ALBUM REVIEWS


San Francisco Classical Voice: “Handel’s Joseph, Sans Dreamcoat, Makes a Strong Impression”

[Handel: Joseph and his Brethren] “Conductor Nicholas McGegan makes the musical points tell precisely and his energy affects the entire performance…” Read more at San Francisco Classical Voice.

The Guardian: Mozart’s mentor sparkily revived

[Josef Mysliveček: Complete Music for Keyboard] “However bad things had got for Mozart when he died, at least he still had his nose. We know from a letter Mozart wrote to his father that Josef Mysliveček, the Czech composer two decades his senior who was a friend and something of a mentor, had his burned off in a botched surgical attempt to cure syphilis. Like Mozart, Mysliveček was brilliant, acclaimed where he worked – mostly in Italy – and incurably profligate.” Read more at The Guardian.

Gramophone: Bringing a lost concerto back to life

[Josef Mysliveček: Complete Music for Keyboard] “Nicholas McGegan was a joy to work with and the SCO performed with such brio. When I listen to the disc now, it reminds me vividly of the warmth and dynamism of the sessions. Promoters still seem reluctant to programme Mysliveček, but I hope that as he becomes better known this will change. I, at least, am delighted to be an advocate for this captivating music.” Read more at Gramophone.

BBC Music Magazine: “Le Temple de la Gloire” review

[Rameau: Le Temple de la Gloire] “Nicholas McGegan’s touch has never been surer, and he pushes artists and moods to their expressive limits.” Read more at BBC Music Magazine.

SF Classical Voice: “Philharmonia Baroque Go for Glory”

[Rameau: Le Temple de la Gloire] “The orchestra, stretched to 40 players (triple winds plus extra percussion and a musette [bagpipe]), captures all the rapidly shifting moods brilliantly. There are tons of short, contrasting movements, the essence of this court entertainment, and Music Director Nicholas McGegan puts the orchestra through its paces, thoroughly characterizing each one.” Read more at San Francisco Classical Voice.

KC Star: “For summertime listening, it doesn’t get any better.”

[Rameau: Le Temple de la Gloire] “Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale have just released a recording of an opera that is a perfect example of Rameau’s genius. “Le Temple de la Gloire” (“The Temple of Glory”) was first performed in 1745 at Versailles to celebrate the French victory at the Battle of Fontenoy and features a libretto by none other than Voltaire.” Read more at The Kansas City Star.

McGegan’s new album is “a thrillingly colourful performance”

[Before Mozart: Early Horn Concertos] “…a thrillingly colourful performance…Nicholas McGegan’s Swedish Chamber Orchestra give the catchy opening tutti just enough strut, and Frank-Gemmill’s acrobatic intro is a winner…” Read more at The Arts Desk.

WQXR: The Best New Classical Releases of April 2018

[Before Mozart: Early Horn Concertos] “Frank-Gemmill delivers both with dulcet tone and impressive fluidity, helped by Nicholas McGegan and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, who accompany with agility and finesse.” Read more at wqxr.org.

The Strad: “Vivid and beautifully shaped Mozart from a Hungarian-British team”

[Mozart: The Complete Works for Violin & Orchestra] “This is a well-established team: Zsolt Kallo has been concertmaster of Capella Savaria, the first period-instrument ensemble in Hungary, since 1999 and Nicholas McGegan has been working with them for 30 years. It shows in their easy rapport and precision of ensemble.” — Tim Homfray. Read more in the November 2017 issue of The Strad.

“La Gloria di Primavera:” Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice

[Scarlatti: La Gloria di Primavera] “The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s string-playing is routinely urbane, and the continuo group’s realisations are impeccably shaded. This is a delightfully enjoyable revelation of the elder Scarlatti’s genius.” Read more at gramophone.co.uk.

Scarlatti, “La Gloria di Primavera” review

[Scarlatti: La Gloria di Primavera] “The modern-day premiere of Alessandro Scarlatti’s “La Gloria di Primavera” (”The Glory of Spring”) that Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra delivered last fall introduced us to a moderately pleasurable work of 18th century festive music, and the live recording that has now come out of that concert series replicates the experience nicely.” Read more at sfgate.com.

SF Classical Voice: “Revel in Bliss” – McGegan’s latest recording with PBO

[Scarlatti: La Gloria di Primavera] “Music Director Nicholas McGegan assembled a world-class band of instrumentalists and vocalists for the October 4, 2015 North American premiere, which was recorded in Berkeley’s First Congregational Church…Turn off the lights, put on this recording, and revel in bliss.” Read more at sfcv.org.

Examiner: The latest release from Philharmonia Baroque Productions celebrates landmarks

[Scarlatti: La Gloria di Primavera] “McGegan selected this music for the first concert of the 2015–2016 Philharmonia Baroque season. This was a particularly auspicious occasion. Not only did it mark the beginning of the ensemble’s 35th season, but also it celebrated McGegan’s 30th season as Music Director. In San Francisco the beginning of the season also celebrated the return of the ensemble of Herbst Theatre following two years of renovations that included significantly improved acoustics and far more conducive backstage resources.” Read more at examiner.com.

Early Music Review of “Joseph Haydn: Violin Concertos”

[Haydn: Violin Concertos] Combine this with 44321 strings of Capella Savaria (with bassoon and harpsichord), Nicholas McGegan’s baton, and the poised playing of Zsolt Kalló – even when Haydn was pushing his friend Tommasini almost to the bridge of his instrument! – and you get an irresistible hour of easy entertainment. Read more at Early Music Review.

CD Review: Haydn Symphonies 57, 67, 68

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “All of these brilliant moments are superbly executed by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under the clever direction of Nicholas McGegan. Nothing is under or overplayed. Crisp, clean lines, excellent balance, and delightful expressivity dominate. I rather doubt another ensemble could do better.” Read more at Early Music America.

Fanfare Magazine review: Haydn Symphonies 57, 67, 68

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “Every admirer of Haydn’s music should want to give this a listen…this is Haydn that makes you stop, think, and want to listen again.” Read more at FanfareMag.com or in the July/August issue of Fanfare Magazine.

Gramophone Review: HAYDN Symphonies

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “Nicholas McGegan and his San Francisco-based forces delve into a trio of symphonies that have been largely neglected outside of complete cycles.” Read more at Gramophone.

McGegan’s “expert realization” of three Haydn Symphonies

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “Recorded between February and October 2014, these inscriptions – engineered and edited by David V.R. Bowles – capture the incisive clarity of Haydn’s often audacious symphonic inventions.” More from Audiophile Audition.

CD Review: KRAUS – Symphonies & Violin Concerto

[Kraus: Symphonies & Violin Concerto] “Joseph Martin Kraus (1756–1792) is not the “Swedish Mozart,” or Haydn, or Beethoven, but has is own voice which shares characteristics of these three.” Read More.

Review: “Haydn Symphonies” are exuberant

Haydn Symphonies

“Beethoven and Haydn symphonies” CDs reviews

[Beethoven and Haydn Symphonies] “…he and the ensemble reveal unexpected depths and beauties in every movement. The playing of this original-instrument ensemble is remarkably good, assured and balanced and with an elegance exactly fitting the music.” More from Infodad.com.

McGegan Does It Again In “Haydn 57, 67, and 68”

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “McGegan clearly knows when to sound “authentic” and when to let his players sing.” Read more from Classics Today.

Philharmonia Baroque new “Haydn Symphonies” CD review

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “nobody does Haydn better than Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.” —Classical Candor

New Haydn CD review: Killer period orchestra

[Haydn: Symphonies 57, 67, 68] “Expertly performed grown up music any classical music tourist can listen to without fear, this is a superb gateway drug to great classical glories if there ever was one. Simply wonderful music by a crew working hard to be the last word on the subject for quite some time. Check it out.” Read more from Midwest Record.

CD Review: “Handel’s Teseo”

[Handel: Teseo] “Few ensembles are better equipped than Nicholas McGegan’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and the soloists here (notably soprano Dominique Labelle) are excellent, the live performance beautifully produced.” “…a noteworthy example of an emerging trend in classical music…” Read more from CD Hot List.

Gramophone Magazine “Hommage” CD review

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“Vivaldi Bassoon Concerti” CD Review

[Vivaldi: Bassoon Concerti] “…with the celebrated Nicholas McGegan as director and keyboard player, Jackson’s brilliant artistry shines out like a jewel in a perfect setting.” Read more from Audio Society of Atlanta.

“Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor and Symphony No. 4” CD Review

[Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor & Symphony No. 4] “McGegan is one of those very rare conductor…who know how to make a period orchestra ‘speak,’ to give it nuance and expression…” “Bravo to Kalló, McGegan, and the orchestra!” Read more of the review here.

“Mendelssohn” CD with “Capella Savaria” CD review

[Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor and Symphony No. 4] “Period instrument performance of works this late is rare, but under the baton of the impeccable Nicholas McGegan (of Philharmonia Baroque fame) this fine Hungarian chamber orchestra produce refreshingly lithe, energetic and thrillingly ‘raw’ sounding readings that force you to re-evaluate them.” Read more from Audiophilia.

“Beethoven Symphonies” CD review

[Beethoven: Symphonies No. 4 & 7] Unlike a number of other conductors in the early music movement, Nicholas McGegan has waited a long time to commit any of the Beethoven symphonies to disc. The wait has been well worthwhile. These are now my favorite period performance versions of the Fourth and Seventh symphonies on CD. I previously had preferred the Fourth of John Eliot Gardiner. It is faster than McGegan’s in every movement, sometimes significantly so. I feel that McGegan’s tempos allow the music to breathe more and to build up more natural climaxes. Gardiner uses a larger string section, which produces a wider dynamic range than McGegan’s. But McGegan’s orchestra sounds better balanced to me, with the strings allowing for richer textures from the inner voices. Interestingly, both conductors employ the same principal flute, the excellent Janet See, whose album of Vivaldi concertos with McGegan and the PBO is well worth seeking out. In the opening movement of the Fourth, McGegan’s Adagio is like a journey through the Greek underworld, leading to an Allegro vivace that feels like the whole world springing to life. Its development section sounds very Viennese in its congeniality. The second movement resembles chamber music, similar to a Buddhist scroll painting in its play of light and shade. It is significant that McGegan’s violin section includes such period chamber music luminaries as Katherine Kyme, Elizabeth Blumenstock, and Jolianne von Einem. The third movement displays Olympian humor, while the last is very danceable, sort of Beethoven’s version of a hoedown. In both symphonies, McGegan is very generous with repeats.

One of the principal attractions of McGegan’s Seventh is timpanist Kent Reed. Over 20 years ago, I heard a splendid Seventh by the New Jersey Symphony conducted by my friend Jens Nygaard, in which the timpanist, Randall Hicks, really whaled away. The critic assigned to the concert complained that it sounded like a timpani concerto. By now, we are so accustomed to the thwack of period timpani that Reed’s performance doesn’t seem unusual. Before hearing McGegan, my favorite period Seventh was Roger Norrington’s Stuttgart account. He is more fastidious in the middle movements about Beethoven’s metronome markings, though McGegan’s tempos there feel less rushed. Norrington’s strings, modern instruments played without vibrato, make a thicker, less appealing sound than McGegan’s more gossamer section. What’s more, McGegan conducts the entire symphony with a Beechamesque twinkle in his eye that Norrington lacks. The introduction to McGegan’s first movement is fleet-footed, with beautiful wind playing. The main section features wonderful waves of sound that ebb and flow, while the coda offers splendidly braying horns. McGegan’s slow movement is measured, with a careful delineation of dynamics. Its sensation is that of a haunted, misty reverie. The third movement feels as if the different sections of the orchestra are engaged in a conversation. Its trio sounds like an ecstatic shepherd’s song. The concluding movement is a jolly, mercurial romp. McGegan’s Seventh, congenial as it is, is one you can live with very easily.

The sound engineering in both symphonies is excellent. If you are looking for these works on modern instruments, I would recommend George Szell in Cleveland for the Fourth and Karl Böhm with the Vienna Philharmonic for the Seventh, although his Berlin account is nearly as good. McGegan’s album is a marvelous blend of the wisdom of the old master conductors with the finesse of period instruments. His Beethoven is an extremely likable fellow of vast ingenuity, an artist with whose work you never are sated. There is not one unconsidered bar of music in the whole album. Review by Dave Saemann of Fanfare.

“Beethoven Symphonies No. 4, Op. 60 & No. 7, Op. 92” Review

[Beethoven: Symphonies No. 4, Op. 60 & No. 7, Op. 92] “Those similarities are brilliantly brought out by Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra of San Francisco, in performances that nicely take note of period practice using original instruments without labouring the point.”

“McGegan, British-born and –trained, who has made his mark in the US and elsewhere, seems intent on presenting each work without too much interference or idiosyncratic underlining.” from Gramophone Magazine.

“Beethoven symphonies” more present and insistent with period instruments

[Beethoven: Symphonies No. 4 & 7] McGegan deserves a lot of credit for the extra-fine detail in these excellent, edge-of-my-seat performances. Above all, it’s his sense of pacing — of knowing exactly when to speed up, when to pull back, when to let the notes tumble into each other and when to keep us waiting for more — that makes this album far more magnetic than the average performance by a modern symphony orchestra. Read more from Musical Toronto.

CD Review: “Johannes Brahms Serenades”

[Johannes Brahms: Serenades] There are champions of Brahms’s relatively youthful Serenade in A (Op. 16), and with good reason. Scored without violins, it offers particularly piquant writing for the woodwinds and single-handedly gives the lie, if such were still needed, to Hugo Wolf’s canard that Brahms could not exult. But I love the Serenade in D (Op. 11) beyond reasonable measure. It is more symphonic in conception, though without the weight and textural density of Brahms’s own symphonies.

I especially love it in Istvan Kertesz’s Decca recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, which was alone in the catalog for almost a decade, and which remains the standard. For all the great work Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque have done in music of their nominal era, I didn’t expect in this period-instrument account anything like a rival to Kertesz. In the end it is not; it misses the ineffable warmth of the Kertesz recording: the way, for example, the plunging bass line radiates heat in the subsidiary theme of the Adagio. Still, Mr. McGegan’s effort is wonderful. By JAMES R. OESTREICH for the New York Times.

CD Review: “Brahms”

[Johannes Brahms: Serenades] “The Serenade No. 2, scored for an orchestra without violins, sounds especially dark here…and McGegan adopts an urgent rhythmic profile that makes it sound mysterious and vibrant. The Serenade No. 1, which is a more charming and seductive affair, comes off even more suavely.” Read more at SFGate.com.

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