Recorded live at a concert in the large hall of the Musikverein in Vienna in November 1991, this performance of Verdi’s dramatic Requiem is really commanding. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the chorus of the Vienna State Opera respond appropriately to Abbado’s exciting but not over-operatic handling of the work, and the recording is admirably clear. The soloists are a fine and well-matched quartet.
The first new release for ten years from Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado is their first ever album of concertos by Mozart. The legendary pianist and conductor add the sublime music of Mozart to their unrivaled, multi award-winning DG discography of concertos by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Ravel, Prokofiev, Beethoven and Liszt. Both concertos were recorded with Claudio Abbado s Orchestra Mozart, at concert performances at the 2013 Lucerne Festival that had critics searching for new superlatives. The album contrasts two very different works. Written in D minor, the key of the Queen Of the Night and the opening of Mozart s Requiem, the darkly dramatic No.20, K.466 has a stormy, operatic temperament that looks forward eighteen months to the premiere of Don Giovanni. With its majestic and radiant opening and a march famously reminiscent of the Marseillaise, No.25 in C major, K.503 is the culmination of the twelve transcendent concertos Mozart wrote in Vienna between 1784 and 1786. This release is Martha Argerich s first recording of solo concertos by Mozart on Deutsche Grammophon.
This generous coupling of Brahms’s two concertos for stringed instruments has become relatively common in the age of CD thanks to compilations like the Philips disc of Szeryng and Starker‚ analogue recordings dating from the early 1970s. Modern digital recordings expressly designed for issue in coupling are much rarer‚ the Teldec issue of Kremer and Clemens Hagen being the most notable one.
It's a recording that just a few years ago would have been mainstream: a "name" pianist (albeit one much less well known in the U.S. than elsehwere), who has been playing Mozart's piano concertos since childhood, joins forces with a name conductor with whom she has frequently collaborated, leading a modern-instrument orchestra of some 70 players, with the results released on a major international-conglomerate label. Now it's distinctly unusual. But lo, there's value in the old ways. Portuguese-Brazilian pianist Maria-João Pires is a lifelong Mozart specialist, but she still has new things to say in two of Mozart's most popular piano concertos. You can chalk it up to her Buddhist outlook if you like: her readings of the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595, and Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, might be described as detached without being lifeless. Her approach is most startling in the Piano Concerto No. 20, where her no-drama shaping of the material runs sharply counter to type. Sample the piano's entrance in the first movement, where it offers a twisting, tense elaboration of the main theme that is far removed from its source material. Generally pianists use this to raise the tension level, but Pires lets the unusually shaped, chromatic line speak for itself with fine effect.
As a composer of sacred music, Bob Chilcott has found his own niche by writing accessible choral works that speak to contemporary sensibilities. As has been noted frequently, his Requiem evokes Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé, mostly through its gentle feeling and serene melodies, though without imitating their style or content. Rather, it has its own mix of somber harmonies and fluid, chantlike lines, and the expression of the work is a little cooler and darker. Chilcott's music admits occasional and mild dissonance, though the orientation is strongly modal and the harmonies always feel like a natural result of the counterpoint. Chilcott's Salisbury Motets, Downing Service, and three shorter pieces share the same modern Anglican style, which is approachable and easy to follow. The Wells Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Matthew Owens, sings with a pure tone and clear diction, and the sound of the recordings is quite resonant, thanks to the responsive acoustics of the Cathedral of St. Andrew.