Choosing One of Four: Janowski’s Bruckner 2

BRUCKNER SYMPHONY NO. 2  Orchestre de ls Suisse Romande, Marek Janowski/PentaTone SACD PTC 5186448  Marek Janowski’s consistently fine cycle of Bruckner symphonies for PentaTone continues with this  release of the 2nd Symphony – a work seemingly discussed more often for its many versions and revisions rather than its undoubted musical strengths. There are effectively four versions of this symphony that Bruckner began in October 1871 and completed in September 1872. These are: The original of 1872 ;The original performance version of 1873; The performance version from 1876; The revised version of 1877. However, the revisions, corrections and alterations made by Robert Haas (1938) and Leopold Nowak (1965) in their editions of the above also add further decisions for interpreters of this score to make. For this new recording Marek Janowski has chosen to perform the 1877 version of the symphony in the edition by the Bruckner scholar William Carragan (2007). This eliminates sections of the 1872 score that Haas incorporated in his edition and were also retained by Nowak. The comparative brevity of Carragan’s edition of the score coupled with Janowski’s urgent pulse means that the playing time of the disc is a mere 54.55. However, such is the quality of the music making that it would be churlish to complain of short measure. Janowski adopts brisk, but not inflexible, tempi in all four movements of this work and, as in the earlier issues in this cycle, he adopts a fluent and purposeful approach to this early symphony, but one that carries a unerring sense of Bruckner’s symphonic architecture. The second movement, a grave and reflective ‘Andante (feierlich, etwas bewegt)’, is perfectly paced allowing for some beguiling playing from the wind (and especially the horn) soloists of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande . It is unfortunate that careless proofing of the booklet and jewel case sees this movement marked ‘Adante’! Even judged by the very high standard of the earlier issues the recorded sound is wonderfully spacious and clear with superb internal balances, while the playing of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is both confident and refined. The acoustic and ambience of the Victoria Hall, Geneva is especially well reproduced –  just listen to the timpani in the final minute of the ‘Scherzo’. Janowski’s exhilarating and masterly performance of this symphony, the penultimate issue in his cycle, captured in superlative sound quality, can be unhesitatingly recommended.





Sounds of War: Music in the United States during World War II

From Annegret Fauser (and OUP), Sound of War: Music in the United States during World War II is now available. Classical music in 1940s America had a cultural relevance and ubiquitousness that is hard to imagine today. No other war mobilized and instrumentalized culture in general and music in particular so totally, so consciously, and so unequivocally as World War II. Through author Annegret Fauser’s in-depth, engaging, and encompassing discussion in context of this unique period in American history, Sounds of War brings to life the people and institutions that created, performed, and listened to this music.(30 May 2013 | 978-0-19-994803-1)

Opulent Strauss from Järvi

R, STRAUSS: JOSEPHLEGENDE, etc. Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5120  During the 1980’s and 90’s Neeme Järvi made a number of impressive recordings with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for Chandos of orchestral works by Richard Strauss. When he moved to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra he added further Strauss recordings to his already comprehensive survey of this composer’s oeuvre.  One of these was the ‘Symphonic Fragment from Josephslegende’. This is a cut-and-paste version of the full ballet, scored for a smaller orchestra, that Strauss made at the request of his publishers in 1947. Now, in the Indian summer of his recording career, Järvi has returned to Scotland to give us not just a spectacular account of the complete 1914 ‘Josephslegende’  but also two interesting fill-ups making their first appearance on SACD. Though few would deny that ‘Josephslegende’ is not among Strauss’s finest works (by 1914 composing opera had become his main interest) it does show a composer at the height of his powers and demonstrates his ability to handle huge orchestral forces with supreme confidence. The orchestration is breathtaking and the work’s melodic richness is undeniable. On disc it calls for the finest sound quality, something that only SACD can deliver. Comparisons with Ivan Fischer’s excellent 2007 recording do favour the newcomer in at least two important respects. The sonics on this Chandos disc (5.0 surround sound 24-bit/96kHz) are warmer and fuller than those on Channel’s clear, but slightly chilly DSD recording and the weighty presence of an organ in the ballet’s final section is patently audible. Perhaps more importantly, Järvi’s more urgent tempi and sense of drama ensure that the intrinsic lack of inspiration evident in parts of the score is more easily ignored – overall timings are Järvi 58.16 against Fischer’s 64.30. The playing of the RSNO is marvellous throughout and certainly matches that of the Budapest Festival Orchestra for Fischer. Strauss’s rarely performed second opera ‘Feuersnot’ ends with an orchestral passage during which the hero and heroine consummate their love to evocative and erotically charged music. The RSNO and Järvi perform this ‘Liebesszene’ with sensitivity and passion in equal measure. Finally Järvi gives us a spirited account of the 12 year-old Strauss’s first published orchestral piece the ‘Festmarsch’ Op. 1.Though lacking real originality ( its debt to the finale of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony being all too obvious) it does show remarkable assurance from one so young, and is certainly worth an occasional outing. It would be wonderful if Chandos could persuade Järvi to make a complete recording of Strauss’s only other ballet ‘Schlagobers’ on SACD to complement his earlier CD version of excerpts from that work. For now, however, this is a release that should be added to the library of all committed Straussians and warrants an unqualified recommendation.





August Choices from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Naïve and Signum

New releases out in August from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Naïve and Signum include:

LPO: Bruckner – Symphony No.7: this live recording of Bruckner’s evocative symphony is from conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski’s own edition. Georgy Valtchev guest leads the orchestra.

Naïve: Invernizzi/Prina – Amore e morte dell’amore :Baroque stars, soprano Roberta Invernizzi and operatic contralto Sonia Prina, present an intense programme on love and sadness, Amore e morte dell’amore. Featuring works by Monteverdi, Marcello, Handel and Scarlatti, they are accompanied by Swiss lutenist Luca Pianca.

Signum: Grimes on the Beach: One of the highlights of Britten 100, Grimes on the Beach at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 2013 features a series of concerts and a unique outdoor realisation of Britten’s Peter Grimes. This recording, taken from the concert performances at Snape Maltings on 7 & 9 June (and the orchestral accompaniment for the outdoor production) features Alan Oke (Peter Grimes), Giselle Allen (Ellen Orford), David Kempster (Captain Balstrode), conducted by Steuart Bedford.