Manze’s in­no­va­tive take on the Jupiter is spot on

The con­duc­tor’s sur­pris­ing ap­proach to Mozart has re­ally made Misha Do­nat sit up and take no­tice

BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

Mozart Sym­phonies Nos 40 & 41

NDR Ra­dio­phil­har­monie/an­drew Manze Pen­ta­tone PTC 5186 757 (hy­brid CD/SACD) 74:47 mins It’s be­come quite fashionabl­e to do Mozart’s last two sym­phonies with all the re­peats, mak­ing them into im­pos­ing ed­i­fices last­ing nearly 40 min­utes apiece. Cer­tainly, in the case of the Jupiter Sym­phony the fi­nale’s sec­ond-half re­peat can be jus­ti­fied since its in­clu­sion throws greater weight onto the coda when it even­tu­ally ar­rives, with its fa­mous con­tra­pun­tal com­bi­na­tion of all five themes. Played in this way the fi­nale be­comes the crown­ing glory not only of this work, but of sym­phonic thought al­to­gether up to its time.

An­drew Manze’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions jus­tify the re­peats else­where, too. In his hands, the open­ing bars of the G mi­nor Sym­phony No. 40 ac­quire greater ex­pres­sive ur­gency the sec­ond time through, as though the drama of the in­ter­ven­ing mu­sic had rubbed off on them; while, con­versely, the slow move­ment’s sec­ond sub­ject is more quiet and mys­te­ri­ous on the re­peat, adding a new di­men­sion to the mu­sic. One or two of Manze’s other in­ter­pre­ta­tive ideas made me sit up: the way he han­dles the as­ton­ish­ingly an­gry start of the cen­tral de­vel­op­ment sec­tion in No. 40’s fi­nale, mak­ing it sound even more dis­jointed than it al­ready is (the sec­ond time through, once the cat’s been let out of the bag, so to speak, he has the same pas­sage played in tempo); or the long pause he makes be­fore the on­set of the coda in the Jupiter ’s fi­nale, stress­ing the mu­sic’s mys­te­ri­ous, oth­er­worldly char­ac­ter.

For some­one who had such a long ca­reer as a pe­ri­odin­stru­ment vi­olin­ist, Manze’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions with the NDR Ra­dio­phil­har­monie (of which he is now prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor) are sur­pris­ingly Ro­man­tic – and none the worse for that. To make the two most fa­mous among all 18th-cen­tury sym­phonies sound so fresh is no mean feat. I en­joyed these per­for­mances im­mensely.

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Hear ex­tracts from this record­ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine web­site at www.clas­si­cal-mu­sic.com

Brahms • Parry Brahms (arr. Schoen­berg): Pi­ano

Quar­tet in G mi­nor;

Parry: El­egy for Brahms

Gävle Sym­phony Or­ches­tra/

Jaime Martín

On­dine ODE 1314-2 53:13 mins Schoen­berg’s 1937 or­ches­tra­tion of Brahms’s G mi­nor Pi­ano Quar­tet con­tin­ues to di­vide opin­ion. For some, it’s a mag­nif­i­cent and imag­i­na­tive re­al­i­sa­tion of a work that in its orig­i­nal form al­ready sounds like or­ches­tral mu­sic. Oth­ers, how­ever, are less sym­pa­thetic, claim­ing that the tex­tures are too thickly drawn, es­pe­cially in the louder mo­ments of the score, and that Schoen­berg’s de­ci­sion to add E flat clar­inet and xy­lo­phone to the or­ches­tral fab­ric dis­torts Brahms’s in­ten­tions, since such in­stru­ments were never used by the com­poser. Per­haps scep­tics will change their minds af­ter lis­ten­ing to this beau­ti­fully-recorded ver­sion.

In util­is­ing the rel­a­tively mod­est­sized forces of the Gävle Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, con­duc­tor Jaime Martín suc­ceeds in bring­ing far greater tex­tu­ral clar­ity to the or­ches­tra­tion than many other record­ings us­ing a fuller com­ple­ment of strings.

The most ob­vi­ous ad­van­tage comes in pas­sages such as the pow­er­ful cen­tral sec­tion of the slow move­ment which can so eas­ily sound bloated, but is here pro­jected with light­ness and a good sense of for­ward mo­men­tum.

The or­ches­tra masters many of the tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties posed by Schoen­berg’s writ­ing in the first three move­ments and de­liver some very ex­pres­sive play­ing es­pe­cially in the lyri­cal sec­ond move­ment ‘In­ter­mezzo’. ★ow­ever, en­sem­ble is some­what stretched by the for­mi­da­ble de­mands of the Fi­nale ‘Rondo alla zin­garese’ where the panache and vir­tu­os­ity of Rat­tle’s Ber­liner Phil­har­moniker (on Warner Clas­sics) out­shines all other recorded ver­sions by some dis­tance. None­the­less, there is much to en­joy here, and the cou­pling of Parry’s short El­egy for Brahms, writ­ten as a heart­felt trib­ute to the com­poser in the year of his death, is per­formed with great elo­quence. Erik Levi PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

To make these two sym­phonies sound so fresh is no mean feat

Bruck­ner Sym­phony No. 9

Bavar­ian Radio Sym­phony Or­ches­tra/mariss Jan­sons

BR Klas­sik 900173 57:10 mins

De­spite re­cent at­tempts to com­plete and es­tab­lish Bruck­ner’s notquite fin­ished draft-sketch of the fi­nale of his Ninth Sym­phony as a le­git­i­mate part of the work, it is no use pre­tend­ing that, in the­matic ma­te­rial, it comes any­where near the level of the rest. Nor does Mariss Jan­sons pre­tend: of­fer­ing the more tra­di­tional view of the first three move­ments as a com­plete state­ment in them­selves. This new, live read­ing is ac­tu­ally his sec­ond shot at the work. ★is ear­lier Con­cert­ge­bouw record­ing (RCO la­bel, 2016) di­vided crit­ics be­tween those who felt it up­held that or­ches­tra’s great Bruck­ner tra­di­tion worthily, and those who com­plained that its rel­a­tively for­ward-mov­ing tem­pos lacked ‘mys­tery’.

Though scarcely slower than the ear­lier read­ing, and recorded in an am­bi­ence com­bin­ing spa­cious­ness with de­tailed clar­ity, the open­ing has mys­tery enough. But more strik­ing is how Jan­sons’s ‘long-view’ en­ables him to project the en­tire first-sub­ject group as, at once, a sin­gle arc and an up­beat to the ex­tended sec­ond­sub­ject group. Though ex­pres­sive ru­batos and mean­ing­ful pauses are dis­creetly de­ployed, noth­ing is al­lowed to im­pede the cu­mu­la­tive con­ti­nu­ity. The Bavar­ian Radio SO re­sponds with weighty string tone and no­ble sonori­ties from the eight horns (four of them dou­bling Wag­ner tubas) that colour so much of the score. The only slight qual­i­fi­ca­tion is the fail­ure of the trum­pets quite to cut through the tex­ture of the Ada­gio’s awe­somely dis­so­nant cli­max. Be­cause Bruck­ner’s Ninth is such an ex­treme and ‘ul­ti­mate’ work, its in­ter­pre­ta­tion will al­ways raise par­ti­san pas­sions, but this is a fine one. Bayan North­cott PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

Fin­nis

The Air, Turn­ing; Else­where; Par­al­lel Colour; Be­tween Rain; Four Duets; Shades Lengthen

Mark Simp­son (clar­inet), Eloisa-fleur Thom, Benjamin Beil­man (vi­o­lin), Víkingur Ólaf­s­son (pi­ano); London Con­tem­po­rary Or­ches­tra/robert Ames; Brit­ten Sin­fo­nia/an­drew Gour­ley; BBC Scot­tish Sym­phony Or­ches­tra/ilan Volkov; Birm­ing­ham Con­tem­po­rary Mu­sic Group/

Richard Baker

NMC NMC D249 70:39 mins

The mu­sic of Ed­mund Fin­nis in­vites rather than de­mands at­ten­tion – and the more it is given, the more its gifts un­fold.

Born in 1984, Fin­nis has an al­most synaes­thetic abil­ity to paint del­i­cate yet ro­bust, translu­cent sonic worlds that com­bine broad, brush-stroke ges­tures with tiny nu­ances of sound. Each work on this ex­quis­ite de­but disc is, in ef­fect, a con­stantly chang­ing prism in which sur­face and depth are re­vealed in tac­tile, mu­tual os­cil­la­tion. The open­ing ti­tle track, The Air, Turn­ing – writ­ten for the BBC Scot­tish Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and con­duc­tor Ilan Volkov – aptly de­scribes the whole as it does this shim­mer­ing score.

Where does Par­al­lel Colour stop and Be­tween Rain be­gin? The for­mer is cast in seven, beau­ti­fully sculpted sec­tions around a cen­tral dou­ble bass (Birm­ing­ham Con­tem­po­rary Mu­sic Group, con­duc­tor Richard Baker) while the lat­ter hints at dark­ness un­der­ly­ing its sub­tle string ten­sions (London Con­tem­po­rary Or­ches­tra, Robert Ames). Shades Lengthen (Brit­ten Sin­fo­nia, An­drew Gourlay, with vi­olin­ist Benjamin Beil­man) completes a be­guil­ing quar­tet of larger en­sem­ble pieces. Cap­ti­vat­ing, too, is Four Duets, in which clar­inet­tist Mark Simp­son and pi­anist Víkingur Ólaf­s­son ebb and flow in lovely cir­cles – while Eloisa-fleur Thom’s breath­tak­ing solo vi­o­lin takes the lis­tener Else­where in­deed. Steph Power PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Mahler Sym­phony No. 3

Sara Min­gardo (con­tralto); Women’s choir of Schola Hei­del­berg; Young singers of Cologne Cathe­dral; Gürzenich-or­ch­ester Köln/françoisx­avier Roth

Har­mo­nia Mundi HMM 905314.15

93:29 mins (2 discs) Or­ches­tral stan­dards in Mahler con­tinue to rocket un­der in­spi­ra­tional con­duc­tors, and this month sees two high wa­ter­marks in record­ings of the sym­phonies: Iván Fis­cher’s Bu­dapest Sev­enth, and Françoisx­avier Roth’s Third with the ven­er­a­ble Ger­man in­sti­tu­tion which was partly re­spon­si­ble for the work’s tri­umphant world pre­miere in Krefeld, the Gurzenich Or­ches­tra of Cologne. This crack team has al­ready had the ad­van­tage of a highly orig­i­nal cy­cle with its pre­vi­ous chief con­duc­tor, Markus Stenz, and while I felt that Roth wasn’t quite at the same level in the Fifth, he goes at the crazy world of the Third with all wind and brass guns blaz­ing. Not for this team the Olympian view of ★aitink and the Bavar­i­ans in the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine Award-win­ning live record­ing; Roth isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty with the rag­gle-tag­gle marchers of the first move­ment. Even the trom­bone sounds more like a raw force of na­ture than a so­phis­ti­cated fu­neral mas­ter.

Clar­inets’ shrilling and fierce trum­pet play­ing com­pound an out­stand­ingly vivid drama. The record­ing helps, bril­liant in high fre­quen­cies and pow­er­ful in the bass, though I wish there was just a lit­tle more depth and back­light­ing

Once past a mo­bile but grace­ful flower-pic­ture and an­i­mal magic in the woods, Roth shows he can do se­ri­ous, too, with mezzo Sara Min­gardo sym­bolic of the per­for­mance as a whole: not an un­earthly or­a­cle but a feel­ing hu­man be­ing, deeply in­volved in the night-pic­ture around her. The great Ada­gio never be­comes stat­uesque, but in­stead re­mains the­atre of un­pre­dictable ex­plo­sions and ex­ul­ta­tions. On its own terms, unbeatable. David Nice PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

Re­spighi Ro­man Tril­ogy

Buf­falo Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra/ Joann Fal­letta

Naxos 8.574013 62:13 mins

It’s a long way from Buf­falo to Rome, but the Buf­falo Phil­har­monic play­ers bridge the gap im­pres­sively in their new record­ing of Re­spighi’s tril­ogy of tone-po­ems based on the his­tory and ge­og­ra­phy of the Ital­ian city.

The disc opens with Ro­man Fes­ti­vals, usu­ally thought the knot­ti­est of the tril­ogy. The whoop­ing Buf­falo brass have fun im­i­tat­ing the ‘howl­ing of wild beasts’ Re­spighi de­scribes in ‘Cir­cus Max­imus,’ but although there is plenty of adrenalin in the play­ing, Joann Fal­letta is care­ful not to press the af­ter-burner but­ton too early. If some of the in­stru­men­tal so­los in ‘Ju­bilee’ seem a touch sub­dued, ‘Oc­to­ber Fes­ti­val’ has twin­kling buoy­ancy and colour, and the con­clud­ing ‘Epiphany’ is clam­orous and dy­namic with­out de­gen­er­at­ing into chaos.

In Foun­tains of Rome Fal­letta dis­tils a pleas­ing sense of spright­li­ness in the ‘Tri­ton Foun­tain’ sec­tion. She builds a surg­ing cli­max in ‘The Trevi Foun­tain,’ re­plete with Wag­ne­r­ian over­tones, and a se­duc­tive me­lan­choly per­vades night­fall at the ‘Villa Medici.’

The joy­ful dance rhythms in the ‘Villa Borgh­ese’ move­ment of Pines of Rome are ex­u­ber­antly pointed, and the trum­pet solo in ‘Cat­a­comb’ is tin­glingly evoca­tive. And while the clos­ing ‘Pines of the Ap­pian Way’ is pre­dictably block­bust­ing, through­out the disc it’s Fal­letta’s ear for sub­tleties of or­ches­tra­tion and tex­ture that is par­tic­u­larly strik­ing. Though ex­cit­ing, these are far from be­ing smash-and-grab per­for­mances.

There are plenty of record­ings of the Ro­man Tril­ogy avail­able, but this one’s com­bi­na­tion of bud­get price and re­fined, ro­bust mu­si­cian­ship make it a gen­uine con­tender.

Terry Blain

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

Shostakovi­ch Sym­phony No. 5; Four Ro­mances on Po­ems by Pushkin

James Platt (bass); Hallé/mark Elder Hallé CD HLL 7550 63:08 mins

Late in 1936, the year he was of­fi­cially lam­basted through an un­signed edi­to­rial in Pravda, Shostakovi­ch com­posed Four Pushkin Ro­mances os­ten­si­bly for the great poet’s cen­te­nary the fol­low­ing year. ★is choices of text are telling: ‘Fore­bod­ing’ in­cludes the lines ‘Once again en­vi­ous fate threat­ens me with mis­for­tune’, while oth­ers re­flect upon mor­tal­ity, with the hope ex­pressed in

‘Re­birth’ – quoted in the fi­nale of his Fifth Sym­phony writ­ten al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards – that de­spite the vi­cis­si­tudes of life great art will ul­ti­mately endure.

Cou­pling these works as on this al­bum makes sense; but, given how easy these days it is to com­pile a playlist from the sev­eral ex­cel­lent record­ings al­ready avail­able of ei­ther work, the most im­por­tant el­e­ment here is the qual­ity of the per­for­mances. Mark Elder and the ★allé’s ac­count of the Sym­phony ap­pears con­sci­en­tious and well pre­pared, but rather over­plays the work’s de­spair at the ex­pense of its nar­ra­tive of de­fi­ance against ad­ver­sity. Though cleanly ex­e­cuted and ar­tic­u­lated, the per­for­mance fails to ig­nite into a com­pelling ac­count – sur­pris­ing from Elder, who I would nor­mally rate a dy­namic con­duc­tor – but rather seems to drag it­self wearily, lack­ing a vi­tal in­ner pulse de­sir­able at such slow tem­pos.

The Pushkin Ro­mances, pre­sented in Shostakovi­ch’s own or­ches­tra­tion as com­pleted by Ger­ard Mcburney, are sung by James Platt, an im­pres­sively dark-toned bass, though he doesn’t sing the texts with quite the flu­ency of a na­tive speaker, and lacks the sub­tle nu­ance of the Rus­sian bari­tone Dmitri Kharitonov on Elder’s pre­vi­ous record­ing of these songs (on Signum). Daniel Jaffé PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★

Tchaikovsk­y • Wag­ner

Wag­ner: Pre­lude and Liebestod from Tris­tan und Isolde; Tchaikovsk­y: Sym­phony No. 4 South Nether­lands Phil­har­monic/ Dmitri Liss

Fuga Lib­era FUG 754 58:04 mins

Only now in its fifth sea­son, the South Nether­lands Phil­har­monic typ­i­fies the

Dutch or­ches­tral strengths of tonal in­te­gra­tion, tim­bral blend and purring so­phis­ti­ca­tion. The im­mensely ex­pe­ri­enced Dmitri Liss, the or­ches­tra’s first chief con­duc­tor, has made a fine job of mould­ing a cor­po­rate out­fit from this pre­dom­i­nately youth­ful group of play­ers, pre­fer­ring el­e­gant, long lines and cultured in­ter­nal bal­anc­ing to su­per­heated out­bursts of sonic am­pli­tude.

Edited from two live per­for­mances given on con­sec­u­tive evenings in Breda and Eind­hoven, the or­ches­tra proves more than a match for the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges set by Tchaikovsk­y’s Fourth Sym­phony. As recorded, the strings (vi­o­lins par­tic­u­larly) may lack tren­chancy, but are im­mac­u­lately in­ter­nally bal­anced, the wood­wind segue their var­i­ous lines with sen­si­tiv­ity, while the brass ter­race their sound with thrilling bass ex­ten­sion. Even when the notes start fly­ing – most con­spic­u­ously in the fi­nale – there is an over­all co­he­sion and sense of firm con­trol that is un­de­ni­ably im­pres­sive and at times im­mer­sive. All that is lack­ing, com­pared to the finest ver­sions avail­able – most no­tably Kara­jan on film (Uni­tel/dg) and Mravin­sky (DG) – is a vis­ceral sense of sus­tained emo­tional thrust, of the mu­sic ex­plod­ing out of the speak­ers with un­re­strained verve and en­ergy.

Wag­ner’s Tris­tan und Isolde ex­hibits a dif­fer­ent kind of emo­tion­al­ism, in which the mu­sic’s sen­sual puls­ing ap­pears to be sus­tained un­der su­per­hu­man pres­sure. Again, one can­not help but ad­mire the Nether­lan­ders’ over­all ac­com­plish­ment in pac­ing Wag­ner’s rapt har­monic sus­pen­sions with such skill and ex­per­tise, even if the darker side of the emo­tional nar­ra­tive proves some­what elu­sive. Ju­lian Hay­lock

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

French Mu­sic for Bal­let

Ibert: Les Amours de Jupiter;

Massenet: Hero­di­ade – Bal­let Suite; Sau­guet: Les Fo­rains Es­to­nian Na­tional Sym­phony Or­ches­tra/neeme Järvi

Chan­dos CHAN 20132 68:19 mins

Paris in 1945 was still pick­ing it­self up af­ter the Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion, as is re­flected in the bal­lets by Sau­guet and Ibert given by Roland Petit’s dancers in that and the fol­low­ing year. Those not en­am­oured of Mes­si­aen’s Quar­tet for the End of Time and Vi­sions de l’amen may well have been re­lieved to find the old French style was alive and well, al­beit with a few twists here and there.

The sce­nario of Les Fo­rains, ded­i­cated ‘to the mem­ory of Erik Satie’, looks back to that of Pa­rade, as does Sau­guet’s mu­sic to the ear­lier bal­let’s light­ness of heart and tex­ture, and the tune of the ‘En­trée de Fo­rains’, later recorded in its song ver­sion by Piaf, is by some way the best on the disc.

Ibert’s or­ches­tra­tion of Les Amours de Jupiter is, per­haps nec­es­sar­ily, fuller and, to me, less ap­peal­ing: we have to wait un­til the 11th of the 19 dances be­fore com­ing to a wind solo. Chore­og­ra­phers have al­ways liked sym­me­try (4x4=16 bars), but in bulk this be­comes pre­dictable and Ibert’s melodic in­ven­tion is not as strong as else­where in his oeu­vre.

The same sadly goes for the Héro­di­ade bal­let suite. In 1881 the 39-year-old Massenet had still not found his true voice, though Manon was just round the cor­ner. Järvi also fails to fol­low his text, omit­ting the three chords that should link the sec­ond and third dances and ig­nor­ing the triple ac­celerando at the end of the last one. Roger Nichols PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★

New Ro­man­tic: An­drew Manze re­casts Mozart

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