Classical Companion

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Christopher Breunig  |  Nov 08, 2019
Held back from performing in the West until he was 45, the Odessa musician could be idiosyncratic or sound overwrought. Christopher Breunig looks at his life and legacy

Wait until you hear Richter' was the reaction to praise when Soviet pianist Emil Gilels made his 1955 States debut. And whereas he and violinist David Oistrakh both performed with American orchestras that year, audiences had to wait a further five before the authorities allowed Gilels' Ukrainian colleague to appear at Carnegie Hall, New York, and in Boston and Chicago.

Christopher Breunig  |  Oct 18, 2019
The Dresden musician's oboe and pianoforte playing pushed him into the role of conductor. Christopher Breunig looks at this great Straussian's extensive repertoire

Rummaging through a box of unsorted CDs I came across a 1972 orchestral concert by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra [Scribendum SC 004]. The conductor was Rudolf Kempe, one of my most admired artists but someone I hadn't written about in this HFN series we began in July '14. (Incidentally, the soloist there, in Mozart's Piano Concerto K595, was Friedrich Gulda, liberally sprinkling decoration over his part, whereas his DG studio recording with VPO/Abbado is almost bereft of it.)

Christopher Breunig  |  Sep 10, 2019
Composed when he was 34, this tone poem for large orchestra quotes from his earlier works and Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Christopher Breunig looks at the recordings

Go back 60 years and look at the LP catalogue and you'll only find a single version of Richard Strauss's 1898 tone poem Op.40, Ein Heldenleben ['A Hero's Life'], with the Vienna Philharmonic, no less, under Clemens Krauss. He was a conductor largely associated with that composer [Decca 478 6493 has all his orchestral recordings and includes the opera Salome] as well as the 'other' Strausses.

Christopher Breunig  |  Aug 06, 2019
At one time this music was deemed 'not for the man in the street', although times have changed! Christopher Breunig suggests choices from choral, solo and chamber works

I guess the Fifth Symphony is the work that makes listeners sit up and begin to explore the music of Beethoven. Its opening dot-dot-dot-dash motif was used by the Allies as a Victory emblem for broadcasts to occupied Europe.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jul 03, 2019
He was an idealistic figure, founding the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and even working to improve the Steinway grand. Christopher Breunig looks at his career

Six years ago no-one would have dreamt that the most recommendable recordings of the two Elgar Symphonies would come from Stockholm and Berlin. The second pair, with the Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim, reflected a renewed interest in music introduced to the aspiring young musician by Sir John Barbirolli back in the early 1970s.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jun 05, 2019
A turning point for the composer, this great romantic piece was introduced to a wider audience with the film Brief Encounter. Christopher Breunig offers his library choices

Anyone who has seen the 1945 British film classic Brief Encounter will remember the music that enhanced the performances by the two principal stars, Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard – Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto. (The pianist for the soundtrack was Eileen Joyce.)

Christopher Breunig  |  May 08, 2019
There's more to this composer than 'Fingal's Cave' and the 'Italian' Symphony. Christopher Breunig offers some recommendations for your record collection

Ilooked over my Symphony and the Minuet – Lord! – bored me to tears, it was so monotonous.' That was the 20-year-old Felix Mendelssohn, about to come to London in 1829 to present his first (orchestral) symphony, and writing to his parents.

Christopher Breunig  |  Apr 23, 2019

Kirill Petrenko's two September Prom concerts and, a few months earlier at The Barbican, a Mahler Seventh, suggest a promising new chapter opening for the Berliner Philharmoniker – as we Brits must learn to call it, the German title now unerlässlich.

Christopher Breunig  |  Mar 12, 2019
Winning a conducting prize at Tanglewood kick-started his career, and at Boston he dived into recording at the deep end. Christopher Breunig gives a resume

In some recitals with other kids all playing nice-sounding pieces, I'd come crashing in with Bartók, or some American composers I was already playing – Henry Cowell, for instance.' That was Michael Tilson Thomas, looking back to his pre-teens in an interview given in the June '87 issue of HFN when he was working and recording with the London Symphony Orchestra as its principal conductor (he's now the LSO's Conductor Laureate).

Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 01, 2018
A child prodigy from Russia whose technical aplomb was miraculous, but whose persona many perceived as icy. Christopher Breunig names his favourite recordings

For the violinist Itzhak Perlman, and others of his generation, the subject of this month's Classical Companion was a deity – 'I can't believe it. I'm talking to God – to Heifetz' he said of first meeting him when he was 14. But as Jascha Heifetz died in 1987, perhaps he's just a name on a CD cover to today's aspiring young violinists.

Christopher Breunig  |  Nov 01, 2018
Perhaps the last great Russian Romantic symphony, it was premiered by the composer himself in 1908. Christopher Breunig has been listening to some modern recordings

'A six and a half foot scowl' was how Stravinsky defined his fellow compatriot composer (they both left Russia for the States). But there's plenty of historic film which shows this aperçu was wide of the mark. You can see him on the boat crossing the Atlantic, relaxing with family and friends in America, and standing with one of the big cars he enjoyed there [to the accompaniment of the slow movt of Symphony No 2 in the 1959 RCA/Sony Ormandy recording]. But we have no performance material, alas, either as pianist or conductor.

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