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Stars of Salzburg
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-84) Ma Vlast – From Bohemia’s Fields and Grovesa (1875) [13’46].
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91) Don Giovanni (1787) – Notte e giorno faticarb [4’20]. Zaide (1780) – Ruhe sanft mein holdes Lebenc [6’21].
François DEVIENNE (1759-1803) Flute Concerto No. 8 in G (1794) - Tempo di Polonaised [4’43].
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Turandot (1924) – Nessun dormae [3’24].
Charles GOUNOD (1818-93) Roméo et Juliette (1867) – Depuis hier je cherche en vain mon maître … Que fais-tu, blanche tourterellef [4’34].
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-97) Hungarian Dancesg (1858-79) – No. 1 in G minor [2’37]; No. 6 in D flat [2’51].
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Il trovatore (1853) – Ah! Sí, ben mio, coll’essere … Di quella pirah [7’09].
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Vier letzte Lieder (1948) – Septemberi [4’47].
Richard WAGNER (1813-83) Tannhäuser (1845) – Dich teure Hallej [5’09].
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908) Introduction and Tarantella, Op. 43k (1899) [5’04].
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Spring Waters, Op. 14 No. 11l (1896) [2’01].
Santiago de MURCIA (?1685-?1732) La Jotam (?) [2’53].
TRADITIONAL
Dilmano, dilbero (Bugarska Tshushka)n [1’51].
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948) Estrellitao (c1913) [3’20] (arr. Heifetz).
aVienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt; bMaurizio Murare (baritone), bKwang Choul Youn (tenor); bRegina Schörg (soprano); bReinhard Hagen (bass); bVienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy; cElena Moşuc (soprano); cIasi ‘Moldava’ Philharmonic Orchestra, Romania/Camil Marinescu; dLondon Mozart Players/James Galway (flute); eJohan Botha (tenor); eVienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paolo Carignani; fnVesselina Kasarova (mezzo); fMunich Radio Orchestra/Frédéric Chaslin; gEvgeny Kissin (piano); hRamón Vargas (tenor); hAnnegher Stumphius (soprano); hJames Anderson (tenor); hMunich Radio Orchestra/Edoardo Müller; iMelanie Diener (soprano); iZurich Tonhalle Orchestra/David Zinman; jWaltraud Meier (soprano); jBavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lorin Maazel; kMirijam Contzen (violin); kValéry Rogatchev (piano); lDiana Damrau (soprano); lFlorian Henschel (piano); mLos Otros; nVoices from Bulgaria; oNikolaj Znaider (violin); oDaniel Gortler (piano).
Original issue dates 1997-2003. DDD
BMG CLASSICS 82876 536602 [75’40]


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From the length of the title to this review, you may well have guessed by now that this is, in effect, a souped-up sampler that retails at lower mid-price. BMG Classics have quite a roster of artists to call on, though, and the length of some of the excerpts makes purchase worth considering. The tie-in with the Salzburg Festival becomes clear if one logs on to www.salzburgfestival.com (the Festival lasts from July 26th-August 31st). Clearly (and unsurprisingly) there are some major names intending to perform and here they are in a programme that may well delight, if not stretch, the senses. There is nothing to ruffle one’s feathers here, just a pleasant hour and a quarter’s worth.

The programme starts well with a movement from Smetana’s Má Vlast, and not the expected ‘Vltava’ at that. Instead, ‘From Bohemia’s Fields and Groves’ is given both a loving and a lovely performance by the Vienna Philharmonic under Harnoncourt. It even becomes quite exultant, and forms an admirable contrast to the Don Giovanni excerpt, from Bertrand de Billy’s complete set on Arte Nova (review pending). Blustery speed and deft staccati make for an exhilarating reading (the fast speed does not preclude intelligibility, either). If everybody (or almost everybody) knows this excerpt, an aria from the much lesser-known Zaide forms a more than adequate companion. The soprano, Elena Moşuc has a nice voice, if a bit tremulous.

A harmless movement from a Devienne flute concerto (flute players rejoice, but probably not anyone else) proves to be a bridge back to the Romantic period, and James Galway plays it beguilingly. If Johna Botha gives a thoroughly undistinguished ‘Nessun dorma’, Vesselina Kasserova is positively radiant in the Gounod Roméo excerpt (her later Bulgarian Traditional ‘encore’ shows her in lighter mode, and in the company of a very enthusiastic choir). Another highlight comes from the vocal chords of Ramón Vargas, whose vigorous ‘Di quella pira’ has both drama and lyricism as well as an intrinsically youthful timbre; separating them is the ever-dextrous Evgeny Kissin in two Brahms Hungarian Dances. His playing is, well, very Kissin. These pieces, luckily, suit him well: he revels in the difficulties, and the notes cascade from his fingers. Rhythmic niceties abound, and the D flat is pure virtuoso fun.

Melanie Diener, who appears in Don Giovanni at Salzburg, here gives a radiant account of Strauss’ ‘September’, one of the Four Last Songs. Her diction is superb. Only the closing horn solo does not rise to the occasion (anyone who has heard the horn player in the famous Schwarzkopf/Szell recording will not be satisfied with less). Waltraud Meier (appearing in Salzburg in Offenbach!) is on disc on home turf with Wagner. If her ‘Dich teure Halle’ does not have the opulence of Jessye Norman with the LPO under Tennstedt on EMI (nor does she sound as regal), she nevertheless carries real presence (her first entrance especially so). The orchestra for Meier (one of the greats, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra) is supremely well-drilled by Maestro Maazel.

The rest of the disc after that is essentially a succession of encores. Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantella is in safe hands played by Mirijam Contzen, although the recording is on the over-reverberant side. A pity also that Diana Damrau is too weak of voice for Rachmaninov’s ‘Spring Waters’ – her pianist, Florian Henschel, steals the show here. If I could easily live without the close-up recording of La Jota, Nikolaj Znaider’s playing of Heifetz’ arrangement of Ponce’s Estrellita provides a fetching close to the disc.

Careful programming saves this disc from becoming too much of a patchwork quilt, and there is much to enjoy. All the same, I wonder how often it is going to come down off the shelf.

Colin Clarke

 



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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