GUBAIDULINA: "...The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair" (Concerto
for Flute and Large Orchestra). Sieben Worte for cello, bayan and strings.
OLSEN: Asgaardreien, Op. 10. Trombone Concerto in F, Op. 48. Symphony
No. 1 in G, Op. 5.
This site has mentioned several recordings of music by the remarkable Soviet composer Sofia Gubaidulina including her Fachwerk and Silenzio featuring the bayan (REVIEW), Canticle of the Sun and Music for Flute, Strings and Percussion (REVIEW), and a video of Gubaidulina discussing the violin concerto she recently composed for Anne-Sophia Mutter (REVIEW). And don't miss her stunning orchestral work, The Rider of the White Horse, with David Robertson and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (REVIEW). This new BIS issue offers two major works, a flute "concerto" called "The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair," a title taken from the poem Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot in which the composer is concerned with "musical and acoustic actualities." CD notes offer fascinating detailed descriptions of Gubaidulina's compositional method for both works. Sieben Worte, a six-movement suite, was written in 1982 and dedicated to its original interpreters, cellist Friedrich Lips and bayan virtuoso Vladimir Tonbkha, both of whom when working with the composer were able to expand performance capabilities of their instruments. Both of these challenge the listener. There is no question these performances are definitive and it is unlikely there will be others. All of the soloists perform miracles on their instruments (the concerto was written for Sharon Gezaly), and the orchestra is superb under Vanzago's knowing direction. BIS engineers have done their usual fine job. This is an important issue.
Music of Norwegian composer Ole Olsen (1850-1927) has been completely overshadowed by his contemporaries including Grieg and Svendsen. Olsen wrote music for "ordinary people," and was quite popular during his lifetime. Known as a pianist, choral, orchestral and band conductor, as a poet, he also was Norway's first inspector of military music (whatever that means). This disk begins with Asgaardsreien, a 10-minute work describing a Norse god leading a group of wild stallions through the sky, which perhaps was a counterpart to symphonic poems of Liszt, There are a few quiet interludes reminiscent of Grieg, but this is hardly a thrilling journey. Olsen wrote concertos for many instruments, and here we have his 1905 concerto for trombone spectacularly played by Christian Lindberg, on vacation from the demonically difficult contemporary works usually associated with him. The major work is Olsen's 1875 Symphony No. 1 which has four movements one of which is a pleasant scherzo. There is good reason why Olsen's music isn't played today, but we here have the opportunity to experience it in fine performances by the newly formed Arctic Philharmonic directed by Christian Lindberg who founded the orchestra in 2009 and is their principal conductor. The Arctic orchestra could use a few more stringe, but they do what can be done for the music. The trombone concerto is conducted by Rune A. Halvorsen, who is principal timpanist of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. Excellent audio from BIS, although hardly "surround."
About a decade ago, Neemi Järvi's BIS recordings of all of Tchaikovsky's symphonies (except for No. 7 and Manfred) and various overtures and other orchestral works were released at budget price on regular CDs. Now we have two of these, the Pathétique and Francesca da Rimini, on SACD. Original recordings sonically were quite good, but hardly exceptional for audio buffs, and SACD doesn't make them sound better, with virtually no "surround" effect. And the performances are prosaic; there are countless other recordings of both works that offer superior interpretations, i.e. Mikhail Pletnev's No. 6 with the Russian National Orchestra (REVIEW) and Francesca (REVIEW). I have great respect for the elder Järvi, particularly for his exploration of seldom-heard repertory (his Chandos disc of the powerful Symphony No. 1 by Estonian composer Kaljo Raid, reviewed on this site a decade ago (REVIEW), inexplicably is no longer available. And don't miss the recent DVD of the remarkable Double Concerto of Shchedrin with Martha Argerich and Mischa Maisky from the Lucerne Festival (REVIEW).
R.E.B. (October 2012)