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Symphonies - Released September 25, 2020 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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Symphonies - Released August 21, 2020 | Myrios Classics

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The year 1841 finally marked Robert Schumann’s breakthrough as a composer for orchestra. That year, he created no less than two works: his First Symphony, also known as the “Spring Symphony”, and a piece which he initially planned as a “Symphonic Fantasy” in one move- ment, and which would later become his Symphony in D Minor. The Spring Symphony was composed in the coldest winter. Full of longing, it is a work that knows only one direction: growing, blossom- ing, the path to light and new life. The Symphony in D minor seems much more somber and intimate, “a work from the innermost depths of his soul”, as Clara Schumann noted in her diary. However, the audience could not warm up to this bold, impetuous work, and Schumann set it aside. Ten years later, after a major revision, he published it as his 4th Symphony. This album pairs the Spring Symphony with the original version of the Symphony in D minor, the version which friends such as Johannes Brahms preferred over the later edition. Schumann never heard it again in his lifetime, and it was not until 1889 that it was performed in public once more, by the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne under the baton of Franz Wüllner. François-Xavier Roth, the Gürzenich Orchestra’s current chief conductor, also prefers the original version. With its leaner orchestration, it is certainly the more radical one, and thus requires a higher degree of commitment from the orchestra musicians in forming crescendi, melodic phrases, and extended arcs of formal development. © Myrios Classics
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Symphonies - Released June 26, 2020 | harmonia mundi

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Historically oriented performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, have not been common, perhaps because Beethoven was clearly aiming toward a monumental sound in the work and would gladly have discarded the limitations of the instruments of his own time if he could have. In the Ninth, the trend has been to observe Beethoven's metronome markings, despite mounting evidence that they were inaccurate. That's what happens in this release by the Freiburg Barockorchester under Pablo Heras-Casado; the opening movement of the Ninth is blisteringly fast and a bit inexpressive, although the finale is exciting. Heras-Casado actually takes the Scherzo a bit slower than is usual in these readings. There's much to recommend here, beginning with the reading of the Choral Fantasy, Op. 80, that is appended on a second CD. In the hands of fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, the work truly is a fantasy: his opening piano section is rhythmically flexible, and the winds add details that come out as magical. The work's links to the Symphony No. 9 emerge clearly, beyond the simple resemblance of the main tunes, and the Zürcher Sing-Akademie choir gives a muscular finale with a group of only moderate size. In the symphony, however, the prominence given the winds and brass tends to make the strings recede into the background. In a work with a lot of trombone, this is almost feasible, but there are moments when one expects strings and barely hears them. It's not clear whether this is a performance or an engineering issue; Heras-Casado's string section is of adequate size. This album may be recommended to those intrigued by the possibilities of historically oriented performances in Beethoven's music. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released March 6, 2020 | Decca

The Decca Sound in Hamburg and Paris: a trio of 1950s Tchaikovsky albums, including a pair of symphony recordings previously unpublished on CD. This supple and beautifully proportioned 1952 mono account of the Fifth Symphony marked the debut on disc of the NDR Sinfonieorchester under its founding conductor Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, the focus of two other recent Eloquence releases (symphonies by Mozart, 484 0353, and Dvořák, 484 0366). ‘Like most of the great European conductors,’ wrote the critic Harold C Schonberg, ‘[Schmidt-Isserstedt] has been brought up in a tradition that insists on selflessness before great music. The aim of conducting, as he sees it, is to bring out the message of the composer and not the skill.’ The other performances on this compilation have a French accent which particularly suits the brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s orchestration. Albert Wolff (1884-1970) had begun recording for Decca in 1951 – Massenet’s Manon with the Opéra Comique – and he continued to make albums of French and Russian music throughout the 50s, with this combustible stereo account of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth being his envoi to the label. Carl Schuricht (1880-1967) was a no less welcome guest to the podium of the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra at that time. For EMI they made an admirably unfussy cycle of Beethoven symphonies, preserving the French Beethoven tradition at its most fleet and balletic, while their Decca recordings displayed the same virtues in the music of Schumann, Wagner and Tchaikovsky. These mono recordings of the Capriccio Italien and the Theme and Variations finale of the Third Orchestral Suite have only previously been available on CD as part of a larger box; their extrovert temperament makes them a fine complement to Wolff in the Fourth Symphony. (© Decca Music Group Limited / Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd.)
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Symphonies - Released February 7, 2020 | Decca

Newly remastered and gathered under one roof for the first time, the Decca recordings of Hans Knappertsbusch conducting Bruckner: a legendary combination. For record collectors in the 1950s and 60s, the names of Bruckner and Knappertsbusch (‘Kna’) were practically synonymous. At a time when the composer’s symphonies were routinely compared to Gothic cathedrals, the rough grandeur, steady pulse and towering climaxes of these readings marked out the conductor as an architect of symphonic majesty. Record companies did not have to work hard to cultivate this image, thanks to Knappertsbusch’s craggy visage, imposing presence on the podium and decades of Wagnerian experience at Bayreuth. At a time when Wagner’s Parsifal was still experienced as a primarily sacred music drama, the major works of Bruckner were likewise understood in semi-sacred terms as concert-hall rites, and who better to pierce their mysteries than Parsifal’s pre-eminent interpreter? Knappertsbusch began recording Bruckner for Decca in 1954, with the Third. The Fourth and Fifth quickly followed, also from Vienna, and then the Eighth arrived as an appendix from Munich, first issued on the Westminster label in 1963. By then the conductor’s readings of Romantic repertoire had become less impulsive, even more monumental in concept, but still lightened by a natural feeling for the dance rhythms in Bruckner’s scherzos and Ländler themes. Knappertsbusch persisted in conducting from editions prepared by Bruckner’s pupils, notably the Schalk brothers, with their liberal re-scorings and cuts, to the finales in particular – all outlined in a perceptive booklet essay by Antony Hodgson. In the light of recent scholarship and a more nuanced perspective on Bruckner’s evolving intentions with the composing and revising of his symphonies, these performances gain a certain, compelling authenticity of their own. No Brucknerian can afford to be without them. (© Decca Music Group Limited / Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd.)
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Symphonies - Released October 25, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The large collection of antique instruments at Les Siècles' command makes its recordings more than just speculative period exercises, but something approaching musical time travel. Led since 2003 by its founder, François-Xavier Roth, this singular French orchestra has given thrilling historically-informed recreations of the repertoire of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries on vintage instruments that were available to the musicians of the time, crafted by hand, and possessing the unique sonorities and tunings of different regions. For this 2019 album from Harmonia Mundi, Roth and his musicians play Hector Berlioz's hallucinatory Symphonie fantastique and the dramatic overture Les Francs-Juges with marvelous orchestral colors and a striking textural clarity that almost makes their distinctive characteristics seem especially highlighted. However, this recording isn't meant to be a sonic showcase for audiophiles, because the drama, musicality, and visceral excitement of the performances soon override the novelty of instrumentation, and the overall effect of the presentation is a startling reassessment and a refreshing change from the weightier Berlioz of a Thomas Beecham or a Colin Davis. No one could write for brass more blazingly than Berlioz, and his skillful handling of the woodwinds is even more apparent when heard with early Romantic timbres. The ultimate pleasure of this disc, though, is found in the cohesion, agility, and passion of the group's playing, and Roth's confident leadership comes through in his precision and alert attention to details. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released June 28, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Symphonies - Released May 10, 2019 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Symphonies - Released May 10, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Diapason d'or / Arte - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Symphonies - Released April 30, 2019 | Decca

First releases on Decca CD for a pair of underrated Nielsen recordingsNo less than Sibelius or Shostakovich, Nielsen became the custodian and the renovator of the classical symphonic tradition in the first half of the last century. Both the Third and Fifth symphonies make strenuous demands upon even the world’s great orchestras but at the same time they reward the listener with eventful, continually compelling journeys through strife and towards the most satisfying resolutions. The ‘Sinfonia Espansiva’ does so through a sublime slow movement which winds to an idyllic close with a wordless vocalise from a pair of mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, sung on this 1974 Decca recording by Felicity Palmer and Thomas Allen in a piece of luxury casting by Decca. The conductor was the young Belgian-born star of the baton, François Huybrechts whose previous Decca recording of Janacek has also been reissued by Eloquence. Huybrechts was among the first winners of the Dmitri Mitropoulos Conducting Competition and during the 1970s he secured several US posts as well as prestigious engagements with European ensembles such as the LPO and LSO. His career fell away thereafter but this pair of Decca recordings is the work of a powerfully individual podium presence. At the time of going into the studio with the ‘Sinfonia Espansiva’ in 1974, the LSO was well versed in Nielsen’s idiom having recorded all six of the symphonies with Ole Schmidt the previous year. By contrast, the name of Paul Kletzki has remained established in record catalogues and collections. This Polish-born conductor had taken charge of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in 1967 from its founder and long-time director Ernest Ansermet. Their Decca partnership began with Rachmaninov symphonies (also reissued by Eloquence) and continued to focus on twentieth-century repertoire outside Ansermet’s repertoire with an album of Hindemith and Lutoslawski, followed by this thrilling and disciplined account of Nielsen’s Fifth from September 1969. It was their last recording together before his retirement from the post the following year and his death in 1973. Top-class Decca engineering brings the first movement’s life-and-death struggle into viscerally thrilling perspective. (© Decca Music Group Limited / Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd.)
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Symphonies - Released April 5, 2019 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Symphonies - Released April 5, 2019 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Symphonies - Released March 22, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Symphonies - Released March 22, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Symphonies - Released March 8, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Symphonies - Released March 1, 2019 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Symphonies - Released January 18, 2019 | Sony Music Labels Inc.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi has recorded a lot of Sibelius: there are at least a couple of complete symphony sets as well as single recordings. In general, he has tended toward the abstract, toward the view that Sibelius, despite his adherence to tonality, was essentially a modern composer with a unique conception of form on both the small and large scales. Consider the finale of the Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82, with its popular half-note theme of open fifths and sixths. It's been thought to evoke anything from Thor's hammer to swans taking flight, but here the epic quality of the motif is toned down, and what emerges instead is the depth to which the fifths and sixths are all over this finale. Järvi's recordings of all three of the final symphonies are masterful, and the one-movement Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105 unfolds with an organic inevitability that's mysterious and miraculous. Perhaps Järvi's approach is a little less desirable in the Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39, a genuinely Tchaikovskian work that is a bit drained of sentiment here, or in the Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63, which lacks the requisite gloom in this darkest of all symphonies. But the Second and Third symphonies have sweeping power, and the Orchestre de Paris is precise and sharp throughout. The Eiffel Tower on the cover does not exactly say Sibelius, but Järvi conducted this orchestra for several years, and it responds to his every wish. Your mileage may vary, for these readings are toward one extreme in the interpretation of Sibelius, but many will find the last three symphonies to be capstones of Järvi's Sibelius career -- unless he returns to Sibelius again. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released January 11, 2019 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Symphonies - Released November 16, 2018 | RCA Victor

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
This is an absolute MUST LISTEN. One of André Previn’s greatest recordings captured in the 1960s in London – truly a golden era for the American conductor! Here, the London Symphony Orchestra, galvanised and operating in the very heart of its repertoire, is at its most beautiful: the brass section is electric (listen to the Scherzo!), the woodwinds are poetic and the strings unrelenting in their rhythmicity... What sets this recording apart from any other are the very fast tempos, always kept within bounds by André Previn, that help unveil Walton’s great architectural sense in the most unique way – check out the magnificent coda of the initial Allegro assai; throughout this interpretation, Sibelius and Hindemith influences progressively fade away in favour of a truly distinctive orchestration and management of musical time that make this score what it really is: a real oddity in the British musical landscape of the 1930s. André Previn’s performance on the 26th and 27th of August 1966 – he went on to create a new version with the RPO for Telarc − is all the more striking when we consider that around the same time, with the same musicians, he was working on the complete symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams which lack in poetry, most probably suffering from the type of analytical frankness that actually exalts Walton’s Symphony No.1. A few years later, he also recorded Walton’s Symphony No.2 for EMI, again with the LSO. This can be enjoyed with wonderful sound recording by the Decca team, conducted here by James Lock. © Pierre-Yves Lascar
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Symphonies - Released November 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or / Arte - Choc de Classica
The period of conductor Claudio Abbado's work with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is not as well known as the rest of his discography, probably because he was never the orchestra's music director (although he did serve in that capacity with both the Vienna State Opera and the city of Vienna). He brought an Italianate flair from La Scala to Vienna, however, and some of his work from this period is choice. It's not clear whether the Abbado Rediscovered title of this album indicates a singular event or an ongoing series, but the latter is to be earnestly wished based on this wonderful pair of Schubert symphonies. The Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("Unfinished"), D. 759, has an especially operatic flair, with the big melody in the first movement beautifully set off with a slight broadening and the slow movement a magical tableau. With the Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485, Abbado goes counter to type, not emphasizing the score's Mozartian qualities but instead taking a muscular early Beethoven approach. The whole thing is a delight from start to finish, amplified by fabulously clean recording from Austrian radio, with hardly a peep from the audience until they applaud at the end. The booklet includes a replica of the listing of works in the original program. In between the two Schubert symphonies was a performance of Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2, and the only possible wish one could have for a better product would be to have had that included as well. Even without it, this is essential Schubert. © TiVo