About this Recording
8.556610 - BERCEUSE - Classical Favourites for Relaxing and Dreaming

BERCEUSE is the French word for a cradle-song, and in this album we recapture those moments of tranquillity and dreams fashioned by those memorable melodies from the world of classical music. Thirteen tracks have been selected from the extensive Naxos catalogue of compact discs…

 Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky brings to life that magical world of fantasy in his ballet, The Sleeping Beauty. It is the well-known story of the Princess put to sleep by the evil witch until the handsome Prince comes to wake her with a kiss. The graceful Adagio forms part of the happy and colourful third act, perfectly picturing the grace of the ballerinas.

The year 1802 was a turbulent one in the life of Ludwig van Beethoven. He was thirty-two and had fallen in love with the Countess Giulietta Guicciardi who was just seventeen. Sadly it was a one-sided love, and the following year her hand was placed in marriage elsewhere. His mixed emotions surfaced in the Piano Sonatas he was composing at the time. The tenderness of the ‘Moonlight’ sonata contrasts with the stormy eruptions of ‘The Tempest’ sonata. Yet in the eye of the storm comes a moment of quiet resignation in the Adagio.

The music of the 17th century Italian composer, Antonio Vivaldi, has entered the world of ‘pop’ classics with his atmospheric The Four Seasons. In his later life he directed music at a school for orphaned and abandoned girls, and musicians travelled from afar to hear the wonderful orchestra and soloists from Pietà. Many of his concertos were written to demonstrate their brilliance, while the central slow movements pictured a feminine lyricism.

A century later Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the celebrated prodigy, writing music of value by the age of five. Central to his vast catalogue of works was the imposing series of symphonies. The Thirty-fifth, the ‘Haffner’, was completed in 1782, having started out life as a Serenade commissioned by the Haffner family in Salzburg. He later condensed the six movements to four, with a particularly warm-toned Adagio. Mozart also wrote concertos for almost every instrument, including twenty-seven keyboard concertos. The Fourteenth was written in 1784 for his pupil, Barbara Ployer, and has a most innocent a restful Andante central movement.

It looked as if Louis Spohr was following in Mozart’s footsteps, composing and playing the violin to a professional standard at the age of eight. As a virtuoso violinist, conductor and composer, he was to become one of the highest paid musicians of his day. He was eventually placed in charge of the finest orchestra and opera house in Germany, and that provided the stimulus for a series of operas and major orchestral works. Today he is largely remembered by his chamber music, though his series of violin concertos are acclaimed as outstanding examples of music from that period. The Seventh dates from 1814, and contains an elegant Adagio as the second movement.

Fryderyk Chopin appears to have had no love for his native Poland, and from 1830 enjoyed the adulation of his audiences in Paris, where he remained until his death at the age of thirty-nine. In 1838 he completed his set of Twenty-four Preludes, the second was to become the best known.

Throughout his early life Gabriel Fauré composed only in the summer holidays, the rest of his time was spent as teacher and church organist. His life was to change in his late forties when a number of unexpected appointments led to the post of Director of the Paris Conservatoire. His subsequent influence on French music in the early 20th century cannot be overstated. For his own part he was always seeking to write large-scale works, but he was a miniaturist and elegant composer. The Berceuse, an early work dating from 1880, became a particular favourite of the composer.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 and was to become the greatest German composer of his time. Among his massive output are the Four Orchestral Suites, written in an elegant French style, the crisp Overture coming from the second suite composed around 1737.

Joseph Haydn was one of life’s late starters, his major compositions coming after his fortieth birthday. But he soon made up for lost time, and in the last thirty-seven years of his life produced a flood of music. In 1787 he received a commission to supply a work in seven sections to punctuate the sermon for Good Friday in the Cathedral at Cádiz. He found the task of writing seven successive slow movements taxing, but the finished work was outstanding. First written for string orchestra, Haydn later made a string quartet version, and it is in this format that the Seven Last Words of Christ have become known.

George Frederic Handel made such an impact on the musical world, that royal courts were vying for his services. In 1710 he went to London and received such adulation, that two years later he settled there, and became a naturalised English citizen. He served the Royal Court with distinction, and the appetite for his music was overwhelming. Among his works from 1739 are the Twelve Concerti Grossi, the slow movement from the eighth being of particularly graceful repose.

Torn between his love of his music and the naval traditions of his family, the Russian composer, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, enlisted as a naval cadet, and spent his younger years on board boat. It was that famous trio of composers, Balakirev, Mussorgsky and Cui, who persuaded him to join them, and when he returned from his next voyage he had with him his first symphony. Though fame came through his three orchestral works, Sheherazade, Capriccio Espagnol and the Russian Easter Festival Overture, he wanted to be an opera composer, a decidedly bad career move. Of his fifteen operas only The Golden Cockerel and Sadko have proved a success. Here the haunting Hindu Song from Sadko is transcribed for violin and piano by the legendary violinist, Fritz Kreisler.

At the age of twelve the young Claude Debussy made his debut with Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, yet four years later, in 1878, he failed the Paris Conservatoire piano examination. All thoughts of being a top concert pianist evaporated, and he turned his attention to composition. Much of his output was for solo piano, including a series of Twenty-four Preludes. They were composed in two volumes, and the second book has the beguiling melody, La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune, performed here in an orchestral transcription.

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