Here is what is probably Handel’s most accomplished opera: the heir to L’incoronazione di Poppea with respect to the villainy of some of its characters, but also the Baroque ancestor of certain Romantic operas! Scrupulously based on historical characters, this work illustrates many different facets of the human soul, and also boasts perhaps the most sumptuous orchestral textures Handel ever conceived, magnificently brought out by Lars Ulrik Mortensen in this production from the Copenhagen Opera. Francisco Negrin’s transposition of the opera to the universe of modern war and Anthony Baker’s refined designs place Andreas Scholl (Giulio Cesare) and the other soloists in an unsettling, crepuscular atmosphere that is highly contemporary.
The Europakonzert 2017 brought the Berliner Philharmoniker to one of the most mythical places in history: Paphos, birthplace of Aphrodite. Andreas Ottensamer was the soloist with his interpretation of Weber‘s highly elaborate Clarinet Concerto. The Berliner Philharmoniker, under the baton of Mariss Jansons, also played Dvořák’s 8th Symphony, an unusually optimistic and light-hearted composition.
"I have composed a big sonata and variations for four hands, and the latter have met with a specially good reception here, but I do not entirely trust Hungarian taste, and I shall leave it to you and to the Viennese to decide their true merit" So wrote Franz Schubert in 1824, evoking the popular 19th-century genre for 4-hands piano that publishers were always pestering him to write for. In his brief life Schubert devoted 32 compositions to this form and the least of these pieces, be it a ländler, polonaise or march, radiates with all of his finesse and sensitivity
It is grand to hear novice players so successfully take on three of Chopin's chamber pieces, the Cello Sonata, Piano Trio, and Grand Duo for cello and piano. There have certainly been great recordings of these works in the past – one thinks immediately of those by Mstislav Rostropovich and Jacqueline du Pré – but the energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity that cellist Andreas Brantelid, pianist Marianna Shirinyan, and violinist Vilde Frang bring to this music more than justifies preserving their performances. Brantelid has a big but nuanced tone, an elegant but impressive technique, and an obvious affinity for the music, and he is well-matched by Shirinyan's polished technique and empathic accompaniments and Frang's easy virtuosity and lyrical interpretation. The ensemble is poised but comfortable and the interpretations are cogent and compelling. Captured in close but smooth digital sound, these performances deserve to be heard by anyone who loves this music, or great chamber music playing.
Although Korngold’s ‘complete works for violin and piano’ make up a reasonably full disc, it is only fair to point out that the Violin Sonata is the single work that is not an arrangement from one of his other pieces. Yet this Sonata, written at the age of 15 for Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel no less, is a fine example of his early style, with its echoes of Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg. The young Dutch violinist Sonja van Beek and German pianist Andreas Frölich negotiate its challenges with ease: as in Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata, the pianist has as tough a role as the melody instrument. Much Ado about Nothing is one of several arrangements of a suite of four movements derived from incidental music to Shakespeare’s play written in 1918, performed here with affection and a silken suavity. The remainder of the repertoire is made up of arrangements of Korngold lollipops, hit numbers from his operas, such as the unforgettable ‘Marietta’s Lied’ from Die tote Stadt, arranged by the composer as salon pieces and popularised by Kreisler and his ilk. Here, the almost vocal qualities of van Beek’s tone come into their own. An essential disc for the Korngold addict.