This archival compilation is a much-needed addendum to John Lurie's recorded legacy. Since being struck with a chronic case of Lyme disease in 2000, the saxophonist and composer has focused more on painting than music. The John Lurie National Orchestra was an early-'90s trio with percussionists G. Calvin Weston and Billy Martin. This group recorded fairly little in the studio, issuing only one album, 1993's Men with Sticks. The title track from that recording is featured and showcases just how fluid and communicative they could be in virtually any circumstance. It's one of the true highlights here, with Lurie's hypnotic alto exploring the subtleties of a melodic idea atop a circular rhythm orgy by Weston and Martin.
Shostakovich’s atmospheric Eleventh Symphony recounts the events surrounding the First Russian Revolution of 1905, while reflecting on the brutality of the later Soviet regime. Its cinematic depiction of winter cold and military might is utterly compelling, and never more so than under the baton of the composer’s friend Mstislav Rostropovich.
Shostakovich wrote his Eighth Symphony (from a total of fifteen) in the summer of 1943, across a period of around ten weeks. It was given its first performance on 4 November that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated. Expectations were high, for Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, associated with the siege of Leningrad, had been adopted both in Russia and the West as a symbol of resistance to the Nazis. It was hoped that the Eighth would follow in its patriotic footsteps – earlier that year the German Sixth army had been annihilated at Stalingrad, the siege of Leningrad has been lifted, and the Nazis were in retreat.
In October 2016, to bring his acclaimed Mendelssohn symphonies cycle to a rousing conclusion, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra – accompanied by Lucy Crowe, Jurgita Adamonytė, Michael Spyres and the Monteverdi Choir – gave two performances of the composer’s symphony-cantata, ‘Lobgesang’. Also known as ‘Hymn of Praise’, it sits slightly uneasily with Mendelssohn’s four other symphonies, with its extended last movement involving soloists and chorus. However, the idea was not without precedent – the work has its roots in both Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (‘Choral’), and Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette.
Based on Sophocles' famous tragedy, Stravinsky's grippingly powerful Oedipus Rex represents the pinnacle of his neo-classical style, using the chorus and aria structure of that earlier period to great dramatic effect. Similarly drwing inspiration from classical antiquity, the ballet Apollom musagete evokes the grand French tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries, its two tableaux displaying rich string harmonies and textures that are pleasantly mesmerising, expressive and calmly indulgent.