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Well deserved award for Beatrice Rana

Congratulations to the Italian pianist Beatrice Rana on winning the Young Artist of the Year Award at this evening’s Grammophone Awards ceremony in London.

Beatrice Rana performing at 2017 Grammophone Awards Ceremony

This achievement follows on from her success in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where she won the Silver Medal and the Audience Prize in 2013.

We particularly enjoyed her recording of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16 coupled with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23.

Live Rachmaninov Symphony from Ashkenazy

This month Signum Classics issue the first of a new series of Rachmaninov symphonies, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra with their Conductor Laureate, Vladimir Ashkenazy, recorded live in concert. Volume 1 contains a performance of Sergey Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 recorded last November in the Royal Festival Hall, London.

Vladimir Ashkenazy is one of the few artists to combine a highly successful career as both a pianist and a conductor. Although nowadays he is mostly to be seen in the conducting role, he first came to prominence in the mid 1950s as a prize-winning young pianist. He has a long history of performing and recording works by Rachmaninov. He has recorded the the complete works for piano by Rachmaninov and two two cycles of the Rachmaninov Piano concerti; one with with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra and later with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. This is not Ashkenazy’s first recording of this symphony cycle. In the early 1980s he produced a highly acclaimed set of all three Rachmaninov symphonies as conductor of the Royal Concertgeouw Orchestra.

Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 was composed when he was just 22 years old. Whilst one cannot claim that this work is on a par with his two later symphonies , in the hands of an experienced performer of Rachmaninov, like Ashkenazy, this piece, that was once feared lost, comes across as a strong, highly individual, and self-assured work. The product of a young talent overflowing with ideas rather a composer who became paralyzed by failure.

Congratulations to the Philharmonia Orchestra, their conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy and staff for producing a vivid record of this concert.

iClassical rating: 

Puccini’s La Bohème – No. 5 in our collection

La Bohème was written by Giacomo Puccini in 1896. Puccini wrote some of the most popular and frequently-performed operas of all time. His was able to conjure up great melodies and he had a strong theatrical sense. Combine this with the fact that he was an outstanding orchestrator, who could produce incredibly rich harmonies, and it is small wonder that he was so successful.

La Bohème is the ideal opera with which to begin a collection. It is a concise work, full of the great melodies alluded to above, and it is about two young lovers, and, as is the case in many operas, love is denied by death. When Rudolfo realises that Mimi is dead he cries out as he rushes to her bed to bring the opera to a highly emotional close.

There are many fine recordings of this hugely popular opera but our top recommendation has to be this fine account by Herbert von Karajan; recorded in 1972 but recently remastered for this release. Here Karajan directs the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and shows a clear understanding of the fact that the inner drama of the opera is played out in the orchestra through Puccini’s adept manipulation of themes and his highly accomplished orchestration. His star soloists include Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo, in what is arguably one of his finest performances, and the magnificent Mirella Freni as Mimi. The disc comes with a useful synopsis of the opera, by George Hall, and contains a full libretto.

Listen on Spotify or purchase from Qobuz.

The finest performance of La Bohème to be recorded; by Thomas Beecham with an outstanding array of soloists, including Victoria de los Angeles, Jussi Björling, Fernando Corena, Robert Merrill andf Giorgio Tozzi, is only available in a mono recording and thus just misses inclusion in our Collection.

Listen on Spotify or purchase from Qobuz.

For those who prefer their opera complete with video; the performance recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, in December 2009 represents a great choice. With historically accurate designs, by Julia Trevelyan Oman, an excellent cast headed by Hibla Gerzmava and Teodor Ilincai combined with fine camera work what is there not to enjoy?

Buy it from Presto Classical.

View the other works in our collection.

Clara Schumann anniversary

Today marks the 198th anniversary of the birth of the German musician and composer, Clara Schumann. She was one of the finest pianists of the Romantic era, an underated composer and the wife of the famous composer, Robert Schumann. In an era when women, with the exception of singers, rarely performed in public Clara proved to be an exception.

Unfortunately, Clara Schumann’s own compositions remained largely unknown until the second half of the twentieth century. Many of her works are still unpublished and the scores are owned by private collectors, so it is not possible to appreciate the full extent of her output. Let us hope that for the 200th anniversary in 2019, record producers and performers will see fit to extend the range of her works available on CD. In the meanwhile we can appreciate Lisa Batiashvili performing Clara Schumann’s 3 Romances, Op. 22 in partnership with Alice Sara Ott.

Listen on Spotify or buy it from Amazon.