RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé. Pavane for a Dead Princess. Boléro.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 2 in B, Op. 14 "To October." Symphony No.
11 in G minor, Op. 103 "The Year 1905."
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 in B flat, Op. 60. Symphony No. 6
in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale."
Valery Gergiev has two more winners here, both recorded during live concerts with the London Symphony (he has been principal conductor since 2005), and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra (Gergiev has been associated with them for more than 25 years). This Ravel collection, recorded in September and December 2009 at the Barbican, is a stunning achievement. You'll not hear a more magical performance of Daphnis et Chloé. Orchestral textures are amazing and have been vividly captured by producer James Mallinson. And the familiar Pavane and Boleró are given leisurely readings; this sensuous Boleró, at 15:46 is the slowest ever recorded—the way the composer intended it to be—three seconds longer than the composer's 1930 recording (REVIEW). LSO players were inspired by Gergiev and all of the solos are brilliantly executed.
It seems Gergiev will record all of Shostakovich's symphonies with the Mariinsky Orchestra. Already released are symphonies 1 and 15 (REVIEW); Gergiev has recorded many of the others previously with the Kirov Orchestra. The mighty Symphony No. 11 has a number of superlative recordings including versions by Haitink, Jansons, and Rostropovich, as well as the historic 1958 recordings by André Cluytens and Leopold Stokowski. Of all of these, my preferred version is the remarkable Stokowski ( see REVIEW), which unfortunately currently is not available except in EMI's 10-disk set devoted to the conductor. Gergiev's reading is a few minutes longer than Stokowski's and, although he doesn't have the advantage of "the Stokowski sound" (much of which was produced with help from the engineers), he does have the decided plus of inclusion of the Symphony No. 2 written when the composer was only 21, premiered in 1927. The title "To October" refers to the musical celebration to mark the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Shostakovich said this is "music that is simple and accessible for the modestly off. It soon virtually disappeared from the concert stage, even in Russia, and many collectors first heard it through Morton Gould's 1968 RCA recording with the Royal Philharmonic (which lasted about 6 months in the active catalog). Gergiev's performance has the ring of authenticity, and it makes a generous filler for "1905." Audio is first-rate, and I look forward to future releases in this commendable series.
Iván Fischer's recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 with his fine Budapest Festival Orchestra already has been mentioned on this site in April 2008 (REVIEW), an odd compilation that included excerpts from works by Weber, Wilms and a Rossini overture as fillers. Now we have a coupling of symphonies 4 and 6 which doubtless eventually will be followed by the remainder. Fischer's ideas on these works are explained in the CD notes, but I doubt many listeners will find much different. Splendid performances marked by brisk tempi, and the recording, made in February of this year, has the label's usual warm sound.
R.E.B. (December 2010)