Classical Companion

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Christopher Breunig  |  Feb 12, 2021
Coming from Sydney to London with an ambition to conduct, his scholarship to study in Prague led to a passion for Czech music. Christopher Breunig has the story

Recently, I have been entertaining myself by watching the online reviews by the American critic David Hurwitz (he's executive editor of the subscription site Classics Today – where all the most interesting reviews are for 'insiders only'…).

Christopher Breunig  |  Jan 22, 2021
Admired by his colleagues yet unpredictable for managers, he was a perfectionist who lived in his father's shadow. Christopher Breunig looks back at this reclusive genius

Iam very slow on the uptake. But now I know what's wrong: the quavers are too low on nicotine. They need a little bit more tar – they have to be a bit more venomous…' And: 'the side-drum has to edge its way in. It has to be very conspiratorial, a schizophrenic back and forth between sentimental and rumbustious'. Not the sort of rehearsal instructions orchestral players would be used to – but then, Carlos Kleiber was different.

Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 18, 2020
The most urbane of English podium figures, he delighted audiences as much as he antagonised orchestral players. Christopher Breunig ponders his relevance today

Herbert von Karajan? A sort of musical Malcolm Sargent.' It was a typical Beecham putdown, even though he admired his younger colleague's skill with choral forces, and was assisted by him in 1932 when Beecham was creating his London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Christopher Breunig  |  Nov 26, 2020
Written under duress during four months in spring 1937, this would become his most popular work. Christopher Breunig sets out the background and suggests recordings

New pieces by composers Harrison Birtwistle or Peter Maxwell Davies, say, will have received polite applause and a few boos from the audience at their premieres. But no government response.

Christopher Breunig  |  Oct 20, 2020
A child prodigy from Budapest, lured to the States with a false promise, he took over a top orchestra and stayed with it for 44 years. Christopher Breunig gives an outline

It's a nice story, but discredited, that the young Hungarian musician, Jenő Blau, changed his surname because he'd sailed to New York in 1921 on the SS Normandie. Ormandy himself told his Philadelphia lead violinist Anshel Brusilow that his French grandmother had changed her name from Goldberg to Or-mont, while other sources say that Ormandy was his second forename anyway.

Christopher Breunig  |  Sep 08, 2020
Were these meant to be heard as a single entity? Does the theory survive scrutiny? Christopher Breunig suggests library versions both 'historically aware' and traditional

When Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Teldec recording of Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony appeared in 1985, his sleeve essay suggested the score was in fact a musical translation of a cathartic event from his youth, (i) concerning his mother's death, and (ii) the subsequent reconciliation with his father, and as such complete.

Christopher Breunig  |  Aug 07, 2020
One of the few Japanese musicians to have made a long career in the West, with a Boston tenure of 29 years. Christopher Breunig looks at his life and wide discography

Atough game of rugby football put an end to the hopes that a young Japanese boy would become a concert pianist. Seiji Ozawa, then 15, was mad about the game but severely damaged his hand in a scrum. When his piano teacher suggested he might think of conducting instead, he had never even seen a symphony orchestra, live or on television.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jul 14, 2020
A staple musical diet option for many of us, distasteful to a few, these four works come in a variety of flavours. Christopher Breunig suggests complete and partial choices

Aimez-vous Brahms?' asked Françoise Sagan in 1959 (well, it was the title of her novel, actually). For some reason, Benjamin Britten did not like much of Brahms's music – he retained a soft spot for the D-minor Piano Concerto and the early Piano Quartet. But, writing in his prewar diaries, he considered Symphony No 1 to be 'pretentious' and No 2 'ugly and gauche'.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jun 16, 2020
Outpacing her father when they both were learning the violin, she has become one of the most intrepid of today's musicians. Christopher Breunig focuses on the highights

We record collectors first became aware of the violinist Isabelle Faust 23 years ago, when in its 'Nouveaux Interpretes' series Harmonia Mundi issued a coupling of Bartók Sonatas, where she was partnered by the Polish pianist Ewa Kupiec. I remember what was probably their London debut recital at that time. In 2003 they recorded a mixture of pieces by Janáček, Lutoslawski and Szymanowski.

Christopher Breunig  |  May 27, 2020
Warner Classics and Deutsche Grammophon are early to the party, with huge boxed CD editions. Christopher Breunig suggests more affordable library must-haves

In 1970, Deutsche Grammophon marked the bicentenary of the birth of Beethoven with LP box sets, part reissue partly new recordings, to provide the first comprehensive Edition. (Philips did much the same for Mozart but marking 200 years after he had died – this time all CDs.)

Christopher Breunig  |  May 13, 2020
The Hungarian boy who wanted to play football became a good pianist and acclaimed opera and orchestral conductor. Christopher Breunig on a musical dynamo

Certainly one of the most extraordinary film clips of a conductor in action that you will ever see is Georg Solti recording Wagner in the Vienna Sofiensaal [YouTube]. Fuzzy black and white the excerpts may be, but the physical energy is almost shocking – you could have driven a ten ton truck into this man but it wouldn't have stopped him!

Christopher Breunig  |  Apr 17, 2020
Training complete, he followed in his father's footsteps working with the Leningrad Philharmonic but his final years were in Munich. Christopher Breunig tells the story

When Herbert von Karajan took the Berlin Philharmonic to Moscow and Leningrad in 1969 he also gave a conducting masterclass for 12 students, where he was impressed most by the young Latvian Mariss Jansons, then 26. Jansons sat in on rehearsals where he said the orchestra 'played at two-hundred per cent capacity. It was unbelievable'. (Melodiya briefly issued on CD the Shostakovich Tenth from the Karajan concert.)

Christopher Breunig  |  Mar 19, 2020
Composed when he was influenced by the Knaben Wunderhorn collected folk poems it stands unique in form and aspiration. Christopher Breunig offers an introduction

As this issue of HFN is likely to reach you during the festive period, why not a piece that starts with sleigh-bells? No, not Leroy Anderson, but Mahler's fourth symphony, written in 1899-1900, and first performed in Munich in November 1901. The UK premiere came just a few years later in a 1905 Prom concert with Sir Henry Wood.

Christopher Breunig  |  Feb 04, 2020
A tireless American virtuoso, he began his Decca discography as the 78rpm era ended. Now it's all boxed together at a bargain price. Christopher Breunig takes a listen

Exasperated by the pianist's fussiness over phrasing, when recording Brahms's D-minor Concerto with the LSO in 1962, George Szell conducting [HFN Aug '18] told him to 'just play the f***ing notes'.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jan 03, 2020
A modest musician, he made a huge contribution to classical music broadcasting while his repertoire, says Christopher Breunig, was far wider than most remember it

You might think of Sir Adrian Boult as an elderly, conservative and very English gentleman with a repertoire mostly comprising English music. But download the 170-page discography by Philip Stuart [crqeditions.co.uk/ZqnlPmJU182] and a very different picture emerges.

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