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Serguei Prokofiev

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

July 6

New album by Dmitry Hvorostovsky

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discThe great Siberian baritone, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, releases a new recording next month of Russian operatic arias. You can listen to a sample track here . press release: NEW YORK, NY – On August 12, 2016 Delos releases Dmitri Hvorostovsky Sings of Love, Peace, War and Sorrow [DE 3517], a new recording featuring the internationally acclaimed baritone performing opera arias and scenes by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Anton Rubinstein – two of which Hvorostovsky has never before performed on stage: Tomsky from The Queen of Spades and the title role of Mazeppa. Led by conductor Constantine Orbelian with the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia as well as the “Evgeny Svetlanov” Helikon Opera Chorus, the recording also features several guest artists: internationally acclaimed Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian, (the latest recipient of the prestigious International Opera Award as Young Female Singer of 2016), mezzo-soprano Irina Shishkova; bass Mikhail Guzhov, tenor Igor Morozov, and countertenor Vadim Volkov. The recording begins with the opening scene from Prokofiev’s War and Peace with sopranos Asmik Gregorian and Irina Shishkova. The program continues with four arias from three beloved Tchaikovsky operas: Mazeppa’s aria (“O Mariya, Mariya”) from Mazeppa; Roberto’s aria (“Kto mozhet sravnitsja s Matildoj moej”) from the composer’s final opera Iolanta – plus two selections from The Queen of Spades, including Tomsky’s ballad (“Odnazdy v Versale, au jeu de la Reine”) withMikhail Guzhov (Surin), and Igor Morozov (Chekalinsky); and Tomsky’s song (“Yesli b milyye devitzy”). The latter two arias from Tchaikovsky mark a departure for Hvorostovsky. For years he was known for his performances of Prince Eletsky in The Queen of Spades – but in this recording, he takes on the other baritone role, that of the conniving and coldhearted Count Tomsky. The album’s closing selection is the sixth and final scene from Anton Rubinstein’s rarity, The Demon. Hvorostovsky had long wanted to perform the opera’s title role, and finally got the chance to do so in 2015, in a semi-staged Moscow production co-starring soprano Asmik Gregorian as Tamara – an event that was broadcast live on Russian television.

Classical iconoclast

July 16

Dangerous ! BBC First Night of the Proms 2016

The Marseillaise on the First Night of the Proms 2016, a powerful start to the BBC Proms season, acknowledging the atrocities in France. Most of the Royal Albert Hall audience stood up in tribute.  Terrorism is a global issue even when perpetrators act alone. Nations united are stronger than nations alone. Perhaps that message is lost on some, and the BBC will get it in the neck from vested interests who'd like to replace public services with commercial control, who look for any excuse to accuse the BBC of "bias" real or imagined.  Tonight, the BBC placed humanity above political manipulation. The BBC is a more effective ambassador for British integrity than schemers and selfish policies ever could be. This First Night of the Proms was obviously planned ages ago, but we cannot but reflect on how it relates to current events.  Music doesn't exist in isolation, and we'd be much lesser people if we didn't care. Hate and division have always been part of the human condition. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote about implacable rivalries, and the pointless waste of young life.  Beautiful as it is, Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture ' Romeo and Juliet' would be nothing if we overlooked the tragedy behind  Especially niot after that Marseillaise and the images of dead bodies we've been seeing today. The image of Elgar as jingoist persists even though from what we know of the composer, the image is far from the truth. Elgar's Cello Concerto is anything but "pomp and circumstance";  it's poignant and deeply felt. It was written after the death of Alice, his wife and muse, but also after the end of the First World War, in which millions of others were killed, not only in war but through famines, epidemics and ethnic cleansing. In those circumstances victory could not but be tinged with sorrow, In any case 1914-1918 was the beginning of a much wider, global conflict that didn't end until 1945, and a radical new approach to ending conflict. Perhaps we should reflect more on the years of idealism after 1945 than on endless squabbles.  In this performance, with Sol Gabetta as soloist, I was particularly moved by the quieter moments, ie the lento, which "spoke" with more depth than a short movement usually gets. First Nights of the Proms often feature blockbusters, since their size suits the cavern that is the Royal Albert Hall. Prokofiev's Cantata Alexander Nevsky was ideal material, featuring as it does massed forces of a scale that the Soviet Union could produce when it needed to make major propaganda impact.  I've written extensively on Sergei Eisenstein's monumental film Alexander Nevsky and the role Prokofiev's music played in it. Please see HERE and HERE for more.  In this performance, Sakari Oramo, the BBC SO, the BBC Symphony Chorus, the BBC National Chorus of Wales and soloist Olga Borodina let rip with intense ferocity.  Perhaps a little on the wild side, but rightly so, because this is impassioned music.  The Russians under Alexander Nevsky were fighting for their very existence. In 1938, when the film was made, the irony of the plot was not lost.  The Soviet Union didn't trust the Nazis any more than Nevsky trusted the Crusaders.  Although the forces used in the Battle on the Ice were small by modern standards, the conflict was epic, a fight to the death with Nature itself creating havoc. Human history isn't pretty but if we don't learn, we're lost.




My Classical Notes

July 1

July 2016: DVD of the Month

Two world-class pianists who died during the 1990’s are the subject of my DVD of the Month for July, 2016. They are Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, and Sviatoslav Richter. What can I say? When you are a great performer, it is appropriate that your reputation should live on. Michelangeli and Richter: Two Titans of the Keyboard perform the following works on this recording: Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2 No. 3, by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Brahms: Intermezzo in E minor, Op. 116 No. 5, by Sviatoslav Richter Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14 Ravel: Jeux d’eau Alborada del gracioso (Miroirs No. 4) Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920-1995) was, paradoxically, one of the most celebrated and one of the most reclusive pianists of his time. His amazing technique and astounding musicianship earned him attention early on as the undisputed winner of the 1939 Geneva International Music Competition. To the frustration of his public, Michelangeli’s studio recordings were few and his concert appearances sporadic: his brief recital for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was appropriately titled “A Most Rare Event”. It features a sterling performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Major, Op. 2, No. 3. Sviatoslav Richter (1915–1997) was a pianist in the Great Russian Tradition, yet there was nothing traditional about this master of the keyboard. Few pianists have had the technical, emotional, and intellectual range that Richter brought to his performances. In 1964, Richter was invited to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Toronto studios for a videotaping of a recital program. The main work of the program, Prokofiev’s Second Piano Sonata in D minor, is a perfect vehicle for a demonstration of Richter’s art, combining, as it does, passages of thrilling virtuosity contrasted with some of Prokofiev’s most lyrical pages. On this DVD, the Sonata is flanked by Brahms’ lovely E minor Intermezzo and two contrasting works by Ravel: the shimmering impressionistic tapestry of Jeux d’eau and the brilliant Spanish-flavored Alborado del Gracioso. Here is Mr. Michelangeli, performing the sonata number 3 in C-Major by Beethoven:



Classical music and opera by Classissima



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