In the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Itzhak Perlman has been acclaimed as being among the leading violinists before the public, and, without doubt, has been the most visible of them in media venues, from recordings and radio broadcasts to television and film appearances. No other concert violinist and few other serious musicians have achieved the widespread exposure and popularity attained by Perlman.
In November 1772, as the 16-year-old Mozart was preparing to astonish the Milanese with his third operatic work for the Teatro Regio Ducal, his older contemporary, Tommaso Traetta (1727–79) from the Puglia region of Italy, was presenting the premiere of his second opera for the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg. Today, the former’s Lucio Silla is probably better known than the latter’s Antigona. But which is the finer work? On the basis of this outstanding new recorded version, I would say that Traetta’s tragedia per musica in three acts far outclasses Mozart’s opera seria for its consistent musical inspiration and sheer theatrical know-how. If Traetta’s music were at all familiar to opera-lovers today, that would not be so surprising because this contemporary and disciple of Gluck was, by 1772, an experienced composer for the theatre, already in the prime of a life that was to end, prematurely, only seven years later. His career had taken him from the conservatory in Naples to that city’s famous San Carlo, where his first commission in 1751 was Il Farnace. From there he travelled throughout Europe.
Granted, there are better individual performances of the various symphonies from conductors as diverse as Eugen Jochum, Leonard Bernstein, Trevor Pinnock, and Thomas Fey; but when all is said and done this remains the finest complete set of Haydn symphonies yet recorded, and its basic musicality only seems to grow more impressive over time.
The 200th anniversary of Haydn's death arrived in 2009, and this mammoth box boasts one CD for every year that's passed! Well, not quite, but only a composer as prolific as this Viennese-classical master could even come close: 150 CDs of symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, oratorios and more beautiful music that have challenged performers and inspired composers for centuries. You'll hear the symphonies performed by the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra; the piano and violin concertos played by L'Arte dell'Arco; the trumpet, horn and cello concertos played by the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields; the string quartets performed by the Buchberger Quartet; the lieder performed by Elly Ameling and Joerg Demus, and much, much more!