Jurowski is something
of a one-man dynamo harnessed to the
recording of Russian repertoire. His
work in reviving rare and not so rare
Prokofiev ballets on CPO and Capriccio
should not be overlooked.
In the case of The
Isle of the Dead he clearly
relishes the long line and is well able
to sustain that elusive sombre mood
across the mesmerising alternation of
consolatory lapping and murmurs of disquiet.
The RFH acoustic rather accentuates
the baritonal sepia qualities of the
piece. If you like a steadily paced
approach bringing out parallels with
Balakirev’s Tamar and early Stravinsky
this should be for you. I looked in
vain for more growl and rasp. On the
other hand the silvery surging of the
violins at 13:10 onwards links, with
great strength, to the adagio of the
Second Symphony. The rocking and lapping
motif returns at the end. When the piece
ends in a remarkably Tuonela-like glow
the audience silence is well held before
applause finally breaks in. I have a
feeling that this is a performance that
will grow on me.
As a work the Symphonic
Dances are a personal favourite.
My reference recording is the Kondrashin
from circa 1963 with the Moscow PO.
It has never been satisfactorily transferred.
The BMG reissue in 1997-8 carried heavy
distortion at the climaxes. The best
approximation to date is the transfer
on audiophile classics. The Jurowski
is a good performance bearing all the
characteristics of their Isle of
the Dead. Overall though this is
rather stolid and lacks the necessary
avian lift and crunching attack. A modern
accessible recording that meets these
criteria is the one by Yuri Termirkanov
on BMG with the St Petersburg Philharmonic
Orchestra. Temirkanov repeated that
febrile intensity in August 2004 at
the Royal Albert Hall Proms - a blistering
performance. Jurowski warms things up
considerably in the finale which has
some crackingly sustained ‘walls’ of
brass sound. The final tam-tam crash
is allowed to resound until the sound
decays naturally; good choice.
In the case of both
works the audience are mostly quiet
as church mice - mice who have found
the cure to the common cold and worked
out how to administer it.
I listened to this
disc on conventional CD equipment.