This set of recordings made in 1963 by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Sviatoslav Richter of Beethoven's cello sonatas are the most virtuosic, the most lyrical, the most dramatic, the most expressive, the most intense, the most ecstatic, and, in a word, the greatest ever recorded. From the Empfindung style of the Op. 5 sonatas through the "Eroica" style of the Op. 69 sonata to the Elysium style of the Op. 102 sonatas, Beethoven's five cello sonatas are a précis of the highlights of his career as a composer.
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the towering heroes of music. As a composer, he became a transformational, sometimes revolutionary force. As a man of spirit and inspiration, he triumphed over deafness to produce a wealth of masterpieces. Over the course of more than two centuries, his works have delighted, surprised, amazed and moved listeners. The greatest moments of his multi-faceted genius – from the heroic to the intimate – can be experienced here in performances by instrumentalists, singers and conductors of the utmost distinction.
This live Appassionata, from a Moscow recital of 1959, is one of the most thrilling piano performances ever recorded. Sviatoslav Richter fills every moment of the first movement with intense drama, creates the illusion of total repose in the central variations, and then takes off in the finale with an exhibition of musical virtuosity and ever-increasing tension that becomes almost unbearably intense (and unbelievably fast and accurate). The studio Pathétique is quite fine, and the Fantasy (sung in Russian!) well performed by all but still rather quaint in its effect. But don't miss that Appassionata!
Call it postminimalist, totalist, or maximalist, the orchestral music of Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon is big, loud, frenzied, and assertive, jam-packed with stylistic references, dense with inventive orchestration, and overflowing with virtuoso activity. Dystopia, performed by David Robertson and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a kaleidoscopic portrait of the city of Los Angeles, created in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. This live recording of the work's premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, January 12, 2008, captures the energy and spontaneity of the music, which at times is quite reminiscent of the hubbub of the Shrovetide Fair in Stravinsky's Petrushka, though one must imagine that the listening experience with the film was overwhelming. In contrast, Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is not so much a wall of sound as a multi-layered gloss on its original material, an echo of Beethoven's music warped and reshaped through glissandi, microtones, clusters, montage, and other modern techniques.
“Emil Gilels stands out as giant among giants,” wrote Gramophone when the Odessa-born pianist died in 1985. “In terms of virtuosity he was second to none, yet his leonine power was tempered by a delicacy and poetry that few have matched and none has surpassed.” Beethoven was at the heart of Gilels’ repertoire and in 1968 he recorded this complete cycle of the composer’s piano concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra and its long-standing maestro, another musical titan of the era, George Szell.
The Orford String Quartet was a Canadian string quartet active from 1965 through 1991. They came to be the leading string quartet in Canada, and one of the finest in the world. For 26 years, the Orford String Quartet was the best of its breed in Canada.
Audiences around Britain and beyond became devoted followers of the Elias String Quartet s Beethoven Project, in which the complete quartets were performed over the course of two seasons. This disc offers the chance to hear the fruits of the ensemble s collective experience and deep thinking on the works. We are proud to release the second volume of this collection on the Wigmore Hall Live label which presents three masterpieces: String Quartet in F Op. 18 No. 1, String Quartet in A minor Op. 132 and String Quintet in C Op. 29. For the latter the Elias String Quartet is joined by Malin Broman who is in huge demand as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral leader. In this rousing concert, recorded live in concert at Wigmore Hall, the ensemble explores these works with sustained intensity and meticulous attention to detail.
Turkish pianist-composer Fazil Say set the bar high for himself by aiming to deliver one of the greatest interpretations of Beethoven with this collection. It’s a bold target given the competition, but one thing you can be sure of with him is a big personality and great individuality. He is best in the more classical sonatas; in a work that fizzes with passion, like the “Waldstein”, his character chimes well with Beethoven’s message. Some of his tempi are extreme—his “Moonlight” opening movement is very slow, while the finale is full of dramatic twists and turns—but there’s no denying the force of personality behind his playing. There are many rewards along the way.