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.
By 1971, Pharoah Sanders had taken the free thing as far as he could and still live with himself. He was investigating new ways to use rhythm – always his primary concern – inside his music and more tonally strident ways of involving the front line in extrapolating tonal and harmonic diversions from the melodic framework of his music. To that end, he entered into a more groove-laden arrangement with himself and employed some funkier players to articulate his muse. Along with Cecil McBee and Billy Hart, who were frequent Sanders sidemen, a young Stanley Clarke fills the second bass chair, and Norman Connors fills out the second drum seat.
This exceptional live document finds legendary free jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders collaborating with cornetist Rob Mazurek and members of the Sao Paulo Underground and Chicago Underground Duo. Mazurek takes a leading role for the most part, joined by Sanders in his regular volcanic, spiritual state of playing and supported dutifully by percussionist Maurício Takara, drummer Chad Taylor, bassist Matt Lux, and multi-instrumentalist Guilherme Granado. The disc tends toward the more experimental and tumultuous side of things, with processed synth sounds clashing with the explosive organic instrumentation in a way that brings to mind Sun Ra's rudimentary synth experimentation on his early-'70s Saturn Records output.
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.