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Kuijken: The Concertos
Title: Kuijken: The Concertos
Artist: La Petite Bande, Sigiswald Kuijken (violin)
Label: Accent
Format: CD10

For the Classical Music Collector, Box Sets are a very welcome way to plug gaps in one’s collection, or exhaustively explore, and cheaply obtain large tranches of repertoire. This set and its companion (below) feature the recorded output of one of the pioneers of the authentic early music movement, violinist Sigiswald Kuijken, and his group La Petite Bande. Recorded between 2006 and 2016—and therefore possessing extremely good recorded sound—this first box, The Concertos, covers a very broad range over its 10 CDs. The title is a little misleading because the box does include concertos by Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi, including the Brandenburg Concertos and the Four Seasons, but also several Haydn Symphonies and Mozart Divertimenti. In the hands of such musical and characterful performers, what does it matter? This is music-making of the highest order and well worth adding to your shelf.
Kuijken: The Chamber Music
Title: Kuijken: The Chamber Music
Artist: Sigiswald Kuijken (violin)
Label: Accent
Format: CD20

Celebrating the 75th birthday of violinist Sigiswald Kuijken, this second box set of 20 Chamber Music  CDs includes an extraordinary range of music, from 17th century works for viol to Haydn Trios and Mozart Violin Sonatas, with a dusting of Boismortier, Corelli, Couperin and more, all performed with Kuijkens’ customary grace and wit. Most interesting of all, is his set of Bach Cello Suites; not transcribed, as other violinists have done, but played on the Cello de spalla, ‘shoulder-cello’, an instrument midway in size between viola and cello (it is also sometimes called the Viola de spalla) and played on the shoulder like a violin (with a strap!). There is some evidence that this was the instrument Bach had in mind when he wrote for Piccolo Cello, as in the 6th Suite. The instrument has a nasal, reedy, but rich tone, and is simply marvellous in these incomparable works. This box set is such a huge and richly varied collection that it would be hard to turn down—it will certainly be appearing on my shelf!
Tchaikovsky: The Complete Symphonies
Title: Tchaikovsky: The Complete Symphonies
Artist: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariss Jansons
Label: Chandos
Format: CD6

If collectors already have a Tchaikovsky symphony it tends to be the Fifth or Sixth, works that are entirely familiar. The Fourth is less familiar despite being one of his grandest statements, and the other four are genuinely neglected even today—an odd state of affairs, considering the widespread popularity of Tchaikovsky’s music. And yes, four: he wrote an unnumbered and large-scale Manfred Symphony between the Fourth and Fifth. This collection from Chandos of all seven of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies, presents, arguably, the finest set of these works currently on the market. The performances by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons were awarded a Rosette by the Penguin Guide, “to indicate that they are of extra special quality”. For those who have a set already, this collection offers a strong alternative reading, for those who don’t …what are you waiting for?
Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies
Title: Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies
Artist: Anima Eterna Brugge, Jos Van Immerseel (harpsichordist)
Label: Alpha
Format: CD6

It is not that long ago that a paradigm-shift occurred in the performance of Beethoven’s symphonies. Where previously interpreters had erred on the side of being respectful—sometimes to the point of obsequiousness—and given us wholesome, if not ploddingly dull, interpretations, younger performers were beginning to take a sceptical look at the scores and the performance practice of Beethoven’s time. Their conclusions were dramatic: Beethoven’s orchestra and his instruments were very unlike the modern orchestra; Beethoven’s style was radical, not grandiose; and most importantly, we got his tempos wrong! And let’s face it: respectability was not one of Beethoven’s strongest suits. There have been quite a number of recent sets of the symphonies that attempt to provide more authentic readings, by Norrington and Hogwood among others, but none are quite as stunning as these by Jos van Immerseel and his band, Anima Eterna Brugge, previously available on ZigZag. The iconic Fifth Symphony becomes, in Immerseel’s hands, a new work, racy, powerful, and exciting. But my favourite is the Sixth, the Pastoral, with the older wind instruments sounding so much more like the birds they are intended to mimic. This set is, of course, not for everyone, but if you want to encounter a vibrant, boundary-pushing, rather than a museum-culture Beethoven, this one’s for you!
Rimsky-Korsakov: Orchestral Works
Title: Rimsky-Korsakov: Orchestral Works
Artist: Noriko Ogawa (piano), Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Kees Bakels
Label: BIS
Format: CD4

Now this is a lovely box. Rimsky-Korsakov is known primarily for his own Scheherazade, and his influence on Stravinsky’s Firebird, but this narrow view massively undervalues his work. Not only was Rimsky’s orientalist sound world a major influence on early 20th century exoticism—he was, apparently, synaesthetic—but he also wrote an opera on Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri 80 years before Amadeus. This BIS boxset sets out to provide a more balanced view of his music, including all three Symphonies, the charming Piano Concerto, Suites, and a cross-section of his incidental orchestral works, including the ever-popular Capriccio Espagnole. The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra under Kees Bakels, and pianist Noriko Ogawa, are fully immersed in the composer's unique sound world, according to Classics Today; and on the strength of Scheherazade Rimsky surely deserves a fuller appreciation.
Mahler: The Symphonies
Title: Mahler: The Symphonies
Artist: Chor and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Colin Davis, Daniel Harding, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons, Yannick Nezet-Seguin
Label: BR Klassik
Format: CD11

Over the last few decades Mahler has emerged as one of the most popular and frequently-recorded of Classical composers. Perhaps this has to do with the directness of his music, or its resonance with the 20th century sensibility (most of us were educated during that century, after all). Whatever the reason, we are deluged with recordings of these huge and powerful works, making it hard to try and select a favourite for each when building a library. For such a composer the box set comes into its own. In the case of these BR Klassik recordings, conductors of the calibre of Haitink and Jansons, Daniel Harding and Colin Davis, join forces with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra to provide near-definitive versions in live performance, making this set an excellent starting-point in getting to know Mahler, or a convenient way to explore alternative readings.
Bruckner: The Symphonies
Title: Bruckner: The Symphonies
Artist: Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Herbert Blomstedt, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons, Lorin Maazel (conductors)
Label: BR Klassik
Format: CD9

The same can also be said of Bruckner, of course. In fact, when I was young, Mahler and Bruckner were frequently tethered together, as in the Master Musicians series of books, obscuring how immensely different the two composers are. Despite Bruckner’s overt channelling of Beethoven and Wagner, the influence of Schubert at his most sublime seems to me the key to Bruckner: music that has no truck with the ephemeral, the transitory, but concerns itself with eternals. Bruckner is as emotionally direct as Mahler, but the emotions each expresses hardly overlap; for me, Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony is one of the pinnacle works of all music. And yet, orchestras rarely perform Bruckner in public, and when they do it is almost always one of the last three of his symphonies; this is a great loss for us listeners, as the earlier Bruckner symphonies are worthwhile and particularly fascinating as they reveal the slow evolution of the composer’s vision. In this companion BR Klassik box set, the conductors who guide us through the Bruckner cosmos are Blomstedt, Haitink, Jansons, and Maazel—Bruckner specialists, all—again in live performances with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Grieg: The Complete Orchestral Music
Title: Grieg: The Complete Orchestral Music
Artist: Soloists, Ole Ruud, Noriko Ogawa (piano), Bergen Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra
Label: BIS
Format: CD8

It would be an over-statement to suggest that there is more to Grieg than we know, but there is certainly more music than we know, and this utterly delightful collection from BIS brings together all his output for orchestra on 8 CDs, including of course such standards as the Piano Concerto and Peer Gynt, but also barely known works like the Symphony and Before a Southern Convent. Many of the pieces are songs, and others are choral: cantatas, melodramas, and operatic fragments; all are, as you would expect, sometimes dramatic, slightly nostalgic, and always charming.
Glazunov: The Symphonies
Title: Glazunov: The Symphonies
Artist: Bamberger Symphoniker, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Neeme Jarvi (conductor)
Label: Orfeo
Format: CD5

Glazunov was a serious Russian symphonist, perhaps without quite the spark that makes Tchaikovsky the peer among such composers, but very appealing nonetheless. He is probably best known today for his ballets, the Seasons and Raymonda, tuneful and lightweight, while his deeper, traditional, musical thought has been rather sidelined. He completed eight symphonies—a ninth was begun and is sometimes performed as a torso, but is not included in this set—all of which are substantial works, but six of them are in major keys and the dominant mood is one of wistfulness rather than drama. If your taste is for the comfortable, you will enjoy this music that, for all its ambition, manages to retain a suave, almost Mendelssohnian, charm that lingers in the memory.
Haydn: Complete solo keyboard music
Title: Haydn: Complete solo keyboard music
Artist: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Label: BIS
Format: CD15

People are sometimes surprised that Haydn wrote Piano Sonatas, let alone works of major significance and clout. Perhaps they think his 104 Symphonies left him little time for anything else. Haydn’s output for the keyboard is in fact very extensive; in recent years the number of his Sonatas has increased from 52 to 62 as works were reattributed. On these very full 15 CDs Ronald Brautigam performs Haydn’s entire keyboard oeuvre, the 62 Sonatas and a plethora of smaller pieces, Ariettas, Capriccios, Variations, Minuets and the rest. Covering much of his composing career, the gradual evolution of style that can be tracked from work to work gives a revealing portrait of a composer’s development. Brautigam almost always uses pianos of the era in his recordings, and the results here are stunning; the music, which can sound underpowered on modern grands, is revealed as rich with primal energy, wit, and keyboard resourcefulness. The origins of Beethoven’s thunderous Sonatas are clearly apparent in these works. But not just important, this is music of great range and imaginativeness, and Brautigam brings out all its character. As Haydn is reported to have said late in his life: "I am really just a living clavier." Indispensible.
Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc
Title: Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc
Artist: Anima Eterna, Jos Van Immerseel
Label: Alpha
Format: CD5

When Jos van Immerseel turned 70 in 2015, the label Alpha celebrated by issuing a series of CDs including this rerelease. Anima Eterna are an orchestra dedicated to performing music from many eras in authentic fashion, including using correct instruments—including percussion!—and performance practice. We are used to this approach in music from the 18th century and before, but applying it to late 19th and early 20th century music is a departure. Nonetheless, the results are fascinating, not least for the slow, automaton-like tempo that Immerseel adopts in Ravel’s Boléro, which he derived from the testimony of a conductor who rehearsed the work with Ravel in 1930. Also on the same CD is a performance of the Left-Hand Piano Concerto on an 1895 Érard piano—an astonishing sound. More dramatic is the pulverising effect of 1920s brass and percussion in Ravel’s orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition. Hearing these authentic orchestral colours in performances of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, which features on CD1, is perhaps less of a surprise, given Berlioz’ fascination with orchestration, but the Anima Eterna version of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, with its gamelan-like opening, is simply astounding. If the history of the orchestra interests you, and even if not, this box is not to be missed. It will certainly hold your attention.
Bax: The Symphonies
Title: Bax: The Symphonies
Artist: BBC Philharmonic, Vernon Handley
Label: Chandos
Format: CD5

Not for nothing were the contents of this box set awarded Gramophone Magazine Awards galore, and a Penguin Rosette. Vernon Handley is probably Bax’s single most effective advocate of recent years, and his performances of all seven symphonies should be on the shelf of any serious lover of English music. And, no, Bax was not a Celt; he just wished he was. Having a private income, Bax was able to produce a very large and accomplished body of work, including symphonic poems, multiple works for piano and orchestra, violin and cello concertos, and much chamber and piano music, but the core of his work are the seven symphonies. Although his earlier works retain the influence of Wagner and Richard Strauss, the mature music is much more kin to Rachmaninov and Sibelius: expansive, melancholy, and craggy. As an aperitif, the symphonic poem Tintagel is also included; it happily represents Bax’s more fantastical Arthurian leanings. On this box’s first appearance in 2010, a Gramophone reviewer commented: “this Bax symphony cycle comes under the baton of the composer's doughtiest champion, and superlatives are in order. Even seasoned Baxians will be startled by the propulsive vigour and sinewy strength of these performances.” This is one to grab while you still can.
Bridge: Orchestral Works, Volumes 1-6
Title: Bridge: Orchestral Works, Volumes 1-6
Artist: Sarah Connolly, Philip Langridge, Roderick Williams, Alban Gerhardt, Howard Shelley, BBC National Chorus of Wales, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Richard Hickox
Label: Chandos
Format: CD6

For most listeners, the name Frank Bridge is known primarily from Britten’s Frank Bridge Variations, and the vague recollection that he was Britten’s teacher. This underwhelming first impression will be rapidly evaporated by any exposure to his remarkable music. Bridge’s career can be divided fairly imprecisely into three periods: up to, during, and after, the First World War. As a broad generalisation, his early Edwardian works are chamber music in which he gradually found his voice, followed by a period in which—possibly under the influence of Debussy—he wrote his first two great orchestral works, the Sea and Summer. Then came the War. It is sometimes said that Bridge was unsettled by the conflict and this led him to attempt a deepening of his musical style; facile simplification or not, his subsequent music certainly began to incorporate modernisms of a more radical kind than that of the earlier impressionist works, culminating in the remarkable Oration and Phantasm, for cello and orchestra, and piano and orchestra, respectively. This box set from Chandos includes most if not all of Bridge’s orchestral works, major and minor, and the performances are by some of Britain’s finest musicians, including Howard Shelley and Alban Gerhardt, under the leadership of the late Richard Hickox. Heard en masse like this Bridge’s music, lacking any kind of cyclical element such as symphonies, tends to initially feel somewhat fragmented, but the quality and intelligence of his work brings one back to it again and again. Benjamin Britten admired him deeply; that in itself is enough reason for engaging with Bridge’s work.
Bantock: Orchestral Musici
Title: Bantock: Orchestral Musici
Artist: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vernon Handley (conductor)
Label: Hyperion
Format: CD6

Today we have comic superheroes, but in the 1910s they had …Sir Granville Bantock? He studied for the Indian Civil Service, then chemical engineering, before moving on to music and winning every composition prize in his path. His musical style became established in the very early 20th century, and he had a fascination with Arabic literature, and Greek literature, and Celtic literature. In fact, he seems to have absorbed virtually everything that crossed his path. He was given to inventing a piece in an afternoon and spending fifteen years finishing it. His setting of Edward Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayam sets the entire poem, taking almost three hours to perform (there is a recording!), and this is just one of many vast projects he (sometimes) brought to completion. His musical language is Edwardian, a strange amalgam of the tonal world of his British peers and exotic orchestral colours reminiscent of both the Ring and French impressionism, beautiful, but with the very slightest hint of decadence—unsurprisingly, he counted Delius among his friends, but also Elgar and Sibelius, and Havergal Brian. His early enthusiasms were Tchaikovsky and Wagner, and later Richard Strauss, but his music only hints at their influence; on the whole, Bantock is his own person. This box set from Hyperion contains 6 CDs of large- and smaller-scale orchestral works, some with voice, and yet it barely scratches the surface of his amazing prolixity, which extended over a fifty-year career. Nonetheless, the music always sounds considered and carefully achieved …and often alluring. The artworks chosen for the CD slipcases, by Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, and others, wryly catch the flavour of the music, not least the box cover, The Cave of the Storm Nymphs by Sir Edward John Poynter. Irresistible.
Rautavaara: The Symphonies
Title: Rautavaara: The Symphonies
Artist: National Orchestra of Belgium, Mikko Franck, Leipzig RSO, Max Pommer, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam
Label: Ondine
Format: CD4

Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, who died in 2016, underwent a long stylistic journey over his six-decade career, beginning in fairly normal fashion as a neoclassicist, and evolving into a more radical kind of modernist in the Sixties. He was, however, one of the first composers to repudiate the modernist stance, and, like his younger contemporary John Tavener, bring his interest in spirituality to the fore in his work. This stylistic evolution makes his symphonies quite particularly interesting, as they chart his progress into being one of the world’s most admired and loved composers. His first four symphonies were written quite close together, between 1956 and 1962 (albeit the first two were later much revised) and present music that, while distinctive, remains characteristic of its era—the Fourth in particular has a decidedly avante-garde feel. The Fifth did not appear for another twenty years, and by this time Rautavaara had become a quite different composer, choosing to open the work with a shockingly direct, and immediately subverted, major triad—we are in a quite new world. The visionary intensity of this music is initially confronting but with familiarity reveals riches like little else in the Classical canon. The three symphonies that he wrote after this sonic seachange are among the most beloved of recent works: Symphony 6: Vincentiana, draws its titles from Van Gogh; Symphony 7: Angel of Light, takes us into realms of “deep spirituality”; and Symphony 8: the Journey, is perhaps the most traditional-sounding of all the works—except when it occasionally confronts us with telling dissonance. It remains even now somewhat problematic for composers to create cycles of symphonies, and the powerful ambiguities of Rautavaara’s eight great works epitomise why this is so. Like it or not, this is among the most important music of our times.
Alfvén Symphonies
Title: Alfvén Symphonies
Artist: Christina Högman, Claes-Håkan Ahnsjö, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Neeme Järvi
Label: BIS
Format: CD5

Although the Swede Hugo Alfvén lived a long life which extended right into the modernist era—he died in 1959—his musical language could be best described as genial. Cast in an undemanding late-Romantic idiom, his works refuse to break boundaries and are content to rely on their great charm and distinctiveness without trying to be revolutionary. A resourceful orchestrator, Alfvén was also much given to depicting nature in his music: his best-known work is the Swedish Rhapsody, and his Third Symphony was partly inspired by a trip to Italy. As his symphonies unfold the music becomes richer and more involving, but never abandons the picturesqueness that was Alfvén’s great strength. The stand-out work is the Fifth Symphony, where Alfvén permits himself a more expansive and idiosyncratic musical canvas, and the result is superb and heart-warming; not to mention, sadly, rarely heard. Accompanying the five symphonies in this lovely BIS set are a number of other orchestral works, including the Prodigal Son and Mountain King Suites, and of course the Swedish Rhapsody, the one work most listeners will have heard before, music firmly but gently rooted in the Swedish landscape and psyche.
Tubin: The Symphonies
Title: Tubin: The Symphonies
Artist: Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi
Label: BIS
Format: CD5

Pärt may have been the first Estonian composer to achieve wide popularity outside his homeland, but there is plenty of fine Estonian music waiting to be discovered, not least that of one of Pärt’s teachers, Eduard Tubin. Tubin wrote ten completed symphonies, five of which were written in his homeland, before he fled to Sweden in 1944. On arriving in Sweden he was given a seemingly undemanding job restoring old operatic scores for the famous Drottningholm Palace Theatre, and consequently many of his major works come from his period of exile. It has been said that Sweden neglected his work, but his reputation has grown since the Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi managed to escape to the US and started to champion Tubin’s music. The earlier works have an Estonian nationalist flavour, using traditional folk material in a fashion not unlike Kodaly, whereas his later works adopt a more expressionist idiom; whichever language his works are written in, they have a quality of melancholy, matched by a sense of brooding power that is only occasionally unleashed. While Tubin’s music is unostentatious, its quiet intensity makes for memorable listening.
Suomi: Finland 100
Title: Suomi: Finland 100
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Ondine
Format: CD5

OK—let’s be honest. How many Finnish composers, beyond Sibelius, can you name? If you have a penchant for the ‘new music’, you might have encountered Rautavaara or Lindberg or Saariaho, if you have dug deep into early 20th century music, perhaps Madetoja or Merikanto (who, oddly, both wrote operas, Juha, on the same novel with the same librettist). Obsessives like me might also have come across Sallinen and Raitio and Klami, and very distantly, Melartin. So, quite a few, really. But if you are interested to put all these rather disparate composers’ musics into context, this box of 5 CDs of Finnish music is just the thing. The CDs each cover a particular field: Orchestral Works I and II, Concertos (including Merikanto’s lovely Second Piano Concerto), Vocal Works, and Chamber Works. There are some unexpected things: who knew that Sibelius’s champion, Robert Kajanus, was also a composer? Ditto, the pianist Olli Mustonen? The important names are all represented, and pleasingly, by works most will probably not already have. Composer and performer portraits we’re all familiar with. But a portrait of the music of a nation? This little box is an oddity, for sure, but I got great pleasure from visiting all its corners, and I imagine you might too. And if you were to ask me if something like a national temperament emerged from all this listening, I’d have to say: you must decide for yourselves.
Joseph Martin Kraus: Amphitryon, Cantatas, Symphonies, Chamber Music
Title: Joseph Martin Kraus: Amphitryon, Cantatas, Symphonies, Chamber Music
Artist: Simone Kermes, Chantal Santon, Georg Poplutz, Martin Sandhoff, Schuppanzigh Quartett, Concerto Koln, L'arte Del Mondo, Werner Ehrhardt
Label: Capriccio
Format: CD5

Newly released, this box set serves as an excellent introduction to a hitherto little-known composer who has been given the nickname of the Swedish Mozart. Born a German in 1756, Joseph Martin Kraus moved to Stockholm in his early twenties and remained there for the rest of his life as Kapellmeister for King Gustav III. His music is predominantly for the stage or the church, although he is notable for a chamber work, the revolutionary Flute Quintet. Kraus was clearly a highly talented composer, writing for both Catholic and Lutheran services, and he also produced many orchestral and instrumental works including two outstanding concertos for viola, that impressed all who heard them. The 5 CDs of the box include several symphonies—in particular the unusual C sharp Minor Symphony, so hard to perform that he later reworked it into C minor—the Flute Quintet, and a couple of string quartets. The remainder of the duration is given over to Kraus’ theatre works, arguably his most successful domain, and several excerpts from his incidental music for Voltaire’s Olympie. His musical language is remarkably expressive, with much dramatic contrast; consequently, he is considered a pioneer of early romanticism. Haydn called him “a real genius”. We must be grateful to the Capriccio label for making his music more easily accessible.
Haitink Portrait
Title: Haitink Portrait
Artist: Bernard Haitink (conductor)
Label: BR Klassik
Format: CD11

Bernard Haitink is one of those conductors who is excellent in almost any repertoire. His set of Vaughan Williams Symphonies is finer than some of the British versions, and I have heard him conduct Takemitsu and Messiaen searchingly. But he is most notable, perhaps, for his readings of Bruckner and Mahler, and this new box set, released by Capriccio to celebrate his 90th birthday, focuses on these two arch-Viennese visionaries. Ranged over the 11 CDs are live recordings with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bruckner’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, less familiar but no less monumental works, and Mahler’s Third, Fourth, and panoramic Ninth Symphonies—all consummate achievements. Contextualising these grandiose works are the two large Haydn Oratorios, the Seasons and the Creation, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, visionary music of an earlier epoch—perhaps selected by Haitink himself. The recordings were all made since 1997, and represent this conductor’s conductor in his full maturity.
Vivaldi: The Complete Sacred Music
Title: Vivaldi: The Complete Sacred Music
Artist: Choir of The King’s Consort, The King’s Consort, Robert King
Label: Hyperion
Format: CD11

This is only a guess, but I suspect Vivaldi might have been one of the most prolific composers in history. In addition to his five hundred concertos, he wrote nearly fifty operas, and a plethora of orchestral, chamber, and solo sonatas. Despite all this activity, he also managed to produce enough sacred music to fill 11 CDs, some familiar, like the famous Gloria and Dixit Dominus, but much still neglected in our secular times. Although there is no complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass, Vivaldi wrote a truly lovely Kyrie and a bracing Credo, and many expressive motets, and if you are appreciative of either Vivaldi or sacred music, you will find this set an embarrassment of riches. Sung in Italianate Latin, these definitive performances by the King's Consort and Choir directed by Robert King constitute in themselves a lifetime’s listening—the American Record Guide called the box “one of those landmarks in the history of recorded music”. Celebrate Vivaldi’s extraordinary musical fecundity and treat yourself to this stunning box set!
Ziehrer: Das Grosse Operetten Festival
Title: Ziehrer: Das Grosse Operetten Festival
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Capriccio
Format: CD4

By way of contrast with all the symphonic and sacred music above, Ziehrer’s operettas come as a breath of fresh air. Sometimes described as folksy, and an overt rival to the Strauss family, Ziehrer’s works form a stylistic bridge between the Strauss and Lehar canons. Over the 4 CDs in this set we encounter some of the most poisedly elegant music of its time: seriously frivolous and consummately crafted, this is music that no fan of operetta should miss. The performances manage to catch that Viennese flavour beloved of the New Year’s Concerts, in which Ziehrer has occasionally featured, while also exhaling a slight hint of prescient decadence. Not to mention the very epitome of melodiousness!

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Written and compiled by Chris Dench

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