The new box contains no fewer than three different Williams recordings of that most popular of all guitar works, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez – from 1964 with the Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, from 1974 with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra, and from 1983 with Frémaux and the Philharmonia Orchestra – plus a performance of its much-loved Adagio in Williams’s celebrated 1993 “Seville Concert”.
The Seventh remains the least well-known of all Mahler's symphonies. Precisely because its material is so enormously wide-ranging, its colors so thrillingly kaleidoscopic, this work is also perhaps the one from all the composer's canon most reliant on a knowing, strong-willed interpretive presence. This Michael Tilson Thomas provides in spades in one of his finest performances on disc.
Conductor and pianist James Levine is one of the powerhouse figures of the classical music scene today. As a child he undertook both piano and violin; he was so accomplished on the violin that at the age of ten he played Mendelssohn's second violin concerto at a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra youth concert. He studied piano at various summer music festivals before enrolling at New York's Juilliard School, where he took conducting courses with Jean Morel and continued piano studies with Rosina Lhevinne.
The pairing of Vaughan Williams' Job and his Symphony No. 9 is a logical one, not least because of the prominent role given to saxophones in both works. Vaughan Williams called Job a "masque," following old English usage, but it's a ballet in all but name, and like many of them it succeeds as a standalone orchestral work. The idea of a ballet based on the Book of Job seems slightly odd until you learn that it was inspired by William Blake's illustrations for the story, which would have been very familiar to Vaughan Williams' audiences in 1930.