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(9 December – 22 December)
Crucial for the Understanding of Music
Haydn's symphonies are crucial for the understanding of classical music, in almost every aspect. The London Symphonies exhibit some of the characteristics which changed the sound and texture of music forever. They may have had more influence on what was to come in the romantic movement than all that went before them.
This Konzerthaus live recording is one of the best there is. Minkowski brings out all the features that make Haydn one of the most important composers ever, with technical brilliance and artistic bravura. The surprises of the "Surprise" symphony are tangible, and the Paukenschlag is quite a shock!
A MUST-HAVE COLLECTION!
During a relatively short period, about thirty years from 1595 to about 1625, the English madrigal made its appearance, rose to brilliance, and then abruptly disappeared. A huge repertoire of pieces, some delightful and some heart-wrenching, as wonderful to listen to as they are to sing! Unfortunately, the broad range of content and emotion expressed in English madrigals is seldom addressed either in concert or on recording.
Phillip Ledger's Pro Cancione Antiqua provides us here with an outstanding audio document. The musicality, the intonation, the clarity, and especially the 'passion' for this music is evident throughout. The range of composers goes from well known (Wilbye, Weelkes) to the less familiar, but all gems. I was particularly taken with Giles Farnaby's "Construe My Meaning" and the two late era madrigals by Tomkins. The emotional punch of these challenging pieces rounds out an amazing collection.
I was surprised and delighted to have found this item. Not only have all other editions of Friedemann's Organ Works apparently disappeared (Van Dosseler's is still available in relatively few places, but is expensive), but Julia Brown is a very accomplished organist. Her edition of Buxtehude's organ works was included in the 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die. This disc also should be included for myriad reasons.
Upon first listening I was slightly overwhelmed and did not quite know what to make of the fugues and choral preludes - so grand and expansive were they. Anyone familiar with JS Bach's organ works will realise that, by turns, they can be the most beautiful, tender and aggressive pieces of music. W.F. Bach's contribution to the organ repertoire is no less accomplished than that of his father: choosing the two most powerful genres to display his pre-eminence in this field, we slowly but surely gather the insight that these works are the culmination of a lifetime of learning and a passionate devotion to the primary duty of organ music: they inspire awe, fear and tenderness in equal measures.
The fugues here have become famous for their gorgeousness, and they seem to tumble, quite brilliantly from a heavenly sphere known only to saints. Trying to articulate just how these pieces affect the human heart is difficult: the feelings of piety here are soaring on such an elevated and focused plain that words seem frivolous! W.F. Bach has managed to capture the most daring and intimate aspects of the chorals - an image of a child Christ nestling at Mary's breast may be appropriate for want of imagery; and the fugues are just staggeringly beautiful fountains of expressive delight which roll over the listener as soft, warm waves. You could not fail to feel closer to the divine with this recording. The sound of the organ itself is sublime: soft and penetrating, it has a sympathetic and forgiving tone which is perfectly suited to the music's design.
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