Barbara Bonney's recital of the Schumanns' songs is prefaced, in the booklet-note, with a little feminist homily from the singer defending the reputation of Clara as woman and artist. Clara hardly needs that kind of defence nowadays, witness recent CDs by Skovhus and Stutzmann, plus several others not reviewed in these pages; her songs are far from patronized, let alone neglected. Yet, for all the advocacy of these singers, her inspiration remains for me intermittent, though thoroughly conventional songs are occasionally leavened by notably individual ones, such as, here, her very last and unpublished song, Loreley, which vividly conjures up that dangerous creature, particu lady in the hectic piano part, evocatively played by Ashkenazy. Indeed it seems that Heine most inspired her, as "Sic liebten sich beide" from her Op. 13 provoked a setting of economically intense meaning, to which Bonney finely responds.– Gramophone [9/1997].
Along with the increasing frequency that Josef Suk's Symphony in C minor, Op. 27, "Asrael," is performed and recorded, it's great to see it has finally been released as a hybrid SACD. Though the legendary 1952 recording by Vaclav Talich remains the ne plus ultra for devotees of this searing symphonic requiem, it was recorded in mono, and by virtue of its technology has become a historical document that will be sought out mostly by aficionados. Newcomers to Suk's towering work will be aided in appreciation by the fact that Ondine's DSD recording is as clear and deep as always, and none of the details of the elaborate score are lost.
If these performances of Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios by Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Lynn Harrell are suave and sophisticated with a soupçon of sentimentality, well, that's what modern performance practice was like in the '80s. And if that sounds like an appealing manner in which to perform Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios, this is the recording to hear. Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell lean into Beethoven's music, singing everything grandly, sounding everything gloriously, and souping everything up completely. One might argue that Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 1, are too Viennese High Classical to respond well to their approach, that the works seem more maimed and mauled then persuasively performed, but one cannot deny that Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell put every iota of their expressivity and virtuosity into their overpowering performances. EMI's early digital sound has been pleasantly remastered for this CD reissue.
P. I. Tchaikovsky is considered to be Russia’s great symphonic composer. In his music he achieved a synthesis of the national musical language of Russia and the compositional forms of the western European Romantics. His most famous ballets enjoy a position of honor in the Classical Ballet repertoire on account of their melodic intensity and instrumental brilliance. In the fairy tale “The Nutcracker and the King of the Mice” written by the German Romantic E. T. A. Hoffmann and published in 1814, on which Tchaikovsky’s ballet is based, Christmas provides the realistic setting for a fantastic plot. Fiction and reality are woven together by means of strange and wondrous occurrences to produce a fascinating and unfathomable labyrinth. Both Hoffmann and Tchaikovsky, who began to compose the ballet in his fiftieth year, could identify with the literary figure of the watchmaker Drosselmeier, who gives order to his life through his work. In 1999, exactly 107 years – to the day – after the first performance in St. Petersburg, Patrice Bart’s choreography of Tchaikovsky’s worldwide success The Nutcracker was premiered at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. Bart placed a prologue before the ballet in which Marie is abducted as a child and in which everything is placed in a modern context.