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Faure: Pelleas et Melisande/ Debussy: Petite Suite : Ansermet Ernest Ansermet - Faure: Pelleas et Melisande/ Debuss: Petite Suite Ernest Ansermet conducts the L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande performing Gabriel Fauré's Pelléas Et Mélisande, Op. 80, Pénélope and Masques Et Bergmasques, Op. 112 and Claude Deubussy's Petite Suite.

Debussy, Faure, Schoenberg and Sibelius were all under the spell of the Belgian symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck and set his play Pelleas et Melisande to music in one form or another. Faure's incidental music was the second work, following Debussy's opera, to be based on the tragic story of love, jealousy, death, and forgiveness. Faure's veiled, ambiguous harmonies and compositional style reflect in a quite amazing fashion the atmosphere at which Maeterlinck so often only hinted. The Suite op. 80, which Faure himself put together and orchestrated, is quite rightly called his symphonic masterwork. Here, as again in the Prelude to his only complete opera, Penelope, one can experience the ecstatic, romantic, and - at the same time - refined and delicately woven musical language which often appears somewhat melancholy and veiled. His arching melodies, frequently inspired by Gregorian chant, are tinged with an archaic charm which is also to be found (though less obviously) in his suite Masques et Bergamasques. Ernest Ansermet is in his element here conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande who follow their founder's every wish and let the colours on the composer's palette shine out with delicate brilliance. Debussy's Petite Suite is a fitting work to complement Faure's little-known symphonic aspect. This recording is like a precious gem and deserves a place on every collector's shelf. Decca

Falla: The Three-Cornered Hat : Ernest Ansermet Ernest Ansermet - de Falla: The Three-Cornered Hat The very fact that Manuel de Falla composed his ballet El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) for the ambitious impresario Serge Diaghilev and his epoch-making Ballets Russes indicates the historical importance of this work. Although the Impressionistic character of the musical language reflects his studies with Debussy, the composer never once renounces his native origins. Overflowing with the thrilling rhythms and electrifying melodies of Spanish folkmusic, this work achieved worldwide popularity virtually overnight. As so often before in this genre, the Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet proves once again in this DECCA recording that he is a power to be reckoned with. The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande executes the slightest nuance, the most exquisite of figures and gentlest lyrical tone with meticulous precision. Powerful rolls of thunder, the click of castanets, lively rhythms and rich sonority conjure up a picture of fiery Spanish temperament so tangibly before our eyes that any comment on the recording quality appears almost superfluous. Decca
Frederick Fennell - British Band Classics Vol. 2 Frederick Fennell - British Band Classics Vol. 2 British military bands are as much a part of life in England as is the famous cup of tea. Just as the hot drink has its very own aroma, British bands have their very own inimitable sound, which is only to be found where it is brewed. Of course, there’s always an exception, such as when the highly decorated and well-versed Eastman Wind Ensemble and their experienced leader Frederick Fennell set their foot on English soil. The American musicians prove that they can do more than justice to Gordon Jacob’s arrangements of suite movements, which William Byrd originally wrote for the harpsichord in the 17th century. With well-marked rhythmic contours and a freshness of tone, Fennell’s men pipe the music in lofty heights. In Gustav Holst’s Hammersmith, the ensemble really flexes its muscles and produces precisely the saturated, organ-like cascades of sound that only a wind band can. The “Eastmen” pull out all the stops, as it were, in Walton’s Crown Imperial March, thus following the dramaturgical plan of this album, which begins softly and dies away in splendor.
Gregorio Paniagua - Tarentule, Tarantelle Gregorio Paniagua - Tarentule, Tarantelle Long before modern science established the fact, it was recognized that music had the power to heal. The present album is dedicated to the tarantella, a dance form whereby a couple was surrounded by a circle of others and which was supposed to cure the long-term effects of a toxic spider bite. "Concocted" by Italian and Spanish musicians whose names have long faded into oblivion, the musical antidotes (so the title of the first piece) were rediscovered by scholars in the 17th century and brought together in book form. Gregorio Paniagua, director of the Atrium Musicae de Madrid, shows great craftsmanship in the Baroque arrangements of the melodies. He creates his historical sound-world with impeccably played gamba parts, the purest of harp tones and gentle cloudlike chords on the positive organ. At times cacophonous percussion adds a little spice to the sound, and here and there a flute makes itself heard. These sharp accents, although melodious and pleasing to the ear, conjures up a vision of rustic, frenzied dancing. Harmonia Mundi
Grieg : Peer Gynt : Oivin Fjeldstad Oivin Fjeldstad - Grieg: Peer Gynt Op. 23 - London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oivin Fjeldstad

Fjeldstad's record was one of really outstanding early Decca stereo LPs. The LSO is very sensitive, and the tender string playing in Oveig's Song is quite lovely. The conductor begins in Hall of Mountain King rather slowly but builds up a blaze of excitement at the end and that justifies his conception. This recording contained the wide dynamic of the final crescendo at a demonstration quality. This is a recommendable disc and has a vividly clear transfer. Decca

Grieg : Piano Concerto/ Litolff: Scherzo/ Franck: Variations : Clifford Curzon Clifford Curzon - Grieg: Piano Concerto/ Litolff: Scherzo/ Franck: Variations
Litolff: Scherzo from Concerto symphonique No. 4 - Sir Clifford Curzon, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oivin Fjeldstad; London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult

This recording has been a favorite disc over a long period and it doesn't show its age. The performance of the Grieg has strength and power as well as freshness. Curzon's performance of Franck's symphonic variation has stood the test of time. It is a deliciously fresh reading without idiosyncrasy. Litolff's Scherzo is a delightful makeweight to the excellent performance of Grieg and Franck. Curzon provides all the sparkle Litolffs infectious Scherzo requires. The recording has the same line qualities as the rest of the issue. It can be recommended without reservation, particularly with the coupling equally brilliantly done. The recording is beautifully clean and clear. Decca

Handel: Water Music/ Royal Fireworks Music : George Szell George Szell - Handel: Water Music/ Royal Fireworks Music Handel - Water Music/ Royal Fireworks Music

Composed in the spirit of the baroque, the Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music were written by the highly regarded George Friedrich Handel on commissions from Kings George I and George II of England. The remarkable premiere of the Water Music - a loose suite of instrumental airs, fanfares, dances and other delights - was played in 1717 by a bargeful of musicians accompanying the King and his court as they partied in barges on the Thames. According to reports at the time, Handel's new work was greeted with unanimous acclaim. Music appeared equally fitting for the solemn but festive commemoration of a peace. The Royal Fireworks Music - originally scored for multitudinous brass, oboes and bassoons, plus tympani and the bizarre serpent horn - was composed in 1749 for the victory gala in London's Green Park, celebrating the happy end to the seven-year war of the Austrian succession. In both pieces George Szell and the London Symphony Orchestra conjure up the full splendour of baroque tonality. Orchestra and conductor are clearly in a festive mood. The strings show rare form, at once lush and radiant, the brass are brilliant but never shrill. The atmosphere is transparent, the special effects are impressive. For the outstanding quality of this recording we are indebted not least to its inspired recording engineer, Kenneth E. Wilkinson. Decca

Holst: The Planets : Zubin Mehta Zubin Mehta & the Los Angeles Philharmonic  - Holst: The Planets Holst - The Planets/ LAP /Mehta

Earth was not created in a day. And the same applies to Gustav Holst's interplanetary symphony which took him about three years to write. The composer employs a massive orchestra and rich orchestral coloring to portray each planet in his musical psychogram. Mars, the Bringer of War, rages with mechanical brutality, while Venus brings peace and an acceptance of life. Mercury, the Winged Messenger, darts here and there with quicksilver speed, while powerful and sovereign Jupiter brings jollity and reassurance. Saturn plods by with heavy tread, while Uranus with its contrasting changes in tempo remains enigmatic and extrovert. And because Pluto, the most distant planet had not yet been discovered, it is Neptune, the great unknown, which is lost in time and space in an endless ostinato of female voices. Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic present this astronomical journey with precision and exhilaration, leaving neither time nor space for astrological speculation. As always, the excellent DECCA recording quality guarantees an unimpeded view of this musical galaxy. Decca

Howard Hanson/Eastman-Rochester Orchestra - Fiesta in Hi-Fi Howard Hanson/Eastman-Rochester Orchestra - Fiesta in Hi-Fi It's always a pleasure to listen to favorite music again and to nibble a little of that proverbial "ear candy." The same goes for composers who, at any and all times, collected folk songs and dances on the streets, as it were, in order to incorporate them into their own works. The Americans are no exception and they have always dug busily for musical roots in their territories, as one can see from the numbers "Mexican Rhapsody," "Kentucky Mountains" and "Savannah River Holiday." Muted sounds are not to be found here, for the Hi-Fi Fiesta is celebrated with orchestral fireworks, which stress their close relationship with film music. A powerful string sound, paired with salvos from the blaring brass and thunderous drum rolls are just as characteristic of these spirited, effervescent works as are the lyrical, cantabile passages which reach ethereal heights with violin harmonics ("Mexican Rhapsody"). The Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, which here honors two former pupils of the Eastman School of Music – Robert McBride and Ron Nelson – performs the present collection with great spirit and a maximum of glorious sound. Mercury Living Presence
Khachaturian - Spartacus & Gayaneh Aram Khachaturian - Spartacus & Gayaneh

Aram Khachaturian, the most well-known of all Armenian composers, believed that art should be closely bound to the people and indeed it was a prerequisite for his own creative inspiration. Largely uninfluenced by the manifold trends of the 20th century, Khachaturian's works reflect the folk heritage of his country. In the two richly orchestrated ballets, which he himself later arranged into suites, we find the musical spirit and customs of an ancient culture. In particular the unrestrained exuberance of the Sabre Dance from Gayaneh has contributed to the immense popularity of this suite. The ballet Spartacus could be described as a monumental historical drama and made Khachaturian one of the Soviet Union's most highly honored composers.

That a slave uprising can not only be expressed in music but can also take place on an international dimension is admirable demonstrated by the maestro personally in this recording where Khachaturian takes on the role of leader of the Vienna Philharmonica Orchestra. Decca

Lalo : Symphonie Espagnole/ Ravel: Tzigane/ Ruggiero Ricci, violin : Ernest Ansermet Ernest Ansermet - Lalo: Symphonie Espagnole/ Ravel: Tzigane/ Ruggiero Ricci, violin Ernest Ansermet conducts the L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande with Ruggiero Ricci performing Edouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole and Maurice Ravel's Tzigane.

Ricci shows his easy mastery of the violin. He produces the fullest range of color in a work demanding this especially and he has a natural feeling for the temperament of the music and it's intensity. Hear his ravishing playing in the cantabile middle section of the delicious Scherzo. Ricci is backed with a distinguished and sympathetic accompaniment under Ansermet and the SRO. The new transfer is superb and has the right warmth and atmosphere. Decca

Liszt Recital : Clifford Curzon Clifford Curzon - A Liszt Recital
Liszt: Sonata in B Minor, Liebestraum No. 3, Valse Oubliée No. 1, Gnomenreigen, Berceuse - Sir Clifford Curzon

Curzon excels in serious and dramatic work such as the Liszt B Minor Sonata; the performance he gives here embodies a tension and brilliance that few pianists could achieve today. He brings a quality of genuine mystery to the motto, and knows how to play the saccharine sections with just the right amount of reserve, convincing even the anti-Liszt listener that this work is one to be reckoned with the canon of the nineteenth-century piano sonata. The fugato comes off with fiendish brilliance and verve. On the reverse, a handful of Liszt's finest morceaux de genre allows any over-wrought collector to relax and enjoy sweet and delightful sounds. Decca

Liszt: Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 : Kiril Kondrashin Kiril Kondrashin - Liszt: Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 Any pianist who tackles Franz Liszt's great works must possess outstanding skills in many areas. Technical prowess is absolutely necessary to play the extremely difficult score, as is immense physical energy in order to compete with the hefty onslaughts from the orchestra. But a great awareness of the unusual conceptual forms, refined energy and passion are also required to make the keyboard sing. At the beginning of the Sixties Sviatoslav Richter seemed to possess all the First Concerto's defiant theme in the orchestra, offering resistance only to join in later with the lyrical maelstrom of the orchestra. In the Second Concerto Richter exchanges heroic brilliance for an elegiac air, then becomes capricious with graceful arpeggios and a lyrical, firm melodiousness that fires the course of the work. In the Finale these twists and turns come together to form an emphatic single strand of spirited theme, brilliant cadenza and blustering orchestra. The impressive sound was captured by the highly dedicated Mercury recording team. Philips
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies 2 & 3/ Enesco: Roumanian Rhapsodies 1 & 2 : Antal Dorati Antal Dorati - Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies 2 & 3/ Enesco: Roumanian Rhapsodies 1 & 2 Born in 1881, George Enesco led the life of a globetrotter. Although he became acquainted with all manner of schools and styles during his thorough studies in Vienna and Paris, it was invariably folk music that provided him with the most important source of inspiration. Thanks to their freshness and impressive thematic invention, the two Roumanian Rhapsodies have remained firm favorites to this day. Nothing in the music appears to demand great effort or mental struggle. The colorful mixture of lyrical and spirited passages seems completely natural and homogenous, offering sheer delight for the ears right up to the final chord.

Enesco’s carefree hits serve as an ideal introduction to two orchestral heavyweights by Franz Liszt, which undoubtedly are to be counted as "state of the art" works in this particular genre. Antal Dorati conducts the London Symphony Orchestra with a firm hand and complete concentration - as is demanded by this tightly knit score - always managing to find the perfect balance between timbral force and transparency. Of course one can find elsewhere these compositions being performed faster, louder and with questionable sensational effects. But if you are looking for a faithful interpretation of the score, musicality and natural sound, then this is the recording for you. Mercury Living Presence

 

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