Although best remembered for his devotion to the core Austro-Germanic repertoire, Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan did flirt with the English repertoire in the '50s and early '60s.
You will probably be as incredulous as I was to learn that the greatest cycle of Mahler symphonies comes not from any of the usual suspects - Abbado, Bernstein, Chially, Haitink, Kubelik, Rattle, Sinopoli, Solti, Tennstedt - but from the unsung Gary Bertini, who spent the better part of his career as music director of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. Unlike any of those more publicized sets, each of which includes a misfire or two, Bertini is consistently successful from first to last; his performance of each of these works can stand comparison with the very best available.
This recording of a live performance of MEISTERSINGER from Bayreuth 1957 definitely merits five stars. For those of you who don't already know this, Gustav Neidlinger (PeaceBeUponHim) was the undisputed master of Wagner's "howling-and-spitting" villain roles, Alberich and Klingsor, from the early 1950s until the mid 1970s. He sang with unmatched sulfur, cannon-ball density, huge volume, dark tone, and powerful dramatic interpretation. He sang more spontaneously and from-the-gut than most singers. He was the first of his generation to sing these roles with musical line and connected legato, rather than as a series of isolated shouts, grunts, and bellowings. He was typecast for these villainous roles as soon as he set foot on the stage, and almost never performed as a good-guy.
In light of the "chill-out" trend of the 1990s, major labels released many albums of slow, meditative pieces to appeal to listeners who wanted relaxing or reflective background music. Deutsche Grammophon's vaults are full of exceptional recordings of classical orchestral music, and the performances by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic are prominent in the label's catalog. The slow selections on Karajan: Adagio are in most cases drawn from larger compositions, though these movements are frequently anthologized as if they were free-standing works. Indeed, many have come to think of the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 as a separate piece in its own right, largely because of its evocative use in the film Death in Venice. Furthermore, the famous Canon by Johann Pachelbel is seldom played with its original companion piece, the Gigue in D major, let alone in its original version for three violins and continuo; it most often appears in an arrangement for strings.
Acclaimed Berlin Philharmonic conductor Herbert von Karajan leads a stellar cast – including mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa and sopranos Anna Tomowa-Sintow and Janet Perry – in this memorable 1984 production of "Der Rosenkavalier." Recorded at Austria's Salzburger Festpiele, composer Richard Strauss' comic opera tells a tale about love between an aging noblewoman, her handsome lover, a bumbling baron and a wealthy merchant's beautiful daughter.
Hubert Laws hits an 80s groove here – but the shift doesn't seem to dampen his soul at all! At some points, the rhythms are a bit more pronounced than before – bouncy and funky at points, with a slight nod to the clubs – yet other points still have that soft, airy finish that made Laws' flute such a big hit earlier in the 70s – mixed here with some nice vocals from Rod McNeill and Eloise Laws too. Most of the album's still instrumental, though – and other players include Bobby Lyle on acoustic piano, Randy Waldman on Fender Rhodes, Nathan East on bass, and Ndugu Chancler on drums. Titles include "Stay With Me", "Morning Star", "Life Cycles", "Gonna Be Happy", "Make It Last", and "Happy Anniversary".
Flute virtuoso Hubert Laws has always occupied his own artistic turf, whether interpreting works by Mozart, Stravinsky, Dvorak, Debussy, Satie, Faure, and J.S. Bach or improvising with immaculate ease through the modern jazz compositions of Chick Corea, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane. He has also demonstrated a well-grounded attitude toward the mainstream pop repertoire, which he handles with comparable mastery. Bridge over Troubled Water, as one might guess, is an entire album of hit tunes by Paul Simon. Each melody is executed with the relaxed precision that has always characterized much of this artist's work. The flutist is backed by pianist John Beasley, bassist Stanley Gilbert, drummer Ralph Penland, and the West L.A. Strings under the direction of Stanley Gilbert.