The Brahms Piano Concerto is a work of heroic proportions, and it has attracted performers of superb technique and great stamina. Superstar virtuosos such as Vladimir Horowitz and Sviatoslav Richter have been challenged to leave their mark on this work's interpretation. We'lll hear some of the outstanding recordings of this famous concerto.
Classics of the Phonograph with John Frayne
One Italian writer has spoken of "the fatal charm of Italy." Lured by the beauty of Italy, travelers often don't want to go home. So it is with composers, especially from Northern Europe. The sunshine and warmth of Italy released in them an outpouring of warm lyricism. Mendelssohn leads the parade, but later Richard Strauss and Edward Elgar succumbed to the peninsula's charm. As spring approaches, we will hear some of this alluring music.
Teresa Sterne, born in 1927, was a child prodigy as a pianist. Later, she worked in the record business. In 1965, she began making recording history as director of Nonesuch Records. She made memorable recordings with new young artists, and she produced recordings of the music of composers who became famous as a result. On the occasion of her death in 2000, Nonesuch issued an album with highlights of her career. We'll sample famous recordings she made.
Daniel Barenboim is a man of outstanding achievements, not the least of which is his successful attempt to carry on careers as both piano virtuoso and conductor. Barenboim always wanted to conduct, and his chance came in the 1950s to conduct from the keyboard in Mozart piano concertos. In the 1960s he began conducting full symphony concerts, and he has led some of the world's major symphony orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony. We'll hear some of his recordings.
The harp is one of the most beautiful sounding of all instruments. It has attracted composers since the times of Handel to write concertos for it. Across the centuries, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Boieldieu, and down to Joaquin Rodrigo have written alluring concerted works for it. We'll hear how great harpists of the past have played this music.
The Minnesota Orchestra is in the headlines these days. It has just emerged from a long labor dispute, during which it lost its star conductor, Osmo Vanska. Earlier called the Minneapolis Symphony, it has over the decades been led by a series of fine conductors, from Eugene Ormandy in the 1930s down to recent years. We'll hear some of the orchestra's earlier recordings.
No composer writes only masterpieces. But Ottorino Respighi is a special case. A few of his works, like "Fountains of Rome," can be heard wherever classical music is played. But many of his compositions are rarely, if ever, played. So, if there is a problem, what is it? We'll play some of the "unknown Respighi."
In the early 20th century, the string quartet form was alive and well. Sibelius, who was famous for symphonies, wrote one entitled Intimate Voices, and Leon Janacek, famous for operas, wrote quartets with the titles, The Kreutzer Sonata, and Intimate Letters. We'll sample some of these quartets.
German conductor Kurt Masur survived 26 years as the conductor of Communist East Germany's premiere orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. After 11 years of improving the playing of the New York Philharmonic, he was forced out in 2002. Masur made many records, and his specialty was music of the Romantic Period. We'll hear his distinctive way with Mendelssohn and Schumann.
With the sad news of the passing of the great Italian conductor Claudio Abbado, I am changing the subject of this week's program. Over the past half century, Abbado has made outstanding recordings of a large range of repertory, from Mozart to Mahler, from Rossini to Verdi and beyond. We'll play a representative sampling of his recordings.