The World Orchestra
for Peace is surely a demonstration
of the power of music. Members of the
World's major orchestras unite on a
plane that lies above any politics or
racial biases to show that on this higher
level there is only an underlying humanity.
The Suisse Romande
television interview with Solti reveals
him to be, in his own words, a 'passionate
believer in peace' and he reveals that
there are forty nationalities in the
orchestra. Furthermore not one player
refused to join when asked! This indicates
perhaps the dedication that can be heard
here. Particularly, it has to be said,
in Gergiev's pieces - the Bartók
is the exception one of the finest accounts
you will hear.
Gergiev's three pieces
make up the CD. The Mendelssohn (from
Baden-Baden) is nice and light, although
there is a touch of heaviness as the
scoring increases. La mer, taken
from the penultimate night of the Proms
in 2000, is simply wonderful. From a
nebulous beginning, the music works
up to great tutti accents at around
4'10. In Gergiev's interpretation, the
timpani plays a vital role. His is hugely
evocative; the second movement ('Jeux
de vagues') glitters and sparkes. Gestural,
yes, but one is simultaneously aware
of the bigger picture, and detail is
always clear. Horn calls - almost Dutchman-like!
- mark out a finale that is not only
exciting but, again, clear. Try the
final moments, cacophonous to many.
Gergiev is careful to follow Debussy's
layering so that each strand is obvious.
This clarity of musical
strands characterises his Petrushka
also (St Petersburg, 2003). Rhythms
are spot-on. Each movement brings its
own highlights. Great bass raspberries
in 'The Shrovetide Fair', superb solos
in 'Petrushka's Room' - some undue spotlighting
of the piano here, though – magnificent
polytonal layering in 'The Moor's Room'
and a superb sense of shifting perspectives
- coming direct from the score itself
- in 'The Shrovetide Fair, towards evening'.
The finale is a virtuoso ride for all,
and I particularly liked Gergiev's highlighting
of the cartoon-like antics of the final
pages. The end is pure magic – so quiet
one really could hear a puppet drop.
But perhaps it is as
a Solti memorial that this product may
appeal. And if one is referring to the
Bartók, this is rightly so. The
Tell Overture is marked by very loving
slow sections (real warmth) and, unsurprisingly,
bags of energy for the more agile ones.
But one enters a different league for
the Concerto for Orchestra, a
work Sir Georg almost made his own;
one should ideally own both his LSO
and Chicago versions. There is something
of Bluebeard about the low strings
of the opening movement - far more than
its 'Introduzione' marking. Brass are
simply inspired; accelerandi are furious.
Interestingly, though, there is nocturnal
repose here as well as simple dynamism.
Interesting also to watch Solti's face,
a delight when things go well, and going
into grimace when they don't.
The ‘couples’ of the
second movement are all characterful
(especially the clarinets), and it is
a privilege to watch the Maestro's baton
which appears to be on intimate terms
with the score. To contrast, Solti conjures
up half-lights for the 'Elegia'. The
recording captures the strings almost
preternaturally well, and Solti gives
more than adequate space to the music.
Warmth runs through the long melodies
of the 'Intermezzo interotto'. Not sure
what Solti's facial contortions mean
before he embarks on the finale, but
once he does all is energy.
Perhaps only the Fidelio
finale disappoints. On a human level
this is the ideal choice, but despite
excellent vocal contributions from all
concerned, Solti misses the work's grandeur.
The soloists do tend to look like so
many mannequins in front of their microphones.
Weakest is Stig Andersen's Florestan
(he is wanting in power) and there is
some orchestral scrappiness before the
final hymn to Leonore. The problem is
really that most of this is low-key,
especially after the Bartók,
so when it finally does take off - literally
just before the end - it is too late.
Let this not put you
off, however. There is much to enjoy
and, indeed, cherish here and the idea
of a multi-format twofer is a good one.