Classical Companion

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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  |  May 27, 2020
Warner Classics and Deutsche Grammophon are early to the party, with huge boxed CD editions. Christopher Breunig suggests more affordable library must-haves

In 1970, Deutsche Grammophon marked the bicentenary of the birth of Beethoven with LP box sets, part reissue partly new recordings, to provide the first comprehensive Edition. (Philips did much the same for Mozart but marking 200 years after he had died – this time all CDs.)

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  |  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  |  Mar 19, 2020
Composed when he was influenced by the Knaben Wunderhorn collected folk poems it stands unique in form and aspiration. Christopher Breunig offers an introduction

As this issue of HFN is likely to reach you during the festive period, why not a piece that starts with sleigh-bells? No, not Leroy Anderson, but Mahler's fourth symphony, written in 1899-1900, and first performed in Munich in November 1901. The UK premiere came just a few years later in a 1905 Prom concert with Sir Henry Wood.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jun 16, 2020
Outpacing her father when they both were learning the violin, she has become one of the most intrepid of today's musicians. Christopher Breunig focuses on the highights

We record collectors first became aware of the violinist Isabelle Faust 23 years ago, when in its 'Nouveaux Interpretes' series Harmonia Mundi issued a coupling of Bartók Sonatas, where she was partnered by the Polish pianist Ewa Kupiec. I remember what was probably their London debut recital at that time. In 2003 they recorded a mixture of pieces by Janáček, Lutoslawski and Szymanowski.

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  |  Jul 14, 2020
A staple musical diet option for many of us, distasteful to a few, these four works come in a variety of flavours. Christopher Breunig suggests complete and partial choices

Aimez-vous Brahms?' asked Françoise Sagan in 1959 (well, it was the title of her novel, actually). For some reason, Benjamin Britten did not like much of Brahms's music – he retained a soft spot for the D-minor Piano Concerto and the early Piano Quartet. But, writing in his prewar diaries, he considered Symphony No 1 to be 'pretentious' and No 2 'ugly and gauche'.

Christopher Breunig  |  Feb 04, 2020
A tireless American virtuoso, he began his Decca discography as the 78rpm era ended. Now it's all boxed together at a bargain price. Christopher Breunig takes a listen

Exasperated by the pianist's fussiness over phrasing, when recording Brahms's D-minor Concerto with the LSO in 1962, George Szell conducting [HFN Aug '18] told him to 'just play the f***ing notes'.

Christopher Breunig  |  Apr 17, 2020
Training complete, he followed in his father's footsteps working with the Leningrad Philharmonic but his final years were in Munich. Christopher Breunig tells the story

When Herbert von Karajan took the Berlin Philharmonic to Moscow and Leningrad in 1969 he also gave a conducting masterclass for 12 students, where he was impressed most by the young Latvian Mariss Jansons, then 26. Jansons sat in on rehearsals where he said the orchestra 'played at two-hundred per cent capacity. It was unbelievable'. (Melodiya briefly issued on CD the Shostakovich Tenth from the Karajan concert.)

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  |  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  |  Sep 08, 2020
Were these meant to be heard as a single entity? Does the theory survive scrutiny? Christopher Breunig suggests library versions both 'historically aware' and traditional

When Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Teldec recording of Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony appeared in 1985, his sleeve essay suggested the score was in fact a musical translation of a cathartic event from his youth, (i) concerning his mother's death, and (ii) the subsequent reconciliation with his father, and as such complete.

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  |  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.

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