Hebrides Overture - Berlin PO/Karajan
Violin Concerto Mutter/Berlin - PO/Karajan
Symphony No 4 Italian - Berlin PO/Karajan
Songs Without Words (4) - Barenboim
Midsummer Night's Dream - Edith Mathis Ursula Boese Bavarian
Radio SO and choir/Rafael Kubelik
Octet - Academy of St Martin the Fields
DG PANORAMA 469 157-2
2 CDs - CD1 [78.54]; CD2
Karajan's serene peacemaker of a Hebrides (1971) with its close attention
to dynamics makes a very good curtain-raiser establishing parallels with
Brahms' Second Symphony. The Mutter version of the concerto has been a constant
presence since its first issue in 1981. It is turbulent and a little more
goaded than I prefer (I rather prefer the ancient Campoli version on Beulah)
but Mutter shapes it affectionately and is well recorded. The Symphony pelts
along with power but charm is the casualty even in the two central movements.
As with the rest of the series there are decent rudimentary notes and a sketchy
timeline. The Barenboim played four Songs Without Words are innocent,
peaceful and happy. The Kubelik Midsummer Night's Dream (all ten numbers)
is very welcome back into the catalogue. Although venerable (1965) the sound
is excellent and the infusion of South German woodland magic into a North
German's music makes this the highlight of the set contrasting with the platinum
tendencies of the Mutter concerto and the Symphony. Edith Mathis is in superb
voice. There is a wonderful sense of light and air around the voices.
Mendelssohn's orchestral mastery must have been a considerable inspiration
to Rimsky-Korsakov whose music is prefigured by the Dream. I had not
heard the Octet for many years and was delighted to meet the work again in
such a passionately accented and assertively recorded performance (rec 1979).
The work is captured in all its sly charm. The design is agreeable and all
factors conspire to make this another winner. It would have been even more
compelling with a different version of the Symphony or perhaps the Scotch
symphony would have been more in tune with Karajan's character.