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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Sibelius’s Symphonies Nos. 5–7 (2010) 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Before Simon Rattle took office as chief conductor, the Berliner Philharmoniker had only once performed a cycle of the symphonies of Sibelius – and that was only in the recording studio. In 2010, Sir Simon conducted a complete performance for the first time in the Berlin Philharmonie. In this concert, the cycle reached its culmination with the performance of no less than three Sibelius symphonies.

In Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7 the qualities of this Finnish composer’s earlier works merge: on the one hand, the lyrical Nordic tone of the first two symphonies and, on the other, the experimental formal language and harmonies of Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4. It is exactly this music’s forward-looking moment, an aspect so easily overlooked, that Sir Simon and the Berliner Philharmoniker have brought to the fore in their interpretations of Sibelius this season, as Berlin’s Tagesspiegel highlighted in a review about “Simon Rattle’s grandiose Sibelius cycle”: “Sibelius as the grandfather of Modernism: such a conclusive formulation of what Rattle and the Philharmoniker deliver here is something that was hitherto scarcely evident. … The abstract art-work character of this music demands a completely homogeneous , weightlessly light string sound – exactly the ideal Rattle has been working on since he took up direction of the Philharmoniker. Even back then he had diagnosed a Sibelius deficit in the orchestra, so these February concerts are confirmation that this task is now complete and that the orchestra has mastered this sound to perfection, a sound equally important for Messiaen, Ligeti and Ravel. The orchestra has thus become the ideal instrument to serve the intentions of their principal conductor.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Semyon Bychkov conducts Strauss and Schubert 2014 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov was a fan of the Berliner Philharmoniker when he was still a teenager, and even spent a night in police custody after unsuccessfully attempting to smuggle himself into a sold-out guest performance by the orchestra in St. Petersburg. Ever since he stood in at short notice for the indisposed Riccardo Muti in 1985 and – as the press noted – made a “conducting debut of considerable calibre,” he has been a regular guest of the Philharmoniker.

Philharmoniker audiences had heard Bychkov as an interpreter of the works of Richard Strauss on only one occasion, in 2008, when he conducted his Alpine Symphony. In this concert, another of the composer’s tone poems is on the programme, Don Quixote. Strauss’s work, inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s chivalric novel of the same name, impresses with its subtle musical characterisation of the two main characters of Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza, and by its sound painting effects, such as the battle with the windmills and a stampeding herd of sheep. Strauss’s Don Quixote is represented by a solo cello, played here by Bruno Delepelaire, principal cellist with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 2013. Máté Szűcs, principal violist with the orchestra since 2011, gives voice to Sancho Panza.

Franz Schubert is another composer whose works Semyon Bychkov had conducted only once before in Philharmoniker concerts: his Second Symphony. In this concert he performs his Great C Major Symphony, which Robert Schumann described as the epitome of the Romantic symphony – because of its masterful composition, expressive melodies, finely tuned timbres and its “heavenly length.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Semyon Bychkov conducts Ravel, Bartók and Brahms 2010 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

This concert takes us from the West to Eastern Europe with works by Ravel, Brahms and Bartók, presented by conductor Semyon Bychkov and violist Tabea Zimmermann. All three of this evening’s works are conceptually most intriguing. Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin, for example, is characterised by a playful use of Baroque dance music with an underlying mood which, at the same time, is melancholic. Brahms’ Second Symphony, on the other hand, enchants with its cheerful mood – yet, below its idyllic surface, a highly complex texture is revealed, which is why the composer himself described the work as a “lovely monster”. Finally, there is Béla Bartók’s Viola Concerto, where the virtuoso solo part brings to the centre of attention an instrument whose contribution to the whole is normally made from the body of the orchestra, a contribution which is not infrequently underestimated.

At the time of this concert, Semyon Bychkov had been appearing with the Berliner Philharmoniker for almost a quarter of a century. Eastern European works in particular had played a significant role in this partnership, plus German Classicism and Romanticism and the occasional French piece, including works by Poulenc and Berlioz. In this respect, it was quite a representative programme Bychkov conducted in this concert. In the Bartók concerto, the soloist was violist Tabea Zimmermann who made her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker with the same work in 1992. One critic wrote about this new performance: “She plays the concerto with a tender cantabile as if it were by Mozart, showing Bartók’s melodic voice but also some wonderful quiet moments.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Semyon Bychkov conducts Berio and Walton 2011 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

What musical direction would Franz Schubert have taken had he not died in 1828 when he was only 31 years of age? One possible answer is Luciano Berio’s symphonic collage Rendering, which assembles Schubert’s sketches from the last weeks of his life. However, Berio does not attempt to either complete or reconstruct these fragments, which were originally intended for a symphony in D major. Rather, he creates a web of varying texture in which Schubert’s presence is felt – sometimes more, sometimes less – interwoven with echoes of later music.

The concert opens with a work that owes everything to Berio’s own inventiveness: Sequenza VII for oboe. In his 14 Sequenzas for various solo instruments, Berio demonstrates their endless tonal possibilities. During the 2011/2012 season, a total of four of these works were presented by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, beginning with Albrecht Mayer, principal oboist with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1992.

William Walton’s First Symphony is a work full of fire and colour, revealing occasional flashes of the influence of Bruckner and Hindemith. In both its tumultuous and its tender moments, it may reflect events in the life of the composer around the time of its composition, when a long-standing relationship had come to an end and a new woman entered his life. One of the main advocates of the symphony today is Semyon Bychkov, this evening’s conductor. The Financial Times recently wrote about a performance in London: “Bychkov gave it space, time to breathe and luxuriate in its orchestral textures, and explored a third dimension of background colours and emotions.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Semyon Bychkov and Menahem Pressler 2014 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Pianist Menahem Pressler, co-founder of the fabled Beaux Arts Trio – which existed for 53 years, longer than any other internationally prominent chamber ensemble – is himself a living legend. At 17 this shooting star with a “talent for luck” won the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco (its distinguished jury included the recent French émigré Darius Milhaud). His debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy was followed by an impressive international solo career and, from summer 1955 with the Beaux Arts Trio’s debut – a no less impressive career as a chamber musician. In this concert, the 90-year-old grand seigneur of the piano makes a guest appearance with the Berliner Philharmoniker, dedicated to a concerto by one of his favourite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

On the rostrum accompanying Pressler is Semyon Bychkov, who in the programme’s second half conducts Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11. Completed in the aftermath of the suppressed Hungarian uprising, it seems to foretell a fate for the ossified Soviet Union similar to that of the ossified Russian Empire. It was Herbert von Karajan who mentioned Bychkov as a possible successor in Berlin after hearing one of his Shostakovich recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker. “I did not experience the mass terror of the Soviet Union as Shostakovich did”, says Bychkov. “But I can nonetheless imagine the conditions under which he lived, and can identify with them.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Semyon Bychkov and Kirill Gerstein 2016 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The premiere in 1897 of Sergei Rachmaninov’s First Symphony ended in an unparalleled fiasco. Was it really because Alexander Glazunov, who had been charged with conducting it, drowned out his stage fright in vodka? Rachmaninov, then shortly before his 24th birthday, was not in the mood to assign blame: he took responsibility for the failure, withdrew the work – compared by one critic with the ten plagues of Egypt – and decided to renounce composing. The consequence was a deep depression for which Rachmaninov ultimately had to seek medical treatment to overcome. The Moscow neurologist Nikolai Dahl succeeded in revitalizing the composer’s courage to face life and creative power – including through hypnosis according to Rachmaninov. Healed of his self-doubts, Rachmaninov wrote the Second Piano Concerto, dedicating it to the doctor, and launched it as soloist conducted by Alexander Siloti in Moscow in 1901, landing a worldwide success.

In this concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein takes on the work’s solo part, which poses exorbitant technical difficulties. The conductor is Gerstein’s compatriot Semyon Bychkov, who is just as conversant with the sensual, truly mesmerizing power of Rachmaninov’s music as with the particular melancholy that characterises Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s compositions. Like Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky did a lot of soul-searching about his abilities. For instance, the composer wrote in 1888: “I often have self-doubts and ask myself, hasn’t the time come to stop, have I overdone my power of invention?” The inner battles that Tchaikovsky had to struggle with when composing can also be heard in the music of his Third Symphony, called the Polish because of its last movement in the rhythm of a polonaise.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Semyon Bychkov and Gautier Capucon 2017 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The lives of Dmitri Shostakovich and Richard Strauss developed as differently as two lives conceivably can. That makes it all the more exciting when in these two concerts Semyon Bychkov conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in two works that appear to be musical self-disclosures on the part of the two composers. “Waiting for execution is one of the themes that has tortured me all my life”, Shostakovich is said to have confided to a friend towards the end of his life: “many pages of my music speak of that.” Such can also be found in the score of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, composed in 1959. The work was composed after Shostakovich – previously ostracised by the Union of Soviet Composers for “anti-populist tendencies” – was awarded the Lenin Prize. The composer pinned little hope, however, on official rehabilitation as an artist: “The label ‘enemy of the people’ stuck to me forever,” Shostakovich recalled in later years: “My past was crossed out, my work, my abilities, turned out to be worthless to everyone. The future did not look any less bleak.” That Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, whose solo part – technically and emotionally equally tricky – is taken on in these concerts by the French cellist Gautier Capuçon, reflects on the composer’s existential life experiences and mortal fears is demonstrated not least by the work’s main motif, which is derived from Shostakovich’s musical monogram (D-(E)S-C-H – using the German note-naming conventions).

Richard Strauss was much more talented in manoeuvring through the political catastrophes of the 20th century and its aftermath – and coming out unscathed. For instance, the former president of the Reich Chamber of Music, no longer in favour with the Nazis, prevented the confiscation of his villa in Garmisch by US soldiers in 1945 by declaring: “I am the composer of the Rosenkavalier…” He had already created a musical monument for himself with Ein Heldenleben 46 years earlier. That’s because the principal players of this symphonic poem are the composer himself, his wife (according to Strauss “very complicated, a little perverse, a little frivolous …”) and the guild of music critics, characterised by Strauss with biting humour. Two biographies, two musical self-disclosures – and two interpreters who are known for their uncompromising dedication to the works they play.

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Utah Symphony Orchestra & Thierry Fischer – Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78 & Lieutenant Kije Suite, Op. 60 (2019) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

Utah Symphony Orchestra & Thierry Fischer – Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78 & Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60 (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 59:58 minutes | 1,87 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Reference Recordings

The Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev was one of the giants of 20th century music. Reference Recordings is proud to present the Utah Symphony conducted by Thierry Fischer, in grand new performances of “Alexander Nevsky” and the “Lieutenant Kijé Suite”, two of his most brilliant and dramatic musical works. The music of Lieutenant Kijé was originally written as the score to the film of the same name, released in March 1934. Prokofiev soon adapted it into the five-movement Lieutenant Kijé Suite, first performed in December 1934, and which quickly became a favorite in the international concert repertoire. Then, in 1938, Prokofiev collaborated with film director Eisenstein to create the score for the film Alexander Nevsky. He later adapted much of his score into the large-scale cantata for mezzo-soprano, orchestra and chorus featured on this recording.

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Underworld – DRIFT Series 1 (2019) [Official Digital Download 24bit/48kHz]

Underworld – DRIFT Series 1 (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 05:44:53 minutes | 3,95 GB | Genre: Electronic
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Caroline International (P&D)

What is ‘DRIFT’? It’s precisely one year inside the minds of Underworld. It’s a journey that began on 1st November 2018 when the group released the track ‘Another Silent Way’ and set off with no map, no fixed destination and a simple mantra (‘Drift is the opposite of ‘normal’ or ‘usual’ practice; we’ll do this until we’re dust.’) ‘Rick Smith and Karl Hyde’s aim was to create and publish music and film episodically for 52 weeks and see where the journey took them. Within a few weeks, the experiment found its own path, prompting the electronic pioneers to react to previous releases and create new works accordingly. Over time, the duo’s innate curiosity opened up a unique space in which they could experiment, learn and explore new frontiers – together and with others (including Tomato’s Simon Taylor, Australian improv-trance band The Necks, techno producer Ø [Phase], Japanese noise band Melt-Banana, economics writer Aditya Chakrabortty and members of Black Country, New Road). During the 52 weeks, five self-contained episodes were released (respectively in November, January, March, May and August) – collectively, they formed ‘DRIFT Series 1’. The ‘DRIFT Series 1’ box set comprises 7 CDs, 1 Blu-ray, and an 80 page exclusive book documenting the entire ‘DRIFT’ journey from start to finish in interviews with Rick Smith, Karl Hyde and Tomato’s Simon Taylor along with pictures, poems, commentary and lyrics.

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Ulf Wallin & Roland Pontinen – Brahms: Works for Violin & Piano, Vol. 2 (2019) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Ulf Wallin & Roland Pöntinen – Brahms: Works for Violin & Piano, Vol. 2 (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:07:09 minutes | 1,21 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © BIS

Ulf Wallin and Roland Pöntinen made their first duo-recording for BIS in 1991 and have released acclaimed recital discs ranging from Schumann and Liszt to Alfred Schnittke, by way of Schoenberg and Hindemith. With the present disc they bring their most recent project to a close: a recording of all the works by Johannes Brahms for violin and piano. These include not only the three well-known and -loved numbered violin sonatas, but also the Scherzo from the so-called F.A.E. Sonata and the composer’s own violin versions of the two sonatas for clarinet and piano. Wallin and Pöntinen open the present disc with Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 120, composed in 1894 for clarinet and transcribed for the violin a year later. As the clarinet part extends further down than the lowest note on the violin, Brahms made considerable revisions to the clarinet part, which entailed changes in the piano part, and consequently the printing of a new piano score. This is followed by the second and third violin sonatas, in A major and D minor respectively. Both works were composed during the summer of 1886 in Thun in Switzerland and are clearly related, even though they inhabit completely different expressive worlds.

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