23 June 2014

Shostakovich interlude

Quite excited that we've just about got the Organ Sonata to press.  (And a Danish organist may have a look at it soon.)

At the request of a 'net acquaintance, I did a moderately accelerated comparison of two recordings of the Shostakovich c minor Symphony, Op.43, Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony, Rattle and the City of Birmingham.

Listened to the first 5-1/2 minutes of the first movement. Advantage: Jansons. More energy and direction. On its own, probably I should have had no quarrel with the Rattle; only given this side-by-side comparison, the comparative stateliness of the pace felt just on the verge of languor.

Listened to a patch of the third movement, from the keening oboes at the end of the marcia funebre, through the massive "extended hocket" tutti, through to the orchestral bells and timpani fortissimo, and the big unison trombone peroration. Advantage: Jansons. Rattle whipped the Birminghamers quicker, at least at first, and it felt like a borderline-unmusical strain; and in fact the momentum wore down, so that at the last it felt a little tired, oom-pah-pah-ish. Then at the orchestral bells &c. passage, he ratcheted the tempo back up, and it felt unmotivated.

Listened to the last 8-ish minutes of the third movement, the waltz, and then its dissolution, the grand pealing brass, and the aftershock. Man, the Bavarians sound terrific with Jansons. For the waltz, there was a grace to Jansons's take; Rattle sounded in a hurry, and I'm not sure why. For the big brass bit, there was a bit of a sourness to the intonation of the Birmingham brass, times when there was a bit of dispute in the pitch among the horns. Not at all a genuinely bad performance, but (again) hearing the two orchestras in succession, this is the sort of difference which stands out. Advantage: Jansons.

Listened to a patch of the second movement, the Trio, and the retransition into the Scherzo, the fugato. Love how the Bavarian strings dig in at the succeeding entrances of the fugato. Curious to report, there is a moment of dodgy intonation in the Birmingham strings near the start of the Trio. The string entrances in the fugato, a little wishy-washy among the Birminghamers. Once again, and overall—Advantage: Jansons.

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