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    Five Things You Did Not Know About BEETHOVEN

    Beethoven: Five facts you probably didn't know about the composer.

    From his unhappy love life to when he was actually born - here are the surprising facts about the German classical virtuoso's life ....


    Mahler and Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony!

    The Mighty Mahler Symphony No. 1 from Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony!

    Reference Recordings is pleased to announce the release of this new and fresh performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. This work was performed as part of the orchestra’s two-year Mahler Symphony Cycle. 
    Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony became recognized as a leading American ensemble largely through the efforts of Maurice Abravanel, Director from 1947 to 1979. During his tenure, the orchestra undertook four international tours, released numerous recordings and developed an extensive music education program. A pioneering cycle of Mahler Symphonies conducted by Abravanel was recorded between 1963 and 1974 and included the first commercial stereo recordings of the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies. These recordings also marked the first complete Mahler cycle recorded by an American orchestra. This new release furthers the tradition of outstanding Mahler from the Utah Symphony, with more albums planned for 2016 release in a Utah Symphony series from Reference Recordings.

    Thierry Fischer, Music Director of the Utah Symphony since 2009, has revitalized the orchestra with creative programming and critically acclaimed performances that have drawn consistently full houses. Highlights of his tenure include complete symphony cycles of Mahler in commemoration of former Utah Symphony Music Director, Maurice Abravanel, complete Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Nielsen cycles, a multi-season Stravinsky and Haydn symphony cycle and the tour of Utah’s five national parks. Mr. Fischer has also initiated a major commissioning program in Utah that has produced new works by Simon Holt, Michael Jarrell, Nico Muhly, Andrew Norman, and Augusta Read Thomas. The Utah Symphony's first performance of a Mahler symphony came in 1951: In the Salt Lake Tribune the next day, Lowell M. Durham said it was "one of the most ambitious programs" yet attempted by Abravanel and the new symphony...The young ensemble met the challenge surprisingly well."

    SAINT-SAENS Michael Stern Kansas City Symphony

    The Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, was completed by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886 at what was probably the artistic peak of his career. It is also popularly known as the Organ Symphony, even though it is not a true symphony for organ, but simply an orchestral symphony where two sections out of four use the pipe organ. The composer inscribed it as: Symphonie No. 3 "avec orgue" (with organ). Of composing the work Saint-Saëns said "I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again."

    VIDEO:Saint Saëns Symphony No 3 in C minor, Op 78 Järvi
    The composer seemed to know it would be his last attempt at the symphonic form, and he wrote the work almost as a type of "history" of his own career: virtuoso piano passages, brilliant orchestral writing characteristic of the Romantic period, and the sound of a cathedral-sized pipe organ. The symphony was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in England, and the first performance was given in London on 19 May 1886, at St James's Hall, conducted by the composer. After the death of his friend Franz Liszt on 31 July 1886, Saint-Saëns dedicated the work to Liszt's memory. The composer also conducted the French premiere in January 1887.

    Jonathan Biss - Beethoven Piano Sonatas

    Jonathan Biss (born September 18, 1980) is an American pianist, teacher, and writer based in New York City. This CD is the fourth volume of a nine-disc survey of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Biss has undertaken a nine-year, nine-disc recording project of the entire Beethoven sonata cycle. The fourth volume of sonatas, including Op. 2, no. 1, the first Beethoven sonata; Op. 10, no. 2; Op. 49, no. 1, and Op. 57, the “Appassionata,” will be released on January 27, 2015. This recording brings Biss together with DFTBA (founded by John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, and his brother and video blog collaborator Hank Green) and Meyer Media (founded by producer Andreas Meyer). The new partnership provides a flexible platform to integrate Biss’s varied recording, writing and teaching activities.


    Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique’s explosive performance under Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

    Beethoven composed his Second Symphony between 1801 and 1802, at the time he discovered that he was going deaf. In 1801 he wrote to his friend, the physician Franz Gerhard Wegeler: ‘I must confess that I am living a miserable life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession it would be easier, but in my profession it is a terrible handicap.’ It was during in the summer of 1802, while he was staying in Heiligenstadt, a village outside Vienna, that Beethoven added the finishing touches to his Second Symphony. With four movements, the Second is not as revolutionary as the Third ‘Eroica’ symphony, but it does demonstrate how Beethoven was breaking new ground all the time. The first movement is memorable for a recurring two-note motif that frames the main melodic theme and the Second is the first example of Beethoven’s use of a scherzo for the third movement of a symphony (the miuet had been the convention before this).


    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.


    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.

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