Breathtaking virtuosity flows seamlessly with expansive lyrical passages and fiendish passagework in this commanding performance by Arabella Steinbacher of the restless and technically demanding violin concertos of Britten and Hindemith in this new release from PENTATONE, with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.
This Collector's Edition presents a challenge to reviewers. There's so much of it. I could never do it any sort of justice if I approached this as if reviewing a smaller set. This, after all, comprises 37 CDs. As it is all I have been able to do is to sample, reminisce about known recordings and write around the subject. With this caveat stated, let's make a start.
There are three principal strands of Britten recordings. These are broadly tied into and defined by record companies, artists and eras. First we have Britten recording Britten for Decca.
Soon after his return from America, at the height of the war in 1943, Britten wrote incidental music for a radio play by Edward Sackville-West on the Homeric subject of Odysseus’s return to Penelope. Drawn from the complete score with barely any amendment of the original, and compressed into a 36-minute cantata, with Chris de Souza tailoring the text and Colin Matthews, Britten’s last amanuensis, most tactfully editing the music, the result is extraordinarily powerful. The most important role is that of the narrator, here masterfully taken by Dame Janet Baker who brings the story vividly to life despite the stylized classical language (e.g. “Odysseus, Lord of sea-girt Ithaca” or “His fair wife, white-armed Penelope”). Rather confusingly Athene also appears as a soprano, with the radiant Alison Hagley sounding totally unlike Dame Janet. She is one of a godly quartet of singers who contribute Greek-style commentaries – vocal passages which regularly add to the atmospheric beauty of the piece.
This newly remastered recording presents a varied selection of orchestral works by Benjamin Britten, performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Richard Hickox, to mark the great composer’s centenary year. The disc is also a part of The Richard Hickox Legacy, paying tribute to the conductor and leading advocate of twentieth-century British music.
"…I feel with this recording, Michael Stern and the Kansas City Orchestra are now major player's in the classical music world. Superb!! Highly recommended." ~sa-cd.net
‘Arguably the greatest string quartet before the public today’ (The Sunday Times), the Takács Quartet have recorded much of the great Classical and Romantic quartet repertoire during their fruitful career. Now they turn to three masterpieces of the twentieth century.