American critics rave
about this coupling. Can’t see it. More
to the point I can’t hear it.
Much as I admire Morton
Gould, both as composer and elsewhere
as conductor, I have to rate his recording
of The Four Temperaments as a
total failure. One doesn’t want to reach
into the barrel of clichés when
describing this but objectively speaking
it’s a crude and rather vulgar performance.
The first movement is hardly collerico
and the flashy, too-extrovert posturing
is full of a bewildering incomprehension.
Transitions are awkward and unnatural
sounding; phrases are milked for optimum
externalised pleasure and not for true
expressive effect. Where elsewhere in
classic recordings – say the Jensen
– rugged individuality is the key, here
the door is unlocked with sleek superficiality.
This is all too depressingly true in
the second movement – too loud and fast
to effectively characterise the Phlegmatic
– and indeed is a characteristic
of the whole performance. The third
movement sounds like film music – with
a homogenised conformity from an orchestra
that sounds, technically fine though
it may be, utterly devoid of understanding.
Ignoring the finale’s 132 to the minim
Gould slashes through to the end without
much hint of giocoso – this is
a mini concerto for orchestra in his
hands and as nuanced as punch in the
is not nearly so bad but then that would
be barely possible. But again the platitudinous
Chicago sound wrecks much of the turmoil
and Martinon prefers to cut through
the syntax where a less pressing tempo
would bring greater rewards of tension-building
and internal drama. Sonorities are more
individualised and personality-full
in Scandinavian performances of an earlier
generation – let’s instance Grøndahl
in 1951 – especially in the second movement.
In the third Martinon sculpts those
tragic moments with great immediacy
but it’s Grøndahl who sculpts
the whole with real understanding; with
him it’s not one moment but a series
of waves of intensities. Granted there’s
a great deal of detail audible in Martinon’s
recording and a fast and exciting finale
but the performance as a whole lacks
Helios is decently
enough done but the Galway flute encore
is unnecessary in this orchestral context.
I’d warn off any Nielsen
neophytes from acquiring this disc;
they’d be far better directed to either
of the historic performances cited or
to a plethora of modern discs. Strictly
for home-team consumption only.