Aureole etc.




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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Festive Overture, op.96 (1954)
Concerto no.2 in F for piano and orchestra, op.102 (1957)
Symphony no.5 in D minor, op.47 (1937)
Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton, conductor/pianist
Recorded May 19th-20th 1998 (Symphony, overture), September 30th 1998 (concerto), McDermott Hall, Meyerson Centre, Dallas Texas.
DELOS DE 3246 [73:59]



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This recording brings together what are probably the composer’s three most popular works. The overture is an unashamed rabble-rouser, the concerto is an undemanding yet wholly characteristic work, while the symphony is an heroic masterpiece.

That said, this is a strangely unsatisfactory issue. Andrew Litton is a musician for whom I have a great deal of respect, but he suffers in these performances from that common affliction of conductors – the desire to ‘say something’ about the music rather than let it speak for itself. This mannered approach is evident from near the beginning, where, after the introductory statement, the main theme is presented in a hushed sotto voce by the violins, thus denying the music a chance to settle into a forward momentum of any kind (Sample 1, track 5, opening). Later on, still in the first part of the movement, the ‘second subject’ is presented lovingly. Yet why the little hold-up at 5:11? It’s quite unnecessary, and disturbs the natural flow of the music. The orchestra clearly agree with me, for here, as in the many other similar places, they are obedient and ‘rehearsed’ rather than musically flexible. Some of these mannerisms are just mildly annoying, others extremely irritating, such as the exaggerated broadening-out for every single presentation of the brass theme in the Allegretto, which, together with the slowing down for the Trio, serves to undermine the biting humour of the movement. (Sample 2, Track 6, 0:50). The beautiful slow movement suffers perhaps worst of all, but the most bizarre symptom of this ‘ritenutitis’ occurs in the finale, where the music threatens to grind to a halt altogether at 3:16. This is truly awful! (Sample 3, Track 8, 2:42). Not surprisingly, the end of the symphony is dull; no triumph, no tragedy. This may be a politically correct way of reading the work, but as a musical experience it doesn’t begin to register. The orchestral playing is, in the typical American fashion, suavely beautiful, and the performance is undoubtedly meticulously prepared. But over-prepared, perhaps, and the players simply don’t sound as if they and their conductor have lived this music together.

The concerto is better, and the outer movements are quite lively and entertaining. But the famous central Andante is just far too slow! It takes 7 minutes 43 seconds to drag itself through; compare that with the composer’s own performance (on Revelation RV0006); he clocks in at 5:02! I know about artistic license etc., but that’s plain ridiculous.

These pieces are all prolifically represented in the catalogue, and the competition is commensurately intense. This one’s a non-starter, I fear.

Gwyn Parry-Jones



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