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Symphonies - Released July 30, 2021 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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Symphonies - Released July 9, 2021 | Warner Classics

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The time has come at last to rescue the history of music from the male condescension that has relegated female composers to the status of a handful of oddities. Heir to Beethoven, revered in Paris through the teaching of her foreign teachers Hummel and Reicha, Louise Farrenc left behind her a collection of strong and dramatic symphonic works. Unlike Clara Schumann or Alma Mahler, Louise Farrenc was not hindered by a husband who set her to cooking, cleaning or bearing many children. Coming from an artistic background and strongly encouraged by her husband, she had every opportunity to develop as a composer, but also as a pianist, teacher, editor and musicologist.This album is the first volume of Louise Farrenc's complete set of three Symphonies conducted by Laurence Equilbey at the head of the Insula Orchestra, which she assembled in order to explore little-known repertoire, in particular to bring to the forth works by the great forgotten composers such as Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn or Clara Schumann.Despite the success she was beginning to enjoy in Paris, Louise Farrenc found it very difficult to stage her symphonic works in the French capital. It was in Brussels that her Symphony No. 1 in C minor was first performed. Its writing follows brilliantly in the wake of the best of the 1840s, in a style where craftsmanship competes with the influences of the great masters of the time: Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn.Premiered this time around in Paris under the direction of François-Antoine Habeneck, whose interpretations of Beethoven's symphonies are known throughout Europe, the more personally written Symphony No. 3 in G minor begins with a cantilena for solo oboe preceding an Allegro full of dramatic energy, syncopations and harmonic surprises.In her symphonies, Louise Farrenc has managed to combine contemporary Viennese style with great intensity and originality. Far from being mere curiosities, Farrenc's symphonies deserve to be included in the repertoire of French orchestras, like those of Albéric Magnard, which are also forgotten in his own country, but that's another story... © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Symphonies - Released June 25, 2021 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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In a volcanic outburst of creativity, the 27-year-old Gustav Mahler wrote his First Symphony within just a few weeks. He then struggled significantly longer to find a definitive shape for this unprecedentedly novel work, which shook the musical public like an earthquake and divided heated tempers into Mahler lovers and Mahler loathers. No one was left cold by the overpowering sound of this work he initially entitled Titan (after Jean Paul’s novel). It begins as a quivering surface (“Wie ein Naturlaut” – “Like a sound of nature”) out of which motivic ideas emerge – fanfare and birdcall fragments from near and far, including an obstinate cuckoo – until a melody is articulated, derived from the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), where it is sung to the words “Ging heut Morgen übers Feld…Wird’s nicht eine schöne Welt?” (“This morning I went across the fields…Isn’t the world looking lovely?”). In programmatic indications that he later withdrew, Mahler describes the movement as “the awakening of Nature after a long winter’s sleep”. The earthy ländler-scherzo is followed by a whimsical funeral-march parody based on a minor-mode version of the folksong canon Bruder Jakob (Frère Jacques). Naïve humour and obscure tragedy clash very much as in Jean Paul’s writings. The “horrifying outcry” that launches the finale definitively exposes the “lovely world’s” ambiguity. The violence of this last movement tears open a roaring abyss. According to Mahler, in the tumultuous masses of sound the “hero” – is it the composer himself? – is locked in a terrible battle “with all the sorrows of this world”. Then, almost imperceptibly, out of a reminiscence of the shimmering sounds of nature that began the symphony, a “victory chorale” takes shape and, with the mobilization of all forces, is elevated into a gigantic apotheosis. Mahler’s First: a hero’s life – or indeed a commedia humana? © 2020 Berlin Phil Media GmbH
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Symphonies - Released June 18, 2021 | CAvi-music

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Tempo, accentuation, phrasing, or structural architecture are not the first thing that strikes the listener when he listens to Arthur Schoonderwoerd’s performances of classical orchestral music for the first time. Instead, the first thing we can notice is that the music sounds different. The orchestra is unusually small. You might want to judge whether this is good or not, but that will not truly help you deal with the phenomenon in itself. Apart from the winds – in the usual line-up as called for in the score – the string section is barely larger than a string quartet. It is pointless to dispute whether this is preferable to a large orchestra. More significant is the striking effect this has on the senses. If you want to do justice to Schoonderwoerd’s interpretation concept, it is best to start by focusing on what you are hearing. © CAvi-Music
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Symphonies - Released May 28, 2021 | harmonia mundi

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Vivid testimony to the multifaceted partnership of James Gaffigan and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, their latest release invites us to explore the conductor’s American roots, from the most mischievous (Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story) to the spiritual (Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 3, based on his works for solo organ). With dramatically potent dissonances, Ruth Crawford’s Andante for Strings casts a spell in the form of a hypnotic and restless nocturne, while Samuel Barber’s boldly athletic Toccata for Organ and Orchestra reveals a rarely heard aspect of this well-known master. An electrifying performance! © harmonia mundi
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Symphonies - Released May 28, 2021 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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Symphonies - Released May 21, 2021 | Aparté

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Concentus Musicus Wien continues its exploration of works of the Classical and pre-Romantic periods as envisioned by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Stefan Gottfried conducts Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, written in 1816 at the age of 19, and the seventh of Haydn’s 12 London symphonies, No. 99, written in 1793. The former shows the melodic inventiveness and admirable mastery of form of a young composer, heir to the giant Haydn. Recorded live at the famous Musikverein in Vienna, this concert immortalises yet again the skill and the exceptional sound quality of this renowned progenitor of historically informed performance, which continues to perpetuate the work of its visionary founder. © Aparté
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Symphonies - Released March 19, 2021 | LSO Live

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One of Rachmaninoff’s most popular pieces, the Second Symphony is an indulgently melancholic and sentimental work: a magic box of the late-Romantic orchestra. Dramatic sections played by the full orchestra contrast heart-breaking swells that only this composer could have written. The LSO has a long history with the Second Symphony, recording it many times with conductors such as André Previn, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Valery Gergiev. For this recording, which was captured during the opening of the London Symphony Orchestra's 2019/20 season at the Barbican Hall, Sir Simon Rattle conducted from memory, performing the uncut version of this symphonic treasure. © LSO Live

Symphonies - Released February 8, 2021 | Brilliant Classics

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As Rudolf Barshai knew Shostakovich's music on a very intimate level, he rarely puts a foot wrong in the works of his teacher and compatriot. He studied with the composer who became his mentor, and often performed Shostakovich's music with the composer himself at the piano. They became close personal friends. Barshai was asked by Shostakovich to premiere the 14th Symphony, and he came to fame as a master of orchestration when the composer trusted to arrange his quartets into "Chamber symphonies". From the start of this 7th symphony, the tone is set with a tight, taut opening to what will be a smoothly flowing rendition that’s high on feeling which is served by a truly excellent orchestra. There are some stage noises but if there is an audience present they are pretty quiet.Recorded September 1992, Philharmonie, Cologne, by Cologne Radio (Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln)
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Symphonies - Released September 25, 2020 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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Symphonies - Released September 11, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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The music of composer Franz Schmidt fell out of the repertory after it emerged that he had been hailed by the Nazis, although he apparently never asked for the honor and was less than comfortable with it. His essentially conservative style put him out of commission for several more decades during the period of modernist repression, but there have been modest signs of a revival, including a complete cycle from conductor Neeme Järvi, leading the Chicago and Detroit Symphony Orchestras (not yet heard by this writer). Now his son Paavo weighs in with this set, leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. The music will be new to most listeners, and it's attractive stuff. Its most striking feature is a radiant, optimistic tone, defined right from the first movement of the Symphony No. 1 in E major. Järvi grabs the listener's attention here and doesn't release across substantial movements that are mostly between ten and 20 minutes long. A place to start sampling would be the entr'acte, an Intermezzo from the opera Notre Dame, which exemplifies the almost mystical tone Schmidt's music retained, even amid great personal tragedy. That tragedy is explicitly addressed in Schmidt's Symphony No. 4 in C major, designed "a requiem for my daughter" by the composer; the daughter died in childbirth in 1932. That work is perhaps the most Straussian of Schmidt's symphonies with its transfigured trumpet theme at the beginning and end, but Schmidt's style, although certainly conservative by the 1930s, was not derivative of anybody. It is not so much a matter of tonality, where he is, like Mahler, sometimes pushing the edges and, at other times, innocently diatonic. Instead, it is the historical scope of his music, encompassing styles as far back as Schubert (hear the echoes of the "Great" Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944) in the Symphony No. 3 in A major, while living very much in the world of Strauss and Bruckner overall. Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony catch the energy in the music and display no weaknesses over a very large orchestra in these live recordings. It seems possible that this release will expand the big symphonic repertory a bit. Try the music out and speculate on this possibility. © TiVo
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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 13, 2020 | Russian Compact Disc

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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

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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 31, 2019 | Alia Vox

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By the middle of 1788, at the age of 32, Mozart had reached the height of his creative maturity, dominated by the last three symphonies, absolute masterpieces that he composed in a very short period of time – barely one and a half months. This extraordinary “symphonic massif” consisting of three peaks – Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, completed on 26th June, Symphony No 40 in G minor, completed on 25th July and Symphony No. 41 in C major, the “Jupiter”, dated 10th August – is unquestionably the composer’s “Symphonic Testament”.
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Symphonies - Released May 10, 2019 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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