Magazine article Gramophone

Re-Evaluations and Revelations: Recordings That Probably Should Have Remained in the Past-And Some That Remind Us of What We Have Lost

Magazine article Gramophone

Re-Evaluations and Revelations: Recordings That Probably Should Have Remained in the Past-And Some That Remind Us of What We Have Lost

Article excerpt

Those who know Yevgeny Mravinsky's work with the Leningrad Philharmonic only through various legendary recordings of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich symphonies will be pretty shocked by a Praga Digitals CD coupling Stravinsky's Petrushka and The Fairy's Kiss ballets, Petrushka being the main offender. Before commenting on the performances I should attempt to clarify one or two points of discographical confusion. Firstly, the booklet suggests that there are 20 tracks whereas there are only 13, with Petrushka arranged one track per tableau while the other tracks are devoted to The Fairy's Kiss. Then there are the suggested recording dates. The main booklet quotes October 24, 1964 for Petrushka, June 20, 1983 for The Fairy's Kiss, while the back of the booklet (where the track listings are again wrong) gives May 14, 1961, as the date for the former, and November 18, 1982, for the latter. The main booklet has it right.

Performance-wise, Petrushka is unkempt, explosive, frequently visited by textual inaccuracies and just plain unfocused. Come the ballet's last few minutes and things perk up noticeably, except for 'The Death of Petrushka' where the lead trumpet fluffs alarmingly. For much of the time it's rather like listening to a regional orchestra on an off day.

Turn then to The Fairy's Kiss and Stravinsky's fortunes swing into reverse, Mravinsky here reclaiming Tchaikovsky from the younger composer's loving embrace for a performance that is, in the main, delicate, elegant and warmly affectionate. You can hardly credit that the same seasoned alliance is responsible for both performances, especially as Petnishka was recorded so much earlier, when Mravinsky was in his prime. The mono sound is fair-to-middling, with moments of overload but plenty of clarity elsewhere, especially in The Fairy's Kiss. [For more on Mravinsky turn to page 56]

Better by far, as an overall investment, is what appears to be a first-release of Mahler's Das klagende Lied (or at least the second and third sections of it) with a team of soloists led by the soprano Julia Hamari and the Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik (1979), whose rustic, alert and loose-limbed way with Mahler is ideally suited to the music's outdoorsy narrative, especially in 'Wedding Piece' which is more compellingly performed than on any other version I've heard. The couplings, both previously released, are excerpts from Schoenberg's Gurrelieder (the 'live' DG recording) and Brahms's Alto Rhapsody with a vulnerable and bleak-sounding Grace Hoffman. …

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