MARIA CALLAS is regarded as one of the greatest divas of all time, whose recordings are standards by which all subsequent performances are judged. The 10-CDs of Live Recordings capture her on some of the greatest nights of her career and contain an interview by American Opera commentator Edward Downes. This recital performance are an invaluable addition to Callas s recorded legacy and show yet another side of this unique diva, whose vocal achievements stand unrivalled today and probably for all time. The eye-catching clamshell box are a collectors delight.
This is a deluxe box set including: Each individual item (complete opera or recital CD) presented in its original artwork, 136 pages hard-back book containing essays, a biography and chronology, rarely-seen photos and also reproductions of revealing correspondence between Maria Callas, Walter Legge and other EMI executives.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria João Pires’s musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. “Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me,” she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012) “You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, you’re alone.”
Maria João Pires “shapes and colours every phrase, and with immaculate taste, and she makes sure the phrases end as eloquently as they begin,” wrote Gramophone in 1974. “She conveys not just the details but the relevance of every note to the whole … Best of all, she communicates everything she has discovered about the music, and it is worth having.” This Portuguese pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, Pires was one of the artists who defined the Erato label in the 1970s and 1980s. This 5-CD box gathers together the recordings she made over the period from 1976 to 1985 and it reflects the consistent focus of her repertoire, with its special emphasis on Austro-German composers of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Embracing solo works, piano duets and concertos, it contains works by Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, but also by Bach and Chopin.
Joao Maria Pires is nowadays, the supreme female pianist in the sublime art of playing Mozart. Because although she is far from the superior vision of Clara Haskil, for instance, she plays with an artistic conviction that may be noticed from the first bar, her spiritual affinity has joined with an overriding goal to capture with mind and heart the essential nuances of the beloved Salzburg's son. It's not an easy fact she has achieved this envied place. There are superb and majuscule pianist all over the world, but the difference that makes the difference is the quality of sound, between incorporeal and evanescent that remarks the sumptuous lyricism we always find in Mozart.
Maria-Joào Pires has recorded these concertos before, for Erato, and this experience shows in assured playing. In K449 I find the sound of the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in Vienna's Musikverein, too big: the string section seems large and the hall over-reverberant. Furthermore, the piano sounds plummy, and even those who dislike the fortepiano may question its suitability. With these reservations, one can enjoy Pires's deft and sensitive performance, without strong individuality but offering consistent intelligence, and the brisk finale shows her and Abbado at their best. Even so, this is a romanticized slow movement; the gooey orchestral sound does not help, but the pianist is also partly responsible in a way that I have sometimes noted in her performances of Mozart's sonatas.
La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) is an opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini. This 2008 production was staged by Hugo de Ana at the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari. The references to 17th century Romantic painting and refined visual projections are a tribute to Luchino Visconti. Visconti produced the memorable performance of La Sonnambula at the Scala di Milano with the magnificent Maria Callas.
Simone Alaimo is one of Italy’s best bass-baritones and Antonino Siragusa is a very experienced performer of Rossini and Bellini operas. The role of Amina is sung by the rising star of the International world, Eglise Gutierrez.