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This is one of Pletnev's first discs, but it's new to my collection, so here goes. The Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition is magnificent and occasionally inventive, with original pianistic touches here and there that add to the music rather than detract from it. Pletnev's touch is sure, his dynamic range is wide, and his sense of tempo and drama unfaltering. Pictures is a problematic piece for pianists, some of whom like to play it as if were an orchestral piece (it's not): think Richter (1958 Sofia), Horowitz, or in today's generation, Boris Giltburg. Pletnev doesn't do that, a strategy that is not always successful for other artists, but here is intriguingly appropriate given the genesis of the work. Pletnev also provides us with his own arrangements of music from Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" which satisfy greatly. Thus, we have, IMHO, an album not to be missed. Five stars.
Jiri Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic are a dream team in Smetana's signature work, Ma Vlast (My Country). This new recording compares favorably with Ancerl (1964) and Kubelik (1990), the latter a rousing live recording celebrating Czechoslavia's liberation from communism. The players in the Czech Philharmonic may have changed over the years, but the quality of their playing is still exemplary. Rafael Kubelik owned this work during his lifetime: luckily we have this exquisite example of Belohlavek's prowess made just before his premature demise (he was only 71) earlier this year. This is an extraordinary recording. Five enthusiastic stars!
As did Vaclav Talich during his. Talich and the Czech Philharmonic recorded it twice for HMV/Electrola before the War and again for Supraphon afterwards. There have been many fine recordings of "Vltava" ("The Moldau"), Smetana's greatest hit, but I've never heard better than Talich/Supraphon in "Vysehrad."maestrob wrote:Rafael Kubelik owned this work during his lifetime
Thank-you, John. IIRC, Talich's recording of Ma Vlast was issued here on vinyl by the Quintessence label, and I hope I still have it somewhere.John F wrote: ↑Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:34 pmAs did Vaclav Talich during his. Talich and the Czech Philharmonic recorded it twice for HMV/Electrola before the War and again for Supraphon afterwards. There have been many fine recordings of "Vltava" ("The Moldau"), Smetana's greatest hit, but I've never heard better than Talich/Supraphon in "Vysehrad."maestrob wrote:Rafael Kubelik owned this work during his lifetime
I looked around and yes, the Quintessence release is the 1950s Talich recording instead of the earlier versions on 78s. My own copy is on the low-priced Parliament label, and no doubt Quintessence did better with the recorded sound. Worth another listen if you can find it.
Parliament had some excellent early releases from Supraphon that I picked up at a local store in the late 1960's for 99 cents. Included in those were my still favorite recording of Martinu IV (reissued on CD by Urania) with Martin Turnovsky, and the Khachaturian Piano Concerto with the opening tempo set just right w/Alois Klima on piano, the latter still available used on amazon also on Urania.John F wrote: ↑Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:24 pmI looked around and yes, the Quintessence release is the 1950s Talich recording instead of the earlier versions on 78s. My own copy is on the low-priced Parliament label, and no doubt Quintessence did better with the recorded sound. Worth another listen if you can find it.
Rachmaninoff's "The Bells" receives 19 pages on amazon, so there was really no need for this new recording by Rachmaninoff exponent Mariss Jansons, yet, here we are, and a fine achievement it is. Oleg Dolgov's pure slavic tenor excels in his role, while soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya and baritone Aleksei Markov provide outstanding singing as well. And let's not forget the fine-tuned choral work accompanied by the Bayerischen Rundfunks choir accompanied by their orchestra. Jansons has this music in his blood, and he also brings us a first-rate performance of the Symphonic Dances with one flaw: he lets the tam-tam stroke at the very end fade away, while in the score there is no LP marking, which indicates that it should be cut short, as Ormandy does in his definitive version of this work. There is also one tempo in Janson's interpretation of the Dances that I find too slow compared to Ormandy, but that's a quibble, as this is an excellent disc. Four and 1/2 stars.
Jaap van Zweden has certainly found his footing in Wagner: all the notes are in the right place, and his tempi are spot-on. There is, however a blandness about his music-making that leaves me wanting more electricity, more fire-in-the-belly, which is sorely lacking here. The singers (flown all the way to Hong Kong for the occasion, I'm sure!) sound thin and lacking in depth. Simon O'Neill handles the notes OK, but his voice is too thin for the role of Siegfried. The Mime, David Cangelosi is a reedy tenor who gets the basics right, but that's about all. The Alberich is forgettable (Werner Van Mechelen). The Forest Bird (Valentina Farcas) is quite lovely. The Erda (Deborah Humble) again lacks depth and has a pronounced wobble on certain notes. Finally, we get to the Wanderer, Matthias Goerne, who is the one great singer in this cast, and why I give this as high a rating as I do, for he's quite wonderful, with a rich darkness to his voice that perfectly embodies the mature Wotan. All in all, not a failure as a recording, but worth a visit just to check in on Van Zweden's progress, and to hear Goerne's Wanderer. It's a live recording, but not a peep from the audience and no applause. Three and 1/2 stars.
I'll be hearing Zweden's Bruckner 8 with the New York Philharmonic next month, the first time I'll hear him in anything. The Dutch have a long and strong tradition of Bruckner performance - I learned the major symphonies from van Beihum and several others from Haitink - so this seems worth taking a chance on.
One of my favorite symphonies of all time! Please let us know your thoughts on the performance, John. I hope you enjoy it. Szell/Cleveland and Giulini/Vienna are my touchstone performances of that symphony. Van Zweden should at least lead a disciplined performance: we'll see if he has any depth. He's only just recorded all of Bruckner in the Netherlands (well-received on amazon), so I doubt there'll be a new release from NY.John F wrote: ↑Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:52 pmI'll be hearing Zweden's Bruckner 8 with the New York Philharmonic next month, the first time I'll hear him in anything. The Dutch have a long and strong tradition of Bruckner performance - I learned the major symphonies from van Beihum and several others from Haitink - so this seems worth taking a chance on.
I learned the symphony from van Beinum and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and that recording remains a favorite. Van Beinum takes what I'd call a Beethovenesque approach, with the first movement brisk and dramatic; also he uses the Haas edition which I think is better if less musicologically scrupulous than Nowak's.
Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado has made quite a career for himself under my radar, along with pianist Javier Perianes, who has quite a discography ranging from Schubert to more modern composers. Both artists are excellent in their Bartok disc released earlier this year with the Munich Philharmonic. Perianes and Heras-Casado search for and bring out the lyric beauty in Bartok's last work, his Third Piano Concerto, while conductor Heras-Casado manages the sparkle and energy in the Concerto for Orchestra as well as did Reiner, Ormandy (RCA) or Boulez (Columbia). Truly a fine reading of both pieces, with depth of feeling and spot-on tempi. Five stars!
Eldar Nebolsin is a pianist who has flown under my radar for more than a decade; as this 2007 release clearly shows, I've been missing some extraordinary pianism. This disc of Rachmaninov's complete Preludes is filled to the brim with stunning playing, with depth and virtuosity that bring out refinements and emotional depth I've not heard since the previous generation (Richter, Horowitz and Gilels). This is a seriously outstanding recording, with superb piano sound recorded by Naxos in the U.K. Don't wait: if you love great piano playing, this is one of the finest recordings I've recommended this year. Better late than never! Five enthusiastic stars.
I wonder if he's related to the conductor Vassily Nebolsin, chief conductor at the Bolshoi and of many Russian operas on Melodiya from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. It's not that common a name, I believe, but the Wikipedia article doesn't say so.
Neither do his bio notes to the album indicate any relationship with Vassily Nebolsin. He was born in Tashkent, has had an extraordinary international career, just not consistently at the very top tier. He got his start by winning competitions in Tbilisi (at 12!) and Prague (at 14!). He has played with the NY Philharmonic, and in Minnesota, Baltimore, Chicago, Montreal and St. Louis in North America. He has also appeared in Australia. When not concertizing, he gives lessons in chamber music playing in Madrid together with Ralf Gothoni, Menahem Pressler and Bruno Canino at the famous Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia. Truly an international artist.
Having grown up with Ormandy's Church Windows as a demonstration LP for my stereo, I can support the enthusiasm of those reviewers on amazon who praise this new recording for its sound quality. Unfortunately, Maestro John Neschling fails, IMHO, to live up to the electricity, passion, and sheer weight of the Philadelphians under Ormandy, which I still recommend. OTOH, the Trittico Bottecelliano is played by the Orchestre Philharmonique Royale de Liege with appropriate tenderness, and The Sunset (Il Tramonto) (inspired by a poem by Byron) is sung more than adequately by the lovely if not compelling soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci. All in all, a welcome finale to Neschling's complete recordings of the orchestral music of Respighi for the Bis label. Four stars.
Philippe Jordan is the well-known son of conductor Armin Jordan, and he has established himself as a fine conductor in his own right. Curious about his new Beethoven cycle on modern instruments, I was recently gifted the above disc, as well as a disc of III & I. Expertly crafted with the Vienna Symphony (as opposed to the Vienna Philharmonic), I was pleased to note that Jordan not only follows the tempi in the score faithfully, but draws crystal-clear and committed playing from his orchestra with depth and excitement. I can find nothing to critique in this outstanding but obscure disc, and welcome it onto my shelves. Five stars.
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