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Top 10 violin concertos

Guest Mon 7th April 2014

An introduction to 10 of the greatest violin concertos with highly recommended recordings

Top 10 violin concertos

Along with the piano, the violin is the instrument best served with concertos, and what a variety there is! Here’s a violin concerto Top 10 that embraces all the great works at the centre of every violinist’s repertoire ranging from the poise of the Mozart via the red-blooded Romantic works like the Tchaikovsky to the modern language of the Prokofiev and Bartók…

No 1

Mozart Violin Concerto No 3

The English Concert / Andrew Manze (vn)

'Andrew Manze’s vivid notes stress the 19-year-old composer’s...' Read review

 

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No 2

Beethoven Violin Concerto

Isabelle Faust (vn) Orchestra Mozart / Claudio Abbado

'The Beethoven and Berg violin concertos aren’t commonly paired on...' Read review

 

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No 3

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

Daniel Hope (vn) Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Thomas Hengelbrock

'Daniel Hope has a chameleon-like ability to...' Read review

 

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No 4

Brahms Violin Concerto

Julia Fischer (vn) Netherlands PO / Yakov Kreizberg

'Now well in her stride as a recording artist, German violinist Julia...' Read review

 

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No 5

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

James Ehnes (vn) Sydney SO / Vladimir Ashkenazy

'James Ehnes’s programme, complementing the Concerto with the rest of...' Read review

 

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No 6

Bruch Violin Concerto No 1

Julia Fischer (vn) Tonhalle Orchestra / David Zinman

'Her bright, attenuated sound, vibrantly expressive but never overbearing...' Read review

 

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No 7

Berg Violin Concerto

Isabelle Faust (vn) Orchestra Mozart / Claudio Abbado

'The Beethoven and Berg violin concertos aren’t commonly paired on...' Read review

 

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No 8

Bartók Violin Concerto No 2

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (vn) Frankfurt RSO / Peter Eötvös

'Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto has long since...' Read review

 

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No 9

Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 2

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (vn) LPO / Vladimir Jurowski

'In the last movement of Prokofiev’s...' Read review

 

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No 10

Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1

Lisa Batiashvili (vn) Bavarian RSO / Esa-Pekka Salonen

'The new-found popularity of Shostakovich’s greatest concerto has...' Read review

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Top 10 symphonies

Guest Wed 30th April 2014

For those seeking to build a classical collection, these 10 symphonies are an ideal place to start

Top 10 symphonies
Top 10 symphonies

A brief history of the symphony

The symphony first appeared on programmes – inevitably in aristocratic settings – during the early years of the 18th century, often a natural development from the Italian overture (which usually comprised three movements). By the 1770s, the four-movement form we usually think of was established and one of its earliest (and still one of the greatest) exponents was Joseph Haydn who wrote 104 symphonies. Mozart’s 41 took the symphony on a step and, as the 18th century dawned, Beethoven infused the form with a new expressivity and power. His Third Symphony, known as the Eroica, burst into the world in 1805 and extended the length of the symphony dramatically (its first movement alone is longer than many complete symphonies written a couple of decades earlier). Beethoven’s nine symphonies remain the pinnacle of the form, performed daily and still providing spiritual nourishment to audiences of every nationality and creed.

The 19th century found most of the great composers writing symphonies – Schubert (eight), Brahms (four), Schumann (four), Mendelssohn (five), Tchaikovsky (six, seven if you include the Manfred), Dvořák (nine) for example.

The four movements – usually fast, slow, faster, faster – often included a dance form as one of the central movements (usually third), and often a theme and variation form might be included (Beethoven’s Third) or a variant such as a passacaglia (Brahms’s Fourth). As a vehicle for expression, the symphony had assumed a major role and reached its apogee in the years surrounding the turn of the 20th century. Bruckner’s nine extended the length yet again, and Mahler, as he famously told Sibelius, believed the symphony ‘should embrace the world’: he used his 10 (or 11 if you include the song-symphony Das Lied von der Erde) to explore psychological states and philosophical questions that still mesh powerfully with audiences 100 years after his death.

The 20th century found the ‘centre of gravity’ of symphonic writing shift north from its Austro-German heartland to Scandinavia and Russia/Soviet Union. The Finn Sibelius wrote seven, the Dane Nielsen six, and the Soviets Shostakovich (14) and Prokofiev (seven) contributed greatly to the genre. The French and Italians largely ignored the form, though it was taken up enthusiastically in America (Copland, Hanson, Bernstein, Harris, Piston and others). In the UK – and largely from practitioners of late-Romantic, tonal writing – the symphony flourished in the 20th century: Elgar wrote two, Bax seven, Walton two, Vaughan Williams nine (continuing to write symphonies when the musical public had imagined he’d delivered his last word in the genre) and Malcolm Arnold (nine).

Today’s major symphonists – and the form has rather fallen from favour (partly no doubt to constraints of time and budgets!) – include Philip Glass (nine), Leif Segerstam (261! as of 2012), Maxwell Davies (nine), Per Nørgård (eight) and David Matthews (seven).

Width of Text & Centred

No 1

Mozart Symphony No 40

Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Sir Charles Mackerras

'There is no need to argue the credentials of Sir Charles...' Review

 

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No 2

Beethoven Symphony No 5

ORR / Sir John Eliot Gardiner

'So palpable is the excitement of these live performances that it...Review


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No 3

Dvořák Symphony No 9

Budapest Festival Orchestra / Iván Fischer

'Iván Fischer is truly “one on his own”, a fund of fascinating...Review

 

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No 4

Tchaikovsky Symphony No 6

Philharmonia Orchestra / Sir Charles Mackerras

'There is an immediacy and incisive, almost forensic clarity to this...Review

 

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No 5

Bruckner Symphony No 5

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Nikolaus Harnoncourt

'The word "vision" is much misused these days yet to talk of...Review

 

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No 6

Mahler Symphony No 5

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle

'It made a fine nuptial offering for Rattle and the Berliners...Review

 

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No 7

Sibelius Symphony No 5

Lahti Symphony Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä

'Every so often a CD appears which, by means of some...Review

 

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No 8

Copland Symphony No 3

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra / James Judd

'This time there’s no question about Naxos claiming these two...Review

 

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No 9

Prokofiev Symphony No 5

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle

'A Prokofiev Fifth as vibrant, intelligent and meticulously prepared...Review

 

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No 10

Shostakovich Symphony No 10

RLPO / Vasily Petrenko

'Petrenko’s Shostakovich cycle goes from strength to strength...' Review

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Top 10 piano concertos

Gramophone Tue 15th April 2014

The top 10 piano concertos – from Mozart to Rachmaninov – with highly recommended recordings

Top 10 piano concertos

One of the richest corners of the repertoire (and one of the most popular) in which a solo piano is pitted against the orchestra – with invariably thrilling results. Mozart may have lifted the piano concerto into the modern age, but in the hands of the great Romantic masters it became a form for expression of colossal variety. Here are 10 of the greatest of all piano concertos.

No 1

Mozart Piano Concerto No 27

Andreas Staier (pf) Freiburg Baroque Orchestra / Gottfried von der Goltz

'A controversial point in the keyboard...' Read review

 

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No 2

Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5

Paul Lewis (pf) BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jiří Bělohlávek

'Lewis’s first entry in the Adagio has a slight catch...' Read review

 

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No 3

Brahms Piano Concerto No 1

Nelson Freire (pf) Gewandhaus Orchestra / Riccardo Chailly

'This is the Brahms piano concerto set we’ve been waiting for...' Read review

 

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No 4

Schumann Piano Concerto

Leif Ove Andsnes (pf) BPO / Mariss Jansons

'I particularly like the free-flowing tempo for the central Andantino...' Read review

 

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No 5

Grieg Piano Concerto

Leif Ove Andsnes (pf) BPO / Mariss Jansons

'However many times he has performed the Grieg, Andsnes retains a freshness and expressiveness...' Read review

 

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No 6

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1

Martha Argerich (pf) BPO / Claudio Abbado

'Lyrical and insinuating, to a degree her performance seems to be made of the...' Read review

 

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No 7

Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3

Martha Argerich (pf) BPO / Claudio Abbado

'There have been others to match the bustle and brilliance of Argerich's...' Read review

 

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No 8

Ravel Piano Concerto

Krystian Zimerman (pf) Cleveland Orchestra / Pierre Boulez

'Zimerman’s pianism is self-recommending. His trills in the first movement of...' Read review

 

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No 9

Bartók Piano Concerto No 2

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (pf) BBC PO / Gianandrea Noseda

'If you’re after a disc of Bartók’s piano concertos that maximises on the music’s...' Read review

 

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No 10

Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2

Leif Ove Andsnes (pf) BPO / Antonio Pappano

'Andsnes here gives the lie to those who find his playing on the cool side...' Read review

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Top 10 Bach recordings

Gramophone Tue 14th January 2014

Here are 10 works by Bach that are essential listening; and once bitten the Bach Bug will take you on a journey of almost limitless reward

No 1

Orchestral Suites

Ensemble Sonnerie / Monica Huggett

'“Orchestral Suites for a young prince” is what this release advertises, in reference to the fact...' Review

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No 2

Brandenburg Concertos

European Brandenburg Ensemble / Trevor Pinnock 

'When Trevor Pinnock first recorded the Brandenburgs with the English...Review


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No 3

Violin Concertos

Daniel Hope; Chamber Orchestra of Europe

'First impressions suggest a high-energy, tightly accented...Review

 

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No 4

Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould (pf)

'This truly astonishing performance was recorded in 1981, 26 years...Review

 

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No 5

Partitas

Trevor Pinnock

'Hanssler’s eclectic approach to its ongoing complete Bach series...Review

 

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No 6

Cello Suites

Steven Isserlis

'Though these two new recordings of the Bach Cello Suites sound rather different, reading the...'Review

 

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No 7

Well-tempered Clavier

Angela Hewitt 

'Listening to Angela Hewitt’s latest thoughts on Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier alongside her...Review

 

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No 8

Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas

Rachel Podger

'As a matter of tactics disregarding the printed order of the works...Review

 

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No 9

Mass in B minor

Soloists; Dunedin Consort and Players / John Butt

'There are few who strive sincerely to juxtapose the bedfellows...Review

 

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No 10

St Matthew Passion

Soloists; Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Concentus Musicus Wien / Nikolaus Harnoncourt

'Harnoncourt has waited over...' Review


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Top 10 Chopin recordings

Gramophone Fri 28th November 2014

Our guide to the ten best ways to expand your Chopin collection

Top 10 Chopin recordings
Top 10 Chopin recordings

One of the most loved and frequently recorded composers of all, here is our guide to the ten best ways to expand your Chopin collection

No 1

Piano Concertos

Martha Argerich pf Montreal SO / Charles Dutoit

(Warner Classics)

'Allure, brilliance and idiosyncrasy' Read review

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No 2

Cello Sonata

Raphael Wallfisch vc John York pf

(Nimbus)

'The expressive weight of each phrase is carefully considered' Read review

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No 3

Piano Sonatas

Janina Fialkowska pf

(ATMA Classique)

'Lesser mortals may well weep with envy at such unfaltering authority' Read review

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No 4

Four Ballades

Murray Perahia pf

(Sony Classical) 

'Every intricacy is resolved with a translucency that few could equal' Read review

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No 5

Etudes

Jan Lisiecki pf

(DG)

'Lisiecki gives us tone-poems first and studies second' Read review

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No 6

Mazurkas

Vladimir Ashkenazy pf

(Decca)

'Ashkenazy memorably catches their volatile character, and their essential sadness' Read review

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No 7

Nocturnes

Maria João Pires pf

(DG)

'Among the most eloquent master-musicians of our time' Read review

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No 8

Polonaises

Arthur Rubinstein pf

(Naxos)

'Rubinstein played the piano as a fish swims in water or a bird flies through the air' Read review

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No 9

Preludes

Ingrid Fliter pf 

(Linn Records)

'Fliter seems to be able to achieve individuality seemingly effortlessly' Read review

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No 10

Waltzes

Dinu Lipatti pf

(Warner Classics)

'I doubt if the disc will ever find itself long absent from the catalogue' Read review

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