Schubert sonatas

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Leos JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Sinfonietta (1926) [22.57]
Taras Bulba, rhapsody for orchestra (1915-1918) [21.55]
The Cunning Little Vixen: suite (1921-1923) [16.30]
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jonathan Nott
rec. Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg, Germany; 25-28 October 2004. DDD.
Co-production with Bavarian Radio, Munich
TUDOR 7135 [61.42]

A good set of interpretations but too literal and lacking the atmosphere of the greatest recordings.

I have found Jonathan Nott’s Schubert recordings with the Bamberg Symphony rather lacklustre, and have often been puzzled by the positive critical opinion lauded upon them. Few such feelings exist with this disc, however.
When heard on a standard CD player, the brass in the opening Fanfare of Janáček’s Sinfonietta are fulsome in their creation of the right atmosphere. Nott does not blast the listener with the brass as other conductors, notably Sir Charles Mackerras, have done in the past. To my way of thinking that makes Nott’s recording all the stronger. The ensuing Andante/Allegro is tensely argued yet the orchestral lines remain clear and with body throughout. The third movement Moderato starts with a suitably airy ambience being created, capturing the delicacy of much that is contained in Janáček’s writing, though a near-military feel is present in some contributions made by the brass. The fourth movement Allegretto is a sequence of carefully graded dynamics, which prove somewhat effective. The closing Andante con moto/Allegretto sees a gradual build-up of tension and an eventual return to the opening fanfares of the work.
Overall, as a reading I find that something just does not add up to the sum achieved by Mackerras on Decca or Kubelik on DG. Kubelik’s recording of Taras Bulba also holds its own against the more brilliantly recorded version that Nott conducts. The tension in Kubelik’s recording is arguably heightened by the relative age of his recording, though the sound was good for its time and is still respectable. Tudor’s engineering for Nott seems too literal whereas Kubelik achieves more through suggestion in this death-filled orchestral rhapsody.
The comparative rarity here is The Cunning Little Vixen suite, as arranged by Frantisek Jilek, rather than the later suite arranged by Talich, taking material from the middle of Act I, Act II including the Vixen’s entrance, and Act III’s first “transformation”. It makes for a sequence that fuses the feeling for nature with rather grander overtones, and it is this last aspect in which the Bamberg players excel to bring both the suite and the disc to an involving conclusion. The music is well supported by informative notes from Walter Labhart.
Evan Dickerson


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Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

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