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A thorough look at the week's classical music releases, plus news and the Radio 3 Disc of the Week recommendation.

A thorough look at the week's classical music releases, plus news and the Radio 3 Disc of the Week recommendation.


United Kingdom




A thorough look at the week's classical music releases, plus news and the Radio 3 Disc of the Week recommendation.




Vaughan Williams' 4th Symphony

Mark Lowther joins Andrew to discuss a huge range of recorded performances of the Fourth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was born 150 years ago this autumn. First performed in 1935, its austerity and directness seem to presage the looming horror of World War II.


Beethoven's String Quartet in F, Op. 18 No. 1

Laura Tunbridge recommends her favourite recording of Beethoven's String Quartet in F, Op 18 No 1. In Vienna at the end of the 18th century, Beethoven was in his late 20s, the supreme keyboard composer-improviser of his day. With dogged determination and a degree of circumspection he began picking off various genres over which the shadows of the late Mozart and the very much alive Haydn loomed large. With piano sonatas, piano trios and string trios under his belt, it took two laborious years...


Chopin's Piano Sonata No 3 in B Minor

Allyson Devenish compares recordings of Chopin's Piano Sonata No 3 in B minor and chooses her favourite. Chopin's final piano sonata was composed in 1844 and dedicated to Countess Émilie de Perthuis. It is a work of immense complexity, both technically and musically, and comprises four movements. The sonata opens with heavy chords in B minor, but journeys through a Scherzo and dream-like Nocturne, before ending in a dazzling Finale, which starts in B minor but ends triumphantly in a B major...


Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony

Composer, prominent conductor and influential composition teacher, Zemlinsky was at the centre of turn-of the century Viennese musical life. Among his distinguished pupils were Arnold Schoenberg (who also happened to be his brother-in-law), Berg, Webern and Korngold. He also taught and was romantically involved with Alma Schindler until she decided to marry a certain Gustav Mahler. And it's Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde which provided the model for Zemlinsky's best-known work, his1923 Lyric...


Handel's Messiah

Messiah is Handel's best-known work and one of the most frequently performed choral works in western music. It was composed in 1741 with a text compiled from the King James Bible. It is full of show stoppers such as "For unto us a child is born", "The trumpet shall sound" and the ever-rousing "Hallelujah" chorus.


Mahler's 9th Symphony

Gillian Moore compares recordings of Mahler's Ninth Symphony and chooses her favourite. Mahler's final completed symphony is a monumental achievement ranging in emotion from wild passion to deep despair and finally resignation. He wrote it in 1908 and 1909 but did not live to see it performed. Leonard Bernstein said of the last movement: "It is terrifying, and paralyzing, as the strands of sound disintegrate. In ceasing, we lose it all. But in letting go, we have gained everything."


Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro

Inspired by the tumult of the impending French Revolution, Mozart's intricate and sublime opera Le nozze di Figaro proved explosive yet rapidly became one of the true masterpieces of the genre. Nicholas Kenyon discusses a wide range of interpretations with Andrew, before settling for what he believes to be the ultimate recording to buy, download or stream.


Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major

Perhaps the deepest-felt of Beethoven's piano concertos, the G major poses both interpretative and technical challenges of the highest order. Joanna MacGregor has been listening to a wide range of different interpretations and discusses with Andrew her ultimate recommendation to buy, download or stream.


Bruckner's Symphony No.9 in D minor

Dedicated to 'dem lieben Gott' (the beloved God), Bruckner's monumental Ninth Symphony in D minor was intended to be the culmination of his life's work. Bruckner began working on the Ninth Symphony in the summer of 1887, immediately after finishing his Eighth, but he died in 1896 before finishing the fourth and final movement. Nonetheless, Bruckner's Ninth Symphony is often performed as a mighty, visionary large-scale three-movement work. Shimmering strings and low brass start the opening...


Schubert's String Quintet in C major

Franz Schubert's last chamber piece, the String Quintet in C major (D. 956), is one of the most sublime pieces in the repertoire. It is scored for a standard string quartet plus an extra cello. The work remained unpublished at the time of Schubert's death in November 1828 and after it was belatedly premiered and published in the 1850s, it gradually gained recognition as a masterpiece. Knowing that Schubert died so soon after composing the work, makes many people hear a valedictory quality in...


Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings

The Serenade's status as a darkly dazzling 20th-century classic is founded on Britten's unerring ear for finding and setting English poetry, coupled with his instinctive sense of instrumental and vocal virtuosity. Its six texts, from Ben Johnson to Tennyson, deal with night and the corruption of innocence, themes which preoccupied Britten throughout his career. Both the solo writing and the interplay between voice and horn are based on the strengths of the two musicians for which it was...


Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV1043

Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV1043, affectionately known as the 'Double Concerto', is one of the most popular works of the Baroque repertoire. The two solo parts of this concerto have survived in Bach’s own handwriting, in an autograph that dates from around 1730, when Bach was living in Köthen. The outer movements illustrate the influence of the Italian Baroque style on Bach in their brisk rhythms, fugal imitations and much of the intricate passage work, while the central...


Scriabin's Piano Music

Born in Moscow 150 years ago this year, Alexander Scriabin's music for solo piano has been recorded by many of the great pianists over the last century. But where to start if you're not familiar with this late-Romantic, sometimes elusive repertoire? David Owen Norris is on hand to navigate through some key pieces and makes some recommendations.


Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe

Building a Library: Jeremy Sams recommends his favourite recording of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe (complete ballet). Maurice Ravel described his ballet, Daphnis and Chloe as a choreographic symphony. The story concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. Ravel began work in 1909 after a commission from Sergei Diaghilev and it was premiered in Paris by his Ballets Russes in 1912. The orchestra was conducted by Pierre Monteux, the choreography was by Michel Fokine,...


Haydn's Symphony No 49, 'La Passione'

Simon Heighes recommends his favourite recording of Haydn's Symphony No 49 in F minor, 'La Passione'. This sombre and darkly dramatic Haydn symphony is one of a series of visceral minor key symphonies reflecting Haydn's reaction to the German proto-Romantic literary movement, 'Sturm und Drang' – Storm and Stress – where passionate subjectivity and turbulent self-expression were the order of the day. The symphony was one of the most popular during Haydn's lifetime and its ominous, almost...


Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Sonata

Pianist Lucy Parham picks through the greatest recordings of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Sonata. Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 36, in B-flat minor was composed in 1913 and revised it in 1931. Three years after his third piano concerto was finished, he moved with his family to Rome and started working on his second piano sonata. It is a mighty but technically challenging piece. Rachmaninov himself was not satisfied with the work and revised it in 1931. In 1940, the pianist Vladimir...


Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra

Building a Library: Emily MacGregor recommends a her favourite recording of Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. For Bartók, the circumstances surrounding the composition of his Concerto for Orchestra could hardly have been more miserable. In 1940 he fled his native Hungary to escape the Nazis and spent the remaining five years of his life in the United States, those years blighted by despair, painful illness and abject poverty. But unknown to Bartók, two fellow Hungarians, violinist Joseph...


Amy Beach

Katy Hamilton surveys the key works and recordings of American composer Amy Beach and chooses her favourite. Born in 1867 in New Hampshire, Amy Beach became the first successful American female composer, and her 'Gaelic' Symphony was the first symphony to be composed by an American woman. Despite great success during her lifetime, Amy Beach's music was neglected after her death in 1944, but enjoyed a renaissance in the late 20th century.


Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony

Marina Frolova-Walker recommends a version of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony in Building a Library. Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No 5 in B-flat major in just a month in the summer of 1944 during World War II. He intended it as "a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit." The 1945 premiere was conducted by Prokofiev himself and the symphony has remained one of the composer's most popular works.


Mozart's Piano Concerto No 20 in D minor, K466

Perhaps the first of Mozart's extraordinary sequence of 'late' piano concertos, the D minor, K466, has attracted pianists as varied as Edwin Fischer and Mitsuko Uchida, many directing the orchestra from the keyboard. Tom Service guides us through a selection of the finest of these, with a recommendation for the essential recording to buy, download or stream.