At the heart of this programme of Beethoven songs performed by Ian Bostridge and Sir Antonio Pappano is the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved). It dates from 1816, the year that saw the publication of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. Setting six poems by Alois Jeitteles, it is generally acknowledged to be the first example of a song cycle, a genre that became important in the 19th and 20th centuries. Beethoven creates a coherent whole, linking songs together with brief piano interludes and closing the circle by recalling material from the opening song in the final song.
“Somehow the most concentrated 13 or 14 minutes of music that Beethoven ever wrote,” is how Antonio Pappano describes An die ferne Geliebte. For Ian Bostridge, the cycle is an expression of Beethoven the romantic rather than the striving, heroic Beethoven we often perceive in the symphonies and concertos. “It’s a distillation of Beethoven as lover, but his beloved is far away and he can never reach her. The sadness of that is so poignant.” (Beethoven was notoriously unlucky in love.) It is through the manifestations of nature – and through his songs – that the lover in An die ferne Geliebte senses a connection with his beloved. Bostridge draws an analogy with the composer: “Beethoven puts his feelings into music on a piece of paper and sends it out to the world. It is rather like the dedication he made on the score of the Missa Solemnis.” After he had written that epic choral work, which came a few years after An die ferne Geliebte, Beethoven inscribed the score with the words: “Vom Herzen, möge es wieder, zu Herzen gehen!” – “From the heart: may it go in turn to the heart.”
Among the other songs on the album, the best known is the rapturously lyrical ‘Adelaide’, which dates from the mid-1790s. In a very different vein is a song to an Italian text, ‘In questa tomba oscura’ (1806-7), in which a dead man admonishes his faithless lover: “The textures of the piano reflect the darkness and bitterness of the text,” says Antonio Pappano. He also feels that Beethoven had an influence on the Italian opera: “I don’t think Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini would have been possible without Beethoven.”
Bostridge and Pappano are joined by violinist Vilde Frang and cellist Nicolas Altstaedt for eight of Beethoven’s charming settings (in English) of folksongs from the British Isles. Between 1809 and 1823, the composer arranged more than 160 song melodies at the request of his publisher in Edinburgh, George Thomson. “These arrangements were essentially commercial ventures,” explains Bostridge, “but Beethoven put some amazing music for piano trio into them.” Pappano concurs: “They’re real drawing-room music because they are for piano, voice, violin and cello. When we all play together, it’s like a family making music at home.”
The BBC Proms has revealed its 2018 programme, with several French classical stars making their Proms debut.
On 5 September, Joyce DiDonato reprises the role of Dido in highlights from Berlioz's Les Troyens, this time with John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. The American mezzo's recent recording with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and maestro John Nelson won the BBC Music Magazine Award for Best Opera Album earlier this month.
French coloratura soprano Sabine Devieilhe will take to the Royal Albert Hall stage for the first time on 26 July in Debussy's sensual cantata La Damoiselle élue, marking the centenary of the French composer's death. She sings Debussy on her latest album of French arias and songs, Mirages.
In another important French debut, Romantic pianist extraordinaire Bertrand Chamayou plays Mendelssohn's First Concerto on 20 July, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
At Cadogan Hall, on 23 July, Jean Rondeau: another Frenchman in another Proms debut, this time an all-French harpsichord recital including music by Royer (from his album Vertigo), François Couperin and a world-premiere by Eve Risser.
Violinist Renaud Capuçon was in London recently for the launch of his Bartók concertos album with the London Symphony Orchestra. He returns 19 August with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande as soloist in an orchestration of the Ravel Violin Sonata in G Major.
Soprano Diana Damrau sings her heartland repertory, songs by Richard Strauss, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko.
A conductor very much familiar to London audiences, Sir Antonio Pappano, brings his Italian Orchestra dell'Accadamia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to town for Bernstein's Symphony No.1 marking the centenary of the American composer's birth in August. Pappano has recorded the complete Bernstein Symphonies and The Age of Anxiety with the same orchestra and pianist Beatrice Rana for release later this year.
Discover the complete 2018 BBC Proms line-up here.
Warner Classics has claimed two prizes at the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony, held last night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast live on the CBS network.
British tenor Ian Bostridge, together with Sir Antonio Pappano at the piano, received the award for Best Classical Vocal Album for their critically acclaimed Shakespeare Songs, tying with Dorothea Röschmann and Mitsuko Uchida's Schumann. The wide-ranging recital explores four centuries of Shakespeare settings from William Byrd to Igor Stravinsky, marking the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. The duo were joined by special guests Elizabeth Kenny on lute, flautist Adam Walker, violist Lawrence Power and clarinetist Michael Collins.
"It has been a great joy to rediscover the music in Shakespeare's incomparable texts and the music that has been written over the past four centuries to clothe them," said Bostridge. "Working again with Tony Pappano has been a particular pleasure."
The Best Choral Performance Grammy, meanwhile, went to the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra and choir with composer-conductor Krzysztof Penderecki for the milestone recording Penderecki Conducts Penderecki. The album unites huge vocal and orchestral forces for the a collection of sacred music by Poland's greatest living composer, including the world premiere recording of his Dies Illa. The 83-year-old Penderecki has described the human voice as "the most difficult of instruments".
The nominations for the 59th GRAMMY Awards have been announced, with three Warner Classics and Erato releases among the Classical albums to receive the nod.
A milestone release from Poland has been nominated in the Best Choral Performance category: the first volume in a series entitled Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, in which the legendary 82-year-old composer helms the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir and distinguished soloists in both new works (including the world premiere of his Dies illa) and iconic masterpieces.
French soprano Sabine Devieilhe's tribute to the women in Mozart's life, The Weber Sisters, is up for Best Classical Vocal Album.
In the same category is British tenor Ian Bostridge's new recital with Sir Antonio Pappano at the piano, Shakespeare Songs, exploring four centuries of Shakespearean poetry in song to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death.
The GRAMMY winners will be announced on 12 February 2017 in a Los Angeles ceremony. See the complete list of nominees here.
"It's rare to hear such a flawless Triumphal March on disc," opined Opernwelt of this all-star studio recording from Rome featuring Anja Harteros in the title role, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Ludovic Tézier, Ekaterina Semenchuk and Erwin Schrott.
"This is a dynamically complex studio recording with outstanding qualities," wrote the Schallplattenkritik jury.
Pappano's Aida already took home Recording of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine and the French Diapason awards, Opera Recording of the Year in the Gramophone Awards, and The Times UK's Classical Album of the Year - just to name a few accolades.
We are proud to announce that Warner Classics has been crowned Label of the Year at the prestigious Gramophone Awards in London. Now in its 39th edition, the Gramophone Awards are known as the ‘Oscars of classical music’. Warner Classics and its sister label Erato were also recipient of three category wins this year including the Opera , Recital, Concerto Awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to the legendary German singer Christa Ludwig, the favourite mezzo-soprano of Karajan, Böhm and Bernstein, for a career spanning over 45 years.
Label of the Year winner, Warner Classics, was represented by the label’s President, Alain Lanceron and Head of Classics UK, Patrick Lemanski, who collected the trophy from Gramophone’s Editor Martin Cullingford. In their citation, James Jolly and Martin Cullingford said: “Nurturing new artists, showing complete belief in them and giving them the devoted commitment they need to become tomorrow’s greats; honouring recording’s heritage with beautiful presentation and bringing it alive for a new generation; and continuing that golden tradition in our own day, with a no-expense-spared studio opera drawing on the talents of today’s leading artists: these are three facets of Warner Classics that come together to make them a worthy winner of our 2016 Label of the Year Award.”
Alain Lanceron accepted the award and commented: “Who would have thought in 2012, when the catalogues of EMI and Virgin were sold to Warner in an unstable climate, that four years later the label Warner Classics would receive the prestigious and coveted accolade of Gramophone Label of the Year? It is the proof that the guiding principles that led us to revive this label, with important new signings alongside deep catalogue exploitation, has borne fruit and that Warner Classics today holds a place in the hearts of classical music lovers all over the world. Thank you to Gramophone for this recognition and to all our artists and the Warner Classics team who make the label what it is today."
Patrick Lemanski, Head of Warner Classics UK, added: “I am absolutely delighted to celebrate together with all my UK Warner Classics team, the prestigious Label of the Year Award from Gramophone. It has been a fantastic year, ranging from ambitious frontline projects such as Pappano’s Aida to the magnificent legacy boxes honouring the talent of music icons like Yehudi Menuhin or Itzhak Perlman. I’m really pleased and proud to see all these efforts recognised and acknowledged by the fair judges at Gramophone magazine.”
Other big winners on the night included Sir Antonio Pappano for his studio recording of Verdi’s Aida (“Grand Opera doesn’t get grander than this,” opined the Gramophone critics). The Music Director of the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia accepted the award on stage: “I want to thank Stephen Johns (producer) and Jonathan Allen (engineer), and the vision of Alain Lanceron and his Warner Classics team. Thank you Alain for your continued believe in me and our Santa Cecilia Orchestra and in the power of Giuseppe Verdi who will always knock us dead, every time!”
Concerto category winner Vilde Frang played Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra live in front of a captivated audience before accepting her award for the critically acclaimed Korngold and Britten album on Warner Classics (Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, James Gaffigan).
Conductor Raphaël Pichon accepted the Recital Award on behalf of his wife and artistic collaborator, French soprano Sabine Devieilhe, for their Mozart & the Weber Sisters album on Erato.
For the first time, the Gramophone Awards ceremony was streamed live by medici.tv, with parallel streams on classicfm.com and gramophone.co.uk. A celebratory Awards CD featuring full tracks from each of the winning recordings is available at Amazon.co.uk.
The winners of the 2016 Gramophone Classical Music Awards have been revealed, with Warner Classics and Erato recordings claiming prizes in three of the twelve categories.
The coveted Best Opera award this year goes to Warner Classics' widely acclaimed studio recording of Verdi's Aïda conducted in Rome by Sir Antonio Pappano, with an all-star cast (Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ludovic Tézier, Erwin Schrott, Ekaterina Semenchuk) and the Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia.
Gramophone praised the "orchestral playing of rare accomplishment from an Italian ensemble which is alive to the opera’s every word," while hailing soprano Anja Harteros "the most interesting Aida on record since Callas."
Norwegian star violinist Vilde Frang was up against stiff competition including Janine Jansen, Daniil Trifonov and Maria João Pires but came out on top for the Best Concerto Recording with her deeply personal, intense readings of Britten and Korngold Violin Concertos. The Gramophone critics were captivated by this "exciting player" and her "urgently communicative, potentially transformative accounts" of these two twentieth-century masterpieces.
"Playing with almost intimidating dexterity and polish, not to mention impeccable intonation (it comes as no surprise to discover that Anne-Sophie Mutter was an early mentor), her music-making still manages to project an impression of honesty and naturalness."
Young French soprano Sabine Devieilhe's star has well and truly risen with her second album for Erato, The Weber Sisters, which wins Best Recital exploring the arias Mozart wrote for three opera-singer sisters - his first love, his wife, and the first Queen of the Night. Devieilhe portrays these three 'characters' with effortless grace and thrilling highs.
"The programme centres around three magnificent showpiece arias for Aloysia, famed both for her expressive cantabile and her coloratura prowess," explained the Gramophone critic. "Among her specialities were sustained pianissimo high notes; and I can’t imagine they were more delicately floated than they are by Sabine Devieilhe, a lyric coloratura who combines a pure, sweet timbre and dazzling virtuosity."
Both Vilde Frang and Sir Antonio Pappano are in the running for the Artist of the Year award, which will be announced - along with the winners of Recording of the Year, Young Artist of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and Label of the Year - during the awards ceremony at London's St John's Smith Square on September 15 (streamed live by medici.tv).
Giordano's Andrea Chénier, first seen in Milan in 1896, is loosely based on the life of the poet André Chénier, born in Constantinople in 1762. Caught up in the turmoil of the French Revolution, in 1794 he became one of Robespierre’s last victims during the Reign of Terror. In the opera, Andrea falls in love with an aristocrat, Maddalena di Coigny, whom he first meets at her mother’s château in Act 1, which takes place in the earliest days of the Revolution. His rival for Maddalena’s love is Carlo Gérard, a servant in the Coigny household who goes on to become a powerful revolutionary.
In September, Warner Classics releases the 2015 Covent Garden production of Giordano's Romantic masterpiece on DVD and Blu-Ray. This "scrupulously researched and exquisitely realised production" (The Independent), directed by Sir David McVicar, is an operatic spectacle in the grand tradition, with a large cast, atmospheric decor, lavish costumes and expansive emotions.
At the podium for Covent Garden's first production of the opera in 30 years, was Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House. The New York Times praised his interpretation of Giordano’s gripping score as “dynamically alive to every possibility”, adding that: “Like many a Pappano night at Covent Garden, it suggested a conductor in command of everything he undertakes, whatever period, style or provenance.”
The title role in Giordano’s opera Andrea Chénier, an epic of the French Revolution, demands much of a star tenor. As might be expected, in his debut as Chénier, Jonas Kaufmann rose superbly to the challenge. The Financial Times, having likened Kaufmann to a portrait by the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David, said: “He has never sounded better...His dark tenor smoulders with the heat of a poet’s unfulfilled ardour and his top notes ring out effortlessly.”
The role of Maddalena is taken by the rich-voiced and impassioned Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek, a favourite at Covent Garden in works by Puccini and his contemporaries, while the emotionally conflicted Gérard is sung by the charismatic and vocally authoritative Serbian baritone Zeljko Lučić, who received "the biggest ovation" and "hit the bullseye" (The Telegraph) in "a beautifully sung, handsomely acted portrait of a revolutionary politician". (The Guardian.)
The impressive supporting cast includes three powerful mezzo-sopranos: Denyce Graves, glamorous of presence and timbre as Maddalena’s faithful maid Bersi; Rosalind Plowright (who, as a soprano in the 1980s, sang Maddalena to José Carreras’ Chénier at the Royal Opera House) is the Contessa di Coigny, and the compelling Elena Zilio takes the role of old Madelon, who sends her grandson to fight for the Revolution.
With all these crucial musical and scenic elements in place, this is just the kind of full-blooded performance that brings the sweeping drama of Andrea Chénier irresistibly to life.
Andrea Chénier from Covent Garden, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Zeljko Lučić, will be available in September on Warner Classics on DVD and Blu-Ray.
The prestigious Gramophone Awards shortlist has been announced, showcasing the finest classical recordings over the past year, as chosen by the leading classical music magazine's critics and specialists.
Seventy-two recordings have been shortlisted across twelve categories. The top three recordings in each category will be revealed in next issue of the magazine, which goes on sale on August 12.
There are particularly strong contenders in the Vocal categories, with French soprano Sabine Devieilhe - noted by Gramophone for her "pure, sweet timbre and dazzling virtuosity" - up against the likes of Jonas Kaufmann and Max Emanuel Cencic for her multi-award-winning Mozart album The Weber Sisters (Recital category).
Fresh from singing David Bowie at the BBC Proms in London, French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is in the running for another prize, this time as one of the cast-members in Il Pomo d'Oro's magnificent triple-album recording of the Handel opera Partenope, welcomed by Gramophone as “a landmark event”.
Joyce DiDonato is a strong candidate for the Solo Vocal category for her live double album from Wigmore Hall Joyce & Tony, with her esteemed recital partner Sir Antonio Pappano at the piano in everything from Italian arias to the Great American Songbook.
In Opera, Pappano's Verdi Aïda, the all-star triple album studio recording from Rome, is a clear frontrunner, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Rademes - he is nominated again in the same category for his Pagliacci. Gramophone declared soprano Anja Harteros "the most interesting Aïda on record since Callas"; both she and maestro Pappano have been nominated for the public-voted Artist of the Year.
Among the Instrumental selections, Bertrand Chamayou does his countryman Ravel proud in the complete works for solo piano on a double album.
The Concerto category sees young Norwegian violin virtuoso Vilde Frang holding her own alongside the likes of Janine Jansen, with the recent Gramophone Recording of the Month, her "urgently communicative" Britten and Korngold Violin Concertos.
The Chamber category sees two Erato string quartets nominated for two sublime releases: the French Quatuor Ebène for their Schubertalbum featuring baritone Matthias Goerne and cellist Gautier Capuçon, and the German Artemis Quartet's searing Brahms, their last recording with the late, lamented violist Friedemann Weigle, which cellist Eckart Runge sees as "imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.
See the full shortlist of the 2016 Gramophone Award nominees here.
It’s the second year in a row that Warner Classics and Erato have taken the lion’s share in the ECHO Klassik Awards, the prestigious German classical music prizes revealed today. Artists from the two labels claimed a total of twelve accolades for excellence in classical recording and performance, including one for the Warner Classics-distributed Euroarts DVD label.
Philippe Jaroussky has been crowned Singer of the Year for the second time (his 5th ECHO Klassik) – the only countertenor ever named in this category to date. He receives the prize for his album Green, a journey through French chanson settings of poetry by Paul Verlaine.
From the Francophile flair of his last recital album, Jaroussky chose to sing in German for the first time for his highly-anticipated recording of Bach and Telemann cantatas with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, to be released in October. And as this year’s artist in residence at the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Hamburg, set to sing at the opening night of Hamburg’s new concert hall Elbphilharmonie, he has developed stronger connections to German musical life than ever before.
Conductor of the Year goes to Antonio Pappano for his monumental studio recording of Aïda. The Italian-British maestro recorded Verdi’s masterpiece with an all-star cast (including Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann) in Rome and received international critical acclaim, including the BBC Music Award for Album of the Year and a Diapason d’Or.
Diana Damrau is the second Erato singer who picks up a prize this year, for her tour-de-force Violetta in the Paris Opera production of Traviata released on DVD (Music DVD Production of the Year: Opera).
Young French cellist Edgar Moreau receives the ECHO Klassik 2016 as Newcomer of the Year for his Baroque album Giovincello, on which he brings his youthful energy and virtuosic thrills to 18th-century cello concertos by Haydn, Vivaldi, Boccherini, Platti, and the world-premiere recording of a concerto by Carlo Graziani. He was just 21 at the time he made this vibrant recording with Baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro.
Classical without Borders is a category of the ECHO Klassik for music productions that build a bridge either to or from the classical genre. Two awards in this category go to Warner Classics artists: the John Wilson Orchestra (for Cole Porter in Hollywood), which will make its German concert debut in September, and the German quartet Salut Salon for their delightfully whimsical album Carnival Fantasy.
Two Erato pianists receive prizes: Bertrand Chamayou (Solo Recording of the Year) for his multi-faceted recording of Ravel’s complete works for solo piano, and Alexandre Tharaud (Music DVD production of the Year: Concert) for the majestic and detailed film of him playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which was released as a bonus DVD accompanying the album.
The ECHO for Concert Recording of the Year (19th-century music) goes to Il Pomo d’Oro for their Haydn Concertos album, in which joint music directors Riccardo Minasi on violin and harpsichordist Maxim Emelyanychev take turns leading this refined yet lively Baroque band.
Violinist Vilde Frang receives the prize for Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st century music) for her latest album of violin concertos by Korngold and Britten, an unusual but riveting pairing that Frang has said it was her dream to record.
The Artemis Quartet receives the prize for the Chamber Music Recording of the Year. Their intense Brahms’ String Quartets 1 & 3 is the final album the Quartet recorded with their late violist Friedemann Weigle, who tragically passed away last year.
The DVD label EuroArts music, distributed via Warner Classics Label Services, takes home the ECHO for Music DVD Production of the Year: Documentary for Ralf Pleger’s The Tschaikovsky Files.
Congratulations to all the winners. The full list of Erato and Warner Classics ECHO prizewinners below makes for a wonderfully comprehensive Best of 2015. The awards ceremony will take place in October. More information about the ECHO Klassik Awards here.
Singer of the Year (male):
Philippe Jaroussky (Green) – Erato
Conductor of the Year:
Antonio Pappano (AIDA) – Warner Classics
Newcomer of the Year (Cello):
Edgar Moreau (Giovincello) – Erato
Classics without Borders:
John Wilson Orchestra (Cole Porter in Hollywood) – Warner Classics
Salut Salon (Carnival Fantasy) – Warner Classics
Concerto Recording of the Year (19th-century music):
Il Pomo d’Oro (Haydn: Concertos) – Erato
Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st-century music):
Vilde Frang (Britten/Korngold) – Warner Classics
Solo Recording of the Year (20th/21st-century music / piano):
Bertrand Chamayou (Ravel) - Erato
Chamber Music Recording of the Year (19th century music / strings):
Artemis Quartett (Brahms) - Erato
Music DVD Production of the Year (Opera):
Diana Damrau (La Traviata) – Erato
Music DVD Production of the Year (concert):
Alexandre Tharaud (Bach: Goldberg Variations) – Erato
Music-DVD-Production of the Year (documentary):
Ralf Pleger (The Tschaikovsky Files) - EuroArts