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Viola de Hoog plays Bach’s six Cello Suites

The original manuscript for JS Bach’s Six Cello Suites is lost, making it difficult to know exactly when they were written. Four copies were made of score, including one written out by Bach’s wife Anna Magdalena, which dates from between 1727 and 1731. At this time the cello was not a fashionable solo instrument and was often overlooked in favour of the gamba, which boasted a longer tradition and was considered nobler. So Bach’s Six Suites were among the first technically challenging pieces written for solo cello. ‘Dutch period-instrument musician Viola de Hoog has played at the highest level for three decades before undertaking the cellist’s “rite of passage”: recording JS Bach’s six Cello Suites,’ writes George Pratt in his review of this recording in BBC MUSIC Magazine Christmas issue. ‘The prelude of the first suite is unusually spacious, its arpeggiated harmony building up unhurriedly … Fine original instruments and bows, and first-class recording, puts this among the very best of the versions I have accumulated.'

   VIDEO: Bach's magnificent Six Cello Suites (BWV 1007-12) played by renowned Dutch period instrument cellist Viola de Hoog. Viola de Hoog plays an exceptionally fine cello made in 1750 by G B Guadagnini for the first five suites. In the sixth suite, which requires a five-string cello, she plays an equally remarkable five-string instrument made in Bavaria during the later eighteenth century.

A new release from Manfred Honeck and The Pittsburgh Symphony; Bruckner Symphony 4

Anton Bruckner is known as a deeply religious composer whose Catholic spirituality is prominent in his music, particularly his later symphonies. However, his Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major (“Romantic”) is one of his most secular, most influenced by nature and most popular works.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Manfred Honeck [photo] offer a bold new interpretation of this great music, breaking Bruckner out of the strictly interpreted box in which he is often placed. Here, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Honeck present the 1878/80 version, the same version that was used for the symphony’s premiere in 1881. This release is the third in the highly acclaimed “Pittsburgh Live!” series of multi-channel hybrid SACD releases on the FRESH! Series from Reference Recordings. The previous release, “Dvořák/Janaček” (FR-710SACD), has received a Grammy® nomination along with numerous critical accolades. For more than 119 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been known for its artistic excellence, a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. Past music directors have included many of the greats, including Fritz Reiner (1938-1948), William Steinberg (1952-1976), Andre Previn (1976-1984), Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) and Mariss Jansons (1995-2004). This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

 

Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bare Mountain Mussorgsky

Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra celebrate Mussorgsky with the release of two of his most cherished works, Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bare Mountain (performed here in Mussorgsky’s original version). Gergiev is at his finest conducting these paragons of Mussorgsky’s work, featured alongside which are the seldom heard Songs and Dances of Death, composed during the years 1875 to 1877 and left languishing unpublished during the composer’s lifetime. One of Mussorgsky’s most powerful compositions, each song deals with death in a poetic manner reflecting experiences not uncommon in 19th century Russia: child death, death in youth, drunken misadventure and war.
 

Jonathan Plowright plays Brahms


Dedicated to Clara Schumann, Brahms's Piano Sonata No.2 in F-sharp minor (1852) has to be one of the least characteristic of his early sonatas. The first movement features virtuosic passages juxtaposed with more reflective moments, something more typical of music by Franz Liszt than that of Brahms. But there is plenty of weighty Brahmsian writing within that which hints at his later style. Brahms actually completed most of the material for the piece before writing the First Sonata in C major, but published the latter ahead of it at Robert Schumann’s recommendation. ‘Jonathan Plowright delivers this highly charged musical argument with tremendous momentum, but is careful to follow Brahms’s meticulous pedal marks, thus ensuring that none of the full-blooded textures sound bloated,’ writes Erik Levi in his review of this recording in the Christmas 2014 issue of BBC Music Magazine.


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VIDEO: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Piano Sonata No.3 in F Minor Op.5, played by Jonathan Plowright. III Scherzo. Allegro energico IV Intermezzo. Andante molto This is the fourth part of Brahms piano sonata No. 3 in F minor (Op. 5) played by British virtuoso Jonathan Plowright. It was recorded live at the Wigmore Hall, London on Saturday 15th November 2008.

Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber perform Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos


Written between 1713 and 1717, Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor, RV 531 is his only original concerto for two cellos. It opens with a lively Allegro which features phrases where the soloists play in parallel as well as passages where the two engage in question-and-answer exchanges. Here, the first movement is performed by husband and wife duo Jiaxin and Julian Lloyd Webber, with the European Union Chamber Orchestra under Hans-Peter Hoffman. ‘Both musicians articulate lightly and with pleasingly sharp definition,’ writes Nicholas Anderson in his review of this disc in our December issue, awarding it five stars for performance and recording. He continues: ‘Their intonation is well-nigh impeccable and their warmly coloured timbre is a constant delight.’ In April 2014 Julian Lloyd Webber announced that he was to retire from performing due to a neck injury and this is the final recording he made. Pick up a copy of our January issue to read James Naughtie’s recent interview with Webber. Click here to buy a copy of this recording.

The Nutcracker...Newly recorded in High Definition

Christmas gift for the whole family.

Russia's Mariinsky Theatre Musical Director Valery Gergiev conducts Tchaikovsky's glorious score in this enchanting, traditional production of Christmas favourite The Nutcracker . Vainonen's stunning choreography (from 1934, one of the oldest versions still performed today) is complemented by Simon Virsaladze's wonderfully colourful designs, and the roles of Masha and her Nutcracker Prince are danced by two of the Mariinsky's award-winning international soloists, all of which make this as magical and memorable a Christmas treat as ever. 
Premiered on 18 December 1892 at the very same Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, The Nutcracker was Tchaikovsky's last ballet. It took him a year to compose what remains today one of the most popular examples of ballet music and Tchaikovsky's most celebrated work. Watch a preview of the Mariinsky Theatre's captivating production:

Schola Antiqua of Chicago


During the late Middle Ages and Renaissance there was plenty of music written and performed to celebrate the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Like the festive music heard today, it contains a sense of anticipation and hope surrounding the celebration of Jesus’s birth. Hail Mary, full of grace is an anonymous Medieval carol that originates from a fifteenth-century English manuscript. This performance is taken from Schola Antiqua of Chicago's recent disc of Medieval and Renaissance music for advent, which also includes the world premiere recording of Pierre de la Rue's Missa Conceptio tua. The Illinois-based ensemble, founded in 2000, is led by Michael Alan Anderson and exclusively performs music from before 1600. Click here to buy Schola Antiqua’s collection of Medieval and Renaissance works for advent...

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