I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Fritz Reiner in Spain

Manuel de Falla: El amor brujo; The Three-Cornered Hat / Dances; La vida breve / Interlude and Dances;
Isaac Albeniz (trans. Enrique Arbós): Iberia / Triana; Fête-dieu à Séville, Navarra;
Enrique Granados: Goyescas / Intermezzo.

Leontyne Price, soprano
Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Recorded in the Chicago Orchestra Hall, April 26, 1958 and March 4, 1963 (El amor brujo)
RCA 88697-04607-2

Spain RCA Living Stereo

Fritz Reiner in Spain

True, the odds couldn’t have been bigger: Fritz Reiner, the icy disciplinarian from Hungary, venturing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra into sunny and unbridledly passionate Spain. Yet, Reiner’s sense of clarity, orchestral balance and rhythmic vitality, the virtuosic brilliance and polish of the Chicago, Leontyne Price’s gripping dark-throated vocals (all accurately rendered by the spectacular RCA Living Stereo sonics from 1963), transform De Falla’s ballet “El amor brujo” into a hard-to-top exploration of Iberian desire, color and atmosphere.

The regrettably short survey of “The Three-Cornered Hat”, recorded in 1958, including the irresistibly lilting final dance, boasts the same qualities. Two excerpts from De Falla’s opera “La Vida breve”, the interlude and the well-known dance, are also played with tremendous zest and brilliance. The remainder of the program from 1958 consists of orchestral transcriptions by Enrique Arbós of three fragments from Isaac Albeniz’ “Iberia”. The Intermezzo from Enrique Granados’ “Goyescas” is offered as a final bonus.

These vintage RCA Living Stereo three-track recordings from 1958 and 1963 have never sounded better in their SACD format. The re-release of the Living Stereo discs on SACD has sadly been discontinued, which is little surprising when for the majority mp3 is considered the standard. Get it while it’s still available.

Copyright © 2013 Marc Haegeman. All Rights Reserved.


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Kondrashin plays Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff

Piotr Tchaikovsky: Suite Nr. 3 in G major, Op. 55
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Kirill Kondrashin.
Recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, 24 November 1974 and 21 November 1976.
Emergo Classics EC 3962-2

Kirill Kondrashin

Kondrashin plays Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff

Electrifying performances of Tchaikovsky’s Third Suite and Rachmaninoff’s final opus, miraculously captured by the Dutch Radio (NOS) and preserved for posterity by Emergo Classics in this hard to find 1994 release. Russian maestro Kirill Kondrashin (1914-1981) proves these often belittled scores are mind-blowing trips from start to end. Tchaikovsky’s rarely programmed Third Suite was only recently introduced for a concert at the Paris Salle Pleyel as “not very good Tchaikovsky”. Granted, it wasn’t particularly convincing what the Orchestre de Paris had to offer on that occasion, but Kondrashin shows one shouldn’t always blame the lack of inspiration on the composer. Both performances recorded in 1974 and 1976 are carried by a Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on fire.

Copyright © 2013 Marc Haegeman. All Rights Reserved.


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Lutosławski, Liszt and Tchaikovsky in Paris

Witold Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto #2 in A Major, S. 125
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Suite #3 in G Major, Op. 55

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Orchestre de Paris/Andrey Boreyko
Paris, Salle Pleyel, 12 June 2013

Paris celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Polish composer and conductor Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994) with a series of concerts, performed by local and invited ensembles throughout the year. The Orchestre de Paris has worked on different occasions with the composer and revives a couple of his works. The Concerto for Orchestra, dating from 1950-54, remains one of his most popular works. For the occasion, at the Paris Salle Pleyel, it was somewhat awkwardly squeezed into a program which also featured Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto, with Khatia Buniatishvili as soloist, and Tchaikovsky’s rarely heard Third Suite.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Pictures from Alice Sara Ott

Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata in D Major, D. 850 (Op. 53)

Alice Sara Ott, piano
Deutsche Grammophon 4790088 DDD

Alice Sara Ott

Pictures from Alice Sara Ott

For Alice Sara Ott playing Mussorgsky’s Pictures of an Exhibition is like visiting an old friend. In the liner notes of her new CD called “Pictures”, she recalls how she was able to familiarize herself with the work during her student years at the Salzburg Mozarteum. I have heard her perform the Pictures on a couple of occasions in concert and there is no doubt she inhabits Mussorgsky’s various tableaux with confidence as well as insight. The current CD was recorded live during the White Night’s Festival in St. Petersburg in July 2012, where the sense of occasion was undoubtedly enhanced by the challenge to perform this quintessential Russian work before a Russian audience.
Read the full review on Classical Net