There was a time, not long ago, when Baroque scores were treated as a folio of performance suggestions, not as the letter of the law. Performers felt free to add music or (more often) to take it away, and to do other things which were quite different from what the composer originally had in mind. Sir Thomas Beecham had no qualms about performing surgery on the music of George Frideric Handel, a composer he absolutely adored. No disrespect was intended. In fact, Beecham loved Handel so much, he wanted everyone else to love him too. That meant making him more palatable for modern tastes – bigger and leaner, at the same time.
This essential release includes two of Burke’s finest long plays from the early Sixties in their entireties: his underrated and eponymous debut album, Solomon Burke, and the equally splendid If You Need Me. These two LPs are widely regarded as landmarks of early-’60s soul. Both masterpieces have been remastered and packaged together in this very special release, which also includes 6 bonus tracks from the same period. These seminal recordings also feature a virtual who’s who of fabulous musicians, including King Curtis, Hank Jones, Al Caiola, Mickey Baker, and The Ray Charles Singers, among others. This is the material upon which Solomon Burke’s legend was built. It is enduring music and the epitome of southern soul up north.
LEIPZIG is now touted as the “New Berlin”, a mecca for vogueish twenty-somethings who are drawn by the cheap rents in the city and an artistic vibe. In 1989 the former East German industrial hub was said to have the most polluted air in the country, but the city’s illustrious past lives on. Despite extensive bombing of the city in World War II, the famous Thomaskirche and its associated Thomasschule, one of the oldest schools in the world and where the choristers are educated, survive and flourish. The Gewandhaus orchestra, with origins dating to the time of Johann Sebastian Bach in the 1740s, is known as one of the world’s finest symphony orchestras. This recording gives us a picture of musical life in Leipzig some 300 years ago, spanning the consecutive careers of three composers who led the musical activities in the city. The programme demonstrates the connection between JS Bach and his two predecessors. Bach based the general shape of his Magnificat on that of Kuhnau’s, and it was first performed in 1723, the year Bach took over as cantor in Leipzig after Kuhnau’s death. The short Schelle piece provides a rousing advent introduction.
It's been conventional wisdom for several generations that Solomon, great oratorio though it may be, contains a lot of deadwood; conductors have regularly cut some items and changed the order of others. (Even John Eliot Gardiner's excellent recording cuts about 30 minutes of music.) Leave it to Paul McCreesh to give us the complete score–and demonstrate that Handel's original structure makes plenty of sense and that every number is worthwhile.