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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Franz LISZT (1811-86)
Orpheus, S98 (1854) [11’03].
Richard WAGNER (1813-83)

Der Ring des Nibelungen (fragments): Die Walküre (1870) – Ride of the Valkyries [3’58]; Siegfried (1876) – Forest Murmurs [9’35]; Götterdämmerung (1876) – Funeral March [7’33].
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat, Op. 11 (1883) [14’53].
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Symphony No. 2 in B flat, D125 (1815) [24’37].
Victor Galkin (horn)
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Vladimir Fedoseyev.
Rec. 1974 (Liszt), 1978 (Wagner), 1983 (Strauss), Schubert (1991).
RELIEF CR991048 [71’40]

 

Fascinating programming here, with some favourite ‘bleeding chunks’ hewn from Wagner’s mammoth Ring, juxtaposed with three lesser-known pieces from three Masters.

Liszt’s symphonic poem, Orpheus, formed part of Fedoseyev’s very first concert with the Tchaikovsky Orchestra in 1974, and here is the (presumably) studio version of the same year (how can it be DDD, as the box claims, though?). Fedoseyev’s essentially Romantic temperament suits this music to the ground. Despite the recording date, clarity is superb (listen to the low bass oscillations around 7’50). This is a very fine performance indeed, topped with a fully authentic Russian trumpet around the nine-minute mark. Sensitivity to Liszt’s harmonic world is all to Fedoseyev on the strength of this reading. If one looks elsewhere for Liszt tone-poems, it is true that Haitink on Philips provides eminently serviceable library recommendations (Philips Duo 438 751-2 includes Orpheus), but Fedoseyev’s belief in Liszt’s inspiration shines through the performance.

The Wagner brings a surprise in the form of the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. I don’t know what those girlies are on, but it sure makes them go. This is the most breathless Walkürenritt I have ever heard – the brass deserve high praise for just keeping up with this dizzying pace. A real ‘Sprint of the Valkyries’. There seems to be a clumsily managed edit at 1’08.

Forest Murmurs is not quite so breathless, thankfully. There is some lovely solo violin playing (around 3’33), marred only by the close miking, and sterling solo work also comes from the oboist and (to a marginally lesser extent) the solo clarinettist. Still, it has to be admitted that this is ‘outdoor’ music from a somewhat rough outdoors. Neither Wagner snippet prepares the listener for Siegfried’s Funeral March from Götterdämmerung, though. There is an awe-inspiring sense of inevitability here; the end is magnificent, dying away hauntingly into nothing.

Victor Galkin was horn soloist with this orchestra in 1983, when the recording of Richard Strauss’ youthful First Concerto was made. This concerto lies in the shadow of the much later Second Concerto (the acid test of any horn player’s technique), yet as these performers set out to prove, it is a marvellous piece in its own right. The first movement is fundamentally lyrically conceived here (Galkin’s tasteful vibrato is not distracting in the least), leading naturally to the concertos crowning glory, the Andante. Galkin plays with a seamless legato. Perhaps the finale is not the virtuoso showpiece some might want it to be, but the ‘recitative’ (around 13’24 here, as the concerto appears as one track) works extremely well dramatically and prepares the way for the coda, here not the sprint it so often is.

Schubert’s Second Symphony (here listed as ‘Op. 125!) is given from a large-orchestra, Romantic perspective. Authenticists beware, but if you are not averse to this style of performance there are rich rewards. Taken on its own terms, this is entirely convincing, especially the wonderfully robust Menuetto. Admittedly the finale is not as sunny as it could be, but there is an interesting element of Schubertian ‘Sturm und Drang’, almost as if this were Haydn arranged (lots) by Schubert.

A fascinating disc from every angle. Even if none of the performances are definitive in themselves, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Colin Clarke

 

 



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