Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra join forces once again in the latest instalment of their exploration of Mendelssohn’s symphonies. Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 5, commonly known as the ‘Reformation’ Symphony, was written in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg confession – a seminal event in the Protestant Reformation. Allusions to the symphony’s title and inspiration can be heard throughout the music itself; the Dresden Amen is cited by the strings in the first movement whilst the finale is based on Martin Luther’s well-known chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’). Coupled with this are two of Mendelssohn’s overtures, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Ruy Blas, both of which were inspired by literary works. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, based on two short poems by Goethe, depicts the journey of sailors at sea with a still adagio opening ultimately giving way to a triumphant homecoming. Completing the album, the overture Ruy Blas was commissioned by the Leipzig Theatre as an overture to Victor Hugo’s tragic drama of the same name.
A genial conductor with a particular gift for French music, Charles Munch extended the Boston Symphony's glory years (begun under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky) into the early 1960s. Munch was so venerated that conservative Bostonians even declined to fuss over rumors that he was having an affair with his niece, pianist Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer; they wrote it off as part of his romantic French nature. Paradoxically, Munch was not precisely French. He was born in Alsace-Lorraine, which at the time (1891) was controlled by Germany and has long hovered between two cultural worlds. Munch himself benefitted from both French and German musical training, and his first important musical posts were in Germany…
Esoteric have produced a remarkable transfer that preserves beautifully the hall sound, spatial information and detail. The brass and mass strings have excellent detail, revealing a lot of subtle harmonies and variation – a boon for anything Wagner. This contributes to an overall impression of sophistication and restraint and goes perfectly with Karajan's Wagner.
There are basically two ways in which conductors may approach the Enigma Variations. Either they can take the music at its face value, treating the set of variations as a symphonically developed whole; or they can treat the work as a series of miniature character sketches of Elgar’s “friends pictured within”, highlighting the personalities of the miscellaneous collection of individuals involved. William Boughton in this reading opts for the second option, and the result bubbles with life.
The art of Shakespeare was a recurring fascination for Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In addition to two operas and numerous settings of songs and sonnets, he wrote 11 Shakespeare Overtures which here receive their first ever complete recording. Deploying all the resources of the symphony orchestra, these are some of the twentieth century’s most dramatic and tuneful orchestral works, spectacular evocations of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
Otto Klemperer was born on 14th May 1885 in Breslau, Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland) and died on 6th July 1973 in Zurich and hence next year we mark 40 years since his passing. Although disfigured by a stroke suffered whilst a brain tumour was being removed he became a world-renowned conductor whose recordings became and remain touchstones for the EMI catalogue.
The Karajan Official Remastered Edition comprises 13 box sets containing official remasterings of the finest recordings the Austrian conductor made for EMI between 1946 and 1984, which are now a jewel of the Warner Classics catalog. This 6-CD box presents Karajan's first recording of the complete Beethoven Symphonies, made in the early 1950s with London's recently-founded Philharmonia Orchestra. The recording of the 9th Symphony is available here in stereo for the very first time, taken from original unreleased tapes.
Georg Philipp Telemann was one of the most prolific composers of all time. A contemporary of Bach (and in his time even more famous) he composed in all existing genres, his music excelling in craftsmanship, originality and freshness. Telemann wrote an immense oeuvre for keyboard (he was a virtuoso on the instrument himself). This 5‐CD set contains an abundance of smaller pieces: fugues, overtures, suites and partitas. No matter how short or “small” the piece, the music shines with Telemann’s particular wit and brilliance, the stamp of a true genius.