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January 4, 2013

On the Record: Beethoven revitalized by ORR/John Eliot Gardiner

In the grand scheme of themes, we have more than enough recordings of Beethoven symphonies. But there always seems to be room for one more.

I would gladly clear a spot on an overstuffed CD shelf for a version of Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh symphonies recently released on the Soli Deo Gloria label, recorded live at Carnegie Hall by New York's classical station radio WQXR.

This disc captures the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and its conductor, John Eliot Gardiner, at a white-hot peak of expressive fervor. You can get freshly excited about these war horses all over again.

Gardiner and the ORR, a splendid ensemble of period instruments, recorded the nine symphonies nearly 20 years ago. This return to the Fifth and Seventh finds the musicians digging even more forcefully and incisively into the scores.

Detail after detail emerges with new clarity and purpose, from the most vehement fortissimos to the gentlest inner phrase.

Those of us who tightly clutch our Furtwangler and Bernstein recordings of Beethoven sometimes find the more literal approach of the authenticists and the leaner sound of period instrument orchestras wanting. But Gardiner has always been ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 8:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, On the Record
        

July 29, 2011

On the Record: Latest releases from Jonas Kaufmann, Joseph Calleja

You've all heard the lament of music lovers with an ear fixated on the past: "They just don't make 'em like that anymore."

The 'em in question might be pianists one day, conductors the next. But I'd bet that, most days, the moaner-groaner set is referring to singers.

People are forever carping about the dearth of good voices. From what I've read, this was true even during those periods of the past that are now widely considered worthy of a "golden age of singing" tag.

I get in on this game from time to time, especially after wallowing in historic recordings, which seem to prove conclusively that we have been going downhill for decades.

But then, lo and behold, reality gives me a slap, and things don't sound so dearth-y after all. Even though we will not hear the likes of (fill in the blanks with your own personal favorites of yesteryear) again, we'll do OK, because we've got some pretty gifted vocal artists right now.

Two of those artists, Jonas Kaufmann and Joseph Calleja, have new (or relatively new) CDs out. I recommend both releases heartily, especially to those who think that quality tenor voices are as unlikely to find today as willing-to-compromise Tea Party members.

What I love first about Kaufmann and Calleja is that ...

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Posted by Tim Smith at 10:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes, On the Record
        
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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog
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