Too Slow?

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
Modernistfan
Posts: 1749
Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2004 5:23 pm

Too Slow?

Post by Modernistfan » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:41 pm

I just listened to the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony in the recording on EMI (now Warner) conducted by Mariss Jansons, and I now am taking the view that he takes the last movement too slow. It makes me want to go back to Bernstein, who rolls through the last movement as though he were the engineer on the Moscow-Leningrad express train who is trying to make up time after he finds himself fifteen minutes behind schedule leaving Pskov!

John F
Posts: 19970
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Too Slow?

Post by John F » Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:18 am

The tempo of the finale has been an interpretive issue as long as I can remember. It's marked Allegro non troppo, not too fast, but how fast is too fast? There's a recording by Mravinsky in 1938, the year after the premiere, which is presumably faithful to the composer's wishes, and the finale is taken pretty slowly. It begins at 36:55.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=envtyJfqSPY

Of course this isn't binding on other conductors, or indeed on Mravinsky himself. In a 1982 recording, the finale is off to the races. At 31:32:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fCmbe55Ykc

You pays your money...
John Francis

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26866
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Too Slow?

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 12:45 am

I am reminded of the last movement of the Beethoven Op 13 sonata, which I first learned from dear old Mrs. Troidle using the old Schirmer editions long before anything like an Urtext was ever heard of. The editor was none other than Hans von Bülow, who wrote in an annotation, "This movement cannot be taken too fast." I had to ask the dear lady which of the two interpretations of that I should accept, and she said (correctly) play it as fast as possible. Even now as I type this, I am laughing myself silly over the memory.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
Posts: 19970
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Too Slow?

Post by John F » Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:02 am

Schirmer published the edition by Artur Schnabel. Was that the one you used? I'm told that it was no Urtext edition but reflected the way Schnabel played the music. So how did he play it? Probably as fast as he could. Beginning at 14:38


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOCMskjSfm0
John Francis

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26866
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Too Slow?

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:20 am

John F wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:02 am
Schirmer published the edition by Artur Schnabel. Was that the one you used? I'm told that it was no Urtext edition but reflected the way Schnabel played the music. So how did he play it? Probably as fast as he could. Beginning at 14:38


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOCMskjSfm0
I can't be absolutely certain, John, but I do still have the score. It is in storage somewhere in one of my outbuildings and I am not about to go out on a winter's day that is premature even for where I live to find it. Who throws something like that away? Nevertheless, even though memory fails as we grow older, I am certain it was not Schnabel. If I am wrong about that, you can send me to the old folks home right now.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
Posts: 19970
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Too Slow?

Post by John F » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:27 am

That will make two of us. Yesterday I was trying to remember a particular word that I know well, but there was a blank space in my memory the size of the word. That's how I "saw" it. When I got home I used Googie to find it: cholesterol. My memory has never been the best, and this kind of thing doesn't happen very often, but in the last 6 months or so it's made itself noticed.

I would expect that Schirmer would publish a "normal" edition of the sonatas in addition to Schnabel's, which I have because it was bundled with RCA Victor's box of the recordings on LP. I've since replaced the LPs with EMI CDs and thrown the box away, but kept the scores.
John Francis

maestrob
Posts: 5705
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Too Slow?

Post by maestrob » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:11 am

Modernistfan wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:41 pm
I just listened to the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony in the recording on EMI (now Warner) conducted by Mariss Jansons, and I now am taking the view that he takes the last movement too slow. It makes me want to go back to Bernstein, who rolls through the last movement as though he were the engineer on the Moscow-Leningrad express train who is trying to make up time after he finds himself fifteen minutes behind schedule leaving Pskov!
Bernstein got that tempo for the fourth movement from an old movie about Soviet spies in America (I've forgotten the name) that was in theaters in the late 1940's, so it wasn't an original idea. Nevertheless, it's a very effective one, which opened the door to all kinds of interpretive ideas about that music, none (IMHO) as effective as Bernstein. Mravinsky did use Bernstein's tempo in a 1982 recording that JohnF mentions, and it was just as effective for him as it was for Bernstein. When Bernstein took the NY Philharmonic to Moscow in 1959, Shostakovich approved the tempo for performance, so we now have two versions of the same music, both approved by the composer. Fascinating. Kondrashin, by contrast, stuck to the tempo marked in the score, and made a very effective reading of the symphony as part of the complete cycle he recorded in the 1960's for Melodiya, available here intermittently. Another conductor you might care to listen to would be Oleg Caetani (son of Igor Markevich).

barney
Posts: 2961
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Too Slow?

Post by barney » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:39 pm

Caetani had a stint at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and the musicians esteemed him highly. (So did I.) But his cycle is with the Milan orchestra, from memory - I haven't heard it. Does the orchestral playing have the necessary depth and richness, Brian?

maestrob
Posts: 5705
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Too Slow?

Post by maestrob » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:47 am

barney wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:39 pm
Caetani had a stint at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and the musicians esteemed him highly. (So did I.) But his cycle is with the Milan orchestra, from memory - I haven't heard it. Does the orchestral playing have the necessary depth and richness, Brian?
Yes, definitely! The entire set is outstanding, not a weak disc in the box. I know it's hard to find now, but I truly esteem not only Caetani's conducting, but the orchestra is, IMHO, first-rank, and quite equal to the demands of the music. I'm sure others who have this set and reside here agree with me on this. Very special music-making!

Something very strange is happening on the amazon website for this set. All 7 negative reviews are not for the Shostakovich symphonies, but for an obscure Nielsen set and an unknown Beethoven set by van Zweden. So are the positive reviews! I wrote to amazon to fix the problem, so hopefully they will do so.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Majestic-12 [Bot] and 31 guests