Renee Fleming – Guilty Pleasures (2013) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

             


Artist: Renee Fleming
Title: Guilty Pleasures
Genre: Classical
Release Date: 2013
Duration: 01:02:30
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Label: Decca Records

The "guilty pleasures" referred to in the title of this release by American soprano Rene Fleming are Fleming's own; they are small pieces that she has always wanted to record. Of course they require no apology at all. Even the familiar numbers, such as the Flower Duet from Dlibes' Lakm (track 9, performed with Susan Graham), have the kind of freshness that seems impossible if you consider that Fleming has been singing them for decades. Actually some of the music is quite unusual for an orchestral-song-and-aria collection of this kind. Fleming sings in eight languages, including Occitan, and she has both the panache and the prestige to include such items as John Corigliano's "Once there was a golden bird," from The Ghosts of Versailles, and "Vendulka's Lullaby" from Smetana's rarely heard opera The Kiss. Fleming was 53 when this album was recorded, but it is mighty hard to identify any of the vocal maladies that begin to afflict sopranos of that age. Sample the chilling, silvery finale of Undine's aria from Tchaikovsky's early opera Undine, itself not terribly frequently performed, for confirmation. It is not only the creamy tones but the sense of fun and accomplishment that makes Fleming such a joy to listen to, and these qualities are on fully display here, ably encouraged by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

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Leontyne Price, Wiener Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan – Puccini: Tosca (1963/2017) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

             

Artist: Leontyne Price, Wiener Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan Title: Puccini: Tosca Genre: Classical Release Date: 1963 Duration: 01:52:44 Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz Label: Decca Records The dramas of Victorien Sardou, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, were as popular in Italy as they were in France. French companies, therefore, could tour the Italian theatres and attract large audiences willing to ignore any language barrier. Giacomo Puccini knew hardly any French when he went to see Sardou's La Tosca in Milan in 1890, and yet he apparently enjoyed himself. Actually, he may have gone to the theatre --- like a majority of the Milanese public --- not so much to see the play as to admire its star, the forty-five-year-old Sarah Bernhardt, to whom La Tosca is dedicated and for whom it was written. The divine Sarah was Sardou's Tosca, the heroic cantatrice, the unashamed mistress of Mario Cavaradossi, and the unrepentant murderess of Scarpia. The rest of the play was hardly more than an elaborate, carefully constructed frame for her singular, spectacular talents. But Puccini must have seen past her dazzling interpretation, arriving at the heart of the drama itself. Anyway, he returned to see Sarah and La Tosca in Florence in 1895. But by this time the composer had an even more impelling motive for revisiting the play: a libretto was in the process of being fashioned from it for him. The first talk of a Tosca libretto had begun some years earlier, in 1889, when Puccini had been at the very outset of his career. His first (and least successful) librettist, the journalist and playwright Ferdinando Fontana, had suggested the popular Sardou play to Puccini, who wrote to his publisher Giulio Ricordi about it. Then he turned to other subjects, writing Manon Lescaut and La Bohme in the years between 1889 and 1895. If the vain, successful and money-minded Sardou had been reluctant to grant operatic rights of his play to an unknown composer in the 1880s he was more than interested, a decade later, in having the internationally acclaimed Puccini make an opera from LaTosca. There was an obstacle, however, which first had to be overcome. Sardou had already granted these same rights to Alberto Franchetti, a friend of Puccini's, and the composer of two operas that enjoyed some popularity at that time, Asrael and Cristoforo Colombo. Ricordi, who was also Franchetti's publisher, had commissioned the librettist Luigi Illica to prepare a Tosca text for him. (more…)

Leontyne Price, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Zubin Metha – Puccini: Tosca (1973/2016) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

             


Artist: Leontyne Price, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Zubin Metha
Title: Puccini: Tosca
Genre: Classical
Release Date: 1973
Duration: 01:51:48
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Label: Sony Classical

This set--one of at least a dozen full-length Toscas available, is a big, brash, unsubtle affair--not that there's anything wrong with that. Long referred to as a "shabby little shocker," Tosca is a brute of a work, with three huge central figures--the opera singer, Tosca, full of jealousy and passion; Cavaroadossi, the idealistic painter who loves her; and Scarpia, the creepy, amoral police chief who wants to get into Tosca's--er--good graces. In the title role, Price is imperious and elegant, and if she's not as nuanced as Callas, well, no one is. Domingo's Cavaradossi ideally suits his voice, and he may not be very interesting, but he sounds great. Milnes is all snarling and lip curling as Scarpia--just right for my money--you really hate him by the time Tosca does him in. Mehta leads an exciting show, and while the orchestra occasionally threatens to drown out the singers, it never quite does. Go for it. --Robert Levine

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Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, James Gaffigan – Prokofiev: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 5 (2017) Digital eXtreme Definition FLAC Stereo 24bit/352,8kHz

             


Artist: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, James Gaffigan
Title: Prokofiev: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 5
Genre: Classical
Release Date: 2017
Duration: 00:58:28
Quality: Digital eXtreme Definition FLAC Stereo 24bit/352,8kHz
Label: Challenge Classics

Third (and last but one) instalment in James Gaffigan/Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra's ongoing series of Prokofiev's complete symphonies. Nos. 1 and 5 are surely the most famous and beloved of Prokofiev's symphonies. They were written in a time-span of 27 years (the former in France, the latter in Soviet Union) they display two much different faces of the composer's musical personality. The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (RFO), founded in 1945, is an essential link in the Dutch music life. The RFO performs symphonic concerts and operas in concert, as well as many world- and Netherlands premieres. Markus Stenz was appointed chief conductor in 2012, after predecessor as Bernard Haitink, Jean Fournet, Willem van Otterloo, Hans Vonk, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden. The RFO has worked with internationally highly regarded conductors such as Leopold Stokowski, Kirill Kondrashin, Antal Dorti, Charles Dutoit, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Mariss Jansons, Peter Etvs, Vladimir Jurowski and Valery Gergiev. The American conductor James Gaffigan is principal guest conductor since the season 2011-2012. Bernard Haitink has connected his name to the RFO as patron. The RFO has build an extensive CD catalogue, with works by contemporary composers such as Jonathan Harvey, Klas Torstensson, James MacMillan and Jan van Vlijmen, the registration of Wagner's Parsifal, Lohengrin, die Meistersinger von Nrnberg. Complete symphonies of Bruckner, Rachmaninow, Shostakovich and Hartmann have been released in recent years. The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Choir will be awarded the Concertgebouw prize of 2017.

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Phronesis, Julian Arguelles, Frankfurt Radio Big Band – The Behemoth (2017) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz

             


Artist: Phronesis, Julian Arguelles, Frankfurt Radio Big Band
Title: The Behemoth
Genre: Jazz
Release Date: 2017
Duration: 01:04:42
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Label: Edition Records

Phronesis have built a formidable reputation over the last decade as one of the most powerful and energetic small ensembles on the European jazz scene. Known for their virtuosity, dynamism and telepathic group interplay, the trio have commanded impressive media attention and established a substantial fanbase on a global level. Following six critically acclaimed trio albums, the band have now completed their most ambitious recording to date with the release of The Behemoth. Consisting of ten arrangements and re-imaginings of compositions from their back catalogue by Julian Argelles, this remarkable, vibrant new album featuring the Frankfurt Radio Big Band is rich in colour and bursting with spirit and creativity. Julian Argelles plays a pivotal role throughout this album, demonstrating his masterful ability as arranger and conductor, and also appearing as a soloist on Eger's 'Urban Control'. All three members of the trio have been long time admirers of Julian's playing, writing and arranging and when an opportunity arose for them to collaborate, they all jumped at the chance. Likewise, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band have an impressive story, having been one of the key radio big bands in Europe for many years, collaborating with a plethora of international jazz artists . Tackling the music of Phronesis is no easy task for any large ensemble, but with Julian at the helm, they met the challenge with creative energy.

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