C 946 191Whilst maintaining their own high profile solo careers, their passion for chamber music unites the four of them. Within a short period of time they have grown into a close-knit chamber ensemble in great demand internationally. This Debut-CD includes the most famous Piano Quartets of Classical literature, by Mozart and Brahms as well then the unique Quartet movement by Gustav Mahler.
ORFEO 2 CD MP 1805
There are composers whose oeuvres shine so radiantly that other stars almost pale next to their splendour.
MP 1805This fate befell a whole epoch of composers, i.e. the ‘maestros of the Mozart period’. But, beside Mozart’s ‘sun’ there is so much to discover. Franz Anton Hofmeister and Antonio Rosetti takes up a musical fashion of the 18th century: the ‘hunting symphony’. With František Benda, Johann Baptist Vanhal and Leopold Kozeluch, we can hear a group of composers who ranked among the most influential maestros of their time. Joseph Martin Kraus, also named as "The Swedish Mozart", Pedro Étienne Solère and of course Antonio Salieri complete this 2CD-Program which show us that this Masters has nothing to hide in the shadow of Mozart.
ORFEO 5 CD C 977 195
Glazunov’s symphonies are a significant cycle within the Russian symphony,
C 977 195to which similar status should be accorded as the today considerably better-known symphonic cycles by his successors Prokofiev, Myaskovsky or Shostakovich. Like Camille Saint-Saëns in France or Max Bruch in Germany, Alexander Glazunov was a truly progressive, but formally conservatively thinking composer who was not willing to sacrifice the traditional symphonic form to superficial Modernism. It is now time to rehabilitate Glazunov’s symphonies. Whoever studies them intensively will discover some of the finest music of their time and particularly under the wonderful baton of the great Glazunov champion Neeme Järvi.
ORFEO 2 CD MP 1803
Some of Bartók’s best-known works are collected on this album. All of them have written music history and decisively influenced classical Modernism. The composition of these works extends from 1927 (String Quartet No. 3) to 1945 (Piano Concerto No. 3).
MP 1803It was a time of upheaval for Bartók. Famous as one of the most successful musicians of his generation, within a short time he was declared one of the ‘degenerate’ composers by the Nazis, had to emigrate to the USA, where he led an extremely hapless life, contracted leukemia and died in 1945. The Concerto for Orchestra (1943) and the Piano Concerto No. 3 were his final major works and both rank among Bartók’s most influential compositions. String Quartet No. 3 was also an instant international success: even shortly after its composition it won the Chamber Music Award of the City of Philadelphia, and Theodor Adorno wrote a detailed essay, classifying the piece as one of the standard-setting works of his time. Piano Concerto No. 2 (1930/31) is an experiment in the manner of Neo-Classicism. The influence of Stravinsky is evident. Today, the concerto is one of the most popular piano concertos of the 20th century. The Music for String Instruments, Percussion and Celesta (1936) is considered one of the most personal works in Bartók’s oeuvre, a work of progression, in which the composer strikes an intimate private style, seeming to reconcile Modernism with the musical past. The inner tragedy and drama of the work are harrowing, apparently auguring personal misfortune in the composer’s life .
ORFEO 2 CD MP 1802
During the early Classical period, the focus of the European music world shifted. Whereas during the Baroque era Italy, France and Germany – the core areas of the courts of absolutistic rulers – had dictated the rhythm, the strengthening of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a new music aesthetics that departed from pompous Baroque ideas.
MP 1802Even at Mozart’s time, Prague was considered one of the most important ‘music cities’ in the world. The composers on this album also had a share in this development. Among them, Johann Baptist Vanhal occupies a special position. He was one of the most successful artists of his time and one of the first musicians to be able to live from the income from their compositions and music lessons. In this, he was a model for Mozart and Beethoven. By contrast, František Benda was a member of the court orchestras of August the Strong and later Frederick the Great. Leopold Koželuch was one of the most productive composers of the 18th century, a pioneer in many fields and a progressive mind. Johann Sobeck was born in the vicinity of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary), but made a career at the Royal Theatre of Hanover. He worked for more than 50 years in the Lower Saxon provincial capital. Ždenìk Fibich was a contemporary of Anton Dvoøák, so he epitomizes Romanticism in music. As a significant representative of a Czech national style in music, today he is just as undeservedly under-represented as Joseph Bohuslav Foerster, who was a close friend of Gustav Mahler.
ORFEO 2 CD MP 1801
Today, there is no doubt that Johann Sebastian Bach took Baroque music to its sublime zenith. That was not always clear to his contemporaries. They regarded Bach’s demanding fugues as approaching theoretical music: highly elaborate, but on the border of unplayability.
MP 1801Just how much Bach was ahead of his time can be gauged by the fact his ‘piano’ music (in the Baroque period, all keyboard instruments were termed ‘clavier’) engaged the greatest among his successors: Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Debussy and Shostakovich. All of them (and many others) dealt with Bach’s music in some of their most significant compositions, the preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier here forming the pivotal point. Up to today, Bach’s music for keyboard instruments has proven to be an inexhaustible source of musical abundance, but it is still open to the most differing interpretational approaches.
Four pianists perform Bach on this album. They stand for different periods in interpretational history, beginning with the ‘New Objectivity’ of Carl Seeman, born in 1910, up to the highly virtuoso art of Konstantin Lifschitz, born in 1976 and also taught by Alfred Brendel. The four personalities of the pianists on this album merge with Bach’s music, giving a notion of why it is accorded universal magnitude.
ORFEO 2 CD C 952 182 I
A Haydn rarity with Nikolaus Harnoncourt
This unique performance of
C 952 182 IHaydnʼs biblical oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia, which is so rarely to be heard, is thanks to an unusual gift: the orchestra La Scintilla, which was founded as an “original sound” ensemble comprising musicians from the Zurich opera orchestra, had awarded Nikolaus Harnoncourt honorary membership. The honour included the opportunity for Harnoncourt to choose a piece of music which he could then perform with the orchestra in an ideal atmosphere.
Harnoncourt surprised everyone by choosing Haydnʼs virtually unknown oratorio based on the apocryphal Bible story of Tobias (Tobit), who goes on an adventurous journey with the angel Raphael in order to heal his blind father with the angelʼs help. In keeping with the spirit of the subject matter, the proceeds of the concert were given to a charity supporting war victims of Sarajevo.
The work was performed under Harnoncourtʼs direction with an ideal line-up of soloists (Ann Hallenberg, Valentina Farcas, Mauro Peter, Sen Guo and Ruben Drole) and the magnificent Arnold Schoenberg Choir at a 2013 Salzburg Festival concert in the Felsenreitschule. The release by Orfeo International of the live recording, which is almost devoid of background noise, is only the third-ever recording to have been made of this very seldom performed Haydn oratorio in the history of phonography. Yet again one is moved to ask why so many of Haydnʼs operas and oratorios are so rarely played. Viewed objectively, Il ritorno di Tobia is in no way inferior to Haydnʼs hit oratorios The Creation and The Seasons.
ORFEO 1 CD C 956 181 A
With Elisabeth Kulman through the history of the art song
The Schwarzenberg Schubertiade can look
C 956 181 Aback on more than forty years of music-making history, making it one of the oldest music festivals for the Lieder genre. In the true spirit of its co-founders Hermann Prey and Gerd Nachbauer, the music of Franz Schubert is the central focus of interest, and this is reflected in the frequent airing of works by composers who followed Schubert and continued his Lieder legacy.
One of the foremost composers of Lieder after Schubert was undoubtedly Robert Schumann, whom Elisabeth Kulman, possibly todayʼs best mezzo soprano, placed at the heart of her Schubertiade Lieder recital on August 26, 2017. Together with her outstanding accompanist Eduard Kutrowatz she performed a very personal selection of Schumann Lieder which included both the well known standard songs as well as rarities in the repertoire.
In the second half of her recital, Kulman contrasted some of the best known Schubert Lieder with songs by Herwig Reiters, who is currently deemed one of the leading composers of Lieder, thereby impressively illustrating how the tradition of the art song has developed from Schubertʼs time to the present day to produce some really brilliant repertoire for listeners to enjoy.
ORFEO 1 CD C 953 181 B
The year 1974 saw some of the best artists of their time join forces at the Salzburg Festival to revive a repertoire that had long been neglected. The works in question were Robert Schumann’s “Spanisches Liederspiel” Op. 74 and Johannes Brahms’s “Liebeslieder Waltzes” Op. 52.
C 953 181 BBoth these cycles call for up to four solo vocalists, and the Brahms songs are scored for a four-hand accompaniment. Such repertoire may have been ideal for the bourgeois drawing-rooms of the 19th century, but it was bound to fall foul of the 20th-century tendency to pigeonhole everything by genre. The excitement was all the greater, then, when Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier and Walter Berry together with pianists Paul Schilhawsky and Erik Werba performed these pieces during the Salzburg Festival in a manner that even today can arouse nothing but admiration. The rehearsal photos included in the booklet testify to the sheer love of music-making experienced by all who took part and thanks to the excellent soloists, all at the height of their vocal powers, that delight comes across just as strongly today, making this historic live recording a true audio document of enduring quality and stature.
ORFEO 3 CD C 866 183 D
When an event of such worldwide significance as the Salzburg Festival features a box-office success like Bizet’s “Carmen”, it is always newsworthy. But back in 1967, we should recall, “Carmen” was being put on at the Salzburg Festival for the very first time. The expectations were vast, and so no expense was spared.
C 866 183 DThe great stars of the day, such as Grace Bumbry, Mirella Freni, Jon Vickers, John van Kesteren and many more, ensured a cast that even today can be considered ideal down to the very smallest supporting role. And Herbert von Karajan was more than a conductor, he was the director of the production, having full control over presenting the music to full advantage as he saw it from his point of view. Musically first-rate, the listener can have no clue that this staging was to prove Karajan’s greatest Salzburg failure. Thus this optimally restored live audio recording represents yet another Salzburg document released by Orfeo and giving us an objective look back across the space of half a century.
ORFEO 1 CD C 933 181 A
Rare Russian cello repertoire: From the Old World
Perhaps the relatively small size of a repertoire is an advantage after all. The vast realm occupied by the leading genres – as in Verdi’s operatic oeuvre, Bach’s cantatas, Schubert’s Lieder or Haydn’s symphonies – seems so extensive as to make one despair of embracing it in its entirety.
C 933 181 AThe cello repertoire cannot boast such wide expanses, and Daniel Müller-Schott seems to take real pleasure in making a virtue of necessity, in introducing us to great works of the literature and casting fresh light on each of them.His new all-Russian programme revolves around Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. Other works by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov bring together composers in a late Romantic tradition that ended on the death of Glazunov in 1936, even if that troika met only once – at the dedication of a statue to Glinka in 1885.
Apart from that the three composers are united by a complex and tense relationship portrayed in detail in the booklet in an extensive artist interview conducted by Meret Forster. Daniel Müller-Schott brings home to us how the Rococo Variations depict Tchaikovsky’s love of Mozart and his “modern”, nobly historical awareness of past times – along with his own intensive emotionalism. He also presents Tchaikovsky’s three-part “Souvenir d’un lieu cher”, a work scarcely to be heard in its original version for violin, now transposed to the cello by the soloist (having previously been orchestrated by Glazunov) who thus poses himself the ultimate challenge – while enlarging the cello repertoire.
This and other highly entertaining and enlighteningly different examples of the genre, presented by an accomplished soloist who himself studied under that monumental Russian virtuoso Mstislav Rostropovich, cannot fail to give their interpreter a historical dimension of his own. It is already more than a quarter of a century since he won first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians, which marked the commencement of his international career – a career which has lasted longer and more sustainably than is to be expected amid the evanescent glories of our times.
Translation: Janet and Michael Berridge, Berlin
ORFEO 8 CD C 957 188 L
Wolfgang Sawallisch, who was born on August 26, 1923 in Munich and died on February 22, 2013 in Grainau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is known throughout the world and especially in his birthplace as a paragon among his generation of conductors and musicians, exemplifying a former world of music. After a thorough music education and a firm grounding in the art of conducting operas he soon began to assume more elevated positions on the music scene.
C 957 188 LThe extent of his success in the 1950s was so great and indeed so rapid that by 1957 he was given the privilege of conducting at Bayreuth, and it comes as no surprise that Birgit Nilsson in her memoires gushes on the topic of the “35-year-old Sawallisch”: “What talent, what a gifted man!”
Orfeo is pleased to officially release for the first time Nilsson’s 1958 premiere production of Isolde under Sawallisch (C951183) together with the famous 1959 Dutchman featuring George London and Leonie Rysanek (C936182).
That said, the most decisive period of his career was probably from 1971 to 1992, when he enjoyed huge success with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, both in the city and worldwide. He was initially appointed General Music Director, and in 1982 was promoted to State Opera Director. It was in the Bavarian capital that he expanded his role as a highly diversified, top-notch musical director. His wide-ranging, active repertoire was founded on three mighty “pillars”, namely Mozart, Wagner and Strauss, each of them very safe in his hands. One of his legendary achievements is his complete cycle of Wagner’s operas, a feat he achieved in 1983 (in a manner unknown in Bayreuth), and the Orfeo catalogue includes excerpts from the first of Wagner’s operas – Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi – which are now acknowledged as benchmark recordings. It is well known that Sawallisch was an excellent pianist who would play chamber music or accompany singers from time to time, and the Orfeo catalogue features Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Bernd Weikl and the very first Orfeo CD of all: Schubert Lieder with Margaret Price (C001811).
Recently released excerpts from Don Giovanni and Così are proof that he was capable in the 1970s of conducting fiery Mozart performances, while his Puccini and Rossini recordings are testimony to his mastery of the Italian repertoire. What is more, the Orfeo catalogue contains several digital studio recordings of symphonic repertoire by Bruckner, Pfitzner and Weber as well as the Brahms Requiem, interestingly featuring the “colleagues” from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Orfeo now releases a compilation of these recordings as a tribute to Sawallisch to mark his 95th birthday, order no. C 957181 L.
ORFEO 1 CD C 966 181 B
Born in Krasnoyarsk in 1962, Dmitri Hvorostovsky is known to us only with snow-white hair. That – along with his precociously mature and sonorously dark baritone – made him almost ageless, as in his Eugene Onegin under Kirill Petrenko (2010) , who writes Tatyana a letter taking her to task for her passionate declaration of love and declining it,
C 966 181 Bor his Prince Yeletsky a year earlier in The Queen of Spades, when he declares in vain his love for Lisa. Both roles were prime examples of the baritone’s Russian repertoire.
First comes bel canto like I Puritani with the 31-year-old singing under the baton of Plácido Domingo and a duet as Figaro with the Count Almaviva of Michael Schade. In the Romance from Bellini’s last opera, Riccardo laments the loss of his promised bride, who sustained him during his years of restless wandering. By contrast, the Barber and the Count engage in eloquent and musically fluent dialogue on how the beloved Rosina is to be won, with the proviso that the help offered is to be richly rewarded.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky stands out above all on this album as a true Verdi baritone: as Posa (Don Carlos), for example, and in paternal roles. It is all to the good, given their dramatic impact, that ensemble scenes dominate: the quartet in which Hvorostovsky plays Rigoletto alongside Patrizia Ciofi, Ramón Vargas and Donna Ellen, or Hvorostovsky’s Simon Boccanegra in the finale of Act I of Verdi’s eponymous and all too rarely performed opera. By then, Hvorostovsky’s cancer was far advanced and much of his singing lacks the effortlessness of decades earlier. But this is more than compensated for by the depth of his characterization, which makes us overlook any shortcomings elsewhere.
The climax is his moving aria as Anckarström in the original Swedish version of Un ballo in maschera, in which he fears he has lost the love of his wife. It ends with the bitter-sweet resignation of “O dolcezze perdute, o speranze d’amor” (O sweet moments lost, O vain hopes of love).
Before that, Hvorostovsky is to be heard in the role of a father convinced of himself and of his own moral standards, Padre Germont (La Traviata), who persuades Violetta (Marina Rebeka) to renounce her beloved Alfredo. The performance is that of November 29, 2016; scarcely a year later, Hvorostovsky succumbed to the cancer with which he had wrestled for so long – aged just 55. Here we hear the pitiless rigour with which, despite feigned sympathy, he pronounces the fate of a dying woman and takes from her the best thing she had ever known – true love.
Translation: Janet and Michael Berridge, Berlin
ORFEO 2 CD C 932 182 I
“America, you are better off”
– wrote Goethe in 1827, weary of German Romanticism and the “fruitless wrangling” of sterile debates.
A century later, the New World experienced an unprecedented wave of migration consisting of leading figures, largely Jewish, from the cultural and intellectual spheres of German and Austrian life.
C 932 182 IThe composers among them were attracted by the rich rewards that seemed to be on offer from the new world of sound film in Hollywood, but few were able to reap those rewards to the full: among those few, who were able to make their way in a competitive marketplace through pragmatism and perseverance, were Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Miklós Rózsa – both regularly nominated for Oscars and frequently successful. While making a living from this genre of “music drama”, each of them –whether or not they were recognized by the classical music business – sought to push the limits of the traditional formats and were remarkably successful in doing so.
“If you’re Heifetz, I’m Mozart!” Taking a phone call, Rózsa could scarcely believe that the legendary virtuoso really was seriously interested in his Violin Concerto and was ready to give the work its premiere – but so he did in 1956, and the first recording of the work, with its extreme technical challenges, was also made by Heifetz. And it had been just the same with the Violin Concerto by Korngold, Rózsa’s senior by ten years: the 1947 premiere and the brilliant first recording of this twentieth-century classic again showcased Heifetz as soloist.
In the new generation of genuinely American musicians, one outstanding figure was Leonard Bernstein, an all-rounder whose early success led on to even greater heights: here too, one can hardly ignore his contribution to film music, even if it amounts to one single film. Bernstein rated his Violin Concerto of 1954, “Serenade”, inspired by Plato’s Symposium, as his best work ever, and this work too in its imaginatively slimmed-down scoring for string orchestra, harp and percussion is now acknowledged to be an important 20th-century concerto for violin. Isaac Stern performed the premiere of the work with the composer conducting. As an “encore”, this compilation includes the masterly Symphonic Dances from the immortal “West Side Story”, which has long risen above the “fruitless wrangling” over “light” and “serious” music.
The very different challenges posed by all three concertos are brilliantly overcome by Baiba Skride, whose unquestionable virtuosity nevertheless takes second place to the immediacy of her musical language and expression.
Translation: Janet and Michael Berridge, Berlin
Chormusik & Oratorien
Edition zeitgenössisches Lied
Symphonie & Konzert