The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s acquisition of Sasanian stamp seals began soon after its incorporation in 1870. In 1873 the Museum purchased the collection of antiquities that Louis Palma de Cesnola (1832-1904) had assembled in Cyprus while serving there as American and Russian consul. …
Liszt’s Dante Symphony is a work of astonishing imagination. His evocation of the ‘Inferno’, the shade of Francesca da Rimini and her sad remembered love is marked by strokes of genius which, with bewildering frequency, pre-empt the mature Wagner (who was, incidentally, the dedicatee of the work). If the second and third movements – the ‘Paradiso’ was wisely commuted to a setting of part of the Magnificat plus a brief Hosanna – don’t quite match the sweep and control of the first, they have their own particular magic. Even so, the work has not acquired the popularity of the Faust Symphony. Barenboim’s new recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is thus particularly welcome. Not only does it augment the number of available recordings to four, it is also the most polished. Even performing ‘live’, the Berlin Philharmonic turns in a performance of near-perfection – the solo lines are a particular joy.
SCHUBERT: SONGS WITHOUT WORDS is an elegant recital by pianist Daria Hovora and cellist Mischa Maisky that allows us to hear Schubert songs, beautifully rich as they are with the texts as sung by many of our finest singers, here solely for the instrumental line. Somehow the interplay between melody and accompaniment (always an equal partnership in Schubert's hands) is heightened by this experience. Not that the entire album is appropriated by the cello standing in for a vocalist: the opening work is "Sonata for Arpeggione and Klavier" and is one of the highlights of the CD. But just listen to the performances of 'Standchen', 'An die Musik' and 'Du bist die Ruhe' and hear the extraordinary marriage between the piano and cello, singing as beautifully as any other version. This is one of those CDs that bears keeping out for multiple listenings in the late evening.
The appetite for evolving performance practices in Bach’s St Matthew Passion appears undiminished as we have gradually shifted, over the generations, from larger to smaller ensembles and also towards a greater dramatic understanding of the implications of Bach’s ambitious ‘stereophonic’ double choir and orchestra choreography.