by David Barker
So after all this, I need to bring it all together and make
a decision about the overall performances. The only way I could
see to achieve this was to rate each movement for each performance.
I used a simple scale of -2 (poor) to +2 (outstanding), and
then added them together to give me the final ranking. I don’t
feel it is necessary to give the actual point scores here,
suffice to place the recordings in their final order, and make
some summary comments where appropriate.
While it might be thought that this arithmetic approach is
too simplistic for such a subjective endeavour, I look at the
ranking below, and find that it matches fairly well my overall
impressions. However, the flaw in the numerical approach is
that it makes the ranking seem very cut and dried.
you would be delighted to have any of the first three, and
the next three were only found wanting in one movement. The
last two are both a surprise and a puzzle: why did I respond
so poorly to them, when so many other reviewers have praised
them? I guess it is further evidence, as if any more was needed,
of the subjective nature of reviewing.
1. Paavo Berglund - I hadn’t heard this
before beginning this article, only read a lot of reviews which
had it as their gold standard. I can certainly understand why
- it is now mine as well. There were few false moments - almost
everything seemed apposite. Stated very simply, the performance
impressed me for a greater proportion of its duration than
any of the
What a shame that it is currently out of the catalogue.
2. Oleg Caetani & Bernard Haitink - I am
pleased that the two recordings I did have in my collection
had admired showed up so
well. It was not possible to do this as a “blind listen” so
I imagine there will have been some desire to hear what I wanted,
but hopefully not too much.
4. Dmitri Kitajenko, Alexander Lazarev & Vasily
Petrenko - The common element with these three was one
flawed move movement: Kitajenko - IV, Lazarev - III & Petrenko
was a real surprise. As already described, it was the last
list, and on the basis of a lesser-known orchestra and a conductor
whose name was unfamiliar to me (see Footnote 3), I would have
expected it to be in last place at the end. However, the inner
movements were without peer, and its only failing was the finale.
for the Lazarev: if only there had not been the error in judgement
with the third movement tempo,
this could have been first choice.
The Petrenko was somewhat
of a sleeper, as it didn’t strike me as particularly
impressive on first listen. However, its qualities manifested
themselves during the intense comparisons. It is undoubtedly
a jewel in the Naxos crown.
7. Mstislav Rostropovich & Rudolf Barshai -
Two conductors with ties to the composer himself, but finding
themselves well down the order. I was immensely disappointed
with Rostropovich’s much-lauded performance when I bought
it a few years ago after all the reviews, but this survey did
demonstrate its good points to me, and as with the Lazarev,
it was mainly one movement that caused the problems. The Barshai
made little impact in either direction.
9. Gennady Rozhdetvensky - Far too much in
the way of exaggerated tempos to appeal.
10. Leopold Stokowski - This convinces me that
any preconceived notions that I brought to the survey did not
overly affect my judgement, as I fully expected this be my
number one choice at the end. The first three movements were
no more and no less than adequate, and the last was dire.
11. James DePreist - As I said before, I fail
to see how this could have gained a Penguin Guide recommendation.
Bear also in mind that I rejected his other Delos recording
with the Oregon SO!
Whatever your opinion, whichever is your favourite, I hope
this might induce you to dig it out and play it.
3. A little research has elicited the long and glorious history
of the Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra and its conductor in
this recording. The orchestra has been around since the 1820s
and premiered Mahler’s third and fifth symphonies and
Brahms’s double concerto, among others. Kitajenko won
the first Karajan conducting competition, and was musical director
at the Moscow Phil for more than a decade, among other postings.