Gerard Hoffnung CDs
World Philharmonic Orchestra
- Paris 2006
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Bolero (1928) [15:28]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen Suite No.1 – excerpts (1875) [8:13]
Carmen Suite No.2 – excerpts (1875) [6:30]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
L'Apprenti sorcier (1897) [10:40]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Marche au supplice from Symphonie fantastique Op.14
rec. live, 20 June 2006, Cour d'Honneur du Palais des Invalides, Paris, France.
NAÏVE V5067 [45:49]
Let's not waste
time here. This disc is completely and utterly redundant. All
of the works collected on this ungenerous CD are bettered elsewhere
by just about everyone.
It is a shame,
because aims of the World Philharmonic Orchestra are laudable.
In the late 1980s, previous incarnations of this orchestra
played under luminaries, the likes of Sinopoli, Maazel and
Giulini (see review).
Concerts were given “for peace and for children”, in partnership
with UNESCO, UNICEF or the Red Cross. The orchestra itself
is a virtual musical United Nations, bringing together front-desk
players from orchestras in 80 countries.
After an apparent
hiatus of nearly a decade, the WPO is back. In this incarnation,
it sounds very ordinary indeed. Yutaka Sado, though by no means
a terrible conductor, is not in the class of his august predecessors.
Although he has been building a promising reputation as a conductor
of French repertoire from his base in Lameroux, this disc does
nothing to enhance that reputation.
There are two things
wrong with the orchestra. The ensemble is unimpressive, with
little cohesion and inept balancing of parts. This may perhaps
be attributed to insufficient rehearsal, but really this repertoire
is hardly obscure or difficult. The second problem is that
the musicians are not of a consistently high caliber. They
are drawn mostly from middle to bottom tier orchestras in Scandinavia,
Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia. There
are almost no middle to top tier orchestras represented. There
is a single double-bass from the Czech Philharmonic, Jonathan
Aasgaard from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic leads the cellos,
and a violinist from the Los Angeles Philharmonic turns up
among the seconds. None of the London bands are represented,
nor are any of the big five American orchestras, and there
are no delegates from the important Western European bands
either. The claim made in the liner-notes that the orchestra
comprises “the greatest virtuosos our planet has to offer” is
sheer nonsense. That said, most of the brass, winds and percussion
play very well, but the rank and file strings vary from good
to very bad, and the overall string tone is thin and scratchy.
The flat-sounding live recording does not help, nor does the
excess of audience noise.
Despite some decent
woodwind playing and, in fairness, some attractive swooning
from the strings, the Bolero that opens the programme
is a dud. It does not build consistently, and there are too
many ugly sounds along the way to make it recommendable. The Carmen
Suites are dismembered – selections of selections from
the opera, if you will. Much of the playing here sounds declamatory
and insensitive. The opening prelude is not together, and is
so oom-pah bass-heavy that it sounds like a joke. The Dukas
tone poem is decent but unimpressive and if you have not taken
the disc off by the time you get to the March to the Scaffold,
you will hear trombones and timpani that sound terrible and
out of tune and brass that stumble over themselves, even if
Sado's tempo is just about right.
It appears from
the orchestra's website that there was
more to this concert programme than appears on this disc. Should
we be annoyed that the disc's playing time is so short, or
grateful that Naïve does not prolong our agony?
are so ridiculously rapt and laudatory that they are funny.
An example: “It was in Paris that this concert took place.
It was in Paris, one night in June, that the spell was cast.
... under the fiery baton of the Japanese conductor Yutaka
Sado ... the World Philharmonic Orchestra made vibrant music.
Splendid. Intense. United. And from the depths of its soul.”
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