07 December 2008

Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle

Listened anew last night to a London Symphony/Claudio Abbado recording of Janáček's Sinfonietta. Was a little disappointed in the relaxed tempo taken for the first movement, which felt a little 'deliberate', a little solemnitized. Still, the band sounded fine, and the remaining four movements were of such excellence that any disappointment over the first was well compensated for.

Tuned in the car radio while driving to a housewarming party (with genuine firebrands, as it turned out). There sounded the strains of the well-loved Beethoven Seventh Symphony in A. Time seemed to stand still in between movements, and I realized that it must be the weekly live broadcast of the Boston Symphony. A couple of dicey ensemble moments in the first movement, but in general the first two movements sounded fine. The dicey moments remind you that, although the Opus 92 has been in the repertory practically since its premiere, it's not a cakewalk, even for the well-honed instruments which our present-day professional orchestras are.

The menuet & trio of the Beethoven, though: faugh. The menuet tempo was too lackadaisical (nor do I feel that I require aught like a demonically driven scherzo for this symphony); and then, the trio felt rushed. Atop all that indignity, the trumpets were at times blatty (and we all know they can do better). There is a decent sound as a base-level for the BSO, but when they phone it in, it sounds it. And the fact that, even at reduced classical-music inventories in the CD shops (such as are still around town), you can readily find multiple recordings of the Beethoven symphonies . . . no one needs to trek to Symphony Hall for lackluster Ludwig van.

Our Good Angel furnished a prompt parking space, so we declined to continue tuning in, fearing the worst for the fourth movement. Instead, we passed out into the Cambridge night, where whirling flames awaited.

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