This sparkling suite for violin and piano came into being when the composer had to adapt his incidental score for a production of Shakespeare's play to the impending absence of the chamber orchestral. The result is a brilliant piece for violin and piano, which the composer quickly released in a four-movement version. There are other recordings of the chamber orchestra suite in five-movements that duplicate only three of the movements of this version. Violinist Gil Shaham and pianist André Previn are ideal partners in this brilliant performance. The four movements allow Shaham to show four sides of his violinist's personality: He skips and plays in carefree fashion in the opening movement, indulges in the grotesquery and parody of the second, gets to play the romantic in the garden scene of the third movement, and dazzles with virtuosity in the final hornpipe. Previn's part is more than mere accompaniment; the piano often has a large part of the mood of the music and his contribution is, to use a word already employed here, ideal.
Mozart, who composed 21 piano concerti, can be regarded as the “inventor” of the popular piano concerto. Although J.S. Bach and his son had written numerous concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano and orchestra before him, Mozart’s enormous input to the genre is mostly due to his concerti being regarded as ‘popular music’ by his contemporaries: to be enjoyed and replaced quickly by newer works. For this series on four DVDs, the most influential, the most artistically challenging and the most popular piano concerti have been selected to be performed by the best Mozart interpreters of our time. The second volume features pianists André Previn, Zoltán Kocsis and Heidrun Holtmann performing the piano concerti Nos 1, 4, 23 and 24. The performances on this DVD were shot in highly attractive baroque venues – at the Teatro Scientifico del Bibiena in Mantua, in the Rittersaal of the Palais Waldstein in Prague and in the Grosse Galerie at Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna – capturing the atmosphere of Mozart’s lifetime.
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. He also composed around 50 songs. His influence was critical for the further development of Romanticism, especially in composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and many others.
André Previn's 1975 EMI recording of Carmina Burana sounds better than ever in this new transfer. The analog tape hiss has been tamed, yet there's more "air" between the notes and a greater sense of dynamic and timbral definition. Engineering-wise, the mid-70s were golden years for EMI, and the rhythmic verve, dramatic momentum, and unbuttoned joy that Previn and his brilliant forces project still pack a sonic wallop. The soloists especially are outstanding. Thomas Allen navigates Orff's cruelly high tessitura with no effort, and Sheila Armstrong wraps her warm, flexible pipes around "In trutina mentis dubia" to moving effect. Gerald English gives just the right character to the roasted swan's lament, without overly exaggerating. In short, this performance surpasses Previn's live Vienna Philharmonic remake for DG, and ranks with Shaw (Telarc), Dorati (Decca), Blomstedt (Decca), Ormandy (Sony), Muti (EMI), and Mata (RCA) among the best recordings on disc of Carl Orff's pre-minimalist masterpiece.(Jed Distler)