Continuing his award-winning cycle of works by Felix Mendelssohn, Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the LSO, his Monteverdi Choir and three talented young actors from the Guildhall in a landmark performance of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', which was performed as part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. To mark the celebrations, Gardiner produced a special version of the work featuring some cuts to the original movements that, in his words, "remove all of the music relating to the Mechanicals and thus focus on the world of the fairies and the human lovers". Mendelssohn, who adored Shakespeare’s writings, composed his concert overture based on 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' in 1827 aged 17, after having read a German translation of the play. The overture was immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece and quickly became a popular favourite throughout Europe. Years later in 1843 he was asked by the King of Prussia to provide a score for an entire production: 14 short works based on themes and moods from the original overture, with a broadly romantic sound although classical in style and structure.
The pieces brought together on this CD range widely, from ceremonial works associated with affairs of state to intimate compositions addressing moments of great personal significance. Two of the three pieces by Parry best exemplify this contrast: if I was glad – written for the coronation of Edward VII and premiered in chaotic circumstances – fits into the former category, ‘My soul, there is a country’ (from Songs of Farewell) – composed in the year of his death – belongs in the latter.
As the elder statesman of British blues, it is John Mayall's lot to be more renowned as a bandleader and mentor than as a performer in his own right. Throughout the '60s, his band, the Bluesbreakers, acted as a finishing school for the leading British blues-rock musicians of the era. Guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor joined his band in a remarkable succession in the mid-'60s, honing their chops with Mayall before going on to join Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones, respectively. John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser (of Free), John Almond, and Jon Mark also played and recorded with Mayall for varying lengths of times in the '60s.
The one unreleased item among Apple/EMI's exhaustive 2010 John Lennon reissue campaign was Double Fantasy Stripped Down, a revision of the original 1980 album supervised by Yoko Ono and producer Jack Douglas. The intent of this new mix is to give the recording a greater sense of intimacy, but Double Fantasy isn’t Let It Be: it doesn’t have a heavily bootlegged original early incarnation, it only exists in its final form; it’s not an album that was designed as a raw back-to-basics record, it was constructed as a slick studio affair…
The new box contains no fewer than three different Williams recordings of that most popular of all guitar works, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez – from 1964 with the Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, from 1974 with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra, and from 1983 with Frémaux and the Philharmonia Orchestra – plus a performance of its much-loved Adagio in Williams’s celebrated 1993 “Seville Concert”.
While director Francis Coppola's potboiling crime drama set against the gloriously tumultuous backdrop of Harlem's famed Cotton Club nightspot of the '20s and '30s didn't quite come together as a cinematic whole, John Barry's efforts at supervising, scoring, and recreating the energetic jive and wail of the era very nearly carry the day. The opportunity was likely a dream come true for the former jazzman turned film scorer; his adaptations of standards by Ellington and Cab Calloway are reverent yet energetic, infused by original music that weaves it into an accessible and rewarding tapestry of time, place, and art. Great soundtrack.