sHOSTAKOVICH, BEETHOVEN AND SIBELIUS CD REVIEWS

NORMAN STINCHOMBE REVIEWS CD RELEASES OF SHOSTAKOVICH, BEETHOVEN AND A TOWERING SIBELIUS RARITY



SHOSTAKOVICH: Gerhardt / West German Radio SO / Saraste ★★★

Alban Gerhardt's booklet note pays tribute to Rostropovich – for whom Shostakovich wrote the two cello concertos – but reveals how their interpretations differ. It primarily concerns tempo markings towards which Rostropovich was famously cavalier, although the composer never seemed to mind. In the second concerto, from 1966, all three movements have the same tempo marking which Gerhardt adheres to by playing the slower first movement in cut-time alla breve. It sounds more urgent and less introspective – Gerhard takes 11.26 compared to 15.06 for Mischa Maisky (DG). It makes the concerto more cohesive but concomitantly reduces the contrast between the Largo and the succeeding madcap allegrettos. It's an interesting experiment. Gerhardt's quicker opening to the first concerto is less successful and it's not just about being brisk – where's the humour? Lynn Harrell (Decca) captures the opening four-note motto's slightly bumptious quality perfectly. The Cologne orchestra's playing, under Jukka-Pekke Saraste, is admirably pungent.

Norman Stinchcombe


BEETHOVEN & GOSSEC Les Siècles / François-Xavier Roth ★★

Just over forty years ago this recording of Beethoven's fifth symphony would have shocked and amazed listeners used to imbibing recordings by Karajan and Klemperer. Played amazingly quickly, right up to the stone-deaf composer's controversial metronome markings, with acidic non-vibrato strings and reproduction period wind and brass. What startled then is old hat now. It's the new orthodoxy but not particularly "authentic" since Roth conducts with the extravagant point-making that no contemporary of Beethoven would have dreamed of doing. The symphony by Beethoven's French contemporary Gossec is a pleasant bit of poundshop Mozart but the whole full-price CD clocks in at a meagre 53 minutes. For £1.61 more than Roth's disc Amazon is currently offering the complete set of Beethoven's symphonies (and eight overtures) by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly. His fifth, on modern instruments, is even faster than Roth but with more wit, grandeur and ingratiating playing.

Norman Stinchcombe


SIBELIUS KULLERVO Minnesota Orchestra / YL Male Voice Choir / Vanska ★★★★

This was first released in 2016 – with contemporary composer Olli Kortegangas's Migrations – as a double disc live recording from a concert celebrating Finnish music. Bis has now repackaged it as a single hybrid SACD / CD for those just wanting Sibelius's powerful early choral symphony There is no conductor better at revealing the work's nature and stature than Osmo Vanska, as he did in a blazing performance at Symphony Hall (with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) in 2006. The Minnesota Orchestra are masterly as they power into Sibelius's sweeping depiction of the Finnish landscape, while baritone Tommi Hakala and mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi excel as the doomed anti-hero Kullervo and his lover-sister. The YL Male Voice Choir – founded in 1883 and some of whose members sang in the work's premiere – are firm and authoritative. I marginally favour Vanska's 2000 Lahti recording (same choir and label) where Paasikivi is in fresher voice.

Norman Stinchcombe

Popular posts