SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No 5 and works by Bernstein & Mahler. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg, PROM 17, RAH, 27 July 2000 (MB)
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's performance of the mighty Shostakovich Fifth (a work diplomatically described as 'a Soviet artist's creative response to just criticism') under their departing conductor, Yakov Kreizberg, was an odd one - electrifying in the tension it generated in the opening Moderato, but then largely perverse in the distortions which Kreizberg presented in the final three.
The opening with the first two bars taken stringendo had been thrilling - almost as if in early preparation for the introduction of the first movement's allegro. It was an innovative move, but perhaps robbed those opening bars of the power we hear in so many fine recordings of the work (notably Mravinsky). The whole of this first movement could, in fact, be termed controversially fast - and this became more than apparent in Kreizberg's handling of the second movement allegretto which almost appeared to stall at a much slower tempo than we normally hear. The beauty of the largo, with deeply drawn string tone, was intense, but lacked poetry; I was left quite cold by it. The Finale started off at a cracking pace but quickly degenerated into parody. The closing pages of the work should have a fervour and exultant power that leaves one exhilarated. Kreizberg took these closing bars in ritenuto, the gesture so clearly manipulated as to give the symphony's ending an entirely different meaning.
Earlier, we had heard Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Mahler's Kindertotenlieder. The voice is bronzed and sonorous, but these were plangent readings which missed much of the intimacy and intensity of grief so important to these songs. That his German was so utterly unidiomatic, with phrases crashing and eliding into each other, made the end a relief. Bernstein's symphonic suite from On the Waterfront found the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra brass struggling and the strings flaccid. It did not lack excitement, but neither did it strike me as the vortex it should be.
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