Prague Archive

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major; SCRIABIN: Piano Concerto in f-sharp; DVORAK: Sym. Variations – Paul Badura-Skoda, p./ Polish Radio Sym. Orch./ Charles Mackerras – Pristine Audio

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major; SCRIABIN: Piano Concerto in f-sharp; DVORAK: Sym. Variations – Paul Badura-Skoda, p./ Polish Radio Sym. Orch./ Charles Mackerras – Pristine Audio

Charles Mackerras makes his Pristine debut with a concert appearance in Scotland with the Polish Radio Orchestra. SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70; SCRIABIN: Piano Concerto in f-sharp minor, Op. 20; DVORAK: Symphonic Variations, Op. 78 – Paul Badura-Skoda, p./ Polish Radio Sym. Orch./ Charles Mackerras – Pristine Audio PASC 487, 74:47 [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:  I had the privilege of meeting Sir Charles Mackerras (1925-2010) and his wife in Atlanta after a symphony concert. Mackerras’ fine recording of Handel’s Messiah for EMI having piqued my interest in a conductor of such nice proportions and instrumental balances, I felt no less curiosity about his having studied with one of my idols, Vaclav Talich. “We tried to convince Talich to leave Czechoslovakia,” urged Mackerras, “but by 1960 his health issues had become manifest and was simply too late.” The present disc from Pristine comes from the Edinburgh Festival (27 August 1962, in stereo), from a BBC transcription of a second concert by the Polish Radio Orchestra unissued in the United Kingdom but pressed onto vinyl for US broadcast.  The piano solo for the rare Scriabin Concerto, Viennese Paul Badura-Skoda (b. 1927), performs a work derivative of Chopin but already rife […]

SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concerto No. 2; RAVEL: Piano Concerto; GERSHWIN: Second Rhapsody; MASSENET: Meditation – Andrew von Oeyen, p./ Prague Philharmonia/ Emmanuel Villaume – Warner Classics

SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concerto No. 2; RAVEL: Piano Concerto; GERSHWIN: Second Rhapsody; MASSENET: Meditation – Andrew von Oeyen, p./ Prague Philharmonia/ Emmanuel Villaume – Warner Classics

Pianist Andrew von Oeyen embraces his twin cultural loyalties with brilliant elan. SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Op. 22; RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G Major; GERSHWIN: Second Rhapsody; MASSENET: Meditation from Thais (trans. Oeyen) – Andrew von Oeyen, p./ Prague Philharmonia/ Emmanuel Villaume – Warner Classics 019029508485, 66:05 (1/13/17) ****: Pianist Andrew von Oeyen (b. 1979) considers himself a Parisian-American, so little wonder that his debut album for Warner Classics (rec. 21-25 August 2015) embraces compositions – rather flashy and jazzy in their own respect – from both musical cultures. That Oeyen finds a natural, virtuoso vehicle in the 1868 Concerto No. 2 by Saint-Saens comes as little surprise – Andre Watts did much the same in early days when I heard him at Lewisohn Stadium in New York.  Oeyen plays with requisite strength and optimism, dashing through the Bach prelude evolves into a lovely theme attributed to Gabriel Faure. The breadth of musical line and the plastic contours from the orchestra suggest that the several Artur Rubinstein renditions of the work served as models for the present reading. The second movement Allegro scherzando relies much on Saint-Saens’ great fondness for the fourth of the Chopin scherzos. […]

DVORAK: Slavonic Dances (comp.) – Czech Phil./ Jiri Belohlavek – Decca

DVORAK: Slavonic Dances (comp.) – Czech Phil./ Jiri Belohlavek – Decca

Do we need another of these? Maybe not, but we definitely need THIS one! DVORAK: Slavonic Dances (complete) – Czech Phil./ Jiri Belohlavek – Decca 478 9458, 76:08 [Distr. by Universal] *****: From the opening bars of the first Opus 46 dance, I was afraid I was going to be unimpressed. I didn’t like the tempo, especially after becoming accustomed to the barn-burning exercises of Levi and Kubelik. But the underlying pulsation, so intense and provocative, and the absolutely shimmering extremes of the strings convinced me otherwise. And so it would become the norm for the rest of this disc. It is, quite simply, a miracle of subtlety and grace, with some of the most pungent colors ever available on a recording. Even in the Opus 72, a set written in response to the first, Dvorak is quite a different composer. Gone is the freshness and vitality that so characterize the first effort, with its uncomplicated directness and melodic charm. What we get instead is a much cleverer and thoughtful artist, one who is taking far more pains with the orchestration and details present in more minute cells of phrasing and even contemplation. As a result, this second set lacks […]

ENNIO MORRICONE – 60 Years of Music – Czech National Sym. Orch./ Morricone – Decca

ENNIO MORRICONE – 60 Years of Music – Czech National Sym. Orch./ Morricone – Decca

A unique collection of Morricones’ greatest hit scores on Decca Records. ENNIO MORRICONE – 60 Years of Music [TrackList follows] – Czech National Sym. Orch./ Morricone – Decca B0025323-02 [11/11/16] *****: This is the first CD of the greatest film score hits of Morricone which he himself has conducted, recorded and curated in order to put together a legacy for his fans to enjoy. At age 88 now, he’s still going strong. It includes everything from his famous film music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to his recent Academy Award-winning score for Quentin Tarantinos’ The Hateful Eight.  He collaborated with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra for these brand new recordings as part of his 60th anniversary as a composer and conductor. He said the quality of their performance of his work was truly outstanding. This is an outstanding CD which shouldn’t be missed by any fans of his many films. TrackList: 1 Morricone: Gabriel’s Oboe (2016 Version) by Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague and Ennio Morricone 2:05 2 Morricone: Falls (2016 Version) by Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague and Ennio Morricone 2:57 3 Morricone: On Earth As It Is In Heaven (2016 Version) by Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague and Ennio Morricone 3:17 4 Morricone: The Man […]

“44 Waltzes on 88 Keys” – SCHUBERT: Valses Nobles; BRAHMS: 16 Waltzes; DVORAK: 8 Waltzes; RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales – Peter Schaaf, p. – Schaaf

“44 Waltzes on 88 Keys” – SCHUBERT: Valses Nobles; BRAHMS: 16 Waltzes; DVORAK: 8 Waltzes; RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales – Peter Schaaf, p. – Schaaf

Peter Schaaf bestows a natural affection of a series of Nineteenth-Century waltzes.  44 Waltzes on 88 Keys – SCHUBERT: Valses Nobles, D. 969; BRAHMS: 16 Waltzes, Op. 39; DVORAK: 8 Waltzes, Op. 54; RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales – Peter Schaaf, p. – Schaaf SR 102, 72:29 [info@schaafrecords.com] ****: Peter Schaaf won the Kosciuszko Foundation’s Chopin Prize in 1961 and the Morris Loeb Prize from Juilliard in 1965. A student of iconic piano pedagogue Rosina Lhévinne, Schaaf performed with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, had a modest solo recital career, then went into accompanying and chamber music. He played many recitals with Yo-Yo Ma, including his New York recital debut in 1971. Schaaf also worked with Kyung-Wha Chung, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Renata Tebaldi, and Jon Vickers, with whom he made a recording on the VAI label of Schubert’s Die Winterreise from a 1983 Toronto performance (VAIA 1007-2). For several years he led the Archduke Trio. Equally renowned for his photography work, Schaaf now feels the urge to record more keyboard repertory. The obvious addition to the standard “waltz repertory” comes in the form of the Dvorak Eight Waltzes, Op. 54, conceived somewhat abortively for a commission in 1879 for a grand […]

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4; SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 – Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (1955) – Praga Digitals

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4; SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 – Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (1955) – Praga Digitals

Two Mravinsky performances from the Prague Spring 1955, of which the Shostakovich seems “definitive.” BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60; SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 in e minor, Op. 93 – Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (1955) – Praga Digitals PRD 350 115, 79:28 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****: Praga Digitals restores two performances from the 3 June 1955 Smetana Hall concert of the Prague Spring Festival, here featuring the esteemed Russian conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988). Already known for the intense discipline he instilled into the Leningrad ensemble, Mravinsky gleans alert responses from his woodwinds – especially his principal flute and bassoon – for the opening Adagio – Allegro vivace first movement in the Beethoven B-flat Symphony. No less commanding, Mravinsky’s tympani reveals the new power Beethoven had brought to the percussion of the Classical symphony. Once the mysterious and even ominous b-flat minor Adagio passes us, the ensuing Allegro assumes frenetic and unbuttoned energies, volatile as they are irreverent. The capacity for direct lyricism in Mravinsky’s color arsenal reveals itself in the Adagio second movement, a fervent song in sonata-form, sans development.  Winds and strings converge in massive – although not particularly warm – harmony. What makes […]

BRAHMS: Clarinet Quintet in b; Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet – Raphael Severe, clar./ Quatour Prazak – Mirare

BRAHMS: Clarinet Quintet in b; Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet – Raphael Severe, clar./ Quatour Prazak – Mirare

Two German clarinet quintets from opposed aesthetics find brilliant realization in these performances from Prague. BRAHMS: Clarinet Quintet in b, Op. 115; Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet, Op. 30 – Raphael Severe, clarinet/ Quatour Prazak – Mirare MIR 282, 58:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: Recorded February and May 2015, these two German clarinet quintets in diametrically opposing styles feature the young French clarinet virtuoso Raphael Severe, who has already gained prestige for his mellifluous talent. The 1891 Brahms Clarinet Quintet remains his most glorious autumnal work, the expression of a man who had already “dismissed” his creative energy, only to have found renewal in his meeting with Richard Muehfeld of the Meiningen Orchestra.  Romantic in content and classical in its form, the Brahms Quintet takes its cue from the works of Mozart and Weber in the same format. The emotional constituent remains primarily nostalgia, tinted by hints of gypsy influence and Mozart’s penchant for variations. After two idyllic movements, the third reveals – as in the Symphony No. 1 – the composer’s taste for five-bar phrases and a more spacious sonority. The fourth movement, a series of variants, allows each member of the string quartet, besides the solo clarinet, to participate […]

BRAHMS: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3 & others – David Oistrakh, v. – Praga Digitals

BRAHMS: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3 & others – David Oistrakh, v. – Praga Digitals

The complete Brahms violin sonata cycle from David Oistrakh shines in live concert performances from Prague and Moscow. BRAHMS: Scherzo in c minor, WoO 2; Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 “Regenlied-Sonata”; Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100 “Thun”; Violin Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Op. 108 – David Oistrakh, violin/ Frida Bauer & Sviatoslav Richter, p. (Scherzo, Op. 100) – Praga Digitals PRD 250 321, 73:38 (2/19/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:   Russian violin master David Oistrakh inscribed his live Brahms works over the course of six years, 1966-1972, in concerts alternating between Prague and Moscow.  Oistrakh opens (8 December 1968, Moscow) with the 1853 Scherzo that formed  a part of the so called F-A-E Sonata that Brahms, Albert Dietrich, and Robert Schumann co-created for their mutual friend Joseph Joachim.  Oistrakh and Richter strike a potent, slashing tone throughout the movement, although its tender episodes enjoy a sympathetic pathos. The musical scene switches to Prague (17 May 1972), where Oistrakh and Frida Bauer collaborate on the 1878 G Major Sonata. The transparent theme, based on the Op. 59, No. 3 “Regenlied,” gains volume and momentum from both performers, gravitating to a […]

“Cesko” – Works of SCHULHOFF, & DVORAK – Ragazze Q. – Channel Classics

“Cesko” – Works of SCHULHOFF, & DVORAK – Ragazze Q. – Channel Classics

“Česko” = ERWIN SCHULHOFF: String Quartet No. 1; DVOŘÁK: String Quartet No. 13 in G Major, Op. 106; SCHULHOFF: Esquisses de jazz (arr. Leonard Evers) – Ragazze Quartet – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 36815, 65:00 [Distr. Harmonia mundi] (5/15/15) ****: A very attractive program of Bohemian yin and yang. The “young Dutch/British” Ragzze Quartet here presents a program that is obviously dear to their hearts. And if it doesn’t quite seem to mesh as you think about it, both composers are Bohemian (hence the title Česko, the popular Eastern-European nickname for Bohemia), and both tap into the folk traditions of their native land though in very different ways. At the same time, both are cosmopolitan composers whose musical influences came as much from abroad as from their homeland. Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague of a German-Jewish family. As a child, he met and was encouraged in his musical studies by none other than Dvořák, entering the Prague Conservatory before moving on to Leipzig and Paris, where Schullhoff studied with both Max Reger and Claude Debussy. Quite a musical mix, which certainly influenced his music making. Following service on the Eastern Front during World War I, Schulhoff traveled […]

FRANZ SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas 21 in B flat major and 13 in A; Impromptu – Sviatoslav Richter, p. – Praga Digitals

FRANZ SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas 21 in B flat major and 13 in A; Impromptu – Sviatoslav Richter, p. – Praga Digitals

FRANZ SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas 21 in B flat major, D. 960 and 13 in A, D. 664; Impromptu, Op. 90, No. 4 – Sviatoslav Richter, p. – Praga Digitals Reminiscences stereo-only SACD PRD/DSD 360 063, 79:19 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: Russian Sviatoslav Richter (1915 – 1997) was one of the 20th century’s towering giants of the concert grand. His repertory was vast and comprehensive, from the Baroque through modern music. As Richter was a poet of the piano, he had considerable insight into Franz Schubert’s ethos, producing hypnotic readings of great beauty and profundity. On this stereo SACD Richter plays Schubert live in Prague on three dates: September 24, 1972 (Sonata No. 21), June 10-11, 1962 (Sonata No. 13) and June 10, 1956 (Impromptu No. 4). The source are analog broadcast master tapes from the Czech Radio. Checking the Richter discography by Paul Geffen on the Internet, this recording appears to be the first release of these performances. This Praga Digitals release is excellent for radio tapes. For Richter fans it is fortunate that most of his concerts were taped, as well as the ‘studio’ recordings which allowed for corrections of the odd and infrequent finger slip. Available on […]