£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Some items
to consider


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 

 

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5 [41:18]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1893-1896, rev. 1906) [97:36]
Iris Vermillion (mezzo); Staats- und Domchor Berlin, Knabenchor an der Hochschule der Künste Berlin, Frauen des Rundfunkchors Berlin, Deutsche Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin/Vladimir Ashkenazy
rec. January 1996, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin (Schoenberg); August 1995, Konzerthaus/Schauspielhaus, Berlin (Mahler)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3479 [75: 00 + 64:14]

Experience Classicsonline



Vladimir Ashkenazy’s recording career – as a conductor, rather than a performer – began with a distinguished Sibelius cycle for Decca some thrity years ago. Since then he’s added some gripping Shostakovich – the RPO Fifth Symphony and St. Petersburg Eleventh spring to mind – and a top-notch version of Prokofiev Cinderella from Cleveland. In the concert hall I have fond memories of him directing a performance of Alexander Nevsky as an accompaniment to Eisenstein’s epic film. What an evening that was! Indeed, Russian repertoire seems to play to Ashkenazy’s strengths – as John Quinn’s review of his new Rachmaninov cycle confirms – which is why I’m a little wary of his foray into Mahler and Schoenberg.

Pelleas und Melisande – also in the key of D minor – is the first work on this twofer, although I imagine most buyers will be more interested in the Mahler. Recorded a decade and a half ago, both performances have been reissued by Eloquence, whose Ansermet Edition has given me much pleasure in recent years. The sonics of the latter are especially pleasing, the product of a golden age that Decca – now part of Universal – have never been able to repeat. That said, their choice of Berlin’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche – a justly celebrated recording venue – bodes well for the darkly intense world of Pelleas. But does the performance come up to scratch? No, is the simple answer. Comparing this recessed – and strangely episodic – account with Robert Craft’s (Naxos 8.557527) one longs for the sensuous throb of sound the latter draws from the Philharmonia, not to mention the sense of a cohesive, compelling narrative. Yes, the German band play with poise and delicacy where required, but the emotional temperature seldom rises above lukewarm. Ashkenazy is just too dogged, too literal, in music that is convoluted, fantastical, and not even the hallowed Berlin acoustic can rescue this lacklustre performance. Indeed, that other iconic venue – No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road – gives the Craft recording a depth and richness that is simply thrilling.

So, no contest there. But what about the glorious sprawl that is Mahler’s Third Symphony? There’s stiff competition here: at random, Claudio Abbado’s DG versions with the BPO and VPO; Michael Gielen’s on Hänssler; and, more recently, David Zinman’s Tonhalle account on RCA-BMG – review. And while the latter has many fine qualities – not least spontaneity and freshness, which suffuses much of his cycle – the crucial last movement comes a little too close to being unseamed. Abbado is a master of the long span – ditto James Levine for RCA, whose Mahler 3 is available on special order from ArkivMusic – and that’s a most desirable skill where this vaulted structure is concerned.

The expansive start to the first movement is one of the most arresting introductions in all Mahler; and so it is here, but then things start to go wrong. The music that follows – that slow awakening, punctuated by timps and bass drum – very nearly stalls altogether. The diffuse, rather distant recording doesn’t help either; I wonder why Decca chose the Konzerthaus/Schauspielhaus, which doesn’t strike me as a very grateful acoustic? Still, the percussion is reasonably well caught. The underwhelming brass aren’t so lucky; indeed, they sound surprisingly uneven at times, nothing like the confident ensemble that blazes its way through the DG DVD of Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie under Kent Nagano. As for the strings, that shrill, biting passage at 20:20 is hopelessly underpowered. Ditto the usually cathartic final tuttis.

It doesn’t get any better, I’m afraid; the second movement is disfigured by a woeful orchestral blend and, thanks to plodding tempi, this miraculous little dance is leached of all its grace and charm. In Abbado’s hands – and especially in the ‘hear-through’ readings of Gielen and Zinman – rhythms are sensitively sprung, Mahler’s exquisite details lovingly revealed. In the scherzo the soft-edged recording simply exacerbates the band’s lack of precision and bite; but then Ashkenazy’s reading is hesitant and unfocused anyway, with none of those heart-stopping epiphanies that others find in this music. Take that ineffably beautiful falling theme at 7:30, where Mahler’s sustained, singing line; here it emerges as a series of ragged gasps. As for the post horn, it’s impossibly distant, but at least the soft beats of the bass drum add some much-needed frisson to the mix.

Try as I might, I simply cannot find any redeeming features in this performance; the scherzo drags to a painfully protracted close and soloist Vermillion struggles to make sail while marooned in the doldrums. Frankly, if one were to lampoon the Mahlerian style, this would be the way to do it – charmless, shapeless, hopeless. Even the boys’ chorus is less uplifting than usual, the grey start of the final movement promising more of the same. This great span is one of Mahler’s most generous, open-hearted creations, and in the right hands Abbado’s especially, but Levine is pretty special too it should build into a series of perorations that simply take one’s breath away. No such luck here, though. More out of duty than devotion I endured this spasmodic finale, mightily relieved when it was finally over.

I cannot recall a more dispiriting, disjointed Mahler performance, either in the concert hall or on record. Two consecutive Mahler centenaries have prompted – and will encourage – a surge of new releases and reissues; that said, few could be as ill-advised as this one. Even the filler can’t save this set which, I suspect, will soon be returned to the dusty vaults from whence it came.

Dan Morgan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.