Maazel's Manfred with the VPO is extremely satisfying
and it still sounds very strong; as does his Hamlet. Maazel has
a superb orchestra at his disposal and, rather as they did in the Sibelius
symphonies, they apply themselves with unwavering commitment and untired
imaginations. There is not a spavine episode or a commonplace moment
in these recordings.
Time after time the orchestra's single-mindedness and
focus reaches out to the listener. Try the motoric clockwork at the
close of the vivace con spirito. In the andante con moto (at
5.50 in tr 3) has the gaunt skeletal bell ever sounded as gothic as
this. At 12.11 in the finale the dialogue of the harps is delightfully
luscious. The rapped out horn blasts at 15.10 contrast well with the
baleful imprecations of the trombones and the shattering impacts at
Although I am not shaken from my prime Manfred
recommendation of the 1966 Svetlanov, raw and abrasive as it is, the
Maazel is a resoundingly good version. At circa £3.33 plus postage and
any relevant import duty from Buywell it is a good inexpensive choice.
Seafords should also be able to supply.
Maazel's grippingly blazing, brass emphatic, almost
resentful, Hamlet dates from the earliest days of Decca's long
dalliance with the VPO and Maazel. This is certainly one to contrast
with Stokowski's famous Vanguard (or Dell'Arte) recording and Dorati's
on Philips. At 7.20 we get one reminder that although Tchaikovsky seems
not to have had much time for nationalism he had his sympathies with
the woodwind lyricism of Borodin and Balakirev. I am grateful to the
distinguished reviewer and contributor of the liner notes, Raymond Tuttle,
for telling me that this work is dedicated to Grieg. There is more analogue
hiss in the Hamlet than in the Manfred but I hardly noticed
it such is the power of the music-making.
A highly recommended disc.