SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 75. RIHM: Gesungene
Zeit (Time Chant)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic."
MUSSORGSKY-BREINER: Pictures at an Exhibition. Songs and
Dances of Death. The Nursery.
MASSENET: Ballet music: Bacchus. Hérodiade. Thaïs.
The first two disks are representative of the consummate artistry of violinist/conductor Jaap van Zweden. Born in Amsterdam in 1960, he has a stupendous career. His mastery of the violin is evidenced by his appointment as concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1979 when he was only 18/ In addition to his concerts as a violinist, he studied conducting and soon directed a number of Dutch orchestras. In 1996 he guest conducted the St. Louis Symphony, and in 2006 made his first appearance with the Dallas Symphony, where he was a sensation. His contract as music director has been extended to 2019. Zweden already has many impressive recordings to his credit and now we have this powerful performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 from concerts in March of this year. It surely is among the finest recordings of this work, and the Dallas Symphony plays like one of the great orchestras of the world. The Shostakovich violin concerto is a studio recording from 1994 with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted Edo de Wart, apparently s issued previously on RCA. Now we have this stunning performance at budget price coupled with a work that surely will be a challenge for most listeners, Wolfgang Rihm's 27-minute Time Chant, from a June 17, 1995 concert in the Concertgebouw with Zoltán Pesko on the podium. Composed for Anne-Sophie Mutter in 1991-1992, it is an eerie, generally subdued venture into the obscure with many high passages for the soloist occasionally interrupted by violent orchestral outbursts, finally fading into nothingness. The performance surely is expert, but I cannot imagine anyone wishing to experience this more than once. Excellent stereo sound throughout.
I have great respect for Peter Breiner. a master of orchestration, whose efforts are best displayed in Debussy's preludes (REVIEW), Spanish Dances of Granados (REVIEW), and Tchaikovsky including two disks of songs and orchestral arrangements for solo violin and orchestra played by Takako Nishizaki, a brilliant violinist who happens to be the wife of Klaus Heymann, who founded the Naxos label. Breiner's adaptation of music from The Queen of Spades isn't nearly as successful. Mussorgsky's famous piano work Pictures at an Exhibition has been orchestrated by many, the most famous being Ravel's, followed by Stokowski's and many others—visit Google to get a complete list. I also enjoy the outrageous Henry Wood version, over the top, one might say, and a pleasant listening experience. Peter Breiner apparently felt he had something to add, and he surely did, with many instruments including added woodwinds and brass and six percussion players kept busy with anvil, temple bells, cassaba, tambourine, xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba and vibraphone. Unfortunately, more is not always better, and the music usually sounds cluttered with too much going on, added harp swirls, percussive effects, and a total lack of subtlety. The promenades are sluggish indeed, and there is a lack of cohesiveness to the performance. However, those who love Pictures might wish to investigate this. I don't understand why Brenner orchestrated the other two works, unless perhaps he wanted to give singers an opportunity to perform them with orchestral accompaniment. They are of little interest otherwise. The recording was made Feb. 7 - 9, 2012 in in the Michael Fowler Center, Wellington, New Zealand. It is intended to be a sonic spectacular. released on Blu Ray Audio as well. I haven't yet heard this. Audio on the regular CD (why wasn't it issued on SACD?) is wide range but rather dry and lacking in resonance, hardly anything that would delight audiophiles.
Jules Massenet (1842-1912) wrote more than thirty operas, but few are presented today the exception being Manon, Werther and Thais, with an occasional Don Quichotte, Hériodiade or Cendrillon. All of his operas include ballet music and Naxos, which seems to have particular interested in the composer (they have already recorded a number of disks of orchestral music), now offers this well-filled disk of ballets from four operas. Charming music and all of the dances are tracked separately. A pleasant disk and it is unfortunate that conductor Patrick Gallois didn't have a larger orchestra to work with. Excellent audio...
R..E. B. (January 2014).