The Kullervo Symphony was the first large orchestral work attempted by Sibelius. Based on a tragic and quite gruesome story from the collection of epic Finnish tales known as The Kalevala, the work was very successful at its first performance. The work is diffuse and rambling at times with definite echoes of Wagner and Tchaikovsky. Sibelius later came to have several reservations about it. Though it is an early piece, it has many hints of the more mature composer, even though Sibelius was at one time considered an “old fashioned” composer, his work derided as derivative and sentimental.
His reputation has more recently been revived, and rightly so, since his writing can be evocative and quite moving. I’m very fond of Sibelius’s music, and though this sprawling work is not the one I would want to introduce the composer’s music, this is a disc that’s certainly worth having. Kullervo is superbly peformed by the Atlanta Symphony and voices, with a very fine recording, both detailed and spacious, as we have come to expect from TELARC in their remarkable SACDs.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons; Tartini: Sonata in G minor for Violin and basso Continuo, Devil’s Trill Sonata” Joshua Bell, violin, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, John Constable, harpsichord SONY/BMG Classical 88697-11013-2
Oh, No! Not another Four Seasons! But, after listening, it’s a damned fine one at that. Every good (and not so good) fiddler has to have his/her crack at this great and deservedly popular work. Johua Bell needs no introduction, as he is one of the finest violinists of his generation, a truly matured prodigy.
The additional difficult Tartini Sonata is played with flair, panache, and great virtuosity. Throw in a very fine recording (though a litle bassy; AM), and I can’t think of a Four Seasons I’d rather own than this one.
Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain; Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel); Prelude to Khovanshchina, Cincinatti Symphony/Paavo Jarvi TELARC Hybrid CD/SACD 60705
One of the showpieces of the orchestral repertoire, Pictures demands a first-rate recording, and here it gets just that! The work was originally written for the piano (Richter is best here), and then brilliantly orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.
It’s a colorful and exciting adaptation which ends in a tremendous climax whose visceral power is guaranteed to bring an audience to its feet. This recording is open, airy, and with great depth, and the TELARC BBD (Big Bass Drum), here in all its glory.
The Cincinatti peformance is excellent, lacking only that final degree of refinement. This Jarvi shows some welcome restraint in the buildup to the final climax, and makes a suitable case for why we need yet another version of this oft-recorded warhorse. There are, however, other versions to consider, not the least being Gergiev on Philips, who has the mighty Vienna Philharmonic at hand. It is superb performance, but sonically bested by the Jarvi. And then there is the 1957 Reiner/Chicago Living Stereo, recorded brilliantly, needing no excuse sonically, and the best played (though I didn’t listen all the other 100+ recorded versions of this work).
Andrew Marshall adds:
I’m very partial to an earlier TELARC recording of this work, that of Maazel in Cleveland, an LP, #10042, which has more recently been released in stereo SACD. It’s a little less dry sonically, and perhaps without quite the dynamics of the more modern Jarvi, but it’s a fairly quick, and very cogent performance, a less leisurely gallery tour. It also has that BBD with a slightly loosened skin for a wonderfully resonant decay. Love that boom, boom, boom!
Table of contents for Hy End
Related Reviews:No related posts
Comment On this Post
Outside the Speakers
Random Thoughts on the Music Mask
NPR on Whether Audiophiles Still Exist
Audiophile Grade Mics?
CDs Sales Die, LP Sales Fly
Some High End 'Phones from CES
Audio Ideas (Andrew Marshall)
Ox Box (Bob Oxley)
Hy End (Hy Sarick)
Bain's Blog (John Edward Bain)
Most Popular Today