STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du Printemps. REVUELTAS: La
noche de los mayas.
DIETRICH: Symphony in D minor, Op. 20. Violin Concerto in D
minor, Op. 30. Introduction & Romance for Horn and Orchesstra,
HALVORSEN: Entrance of the Boyars. Andante religioso. Suite
from Mascarade. La Mélancolie. Symphony No. 1 in C minor.
Gustavo Dudamel's latest CD offers stunning performances of two incredibly difficult works. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is no longer the challenge it was for orchestras when it was originally composed—it is standard repertory now and there are more than 160 recordings currently available. But Dudamel's is outstanding, a fresh, vivid interpretation of barbaric intensity, magnificently played by the sterling young players. It also differs from all other recordings because of the size of the orchestra. It is huge, and the massed string sonorities are fitting for the score. The only debit is the recorded sound, bass-heavy and rather undefined. In spite of this, the magnificent performance comes over, as does the other work on the CD, La noche de los mayas by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, a "jungle piece" if ever there was one, with rituals, dances and sacrifices. The wild rhythms are played with abandon by the terrific orchestra, and the sound of the immense orchestra makes this the preferred recording of this exciting music. A lot of decibles on this CD, and percussion surely gets a workout! Highly recommended!
Naxos offers a splendid disk that contains three major works by Erno von Dohnányi in sterling performances. Dohnányi's music is unjustly neglected in the concert hall, particularly Variations and the delectable Suite in F sharp minor. Variations on a Nursery Song has been recorded a number of times notably in 1956 with the composer as soloist with Sir Adrian Boult conducting (he also conducted a later recording with Julius Katchen) , and the stunning performance by Earl Wild made in 1962 for the Reader's Digest with the composer's grandson (Christoph) on the podium. This new recording with young pianist Eldar Nebolsin is of equal merit. .The Buffalo Philharmonic is in fine form throughout, although a few more strings would have been welcome in the lush textures of the Suite. Excellent audio, as usual, from Naxos.
German composer Albert Dietrich (1829 - 1908) studied with Robert Schumann and was a close friend of Johannes Brahms, whose music he championed (he arranged for the premiere of Ein deutsches Requiem in 1868). Dietrich wrote an important book about Brahms. Dietrich's best known work is the F-A-E Sonata for Joseph Joachim. for which he wrote the first movement (Brahms composed the second, Schumann the last two). He also composed four operas. choral music and much lieder. Little of his music has been recorded, and we are indebted to cpo for this release of two major works , the second symphony (the first was lost) written in 1869, and the violin concerto premiered in 1874 with Johann Lauterbach, to whom the work is dedicated, as soloist. The large-scale symphony has four movements, reminiscent of both Schumann and Brahms. The violin concerto is a gem, far more interesting than Schumann's for the instrument, and sensitively written for the soloist with plenty of opportunity for virtuoso display. Elisabeth Kufferath offers an admirable performance but I'd like to hear a major virtuoso give it a try. The set also includes a lovely work for horn and orchestra, Introduction and Romance, Op. 27. The Oldenburg State Orchestra was founded in 1932; Dietrich was music director from 1861-1891. It is an excellent orchestra and makes a strong case for Dietrich's music. As usual with cpo, audio is state-of-the-art A debit is that the playing time for the 2 CDs is rather limited; surely more of Dietrich's music could have been included.
Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) is best known for his early work Entrance of the Boyars composed in 1893. His friend, Edvard Grieg, saw the manuscript, and said, "That was damn good!" and it was, particularly in the version for full orchestra made two years later, popular in music centers as a "pop" concert favorite. This CD apparently is the first in a welcome series devoted to music of Halvorsen. We have the premiere recording of a brief Andante religioso written in 1890 for his instrument, the violin, played here by Marianne Thorsen. Also for violin and orchestra is Halvorsen's arrangement of Ole Bull's La Mélancolie featuring Melina Mandozzi, leader of the Bergen Philharmonic, as soloist. A nine-movement suite written in 1922 for a production of the comedy Mascarade, offers mostly rousing music appropriate for the subject. The featured work is the first of Halvorsen's three symphonies, premiered in 1923, a a pleasant work with soaring tunes and a delectable scherzo. Järvi is in top form, as is the Bergen Philharmonic, and we enjoy the usual rich Chandos sound. I look forward to future issues in this series.
R.E.B. (June 2010)