations with the Grand Inquisitor (Eric Halfvarson) and Elisabeth, his supposedly unfaithful queen (Miriam Gauci). Ferruccio Furlanetto also impresses and moves us as Boris Godunov, both in the Kremlin scene in the second version of Mussorgsky’s opera, here in a production from 2007 under the baton of Daniele Gatti, and also in the death scene of the original version, sung under Tugan Sokhiev in 2012. As in his Verdi interpretations, Ferruccio Furlanetto also demonstrates a keen sensitivity to the shape and phrasing of the music in the Russian idiom. He is a bass who, according to the demands of the drama, can offer the darkest of tone colours and vocal shadings, and yet can rise above the human abysses of his characters to maintain the beauty of the musical line throughout.
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Baiba Skride is almost unparalleled in her virtuosic, idiomatic mastery of the standard solo violin repertoire. But that is not all, for her concert calendar and her discography also repeatedly feature works by lesser-known composers. In September 2013 she played Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto at the Proms in London, accompanied by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vasily Petrenko.
C 873 141 AShe has also recorded the same composer’s Second Violin Concerto in the studio, along with the duo cycle Myths with Lauma Skride at the piano. Szymanowski’s music fascinates above all on account of its stylistic variety. His oeuvre can be divided into several different phases; the early piano and chamber music clearly betrays the influence of Skryabin and Chopin, with the works of the latter serving as a decisive inspiration to Szymanowski as co-founder of the “Young Poland” music movement. On his journeys through Europe and to Africa, Szymanowski’s music developed further. He was initially inspired by the music of Wagner, Strauss and Schreker, then became increasingly attracted by archaic topics and drew on these in his musical concepts. The abovementioned works in Baiba Skride’s most recent recording allow us to trace this path that Szymanowski took, beginning with the chamber duo Myths, which refer to ancient times in a quasi-Impressionistic fashion, depicting characters such as “Narcissus” and the “Dryads and Pan” in iridescent colours. The First Violin Concerto was given its world première one year later, in 1916, and goes beyond this aesthetic. The poem on which it is based – May Night by Tadeusz Micinski – also contains references to myths, though Szymanowski uses its nocturnal atmosphere after the manner of Gustav Mahler, eschewing any clear programme. Instead, he creates beguiling melodic lines and duets between the solo violin and individual instrumental groups (especially the woodwind). The Second Violin Concerto of 1932, on the other hand, offers Baiba Skride and the orchestra the opportunity to savour the full force of Szymanowski’s late style: in the Finale, clear, rhythmically structured sections with folkloristic echoes are united with the violin’s melodic lines to create an unexpectedly triumphal close that Szymanowski himself never surpassed.
As every year, Orfeo’s Salzburg “Festival Documents” this year recall seminal artists from the history of the Festival. First and foremost here we must mention Claudio Abbado, who died in January 2014. He conducted many concerts and operas in Salzburg, and not just with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras. He also led international youth orchestras to major successes at the Festival.
C 892 141 BThis is impressively documented by our CD with his live recording of the first concert of the European Community Youth Orchestra in 1979 in a programme as varied as it was ambitious, ranging from Beethoven via Prokofiev and Stravinsky to Schoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw with the Vienna Jeunesse Choir and Maximilian Schell as the narrator. This programme is complemented on the CD by a recording of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in the Night on a bald mountain by Modest Mussorgsky – a composer whom Abbado did much to rehabilitate through championing the original versions of his works.
We have reason to remember another great conductor in 2014, as he would have turned 100 years old this August: Ferenc Fricsay. His career was cut short by his all-too-early death in 1963, but his interpretations in Salzburg set standards of excellence. This was certainly the case with the German-language stage première of Frank Martin’s Le vin herbé. This production is now available as a historic live recording. Fricsay makes a strong impression with his confident sense of style in this unusual musical idiom for the tale of Tristan and Isolde. Julius Patzak and Maria Cebotari sing the main roles – both very different from those in Richard Wagner’s opera, but sung no less expressively here. In contrast to Wagner, too, this opera has a balanced overall ensemble, and the Chorus of the Vienna State Opera under Fricsay gives an audibly committed performance.
Homogenous ensemble-playing and the art of listening to each other were also features of the performance of the Borodin Quartet at the Salzburg Festival in 1961. Their Salzburg première of the Eighth String Quartet by Dmitri Shostakovich confirmed them as one of the leading ensembles not just for works by this composer, but for Russian and contemporary music in general. Above and beyond this, the Borodin Quartet also demonstrated its immense stylistic competence in works by Brahms and Ravel, whose music framed the work by Shostakovich that was at the core of the evening. Their performance of these other composers was no less subtle in its dynamism and agogic power.
For purists there was an all-Mozart programme with the Vienna Philharmonic at the 1980 Festival, with no less a figure than Karl Böhm on the podium.
C 893 141 BIt was to be his farewell to the Festival, though no one would have thought it, given the clarity and crispness of his interpretations of the A-major symphony K 201 and the Haffner Symphony K 385. With Maurizio Pollini he had a partner at the piano for the “Little Coronation Concerto” K 459 who audibly shared his perception of music-making and was similarly able to illuminate the music as if from within. Together with Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic, he brought this concerto to perfection.
The collection of selections from various song recitals from 1956 to 2010 is in celebration of the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss. No less than 18 exceptional Strauss singers perform here, and we list them in the order as they are heard in the edition: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lisa Della Casa, Irmgard Seefried, Nicolai Gedda, Christa Ludwig, Hermann Prey, Leontyne Price, Peter Schreier, Edita Gruberova, Jessye Norman, Edith Mathis, Marjana Lipovšek, Heinz Zednik, Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza, Thomas Hampson, Diana Damrau and Michael Volle.
C 894 142 IThey offer a cross-section on CD of the more than 200 songs by this composer, ranging from famous early songs such as Die Nacht and Zueignung via excerpts from the rarely heard Krämerspiegel to late settings of poems by Friedrich Rückert.
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The first performance of a series, they say, isn’t always the best. But this basic tenet of the theatre also deserves closer examination with the benefit of hindsight. At first glance, connoisseurs of the Bayreuth Festival and its recording history will think there can be little that is new about a live recording of the Bayreuth Tannhäuser that Wieland Wagner directed in 1961, conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.
C 888 143 DIt was only in the following Festival summer that Sawallisch’s achievements on the rostrum were particularly well documented in audio form, with Wolfgang Windgassen as the title hero and, alongside him, Grace Bumbry in her international breakthrough role as the “black Venus”. But in 1961, Victoria de los Angeles sang Elisabeth and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (at his last Bayreuth Festival) the role of Wolfram. As the critics noted, the opening night suffered not just from what were presumably the usual first-night tension and nerves, but also from the adverse, rainy weather that dogged the first week of the Festival and that meant the common cold was doing the rounds. The discovery in radio archives of a Tannhäuser from the second of the subsequent performances is thus a real find, and it is being released on CD in 2014 in the series of historical recordings of the Bayreuth Festival. By a stroke of luck, all the protagonists were on form on the evening of 3 August 1961, as we can now hear for the first time. This allowed Wolfgang Sawallisch to maintain his stringent reading of the Tannhäuser score. His tempi were taut, but still allowed for a decisive hint of elasticity, with slight rubati and adjustments according to the phrasing of the individual singers. As so often in a cast that was assembled in large part by Wieland Wagner, we can here discern a balance between lyrical voices and a subtle, psychologically precise art of characterisation – which is particularly the case with Victoria de los Angeles, who sings the role of Elisabeth in a songlike manner, without any undue intensification towards a youthful-dramatic vocal interpretation of the role (which some of her colleagues have taken to excess). Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau outdoes himself once again as Wolfram, and the “parting couple” at the outset – Grace Bumbry and Wolfgang Windgassen – here achieve a perfect balance of love’s lust and sorrow (perhaps better than they ever had before, or ever would again). Sometimes a second attempt is worth more than twice the trouble.
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Rafael Kubelík’s reputation as one of the most significant conductors of the 20th century rests not just on his work with the great orchestras of Berlin, Chicago or Munich (many of his recordings with the last of these, incidentally, are represented in the ORFEO catalogue).
Foto: WDR ArchivBesides the recordings he made within the context of his duties as chief conductor, a series of interesting recordings also exists from the early 1960s with Kubelík conducting the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (today the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne). The earliest of the WDR archive recordings published here is of Dvořák’s Piano Concerto. Both this composer and this work in particular played a special role in Kubelík’s career. He had performed this work in 1946 at the first Prague Spring Festival, with the same soloist as on this recording – Rudolf Firkušný. The passionate lyricism of Firkušný’s playing and the intensity of the orchestral accompaniment under Kubelík achieve such a balance that one can easily understand why the Dvořák interpretations of these two artists are regarded as exemplary to this day. The same is true of Kubelík’s interpretations of Robert Schumann, whose Third Symphony, the “Rhenish”, was accorded a definitive recording by Kubelík and the WDR Orchestra. His recordings of the Cello and Piano Concertos are of equal stature. In the former, János Starker proved an inimitable soloist with his sensitivity and love of musical detail, while in the latter, Claudio Arrau’s understanding of the musical architecture harmonised perfectly with Kubelík’s masterly sense of structure. This last quality is also apparent in his recording of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and his Fifth Symphony (the “Reformation”). Mendelssohn is a composer with whom Kubelík is seldom associated, though these performances lack for nothing in their flexibility of tempi and dynamics. And to close with, we offer recordings of two of Haydn’s London Symphonies: No. 101 “The Clock” and No. 102. Questions of authentic performance practice recede into the background when one hears Kubelík perform Haydn with such playfulness, such verve in the fast movements and such unsentimental composure in the slow movements. Like all the other treasures offered here from the WDR archives, they cast new light on the work of this conductor whose 100th birthday was on 29 June 2014.
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For several decades now, the Consortium Classicum has been recognized as one of the outstanding chamber ensembles with a variable formation. This is proven once again by the present recording of piano septets by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837), in which the founder of the Consortium Classicum, Dieter Klöcker, participated before his death in 2011. The pianist in each of the septets is Florian Uhlig.
C 762 141 AIt should not surprise us that combinations of seven instruments should have inspired the imagination of so many composers after Beethoven.
Foto: Marco Borggreve
Foto: PrivatarchivThey included Hummel, an important representative of the generation of composers situated between Viennese classicism and Romanticism. While still a child he was fêted throughout Europe for his skills as a pianist. His teachers included both Mozart and Haydn (it was Haydn who had recommended him to a post at the Esterházy court), and he would later be in demand as a teacher himself. He also became friends with Beethoven. Hummel’s compositions display an almost boundless formal variety (the symphony was the only genre he ignored) and his chamber works too are extremely diverse. Hummel’s two septets are perfect examples of the scope of his musical invention. His Great Septet in d minor op. 74 “omits” the violin, but its colour palette is instead enriched by the bright tone of the flute and oboe. The horn, viola, cello and double bass are responsible for the melodic, songlike nature of the work, and are in this aided and abetted by the graceful piano part. The catchy closing rondo is particularly memorable. The Grand Septet in C major (The Military), op. 114, begins on the other hand with a concise “trumpet call” (which actually does not really sound martial at all) that reappears throughout the movement and through all the registers of the different instruments; these again include the piano, flute, cello and double bass, but this time also the violin, trumpet and clarinet. The last of these is played here by the ensemble’s “spiritus rector” of so many years, Dieter Klöcker. His colleagues match him here in their good humour, their technical brilliance and their love of musical detail – qualities that this new recording possesses from the very first note to the very last.
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Following on from the success of the scandalous Salome, it was with Elektra in 1909 – his first collaboration with Hugo von Hofmannsthal – that Richard Strauss finally cemented his position as the leading German opera composer of his generation. Even today, the radical expressive violence of Elektra is regarded as paradigmatic of musical Modernism. The immense vocal and orchestral demands it makes remain undiminished, too. The number of singers who have really been able to meet the murderous challenge of singing the title role have been few and far between.
C 886 142 IIn the 1960s and ’70s, Birgit Nilsson was undoubtedly one of them, possessing as she did a powerful voice also capable of much subtlety. She sang Elektra at the Vienna State Opera in 1965 in a production by Wieland Wagner, and the live recording of the opening night is now available from Orfeo. No less a figure than Karl Böhm was on the conductor’s podium; his close connection to Strauss’s operatic oeuvre is proven not just by his having given the world première of Daphne, which was dedicated to him. Thanks to Nilsson and Böhm, this Elektra at the Vienna State Opera in 1965 was a musical triumph. Not only did they give full rein to the eruptive violence of the sheer acoustic mass that confronts us in Strauss’s setting of this ancient tale of vengeance, but they also did justice to the psychological details that the composer teased out of the text. They were aided in this by the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, which played brilliantly across all its sections, and by a cast of singers that was homogeneous right down to the smallest roles. Besides Birgit Nilsson, the evening was naturally dominated by the other two main female roles: Leonie Rysanek sang the wistful Chrysothemis – a role in which she became famous – and with her luminous soprano she was an ideal counterpart to Nilsson’s heroine. As their adversary, their inscrutable mother Klytämnestra, the dusky-timbred Regina Resnik gave a superb performance. For the brief role of her adulterous lover Aegisth, the State Opera had the luxury of engaging the legendary heldentenor Wolfgang Windgassen. Eberhard Waechter sang the part of Orest, and with his unmistakeable baritone he offered every possible nuance of this important character, driven by fate.
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