Norman Stinchcombe's latest reviews of Bruckner and Martha Argerich


BRUCKNER SYMPHONIES 1-9: Berlin Philharmonic ★★★★

Nine symphonies, eight conductors, one orchestra. Bruckner sets with one conductor are uneven, one using eight more so. The constant factor is the powerful, elegant and refulgent orchestral playing. These performances were taped during concerts at Berlin's Philharmonie, closely miked, on hybrid CD/SACD discs with the latter having 5.1 surround sound and more hall ambience. Two veterans present outstanding performances: Haitink (Nos. 4 & 5) and Blomstedt (no.3), who uses the 1873 first version, loquacious but charming, complete with Wagner quotations. Ozawa (No.1) and Jansons (No.6) are serviceable but unexceptional; I enjoyed Paavo Järvi's amiable yet energetic traversal of No.2 and Thielemann's No.7 has the trenchancy and cogency of his mentor Karajan. Rattle's No.9, unconvincingly "completed" from Bruckner's sketches, is a hear-once novelty. Mehta's No.8 is, like all his Mahler and Bruckner, a series of seemingly unrelated climaxes. The set is handsomely presented with substantial booklet in a sturdy box.

Norman Stinchcombe

MARTHA ARGERICH: Concerts, recitals and documentary ★★

This set of six DVDs covers Argerich's career through six decades – from pianistic pyrotechnics to grandmother and darling of the celebrity festival circuit. It's a very mixed bag of material which has appeared before. Why include Disc 6 "Prometheus", from a themed 1992 Berlin concert, when Argerich briefly appears playing the piano part in Scriabin's Poem of Fire ? Disc 1 & 2 are occupied by a documentary Bloody Daughter by Argerich's daughter Stephanie about their troubled relationship. We see Stephanie washing her hair while mum plays on the radio. One for completists only. Her 2014 Colòn recital duetting with childhood pal Barenboim is an enjoyable, but a rather self-indulgent love-in; her 2020 recital with violinist Guy Braunstein is better. BBC 1977 footage, despite bog-standard sound and picture, is tops: an incendiary Tchaikovsky No.1 with Groves and a sensational Prokofiev concerto No. 3 with Previn – the latter available on YouTube.

Norman Stinchcombe

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