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Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV1043 – Work No. 93 in our collection

Johann Sebastian Bach (21.03.1685 – 28.07.1750) was the greatest composer of the baroque era. He created a vast output of concertos, cantatas, choral, organ and keyboard works; many of which are masterpieces that are still regularly performed in the concert hall and on disc.

The Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, also known as the Double Violin Concerto, is one of the most famous works by Johann Sebastian Bach and considered among the best examples of the work of the late Baroque period. The concerto is scored for two solo violins, continuo and strings, and follows the typical Baroque concerto pattern of three movements (fast-slow-fast). Bach’s interplay between the soloists is exquisite as the melodies interweave each other in a continual stream of contrapuntal melodies. The slow movement is surely one of Bach’s most sublime creations.

There are a number of highly enjoyable recordings of this essential work which inckude those by Rachel Podger and her Brecon Baroque on Channel Classics, a 1978 release from Arthur Grumiaux and Herman Krebbers with Les Solistes Romands. However the version that gives us the most consistent satisfaction is the 1961 version by David and Igor Oistrakh with Eugene Goossens conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

View the other works in our collection.

Sibelius’ Finlandia, Op. 26 – Work No. 92 in our collection

Jean Sibelius (08.12.1865 – 20.09.1957) was was a Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely regarded as being the the most note worthy symphonic composer from Scandinavia. During the first decade of the 20th century Sibelius’ fame spread throughout the European continent. Busoni conducted Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in D major (1901) in Berlin, and the British composer Granville Bantock commissioned his Symphony No. 3 in C major (1907). Sibelius’ set of seven symphonies is central to his output and these are regularly performed and recorded as are his other major works. His other best-known compositions are Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, the Violin Concerto (see work 37), the choral symphony Kullervo, and The Swan of Tuonela (from the Lemminkäinen Suite).

Finlandia, Op. 26, is a tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was written in 1899 and revised in 1900. It is a short piece – a typical performance takes between 7½ and 9 minutes depending on how it is performed. Most of the work is taken up with rousing and turbulent music, evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people. It is only towards the end of the piece that a calm comes over the orchestra, and the serene and melodic Finlandia Hymn is heard.

There is a great version of Finlandia conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy with the Philharmonia Orchestra on a bargain priced double Decca set that also contains performances of Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, Op. 11, Tapiola, Op. 112, En Saga, Op. 9, Pohjola’s Daughter, Op. 49 and the Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22 among other works. Ashkenazy’s rendition of Finlandia can boast some of the most vibrant, powerful brass sounds available on CD. This is all delivered in fine sound with great presence, whilst allowing the overall orchestral image to remain coherent and natural.

The other works, some of which are performed by L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Horst Stein, provide a splendid introduction to the best of Sibelius’ orchestral works beyond the symphonies.

View the other works in our collection.

Our top recommendations for May 2019

Each month, at iClassical, we pick three albums, either new releases or reissues, that we regard as being worthy of your special attention. We nominate one recent release as our overall CD of the Month. We also highlight a bargain choice, that offers exceptional value for money, and a collectors’ choice for those wishing to branch out a little!

Click on (or tap) the album cover to read our original review.

CD of the Month – Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 109, 110 & 111 (Steven Osborne)

Bargain Choice – Rachmaninov: 24 Préludes (Boris Giltburg)

Collectors’ Choice – Weinberg: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21 (Gidon Kremer (violin), Kremerata Baltica, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla)

Discover our previous recommendations here.

Is this Steven Osborne’s finest recording?

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 109, 110 & 111

Steven Osborne (piano)
Steven Osborne

Steven Osborne is a Scottish pianist who has become one of Britain’s most treasured musicians. His insightful interpretations show a degree of musical depth lacking in many of his contemporaries. On this his twenty-fifth release on the Hyperion label he takes on Beethoven’s final three piano sonatas – three works which represent Beethoven at the peak of his powers and imagination. If anyone can persuade me that I should add another reading of these three pillars of the repertory then I guess Steven Osborne is the pianist to do it!

So how does this recording live up to my forecast? In a nutshell I have to say that the performances of all three works fully lived up to, or even exceeded, my high expectations. In the opening Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109,  composed near the same time as the Missa Solemnis and his famous ‘Choral’ Symphony, Osborne effectively conveys the multi-dimensional nature of the piece and in the long slow movement he effectively brings out contrasts between the variations. In the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 Steven Osborne plays the roving left-hand line in the first-movement development with just the right amount of eloquence and in the final movement he builds to a powerful climax (that will come as no surprise to those who have heard his performance of the Hammerklavier Sonata). The CD ends with the monumental two-movement Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111. In this work, as in the other two, Osborne plays with great clarity and drive. Somehow Steven Osborne tells you something new about these familiar pieces and reveals hidden truths about the music that one has somehow previously missed. Steven Osborne has his own individual take on these works but he does not impose his personality on the pieces. Listening to this recording, as with his concert performances, you are so much more aware of the music than the performer.

So this might well be considered Steven Osborne’s greatest recording to date and it more than stands comparison with any other recent alternatives. Even if you own multiple versions of these works you really should add this album to your collection.

iClassical rating:

Hyperion recordings are not available on any streaming platform but extracts can be played from their website.