September 8, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Mozart: Symphonies No 39, 40 and 41 (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Rattle)

“Representing no occasion, no immediate purpose but an appeal to eternity” was how Albert Einstein, (the music critic, not the physicist/philosopher) described Mozart’s last three symphonies. How can such sublime music exist without either social or creative context? They have, rightly, assumed an almost mystical aura. The late Nikolaus Harnoncourt always used to perform them together as he regarded them to be essentially one work. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic have set new standards in these performances with the wind breathtakingly behind their virtuosic wings: everything seems perfect. I wish I had more space to expatiate on the adrenalin-charged felicities of these accounts. They embody a rare and wondrous fusion of both interpretive “worlds”: the heft and scale of a great symphony orchestra in full cry, with the drama and detail of historically informed or influenced approach. In the Symphony No 39, the clarinets seem more present than ever, and seem to enhance the cheerful bustle, especially in their most prominent appearance in the Trio of the Menuetto. I was glad Rattle observed the repeat in the finale, as, without it, the ending seems abrupt. In the G Minor, the opening mood reminded me of Benjamin Britten’s superb, late-60s…

March 31, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Elgar, Martinů: Cello Concertos (Sol Gabetta)

Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta catapulted into public consciousness when she won the Crédit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2004 and subsequently debuted with the Vienna Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev. She was 23 then, but had won her first competition at the age of ten, and now enjoys a hectic international career as one of the world’s most famous and highly-regarded cellists. Her wide-ranging repertoire includes three albums of works by Vivaldi and his contemporaries, recorded with Capella Gabetta, the ensemble she founded with her brother Andrés. In addition to core 19th-century repertoire, she is also committed to contemporary compositions, and has recorded an album of works by Latvian composer Pe¯teris Vasks which included his Second Cello Concerto, written especially for Gabetta.  This latest album features two 20th-century masterworks – the first, arguably the most famous cello concerto in the repertoire; the second, virtually unknown by comparison. Elgar’s concerto was written in 1919, with the dark pall of WWI hanging heavily upon its composer, who wrote, next to its entry in his catalogue of works, “Finis. R.I.P.”. Its 1919 premiere was a disaster, and it languished in popularity until recorded by Jacqueline du Pré in 1965 (incredibly, she was only 20) and her technically…

December 19, 2016
features

Sir Simon Rattle on our Orchestral Recording of the Year

The British maestro on climbing the mountain, the lessons of history and avoiding chauffeur-driven limo Beethoven. Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.

December 18, 2016
features

Orchestral Recording of the Year 2016

Sir Simon’s new Berlin cycle on the orchestra’s home label combines the HIP with a roundly Romantic underbelly. Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.