On the surface, this Ring cycle recording might seem like a poor relation to those by Sir Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, James Levine, and others, or to the live recordings from the 1950s by the likes of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Clemens Kraus, and Hans Knappertsbusch. The very names constitute big guns in opera, and their respective casts are not exactly weak either. Complicating matters further is the fact that Marek Janowski's Ring was originally released by Eurodisc/Ariola, a European-based label that, while huge over there, never had the profile or prestige of Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, orEMI; the fact that it's now on RCA/BMG doesn't exactly help, either, as the latter has lost a good deal of its luster as a major label since the 1980s. But the Janowski Ring also occupies its own place in history…
Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festival in 2008, this production stars a host of international stars including Michelle Breedt, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Hans-Peter Konig, Linda Watson & Eva-Maria Westbroek. Christian Thielemann, one of the most sought-after conductors in the world, takes the baton with the Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra.
The production of a new Ring at the Bayreuth Festival is an event that takes place every six years. Bayreuth recordings of the complete cycle are rare; this is only the third official audio recording and the second filmed version. The Kupfer/Barenboim Ring was performed over a five-year period and recorded at the conclusion when the "Bayreuth Workshop" had raised "the quality of the performance to an almost unsurpassable level".
The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes.
Adrian Younge is a prolific composer whose brassy, ‘70s-centric arrangements recall the work of soul music legends Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield, and often emulate the soundtracks of blaxploitation movies like Shaft and Super Fly. He’s also a willing collaborator who’s produced music for everyone from Ghostface Killah and the Delfonics to Bilal and PRhyme. Younge’s music was also featured in popular Netflix series Luke Cage and the 2009 film Black Dynamite, a comedy classic starring actor Michael Jai White. Though Younge is clearly the primary voice behind all of his work, he tweaks his sound to suit each artist he pulls into his orbit.
These Decca recordings of Vaughan Williams's complete symphonies appear in a boxed set for the first time ever, and they feature such august personages as sopranos Isobel Baillie and Margaret Ritchie, baritone John Cameron and speaker John Gielgud!
Adrian Boult conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
There are few composers who have vanished from music history to the extent of Johann Abraham Schmierer. We know very little about this composer’s origins, education, career and life journey. Some listeners, during or after hearing this recording, may well wonder why this music – despite its undeniable qualities and relatively early publication (already in 1902 in the tenth volume of Denkmäler Deutscher Tonkunst) – has not been recorded earlier. One reason is surely the fragmentary character of the collection, for six suites are obviously missing.
Under the baton of James Levine, Gotterdammerung ("The Twilight of the Gods") has a narrative drive that reminds us that, of all the individual operas in Wagner's Ring cycle, this is the one most about human emotions and the one in which its heroes are pulled into a world where they are most vulnerable to them. Siegfried Jerusalem as Siegfried and Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde never, in a sense, stand a chance: they are innocents who allow themselves to be manipulated not merely by the villainous Hagen, but by the ordinary venality of Gunther and his sister Gutrune, who goes along with a dirty little scheme to get what she wants, and is destroyed by it.