"He will quickly be forgotten." That was Rimsky-Korsakov's unkind but not inaccurate prediction made shortly after his pupil Anton Arensky's death from tuberculosis at the age of 35. His prediction was unkind in the sense that Arensky's stylish and lyrical works rank with those of Liadov, Kalinnikov, and Ippolitov-Ivanov for melodic charm and orchestral color. But his prediction was accurate to the extent that there have been few performances or recordings of Arensky's music in the century since his death in 1906. Indeed, aside from this undated recording with Evgeny Svetlanov leading the Academic Symphony Orchestra, there has apparently been only one other recording of Arensky's symphonies in the past half century – Valery Polyansky's on Chandos – and none before that at all. For die-hard fans of Russian music, this state of affairs is a shame because as Svetlanov's performances demonstrate, Arensky's symphonies deserve to be heard.
Nicola Porpora, a contemporary of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Haydn (and a very young Mozart) is best remembered today as a famous singing teacher and opera composer. During his long career (he lived to age 81) he suffered many employment-related difficulties and disappointments that caused him to move frequently. Naples (where he was born), Venice, Dresden, and Vienna (where he taught Haydn) all enjoyed Porpora's reputable presence, and he even spent a period in London at the behest of a group seeking to unseat Handel and his opera company from its preeminent position. In addition to his operas and vocal music, Porpora wrote instrumental works such as the six violin sonatas featured here, which are drawn from a set of 12. Although anyone familiar with Italian Baroque and early Classical-style solo violin music will discover nothing particularly original on this generally fine recording, if you enjoy that genre and period you'll find much here to indulge and satisfy your taste.
Franz Ignaz Beck is increasingly acknowledged as one of the most forward-looking and inventive of mid-eighteenth-century symphonists. A student of the celebrated Johann Stamitz, Beck was trained in Mannheim, a focal point of new approaches to orchestral writing. Although small in scale, his Op. 2 set includes some of the most striking and harmonically daring works of their kind from the period.
Major documents from Rudolf Kempe's later years at the head of the Munich Philharmonic. Beethoven's Fifth, that masterpiece of emotional tension, and his Sixth, all vivid depiction of nature, are both readings of maturity and perfection.
Avant garde. Eccentric. A maniac. Wild and adventurous. Off the wall. Extraordinary. No marketing hyperbole - this is how the players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment describe Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach and his music. One of the many children of JS Bach, CPE Bach always lived in his father’s shadow, and now is an almost unknown figure at least beyond the classical cogniscenti. How can such an unknown be considered a gamechanger? A listen to his music reveals just why – it constantly shifts, wrongfooting the listener when they least expect it with wild changes of direction and colour – it is bright, effervescent, and is a fascinating link between the music of his father (and the Baroque era) and Joseph Haydn (and the Classical era).
As a composer of orchestral music, Alexander Scriabin is best known for his last two idiosyncratic symphonies, the Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, which are essentially symphonic poems, not symphonies in the conventional sense. The Symphony No. 1 (1900) and the Symphony No. 2 (1901), however, are more recognizable as symphonies in their multiple-movement forms, and their durations are comparable to the expansive symphonies of Scriabin's contemporary, Gustav Mahler. They also share the post-Romantic tendency toward Wagnerian harmonies, rhapsodic melodies, and lush orchestration, which, in Scriabin's case, were developed to express heightened emotional states and mystical transcendence. This 2016 double SACD by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra presents each of the symphonies on its own disc, and the high-quality multichannel sound is ideal for bringing across the subtle nuances of tone color and the shifting of dynamics that are characteristic of his style.]
Pianist and composer Anton Batagov is one of the most influential Russian musicians of our time. As a performer Batagov introduced the music of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass to Russian audiences. On this his debut recording with Glass s record label Orange Mountain Music, Batagov offers a recital of Glass s music which is personally important to him, music which has never been heard on solo piano. Three of the four tracks offered on Batagov s program are from Glass s epic opera Einstein on the Beach - Trial, Night Train, and Knee Play 5. These pieces capture the sound of a particularly expansive moment in Glass s career as he transitioned from hard core Minimalism to a more expressive medium. That artistic pivot is captures in Batagov s mystical reading of Prophecies from Koyaanisqatsi. In 2009, after a hiatus of 12 years from live performance Batagov returned to the stage presenting a series of unique solo programs including this program which was recorded in Moscow in November 2015.
The Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, music director since 2003 of the Minnesota Orchestra, long ago proved himself a formidable interpreter of Nordic music in general and Sibelius in particular. This symphonic cycle – two highly praised discs are already out – is now complete, with this album of the pliant, classical Symphony No 3, the little known and underrated No 6 and the mysterious, enthralling single-movement No 7. The playing is polished and detailed, now springy and buoyant, now occluded and chilling. Tempi are slightly broad but convincingly so. From the plunging energy of the opening of the Third Symphony to the bleak, raw ending of the Seventh, this is a gripping listen.
The concert works of film composer Nino Rota, best known for his scores for the Godfather trilogy and for a long series of films by Federico Fellini, have increasingly often been finding space in classical recording catalogs. Here's a nicely recorded rendering of Rota's two numbered symphonies, virtually unknown until perhaps the turn of the century, issued on a major British label, Chandos. Both are attractive pieces that could be profitably programmed by any symphony orchestra. They were composed in the 1930s, when Rota was as much American as Italian; he won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and studied there for several years. Both reflect the French neo-classic trends that flourished in the U.S. between the wars, and, although Rota sounds nothing like Copland, you do experience in these works an evocation of what annotator Michele Rene Mannucci aptly calls "landscape in sound." Each work is in the conventional four movements, with a slow movement placed second in the Symphony No. 1 in G major and third in the Symphony No. 2 in F major.