Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) was one of the outstanding personalities in the history of the Berliner Philharmoniker. He made his debut with the orchestra in 1966 and was their chief conductor from 1990 to 2002. In May 2013, their unique partnership ended with Claudio Abbado's last concert with the orchestra – a “triumph”, in the words of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The programme included two of the most important works of musical Romanticism: Hector Berlioz's visionary Symphonie fantastique and Felix Mendelssohn's magical, shimmering music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Audio and video recordings of this memorable evening are now being released in a hardcover luxury edition. The bonus material includes a historical documentary about Abbado's first year as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In addition to extensive texts, the booklet contains numerous photos, some of which have never been published before.
Rocker Peter Maffay was the best-selling German pop star of his generation, wielding his celebrity to become a powerful advocate for antiwar efforts and an outspoken critic of domestic abuse. Born Peter Alexander Makkay on August 30, 1949, in Brasov, Romania, he was 14 when his family relocated to his parents' native Germany. Soon after, he founded his first rock band, the Dukes…
Glyndebourne's celebrated production of Nikolaus Lehnhoff's Tristan und Isolde is a supremely intelligent achievement; gravely beautiful, haunting and meditative, it is deeply reflective rather than visceral, fortified by Roland Aeschlimann's stunningly effective set, a womb-like space through which the protagonists move like gods. Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek mirrors Lehnhoff's approach in his sophisticated plumbing of the score's depths, with every shift in texture carefully laid bare by an inspired London Philharmonic Orchestra. Nina Stemme's Isolde and Robert Gambill's Tristan, both gloriously lyrical, are matched by superb performances from René Pape as the betrayed and vulnerable King Marke and Bo Skovhus as Kurwenal, deeply touching in his helpless devotion to Tristan. This High Definition recording of a production of uncommon intimacy reveals the opera's music and drama in a new light.
English-speaking audiences have always found Die Meistersinger to be a life-enhancing celebration of wisdom, art and song. So it proves in David McVicar's production – the first at Glyndebourne – which is updated to the early-19th century of Wagner's childhood. At the centre of a true ensemble cast is Gerald Finley, a 'gleamingly sung', 'eminently believable' Sachs (The Independent on Sunday), supported by the dynamic conducting of Vladimir Jurowski which, like McVicar's production, uses Glyndebourne's special intimacy to bring sharp focus to bear on the subtlety of Wagner's musical and dramatic counterpoint.
Recordings of all the Beethoven symphonies with their chief conductor are always a milestone in the artistic work of the Berliner Philharmoniker. So it was with Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado, and expectations are correspondingly high for this cycle conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Where does the special status of these symphonies come from? Simon Rattle has an explanation: “One of the things Beethoven does is to give you a mirror into yourself – where you are now as a musician.” In fact, this music contains such a wealth of extreme emotions and brilliant compositional ideas that reveal the qualities of the orchestra and its conductor as if under a magnifying glass.
Austrian director Martin Kušej's pioneering vision brings a challenging and provoking insight to Wagner's opera of love and redemption, with his singular ability to connect characters and their actions to the score. Martin Zehetsgruber's spacious, multi-layered sets define the settings through which Daland (Robert Lloyd), Senta (Catherine Naglestad), The Dutchman (Juha Uusitalo) and the chorus move to great effect fulfilling the fine conducting of Hartmut Haenchen, who elicits from the orchestra an unmatchable performance of detail and clarity.
Last year's revival of Jan Philipp Gloger's controversial 2012 production was greeted (as so often in Bayreuth) with huge acclaim. He translates the tale of the Dutchman, whose travails can only be redeemed through the unconditional love of a woman (Senta), to a future time, where part-human/part-cyborgs grind out an existence in a world completely subservient to business and commerce. In the modern fan-making factory, which replaces the world of Senta and her fellow seamstresses, we see a final tableau in which the Dutchman's and Senta's heavenly union is commemorated' by the factory workers now producing souvenir statuettes of the couple. The production stars Samuel Youn, Ricarda Merbeth, and Franz-Josef Selig, and is conducted by Christian Thielemann, arguably the greatest Wagnerian conductor of today.