There are many different musical "Seasons" aside from Vivaldi's, and next to Haydn's oratorio of the same name, this is probably the most famous example. The complete ballet is of modest length–only 40 minutes or so–and the autumn "Bacchanal" contains what is probably the catchiest tune that Glazunov ever wrote. You'll probably think that you've heard it before, but can't quite figure out where. Neeme Jarvi is always at his best in big, splashy Romantic pieces, and this performance is no exception. He whips the orchestra up to a fine frenzy where necessary, and given Chandos's fine sound and a sensible coupling, you're in for some good listening.
First ever Wiener Philharmoniker recording of “The Planets”, a favorite of Imogen Holst, plus a benchmark recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
Elgar’s Violin Concerto has a certain mystique about it independent of the knee-jerk obeisance it has received in the British press. It probably is the longest and most difficult of all Romantic violin concertos, requiring not just great technical facility but great concentration from the soloist and a real partnership of equals with the orchestra. And like all of Elgar’s large orchestral works, it is extremely episodic in construction and liable to fall apart if not handled with a compelling sense of the long line. In reviewing the score while listening to this excellent performance, I was struck by just how fussy Elgar’s indications often are: the constant accelerandos and ritards, and the minute (and impractical) dynamic indications that ask more questions than they sometimes answer. No version, least of all the composer’s own, even attempts to realize them all: it would be impossible without italicizing and sectionalizing the work to death.
Franz Ignaz Beck is increasingly acknowledged as one of the most forward-looking and inventive of mid-eighteenth-century symphonists. A student of the celebrated Johann Stamitz, Beck was trained in Mannheim, a focal point of new approaches to orchestral writing. Although small in scale, his Op. 2 set includes some of the most striking and harmonically daring works of their kind from the period.
The steady increase in recordings of his music has now established Suk as one of the great musical poets of the early 20th century. Too much is made of his affinities with his teacher and father-in-law, Dvorák; for his own part, Dvorák never imposed his personality on his pupils and Suk's mature music owes him little more than a respect for craft and an extraordinarily well developed ear for orchestral colour. His affinities in the five-movement A Summer's Tale, completed in 1909 – a magnificent successor to his profound Asrael Symphony – reflect Debussy and parallel the music of his friend Sibelius and Holst, but underpinning the musical language is a profound originality energising both form and timbre.
Mackerras's recording joins a select band: Šejna's vintage performance on Supraphon and Pešek's inspired rendition with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; his is an equal to them both and the Czech Philharmonic's playing is both aspiring and inspiring.
Why has one piece of music here, the Elgar Cello Concerto played by Jacqueline DuPre become so legendary? Of course it is the music itself. It has an overpowerful haunting deeply hypnotic feeling. Elgar wrote it after his recovery from a serious illness towards the end of the First War, and his thoughts were certainly on the suffering of life, and the inevitability of death. Du Pre brings to the piece not only her great mastery as cellist, but some deeper element of feeling. There is in the playing a sense of romantic abandoment of wild disturbance, and of intense and even ferious concentration.
Harmonia Mundi's Geminiani: Concerti Grossi VII-XII (after Corelli, Op. 5) is a single disc excerpted from a larger set issued in 1999 including all of Geminiani's concerti based on models of Corelli. That set was, and is, something of an expensive proposition, but certainly a first-class choice for the music of Geminiani, for the way the Academy of Ancient Music sounds under the direction of Andrew Manze and as representative of late English Baroque music as a whole. This disc is a single-disc condensation drawn from the earlier set that comes, as an added bonus, with a thick catalog of Harmonia Mundi's active releases, and the asking price is modest.