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.
One of the most acclaimed musicians of his era, Toscanini was a conductor of the "old school" - aristocratic, perfectionistic and something of an autocrat on the podium. After a brief flurry of interest in Fascism in the 1910s, he rapidly became disillusioned with the movement and indeed became a personal rival of Mussolini, repeatedly antagonising him through acts of artistic defiance such as refusals to open concerts with the Fascist anthem Giovinezza.
Eventually he fled Italy for the United States, becoming the first conductor of the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he pioneered radio broadcasts and recordings that made him a household name in America until his retirement at the age of 87. He gave the premiere performances of several major works, including Barber's Adagio for Strings and the American premiere of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony.
There are dozens of available recordings of Beethoven trios on the market, although not so many that avoid the combination of the two Op. 70 trios and instead combine one of them with the Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 ("Archduke"). For other reasons as well, this release by the trio of violinist Isabelle Faust, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, and fortepianist Alexander Melnikov can be strongly recommended.
In this 2006 Beethoven program, Isabelle Faust's tone is subtle and strong, her intonation true, her technique flawless, and her interpretations so sweetly lyrical that the young German violinist sounds like the true heir of the late Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux. Partnered with conductor Jirí Belohlávek and the Prague Philharmonia in the concerto and with pianist Alexander Melnikov in the sonata, Faust creates a concerto that is Grecian in its poetic purity and Roman in its pastoral loveliness and a sonata that is Dionysic in its ecstatic outer Prestos and Apollonian in its central Andante.
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.
“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.
Starting the second half of our great Beethoven series, Boris Berezovsky returns with the Fourth Piano Concerto and Beethoven's own version of the Violin Concerto arranged with the piano as the solo instrument. Boris's earlier contributions to the series have been very well received indeed, and the Russian virtuoso has more up his sleeve. The works on this seventh volume in this series originates from a particularly fruitful time in Beethoven"s career as a composer, around the same time as his fourth and fifth symphony and the Razumovsky quartets. He continues to expand the formal boundaries for the concerto, and the result is of course some of the most fantastic music ever written.