ORFEO International – Reviews

Important Releases Briefly Introduced

September 2014

Salzburger Festspieldokumente 2014

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 B
C 892 141 B
This 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. C 890 142 A
C 890 142 A
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 B
C 893 141 B
It 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 C 891 141 B
C 891 141 B
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 I
C 894 142 I
They 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.