Vivaldi's sacred music is not so famous as that of his contemporaries Bach and Handel, so this is a bargain opportunity to catch up. You might think Vivaldi's playful, virtuoso Italianate character and Catholic context would produce radically different music, but in George Guest's urgent readings, the mixture of restrainedly exultant choruses and austerely beautiful arias are near-identical to Bach.
Although not quite at the level of profundity of his teacher Gustav Leonhardt's recording, Kenneth Gilbert's 1983 recording of Book 1 of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier does have a style and polish that Leonhardt's too often lacked. Thus, while Leonhardt goes further into some of the minor-key fugues to find intellectual and spiritual depths that Gilbert does not plumb, Gilbert's playing is so much more elegant and graceful than Leonhardt's that it is difficult to choose between them. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of virtuoso works whose success depends on the effortless refinement of the player, the Gilbert, with its superbly remastered sound, will be the one to get. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of prayers written as preludes and fugues, the Leonhardt will be preferable. Both are superb and both belong in any Bach collection.
Cui, a member of the original Russian 'Five', was a dedicated encourager of the other members of the group (and indeed of all living Russian composers) to aim at less imitation of the West; and instead to write, without inhibition, more obviously independent Russian-style music. Nevertheless, he seemed to exempt himself from the encouragement, tending to write his own music in a pretty well accepted western European mould.
Given its premiere by The Royal Ballet in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing the title roles, Kenneth MacMillan's first full-evening ballet has become a signature work for the Company, enjoying great popularity around the world. From the outset, the production teems with life and colour as the townspeople, market traders and servants of the rival Montagues and Capulets go about their daily business in vibrant crowd scenes. But Romeo and Juliet take centre stage for those great pas de deux: the meeting in the ballroom, the balcony scene, the morning after the wedding and the final devastating tomb scene. Although The Royal Ballet has performed Romeo and Juliet over 400 times, each performance and pairing is subtly different and Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli are utterly captivating in the title roles.
This film of Kenneth MacMillan's hugely-popular ballet Manon is the perfect twin to his classic Romeo & Juliet, released on September 29th, 2009. Once again, the romantic male lead is taken by the charismatic Carlos Acosta, and once again his beautiful partner is Tamara Rojo. Prévost's famous tale is set to the sensual music of Massenet and the Royal Ballet's staging is played out against the sumptuous set and costume designs of Nicholas Georgiadis. Manon is the third DVD release from Decca's new exclusive artist, Carlo Acosta. The Cuban superstar builds on his stunning Spartacus and romantic Romeo & Juliet performances as the ardent young lover, Des Grieux, in MacMillan's classic version of the tragedy. This high-definition film of Manon is one of the most popular ballets in the Royal Ballet's repertory, having received over 200 performances since its premiere in 1974. The DVD also includes an extensive (40 min) and fascinating documentary film, `Dancing Manon', featuring interviews with Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Monica Mason (Director of the Royal Ballet) and Ross MacGibbon (TV Director).
Kenneth Gilbert has been a leading early music keyboard specialist for decades. His 1975 recording of the French Suites represents "Basic Bach" in the best sense: no frills or intervention, just a respectful adherence to the music in order to convey the emotional content. With unerring accuracy, Gilbert strikes to the essence of each movement. Given exceptional sonics for the time, this is a version that most folks should find highly satisfying. Essentially, Gilbert is a most reliable guide into Bach's sound-world.–Don Satz