The Cleveland Orchestra is the "aristocrat among American orchestras" (The Telegraph), and the ensemble's music director Franz Welser-Most, leads them with verve and precision. These three discs from Belvedere (DVD and Blu-ray) feature six and a half hours of music, presenting a cycle of all the major orchestral works of Johannes Brahms. Included are the complete Symphonies and Piano Concertos, the Violin Concerto, the Tragic Overture, the Academic Festival Overture, and the Haydn Variations. Soloists include violinist Julia Fischer and pianist Yefim Bronfman.
Every major conductor, and most not-so-major ones, comes around to recording Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but not so many do it as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strings. And let’s face it, you won’t find a period-instrument ensemble that plays with anything like this level of polish. The fact is, Szell’s conception of Mozart was not terribly far from “period” sensibilities: restrained use of vibrato, incisive rhythms, crisp ensemble, lively tempos, but also a welcome degree of warmth to the sound and of course incredible ensemble discipline and some of the best players on the planet. And he had real period instruments, meaning performers who owned top quality old violins and bows, not inferior modern reproductions of them. The result is as lovely a performance of Mozart’s perennially delicious Serenade as we are ever likely to hear.
Bruckner‘s Seventh – The master‘s homage to Richard Wagner With the mighty build-ups and monumental fortissimi of Bruckner’s Seventh, Welser-Möst and his Clevelanders have their work cut out for them. And they do not disappoint. The most popular, and perhaps most easily accessible, of Bruckner‘s symphonies, the Seventh casts its spell on the audience with its clear-cut architecture and the wealth and fullness of its melodies. From the sweeping opening theme of the first movement to the victorious chords of the finale, the Cleveland Orchestra and its conductor deliver a magisterial reading of Bruckner‘s masterpiece. Cleveland‘s Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall, an eclectic yet elegant mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classicism, Egyptian Revival and Modernism was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world‘s most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, began its ascent to the upper ranks of the world‘s ensembles after it moved to Severance Hall in 1931.
Schubert's two greatest orchestral works on one CD at budget price–if the performances were indifferent this would be no bargain at all, but they are superb. In fact, these versions may have been equaled, but they have never been surpassed. George Szell understood intuitively how to balance Romantic passion with intellectual discipline. In difficult pieces like the Schubert Ninth, he rose to the challenge like an Olympic athlete after a new world record. The recordings he made in his prime with his own Cleveland Orchestra comprise one of the most satisfying legacies in the history of classical music on disc. Within even this impressive legacy, these performances stand high.
With its majestic themes soaring upwards like gothic pillars and its brilliant chorales and fanfares glowing like stained – glass windows, Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 is the most monumental of his orchestral works, a cathedral in sound that grows out of pianissimo murmurs. Coming after the triumphs celebrated by the composer’s Seventh Symphony and Te Deum, the Eight was considered by Bruckner as the artistic climax of his career. Cleveland‘s Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall, an eclectic yet elegant mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classicism, Egyptian Revival and Modernism was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world‘s most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, began its ascent to the upper ranks of the world‘s ensembles after it moved to Severance Hall in 1931.
It was George Szell who made the Cleveland Orchestra into a highly responsive virtuoso body, and when he died in 1970 he was in due course succeeded by Lorin Maazel, himself a renowned orchestral trainer. Here is Maazel's first Cleveland recording, notable for a quite outstanding quality of orchestral playing. The strings in particular have a remarkable depth of tone, though they play with great delicacy when it is needed; but then the orchestra as a whole plays with extraordinary virtuosity, tonal weight and exactness of ensemble. If the woodwind have a somewhat piquant blend this suits the music, which throughout is admirably served by Maazel's highly rhythmic, dramatic conducting.
The fairy tale story of Cinderella has always inspired the great theater composers. Rossini's delightful 'La Cenerentola' is an operatic staple while Prokofiev's 'Cinderella' is a fixture on the ballet stage. After the 1940 premiere of 'Romeo and Juliet,' Prokofiev was immediately commissioned to write another ballet for the Kirov. Work on 'Cinderella' was set aside during some of the darkest days of the Second World War but Prokofiev returned to the work and completed it in 1944.
For her fifth live recording of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra, Mitsuko Uchida presents the Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K 453, and the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K 503, a delightful pairing that reflects her previous albums in this critically acclaimed series on Decca.