Khachaturian/Dvorak, Liszt CD reviews


DVORAK, KHACHATURIAN: Barton-Pine / Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Abrams (Avie AV2411)


In Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye private eye Philip Marlowe has the radio on, "listening to Khachaturian in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto". Funny but unfair. There's plenty of tuneful music here, which the Soviet music commissars approved of, but no industrial metal-bashing. Rachel Barton-Pine, with fine support from the RSNO under her fellow American Teddy Abrams, zips energetically through the amazingly catchy moto perpetuo first movement and find plenty of bounce and uplift in the Armenian composer's folk-inflected finale. There's top value in this unique pairing with Dvorak's delightfully sunny concerto. Barton-Pine takes a middle road between the languorous, slightly self-indulgent Mutter (DG) and the amazingly fleet Pamela Frank. The latter, with the Czech Philharmonic under Charles Mackerras, really capture the Bohemian idiom but it's now only available as a download – boos for Decca. Barton-Pine's playing is very attractive and on disc it's a front-runner.

Norman Stinchcombe

LISZT DANTE SYMPHONY: Staatskapelle Weimar / Kirill Karabits (Audite LC 04480) ★★★★

It's not a masterpiece like his Faust Symphony, is seldom performed and infrequently recorded but Liszt's Dante Symphony contains some wonderful music. The fearsome and tonally ambiguous opening depicting the gates of Hell sounds cavernous and pitch black, and its portrait of the tortured lovers inspired Tchaikovsky's Francesca di Rimini. Karabits and his Weimar forces are suitably trenchant and saturnine here, if lacking the weight of Barenboim's Berlin Philharmonic (Warner Classics). In the Purgatorio movement you may find Karabits (18 min) refreshingly flowing or disconcertingly lightweight and hurried. Sinopoli and the mighty Dresden Staatskapelle (23 min) are simply titanic – but DG has deleted Sinopoli's magnificent disc. The Magnificat finale with women's voices from the Weimar choir and Jena Boys' Choir soloist, is beautifully floated. There's an exuberant colourfully romantic performance of Tasso, one of Liszt's finest tone poems, and a bonus premiere recording of his Künstlerfestzug zur Schillerfeier festival march.

Norman Stinchcombe

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