Site review by Polly Nomial December 31, 2012
Performance: Sonics (MC):
|For those in the Northern hemisphere, this aural respite from the cold, dark winter cannot be welcomed enough. For those in sunnier, warmer climates - just bask in the joy!
Right from the opening bars of the “Light Calvary” overture, one senses this is going to be a very special disc. The dynamic range of playing between the woodwinds and the tutti orchestra and the attention to note lengths after the first two fanfares is extraordinary and the verve of the playing causes an intake of breath waiting for a mistake to happen – it never does! The martial clip is wonderfully turned out and it is only in the coda where some head-scratching will occur. When the brass have the fanfare motive in unison octaves, Jarvi makes a curious decision to go half-speed before doubling up again for the final few bars. Undoubtedly exciting but it will surely not find agreement with every listener. Fortunately that is one of only two aspects which most will have cause to question (more of that later).
Next up is the overture to “Boccacio” which is really deftly dispatched indeed. Again, one is struck by the formidable dynamic range afforded by Jarvi and the playing of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is beyond criticism; both the woodwind solos and the string playing is more what one expects to hear from Vienna on New Years Day instead of Glasgow in April. Their sheer joy & panache in the music making is quite infectious & the smile of listener must be mimicking those of the orchestras personnel. One of the many rarities, a March from Boccacio, follows and is even more reminiscent of the Vienna Philharmonic in their pomp (but the Vienna Philharmonic has never been so well recorded!)
If the tonal depth of the strings is not quite of the same character as their Viennese counterparts in the introduction of the overture to “Pique Dame”, then the winningly easy phrasing of the material more than compensates. Once the Allegro begins there is no doubting the mastery of the music by either conductor or orchestra and the virtuosity is thrilling in a way that is not usually associated with this conductor. Much the same can be said of the performance that is given of the overture to “Poet & Peasant”; in between comes the “Humouristiches Variationen” and although both conductor and orchestra make the most of this piece, the humour is somewhat dated (despite dating from some decades earlier, Haydn's comedic touch is radical by comparison). Still it is interesting (and enjoyable with such deft playing) to hear the inspiration for Brahms' Academic Festival Overture being taken apart & put back together in such a fashion. I doubt that many will return for anything other than quizzing other musical friends about where the theme was also used though!
More rarities follow with the Marziale (after “Fatinitza”) - this is strikingly reminiscent of Beethoven's Turkish March in places and, once again, has a strikingly wide dynamic range all too rarely heard in this “easy listening” style of orchestral music. Similarly the overture to The Model starts in a delightful innocent fashion before some really threatening trombones signal the main Waltz theme. “Up Hill and Down Dale” is another march in which the Royal Scottish National Orchestra really do sound remarkably Viennese – all in favour of the music and a joy to the ear. The overture to “Isabella” (clearly set in Spain) opens with a whirling tarantella that is delightfully spun off the page and all the various styles crammed in (rather like a Strauss quadrille) is delightfully infectious when played in this manner.
Back on more familiar territory Jarvi opens “The Beautiful Galatea” at a tremendous lick but thanks to the extraordinarily deft playing of the RSNO, the effect is to leaven textures. The string chorale has never sounded so much like Wagner in these hands – the “symphonic operas” series still clearly fresh in the minds of players & conductor alike! Shortly after, one can hear the care which all have taken to shape both the accompaniment as well as the melodic line – very impressive and not often done so audibly whilst remaining subtle. Before the closing work, the last of the rarities is performed - “Juanita-Marsch”.The playing of this “Spanish” piece is so stylish that one can see and hear the Musikverein; if this were the only music on the disc, it'd still put a beaming smile on my face!
The overture to “Morning, Noon & Night in Vienna” is the one other place where some may find cause for concern. As in “The Beautiful Galatea” the opening phrases are taken at a tremendously fast pace; so fast that it is difficult to make out all the notes of the under-the-chin strings. Those few phrases aside, all of the remaining music making is of the same astonishingly high standard as the preceding 70 minutes.
In almost all respects, the booklet is well up to the best standards of Chandos output. My one criticism though is that nowhere does it identify the many soloists – woodwind and the principal cellist in particular deserved recognition. Nothing can be complained about in the sonic department however; as already indicated, the dynamic range afforded is spectacular and the impact of the percussion gives one a visceral thrill.
Is it too early to put down a marker for my disc of 2013?!?
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