You're going to love this disc. It does everything this wonderful series of "Romantic Piano Concertos" is supposed to: present captivating repertoire in excellent performances. Christian Sinding was a notoriously spotty composer when working in large forms. After all, if you live well into your 80s writing tons of music along the way, but remain famous for one three-minute piano miniature ("Rustle of Spring"), then something's not right. That said, this youthful concerto offsets its tendency to ramble with an abundance of fresh, enjoyable tunes and fistfuls of pianistic fun and games. When the melodies are so attractive it's impossible to deny Sinding his right to dwell on them at length. Eyvind Alnaes was one of those composer/performer/administrators whose busy schedule prevented him from writing much music, but thank God he turned out this piano concerto. Scored for a massive orchestra with an enormous brass section (six trombones!), the piece is, believe it or not, actually rather light and vivacious, except for those moments when the full ensemble really cuts loose. The finale, a free-flowing waltz, would be a "pops" favorite if the scoring weren't so extravagant. It's just the kind the music you'll want to enjoy on disc because you'll never hear it live: a big, juicy, Wagnerian love-fest between the soloist and the orchestra that leaves you wanting more.
The opera is based on a libretto adapted by the poet Silvio Stampiglia for Giovanni Bononcini, whose setting was staged at Rome’s Teatro di Torre Nona in 1694. Handel completed his opera in 1738 in little more than a month. However, his typically swift pace and resourceful treatment of musical themes and models should not be misconstrued as complacency, carelessness, or low imaginative powers. The autograph manuscript reveals that Handel invested considerable skill in arias that are perfectly tailored to the dramatic storyline, many of which were meticulously crafted and then redrafted.
Rafael Kubelik truly remains a conductor for the here and now, with his classic recordings of Beethoven, Dvorak, Mahler, Janáček, Orff and Smetana cycles setting the gold standard. His approach to phrasing and keen attention to orchestral inner frameworks left no musical stone unturned. Kubelík is the last of the great conductors from Deutsche Grammophon's early stereo age to receive the "Complete Edition" treatment.
It is rare to find a disc as creatively programmed as this BIS release. Enhanced by lovely performances, played with great devotion to the memory of the recently-deceased Japanese master, the repertoire was chosen by conductor Tadaaki Otaka and producer Robert Suff, who organized it not only in the most effective succesion, but in a manner that illustrates the works’ individual meaning and illuminates Takemitsu’s career. All but one of the compositions are from Takemitsu’s late period. The other, the Requiem for Strings, is one of the earliest works to win him fame. Fantasma/Cantos II, for trombone and orchestra, is among the last Takemitsu compositions. Both it and the Requiem provide considerably more forward harmonic motion than the other four works, which are in Takemitsu’s typical “Japanese garden” meditative style, a kind of revival of French impressionism using harmonies that are more like Messiaen’s than Debussy’s.