Another recording of Ravel's La Valse?
Yet this disc may be dismissed by music-lovers only at their
own risk. Turkish orchestras do not, as a rule, enjoy much of
a reputation internationally, but the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic
under their dynamic Austrian conductor Sascha Goetzel are out
to change that. This jam-packed programme of exciting 20th century
ballet music builds massively on their impressive debut disc
(see enthusiastic review).
The Borusan Istanbul
Philharmonic has the dubious distinction of being the only
major orchestra whose bills are all paid by big business - in
this case, by Borusan, "a leading industrial conglomerate
in Turkey". On the other hand, there is no question that
the BIPO (or BIFO in Turkish), made up almost entirely of ethnic
Turkish musicians, are playing a key role in bringing Western
art music to Turkish audiences, for which Borusan's financial
support can only be applauded.
Goetzel's novel, fascinating programme brings together
five ballet-based works from the period between the two World
Wars, reflecting "the edgy, dangerous and turbulent political
and social landscape of the period." All the music probably
owes a debt to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring;
the works, some familiar and some not, are generally splanchnic,
almost pagan in their earthy, pulsating rhythms and dicing with
Goetzel says somewhat flippantly in an interview that "if
anybody dares to listen to the whole CD in one without a break
he'll have to go to the pub immediately, because it's
so intense." That does not apply at least to Holst's
Perfect Fool, which is noticeably lighter, more 'Britannically'
orchestrated, with echoes not only of the Rite of Spring
but of the music of The Planets that Holst had not
long published. Ravel's La Valse is more at
odds with the rest of the programme. A pity perhaps that the
paradigm of ballet-derived 'machine' music, Alexander
Mosolov's Zavod ('Iron Foundry'),
did not appear in its place - indeed, the Siegestanz
from Schulhoff's outstanding Ogelala Suite is
rhythmically highly reminiscent of it, although it does in fact
slightly predate it. But with La Valse included, this
is an extremely generously timed CD at just over 80 minutes,
and it must therefore welcome in that respect; yet also for
the very leisurely pace the BIPO take. Few recordings fall outside
the twelve to twelve-and-a-half minute range. This is almost
three minutes slower than a 1940 Toscanini whizz-through. Goetzel's
open-top 'slow decay' suits the music well too,
and the frenzied quality of the final few bars still obtains.
From beginning to end the BIPO are impressive, playing with
expressive insight or pyrotechnic agility as required, especially
in Ogelala and Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin.
They’re always commandingly directed by Goetzel. The stereo
is fairly narrow, but sound quality is pretty good. Well-written,
informative notes are by Martin Anderson, with translations
into German, French and Turkish.
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