> Shostakovich Symphony 10 Stravinsky Violin concerto Schneiderhan Ancerl [PL]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No 10 in E minor, Op 93 (1953) [47.30]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra (1931) [21.44]
Wolfgang Schneiderhan (violin)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Karel Ančerl
recorded in the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, December 1962, ADD stereo
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Karel Ančerl
recorded in the Herkulessal, Munich, October 1955, ADD mono
DGG Originals 463 666-2 [69.15] Midprice


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This issue brings together two classic performances from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue which, so far as I’m aware, have not been available for several years, and which, on the face of it, have much in common. Two major works by twentieth century Russian composers, written a mere twenty or so years apart, each with Ančerl conducting. But one (the Stravinsky) is a very nice stereo, recorded in a beautifully resonant acoustic; the other (the Shostakovich) is an older mono which, though it’s easy to adjust to, lacks weight and range by the standards of only seven years later. The lush and obviously Western-sounding Berlin Philharmonic is used for the (obviously Westernised) Stravinsky; after which, the distinctive East European sonority of the Czech Philharmonic comes as a (very appropriate) culture shock. As for the music, the two pieces are poles apart: and I suspect one composer had only superficial respect for the other.

Of course the Iron Curtain separates these scores very strikingly. The Stravinsky was written in France, well into his period of exile: and it is as neo-classical as any of his neo-classical music. Perfectly crafted, it is brim-full of 18th century turns, ornaments and scales, riddled with baroque concertante effects, and (in the two central Arias) graced by gloriously vocal, diatonic music, the like of which (one imagines) Bach would have been proud to have written. The Shostakovich, on the other hand, is a semi-traditional symphony: a truly Soviet piece which, characteristically for its composer, manages to be both neo-Tchaikovskian and neo-Mahlerian. Written on a vast scale, it brings together agonisingly personal soliloquies with brashly assertive displays of pseudo-optimism.

Both performances are outstanding. Schneiderhan plays the Stravinsky with extraordinary commitment: the outer movements are superbly energetic, with not so much as a moment of insecurity, while the divinely beautiful inner movements are played with lovely tone and abundant emotion. The accompaniment is no accompaniment, of course: in effect, the solo violinist belongs with (and walks in and out of) the orchestra. Happily, the Berlin wind and brass play with soloistic confidence, and Ančerl holds everything together impressively. If you find some of the competition a little too pure and restrained (like Stern’s, with the composer himself conducting?) this heart-stirring version will surely appeal to you. But others may find it too ‘romantic’.

The Shostakovich symphony was a mere two years old when this performance was taped. And there is something peculiarly and compellingly immediate about this recording, which unfolds like a great news story being reported ‘live’, as it breaks. It belongs in the same category as the more-or-less contemporary Mravinsky recordings of the late Tchaikovsky symphonies with the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Incredibly well-drilled, the Czech orchestra plays with staggering virtuosity, most especially in the second movement, which Ančerl moves along at a breathtaking speed. The rustic but vibrant tonal quality of its wind and brass soloists (not unlike their Leningrad counterparts, in fact) is just right in this kind of music. Later performances have tended to take a more expansive view of this symphony, most especially the first movement (where the drama can be still more involving at a steadier pulse) and the slow introduction to the finale. It could be argued that Ančerl reduces the temperature of the music-making with his apparent impatience to move on, and that even the scherzo would benefit in rhythmic impact from holding back a little. Even so, the climaxes here have a real sense of crisis: they are genuinely disturbing, as indeed they should be.

I suppose there will be few collectors who buy this as a one-and-only version. In which case, best regard this as a complement to later DDD stereo recordings (such as Skrowaczewski, Jansons or Järvi) and hear it for its very special qualities – its intensity, its urgency. There’s an overwhelming conviction in Ančerl’s reading which the rather limited sound quality cannot possibly disguise: it’s truly authentic Shostakovich.
Peter J Lawson

[NOTE This recording of the Shostakovich 10th symphony is available in France with a different coupling.


Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10 in E Minor * Maurice RAVEL
Bolero ** Zoltan KODALY
Dances from Galanta ** Czech Philharmonic conducted by Karel Ancerl * RIAS Symphony Orchestra Berlin conducted by Ferenc Fricsay ** recorded 1956 Prague *, Berlin **. DG 457 080-2 [76.17]

Amazon.Fr 85,93 FF / EUR 13,10  [My copy into the UK was £11.23 incl. p&p. LM] see review

 


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