The opening evening of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Das Rheingold is the prologue of the cycle, which is followed in turn by the music dramas Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. The first instalment in Jaap van Zweden's projected Ring with the Hong Kong Philharmonic – an undertaking he regards as central to his tenure with the orchestra – is a promising beginning that may surprise many experienced Wagnerians. Van Zweden is ambitious in presenting the Ring with this orchestra, which plays it for the first time, though in fairness to the musicians, they offer an intensity and vigor that more than makes up for any minor scrappiness.
The sixth volume in Matthias Goerne's survey of Franz Schubert's lieder includes the posthumous collection Schwanengesang, which contains some of the loveliest and most disturbing songs Schubert ever composed. One problem in performing this ambiguous work of Schubert's last year lies in its alternation of sweet, lyrical songs with those of a much darker and even frightening character, and it's left to the singer and the pianist to balance the moods and to make the contrasts of expression as subtle as possible. Goerne and his accompanist Christoph Eschenbach meet the challenge by carefully shading the songs with a tempering of expressions that admits sorrow in the midst of joy and hope in the depths of despair.
Like his previous Virgin Classics release (a program dedicated to Georges Bizet), Paavo Järvi devotes his new CD entirely to music by one French composer: Gabriel Fauré. Fauré’s serene and consoling Requiem is the centerpiece of the album, which also features three further classics, and the world-premiere recording of a neglected rarity, by the same composer.
If you have Bernstein/Ludwig/Berry performing this music and you buy this new version, you'll have all you need for Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Riccardo Chailly offers the most fabulous orchestral playing imaginable: those celebrated Concertgebouw winds have a field-day with Lob des hohen Verstands and St. Anthony of Padua's Fish Sermon. In Revelge the big martial buildup at the center of the song is positively terrifying in its violence. Equally terrifying in its quiet, oppressive dread is Der Tamboursg'sell. Enough of this: you won't hear these songs better played or conducted anywhere. David Hurwitz, classicstoday.com
…The recording allows the performance to glow, and as atmospheric and airy as it is in stereo, listening in surround from the SACD layer immerses you in the ambience in the most satisfying way. If to you Zemlinsky is famous more for his pupils' achievements than his own, then this will be a revelatory experience, and I know already that it's one of my discs of the year.