Every major conductor, and most not-so-major ones, comes around to recording Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but not so many do it as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strings. And let’s face it, you won’t find a period-instrument ensemble that plays with anything like this level of polish. The fact is, Szell’s conception of Mozart was not terribly far from “period” sensibilities: restrained use of vibrato, incisive rhythms, crisp ensemble, lively tempos, but also a welcome degree of warmth to the sound and of course incredible ensemble discipline and some of the best players on the planet. And he had real period instruments, meaning performers who owned top quality old violins and bows, not inferior modern reproductions of them. The result is as lovely a performance of Mozart’s perennially delicious Serenade as we are ever likely to hear.
With this recital Shai Wosner declares himself a Schubertian of unfaltering authority and character. Entirely modern in style (tonally lean and sharply focused, never given to easy or sentimental options), he relishes every twist and turn in the so-called Reliquie Sonata, with its quasi-orchestral, defiantly unpianistic first movement and its astonishing second movement modulations (Alkan himself never wrote anything more boldly experimental). Unlike Richter in his monolithic recording, Wosner opts for the two completed movements rather than allowing the music to evaporate into thin air, displaying throughout a finely concentrated sense of music that achieves its vision and depth through extreme austerity.
This 14-CD set is really very complete (a few absences are mentioned below). Besides the solo fortepiano works, it features works for piano four-hands, two pianos, even works for organ and the adagio for glass harmonica KV 617a, though these works are performed on the fortepiano. Frankly, I can't bear listening to the glass harmonica, but I prefer the organ works played on organ and the CD with Mozart's organ works I recommend is Mozart - L'oeuvre pour orgue, Olivier Vernet, Cédric Meckler, Ligia Digital. Furthermore, this box presents some never before recorded works comprising recent authentications of Mozart's authorship; doubtful and spurious works; fragments. I name these works below.
This CD's main attraction for many will be Gil Shaham's velvety violin in gorgeous, largely off-beat music. Others will relish these Schubert works in arrangements that replace the piano with the expert guitar of Göran Söllscher, enhancing the impression of hearing Schubert's music in the intimate domestic setting for which it was written. Most of the works are short, melodically rich dance-based gems on which Shaham and Söllscher lavish a Romantic tonal fullness and freedom rarely heard these days. Sometimes that's a bit too much of a good thing, as works like the Violin Sonata in D veer close to the sentimental.
At an impromptu gathering in 1940, Sergei Rachmaninoff demonstrated at the piano just how he wanted his new orchestral work, Symphonic Dances, to be performed. Rachmaninoff, one of the greatest of all pianists, reduced the orchestral score for a single piano on this occasion. That recording is presented here in two versions: first, edited to conform to the score and again, just as the occasion unfolded, as Rachmaninoff jumped from place to place as he demonstrated.
Ekaterina Derzhavina records ‘Variations & Pieces for Piano’, a double disc with Haydn classics. The release of Haydn's Complete Piano Sonatas on 9 CDs in 2013 was critically acclaimed throughout the world and nominated 2014 for the International Classical Music Award. The Boston Globe, USA, wrote: 'Ekaterina Derzhavina's name was new to me, but this 9-CD set of Haydn's complete piano sonatas should broaden her recognition considerably. Her playing is elegant, stylish, and above all imaginative, showing just how creative the composer was … her feel for Haydn's originality comes through brilliantly.'
There is no string quartet that has ever been written that can compare length and diversity with Terry Riley's Salome Dances for Peace. Morton Feldman has written a longer one, but it is confined to his brilliant field of notational relationships and open tonal spaces. Riley's magnum opus, which dwarfs Beethoven's longest quartet by three, is a collection of so many different kinds of music, many of which had never been in string quartet form before and even more of which would – or should – never be rubbing up against one another in the same construct. Riley is a musical polymath, interested in music from all periods and cultures: there are trace elements of jazz and blues up against Indian classical music, North African Berber folk melodies, Native American ceremonial music, South American shamanistic power melodies – and many more. The reason they are brought together in this way is for the telling of an allegorical story. In Riley's re-examining Salome's place in history, he finds a way to redeem both her and the world through her talent.