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Symphonic Music - Released March 16, 2012 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4 étoiles Classica - Exceptional Sound Productions - Hi-Res Audio

Chamber Music - Released March 4, 2011 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Hi-Res Audio
Bach's unfinished Art of Fugue, published for still-debated reasons in open score, has been performed and recorded in dozens of different instrumental versions. But this one, by the veteran Akademie für alte Musik, founded in the former East Berlin, is unique; few others have differentiated the fugues by instrumental forces deployed, and perhaps in none has the overall effect been quite so kaleidoscopic as this one. The rationale for this remains a bit uncertain after perusal of the booklet notes (in German and English); the group members write that, as with other instrumental versions, they aim to "achieve transparent and legible textures," but their "real motivation in tackling the work was the pleasure of plunging together into the structures, harmonic language, and chromatic content of this music, in which an ensemble can make extraordinary discoveries through musical and instrumental confrontations." The Akademie für alte Musik is not a historical instrument group, and there are no claims of any kind for authentic performance. Instead there is a shifting set of forces with a few recurring groups or individual players: a string quartet, a solo keyboardist, small wind groups, various pairs of strings in the canons, and tuttis including the entire ensemble of strings, three oboes in different ranges, bassoon, trombone, and keyboard (either harpsichord or organ). The shifts in instrumentation do not correspond to the work's broad sections (simple fugues, fugues in augmentation, double and triple fugues, and the awesomely complex mirror fugues), and it's hard to find a pattern of any kind. The motivation is murky, but the effect is pleasing if the listener approaches the music in the same sort of freewheeling spirit that the performers seem to have; the incredible concentration demanded by the Art of Fugue, which may or may not have been intended as a work to be performed from start to finish, is replaced by a light sense of anticipation that is extrinsic to the work but not fundamentally alien to it. This is the kind of recording for which sampling will reliably place the potential buyer into the pro or anti group. The sound engineering, a product of Berlin's Teldex Studio, is a major strong point.

Concertos - Released April 21, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
Georg Philipp Telemann was one of the most prolific composers of the Baroque era, and his extremely varied oeuvre reveals a knack for experimentation and instrumentation that went beyond routine assignments of parts to conventional groupings. The works on this 2017 Harmonia Mundi album from the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin feature various combinations of trumpets, flutes, oboes, horns, timpani, and the standard deployment of strings and basso continuo, but also the mandolin, the hammered dulcimer, the harp, and the extremely rare calchedon (also called mandora, galizona, or gallichon), the long-necked lute depicted on the cover that was typically used as a bass instrument. The Akademie's brilliant performances in a historically informed style would make this program attractive even if the music were mundane, but these are among Telemann's most vivid concerted pieces, and the imaginative combinations and colorful playing are sure to please listeners, including the most jaded critics of Telemann's facility. Harmonia Mundi's recorded sound is immaculate, and the acoustics of Teldec Studio in Berlin give the group a delicious resonance. Highly recommended as one of the finest albums of 2017.

Classical - Released February 5, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik

Classical - Released April 7, 2014 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio

Classical - Released April 15, 2013 | harmonia mundi

With more than 500 concertos to choose from, it is easy to select an attractive program of Vivaldi's orchestral music. Indeed, some would argue that with such depth of repertoire, it would be hard not to assemble such a program. But one way or another, one would have to agree that the six works on this 2007 Harmonia Mundi disc make up a singularly attractive program. It opens and closes with two three-movement concerto grossos for string orchestra, and at its center are four enchanting concertos for four different sets of soloists. Each work and each set of soloists is first-rate and the quality of the playing raises even the most familiar work here to new heights. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is a suave-toned, sweet-tempered, supremely virtuosic period-instrument orchestra that has demonstrated its excellence many times before. As led by violinist Georg Kallweit in all but the opening Concerto Grosso in G minor, the Akademie seems born to play Vivaldi. The suppleness of the tempos, the intensity of the intonation, and the fire in the tone ideally suit Vivaldi at his energetic best. It would be hard to pick out a single favorite, but if you want just a sample of what the Akademie can do with Vivaldi, try the penultimate Double Concerto in A minor for two violinists featuring Kallweit and Midori Seiler. The fire in the outer Allegros and the passion in the central Larghetto e spiritoso are simply scorching. Harmonia Mundi's sound is crisp, colorful, and deep.

Classical - Released June 22, 2010 | harmonia mundi

Among the increasing number of Baroque-style performances on original instruments, this recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos by the Academy for Early Music, Berlin meets all expectations and is admirable for its precision and authentic period color. But this group seems to do its job almost too efficiently, and offers very little to give this set a distinctive touch. In terms of orchestral scale and technique, the ensemble ranges in size between 7-18 players, conforming to the sizes of groups Bach knew, and the playing is fully characteristic of historically informed practices that have been adopted since the late decades of the 20th century. In terms of timbres, the musicians offer the full range of Bach's varied instrumental colors, so the strings have the glossy tone of Baroque instruments, the winds have their iodiomatic sonorities, and the continuo is fully realized, even extending to an improvised cadenza to fill the gap between movements of the Concerto No. 3. But one wishes there had been more of that kind of spontaneity, or more surprises like the rustic thumping in the Polacca of the Concerto No. 1, because most of this recording falls in line too predictably and sounds like many other first-rate but safe Brandenburgs. How much musicians should play around with Bach's music is always dependent on taste, and a scholarly group naturally wouldn't want to go too far in tinkering with these perennial favorites. But the competition between versions of the Brandenburgs is becoming fierce, and many ensembles have to reassess the music for latent possibilities and bring out fresh ideas. The Academy for Early Music, Berlin has done a fine job with this album, yet for as many who will enjoy it for its control, there may be an equal number who wish they'd used less restraint and more playfulness.

Classical - Released July 1, 2013 | harmonia mundi

Classical - Released November 11, 2007 | harmonia mundi

Harmonia Mundi's Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Symphonies & Concertos in HM Gold series is a reissue is the second entry among a pair of excellent C.P.E. Bach discs by the Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin, recorded in the late '90s. To be fair, of the two this is probably the lesser release, although that's not by a margin of very much; one wishes Raphael Alpermann's harpsichord was a little louder in the Concerto in C major H. 654/Wq. 20, but that's about the only inequity between this and the other disc. This concerto appears along with the "first" cello concerto and three additional symphonies; Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin, handles all of these works with an unbridled, no-holds-barred exposition of this Bach's sense of aggression and otherness, yet with crisp, precise playing that remains exceptional in its energy and drive. Bach's stormy Symphony in E minor H. 653/Wq. 178, is a particular standout owing to the stirring and well-intoned playing of the Akademie's period brass. The music is compelling, exciting, propulsively rhythmic, and the listener will likely forget that these are, after all, classical period symphonies; the intention here is to pay lip service to Bach's reputation as a progenitor of romantic style. From such a standpoint, this disc works very well and is highly recommended.

Classical - Released November 6, 2007 | harmonia mundi

Upon beholding Harmonia Mundi's release Ouvertüren für die Hamburger Oper (Music for the Hamburg Opera) and its front cover illustration of neatly periwigged nobles seated in boxes at the opera house, one might think -- "it's all Telemann, right?" However, one would be wrong; after all, this is the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin one of the world's most provident and incisive period instrument ensembles. It has limited the scope of Ouvertüren für die Hamburger Oper to the first 50 years of the operation of the Hamburg Opera, from 1678 to 1726. What Ouvertüren für die Hamburger Oper exposes is a rich vein of totally unknown Baroque orchestral works in splendid, shimmering, and exciting performances that make full use of the known instrumental resources of the period. Variously labeled Suite, Ouverture, Concert, and Sinfonia, all but one of the five pieces here takes the form of the Baroque dance suite, consisting of several variable short movements. These are played by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin with such excellence that it is difficult to single out a highlight, but if pressed, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach's Ouverture No. 4, composed in 1693, is a real ear opener. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin does not subscribe to the long-held notion that percussion was not important to the Baroque orchestra, or simply did not exist -- they use it conspicuously and with taste. When the percussion gets going, along with continuo and the violins, you really feel the dance-like qualities of the music, and in the Air/Menuet I/II of the Erlebach, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin literally "gets down." To some degree this condition also applies to the works by Georg Caspar Schürmann and Reinhard Keiser. Telemann's friend George Frideric Handel is represented by the ballet suite from his first opera, Almira, and one can hear why Handel's no-nonsense music, with its emphasis on clearly articulated melody, was so different in comparison to his contemporaries. The Concert musicaux No. 1 of ultra-obscure composer Johann Christian Schieferdecker is notable for its smooth textures and sheer beauty -- the concluding Chaconne is gorgeous. To those already familiar with the talents of Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin Ouvertüren für die Hamburger Oper should not be a hard sell. For others who might not be familiar with the group nor its subcutaneous choice of repertoire, Ouvertüren für die Hamburger Oper is about as good as Baroque orchestral music gets.

Classical - Released August 15, 2007 | harmonia mundi

Symphonic Music - Released March 11, 2011 | harmonia mundi


Classical - Released July 7, 2017 | BR-Klassik

Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik

Classical - Released January 15, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Classical - Released January 19, 2015 | harmonia mundi

This disc by the ever-outstanding Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin, features "alternate universe" Johann Sebastian Bach concertos and includes a wholly new reconstruction of the Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052R, by the Akademie's concertmaster Midori Seiler. Whereas earlier reconstructions, of which there are several, used Bach's own harpsichord arrangement of the now-lost violin original, as her point of departure Seiler has pressed into service Bach "Son Number 2's" slightly earlier harpsichord arrangement of about 1734. Ironically, the younger Bach's ineptitude in converting the violin part into an effective keyboard solo has, for Seiler, provided additional clues to its true nature. Certainly this is a very effective rendering of what Bach's original might have sounded like, and Seiler's own performance of the solo part is a passionate and winning outing that will make one forget about such messy editorial details. Three other transcribed Bach concerti fill out the program; Bach's own arrangements of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto (as BWV 1057), the "double" violin concerto for two harpsichords (BWV 1062), and the reconstructed Concerto for violin and oboe, BWV 1060R, heard in C minor here rather than D minor as is sometimes done. Of these, BWV 1057 seems the least successful, and that's just by virtue of the first-movement Allegro being as brisk as it is -- the tempo is so breathlessly zippy that it doesn't seem to give the music time to breathe, and sometimes the low instruments seem challenged in keeping up with the pace. Nevertheless, that's the only complaint; otherwise, Harmonia Mundi's Violin Concerto, BWV 1052, is about everything one could want from a disc of reconstructed concerti played by a period ensemble -- the sound is great and the performances are of such a high standard that it even puts the famous Neville Marriner recordings of similar Bach reconstructions on the defensive.