5 items from 2014
Is Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) the greatest conductor ever? While there are some who, in preference to his highly inflected, interventionist style, would prefer a more straight-forward conductor such as his contemporary Arturo Toscanini, many cognoscenti believe that at the least Furtwängler, when heard in his favored 19th century Austro-Germanic repertoire, ranks supreme of his type in the pre-stereo era. The aforementioned Toscanini himself was an admirer; asked who aside from himself was the greatest conductor, he named Furtwängler, and also pushed for the German to take over the directorship of the New York Philharmonic when Toscanini relinquished its reins, though controversy prevented that.
While Furtwängler was a more versatile conductor than some observers give him credit for, his reputation is based firmly on his masterful conducting of the symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, and Brahms and the operas of Wagner. He said, "A well-rehearsed concert is one in which you have »
Frans Brüggen, who died today at age 79, co-founded the Dutch period-performance collective ensemble The Orchestra of the 18th Century in 1981 and continued to lead it even after he had to do so while seated. He was quoted in 2008 as saying that he planned to conduct until he dropped dead, and he did. And before his conducting career, he arguably did more to return the recorder (Aka flûte à bec, flauto dolce, Blockflöte) to prominence than anybody else in the 20th century. Brüggen's talents and intellectual devotion to period performance were recognized early; at age 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He was one of the pioneers of "early music"/"period performance," a giant in his field, and his prolific recording career enriched the world immeasurably. Here are a few samples of his virtuosity.
J.S. Bach: Sonata Bwv 1033
To coincide with the DVD debut of Tony Palmer’s Dvořák – In Love?, Flickering Myth spoke with British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber who features alongside the Czech Philharmonic and Czech maestro Václav Neumann. The documentary takes us behind the scenes of a recording of Dvořák’s enduring Cello Concerto, and whilst revealing the story behind its composition Palmer crafted what remains an important piece of documentary filmmaking.
Its political message meant that it could not be shown in the then Communist ruled Czechoslovakia. Following the Russian withdrawal two years later Dvořák – In Love? became an historical moment in television history when it became the first documentary to be shown on the newly-uncensored Czech TV.
Lloyd Webber shared with us his thoughts on the Dvořák Cello Concerto, modern classical music and Dvořák – In Love?. It was a conversation that depicts film and TV as a doorway through which other art forms »
- Gary Collinson
Teatro alla Scala, Milan’s world-renowned opera house, staged a moving tribute Monday evening for Claudio Abbado, the Italian conductor who was the theatre’s director between 1968 and 1986 and who died last week. Daniel Barenboim, a friend of Mr. Abbado and the theatre’s current director, conducted the “Funeral March” from Beethoven’s Third Symphony, known as the Eroica, to an empty theatre. The doors to the theatre were thrown open so that listeners gathered outside the theatre in the »
- Gilles Castonguay
As always, there are biases at play here; my greatest interests are symphonic music, choral music, and piano music, so that's what comes my way most often. There are some paired reviews; the ranking of the second of each pair might not be the true, exact ranking, but it works better from a writing standpoint this way.
1. Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1-4; Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 Tragic Overture, Op. 81; Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a; 3 Hungarian Dances; 9 Liebeslieder Waltzes; Intermezzi, Op. 116 No. 4 & Op. 117 No. 1 Gewandhausorchester/Riccardo Chailly (Decca)
It is not easy, at this point in recording history, to match the giants of the baton in a Brahms cycle, but Chailly has done it (this is my fiftieth Brahms cycle, and I have more than another fifty Brahms Firsts, and upwards of thirty each of the other symphonies outside those cycles, so I've got some basis for comparison »
5 items from 2014
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