Continuing his award-winning cycle of works by Felix Mendelssohn, Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the LSO, his Monteverdi Choir and three talented young actors from the Guildhall in a landmark performance of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', which was performed as part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. To mark the celebrations, Gardiner produced a special version of the work featuring some cuts to the original movements that, in his words, "remove all of the music relating to the Mechanicals and thus focus on the world of the fairies and the human lovers". Mendelssohn, who adored Shakespeare’s writings, composed his concert overture based on 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' in 1827 aged 17, after having read a German translation of the play. The overture was immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece and quickly became a popular favourite throughout Europe. Years later in 1843 he was asked by the King of Prussia to provide a score for an entire production: 14 short works based on themes and moods from the original overture, with a broadly romantic sound although classical in style and structure.
It is more than twenty years since Solti last recorded Così for Decca, and if that earlier version was far from ideally cast, this new one more than makes amends. Above all, it has a commanding Fiordiligi in Renée Fleming, who conveys all the tragic vulnerability of this central character. Her performance of the great second-act rondo ‘Per pietà’ would be enough to melt the hardest of hearts. Anne Sofie von Otter and Olaf Bär are in fine form, too; and while Adelina Scarabelli is not exactly a mistress of disguises (she scarcely alters her voice at all for Despina’s part as the mesmeric doctor), her vitality is irresistible. More contentious is the Ferrando of Frank Lopardo. True, he can scale down his voice admirably, but all too often he lacks a genuine sense of line, and his intonation is unreliable.
This will be the Magic Flute chosen by most people who want to live with just one. It finds Georg Solti in a relatively relaxed state of mind, with an excellent if not particularly famous cast, and an orchestra and chorus that any conductor would give his left arm (not the one that welds the baton) to work with. The singers are not particularly well-known (London seems to have set up Solti as the star of this production) but a lack of celebrity attitudes and close attention to the conductor have paid substantial dividends in this production. Sumi Jo, in a spectacular and dramatic performance of the Queen of the Night's two arias, attracts special attention, as do Uwe Heilmann (Tamino) and Michael Kraus (Papageno). –Joe McLellan
This first complete studio recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, made between 1958 and 1966, was a groundbreaking technical and artistic achievement, the most ambitious and intricately involved opera recording project of the 20th century. Produced for Decca by John Culshaw, whose vision and untiring devotion brought the gargantuan project to completion, the 14 ½-hour release set a new standard for opera recordings. The details Culshaw lavished on the production, which included building new musical instruments, precisely calculating the placement and choreography of each singer to maximize the theatricality of each scene, and creating an array of fabulous special effects resulted in a landmark recording that has lost none of its power with the passage of time.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra join forces once again in the latest instalment of their exploration of Mendelssohn’s symphonies. Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 5, commonly known as the ‘Reformation’ Symphony, was written in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg confession – a seminal event in the Protestant Reformation. Allusions to the symphony’s title and inspiration can be heard throughout the music itself; the Dresden Amen is cited by the strings in the first movement whilst the finale is based on Martin Luther’s well-known chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’). Coupled with this are two of Mendelssohn’s overtures, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Ruy Blas, both of which were inspired by literary works. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, based on two short poems by Goethe, depicts the journey of sailors at sea with a still adagio opening ultimately giving way to a triumphant homecoming. Completing the album, the overture Ruy Blas was commissioned by the Leipzig Theatre as an overture to Victor Hugo’s tragic drama of the same name.
Even as he is most closely associated with the music of Wagner and Beethoven, conductor Georg Solti enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the orchestral music of Johannes Brahms. Solti's own personal preferences in terms of Brahms, judging based on his performance history, were slanted toward the Haydn Variations, German Requiem, and the concerti, but in the late '70s he undertook a cycle of the symphonies with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Decca London that some expert listeners feel have never been bettered since.
October 21, 2012 marks Sir Georg Solti's centenary and Decca is celebrating this with several important reissues.
Sir Georg was an exclusive Decca artist for 50 years.
In 1947 he signed his first contract with Decca - as a pianist and that same year he made his first record as a conductor (with the Zurich Tonhalle in Beethovens Egmont Overture). His last public concerts took place just a few weeks before his death in 1997 and were with the Zurich Tonhalle.