Magazine article Gramophone

Maestro Memories: A Welcome Mravinsky Survey, Rediscovering a Remarkable Czech Conductor, Plus a Rare Copland Concert

Magazine article Gramophone

Maestro Memories: A Welcome Mravinsky Survey, Rediscovering a Remarkable Czech Conductor, Plus a Rare Copland Concert

Article excerpt

Scribendum has been doing us a great service by gathering together significant orchestral recordings from the deeper recesses of the analogue tape era. A seven-CD set devoted to live performances that Evgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic gave in Moscow in 1965 and 1972 is in effect a melding of two previous collections, the latter a good deal less familiar than the former. For example, among the Wagner items included is a Tannhduser Venusberg Music from January 1972, sleek and driven but with the most sublimely beautiful coda. It also includes two versions of Shostakovich's Sixth, the earlier sporting typically extreme dynamics, with streamlined execution and a lightning finale, the 1972 version conceptually similar but marginally more powerful. A third version appears in an interesting six-CD Vol 1 of Profil's Mravinsky Edition, from 1946--the mono production is angular and just a little cautious, even though the playing is mostly excellent.

The Mozart Symphony No 39 on Profil (1961) is not the same as the more refined 1965 version on Scribendum. Profil also offers us a disarmingly gentle account of Ravel's Pavane and a tense but controlled live Bolero. Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies are presented as recorded by DG in 1960, thrilling in the extreme and drilled down to the last semiquaver, but by 1972, when all Mravinsky's recordings were being made live, the Fifth had slipped the leash and even the odd passing blemish can't disguise the fact that the older maestro had more red blood coursing through his veins live than in the 1960 studio version.

Scribendum also offers us two Beethoven symphonies, the Fourth both lyrical and pacy, the Fifth starting shakily but, once past the first movement's repeated exposition, on course for a truly monumental reading. Profil's package has Richter playing Brahms's Second Concerto (said to be from May 1951 but identical to the 1961 version on Russian Disc RDCD11158) and Tchaikovsky's First, as well as a superb Haydn Clock Symphony, and on Scribendum, a Tchaikovsky Francesca da Rimini that is nothing short of staggering. Nonetheless, Mravinsky first-timers should gravitate first to Scribendum. Then there's Melodiya and its Mravinsky series, so there could be riches galore there too.

A second Scribendum set (13 CDs) is devoted to Rene Leibowitz, best known in his day as a tireless promoter of new music (his own included) but who also recorded for Reader's Digest. …

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