One of the most grown-up review sites around

2019
52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free


we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


TROUBADISC

with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation


absolutely thrilling


immediacy and spontaneity


Schumann Lieder


24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs


‘Box of Delights.’


J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue


GERNSHEIM Quartets
a most welcome issue


I enjoyed it tremendously


the finest traditions of the house


music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message


ground-breaking, winning release


Charpentier
screams quality


Surprise of the month


English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique) (1893) [46:12]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Overture, Op. 21 (1826) [11:45]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
rec. in concert, Royal Festival Hall, February 2009
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD253 [57:57]

Sir Charles Mackerras's way with the Pathétique combines a forthright musicality with a keen sense of orchestral colour. In the pungent opening bassoon solos, note the carefully sculpted hairpin dynamics in the supporting strings. A few pages later, hear the vibrant transparency of the horn-and-woodwind chords, and the taut, full-bodied punctuating fanfares from the brass. The second theme sings with poised restraint. The development is bracing, though the strings and the trombones disagree about the tempo in their back-and-forth phrases at the climax. The clarinet's reprise of the second theme is touched with a regretful melancholy and the coda treads with dignity.

The Allegro con grazia goes with a nice lift - the five-beat pattern actually feels like a waltz - and the violins lighten the dotted patterns without scanting the note values. The central, minor section maintains the established tempo, with the timpani pulses providing a distressed undercurrent. A fetching diminuendo lightens the coda, and the attack on the winds' final chord is clean.

Many conductors might be content simply to let an orchestra of Philharmonia calibre play the march for its virtuoso flash. Mackerras takes some care over characterization as well. The clarinets introduce the main theme playfully; it sounds smart and trim when the violins take it over. There's bits of rushing here and there - not, oddly, in the little running figures, where you'd expect it - but I enjoyed the dynamic, no-nonsense climaxes, with the brasses' upward scales driving forward.

The very first chord of the Finale - with the top note in the second violins - sounds tentative, but this improves when the theme returns. On the theme's extended "tail", the bassoons' unison descent, the supporting strings execute a precise diminuendo, after which Mackerras launches the second theme with a firm sense of direction. A few untoward accelerations suggest the heat of performance: at 0:50, for example, which is marked rallentando after the preceding affrettando. The indicated stringendo molto at 6:28 also feels like too much too soon. The hairpin dynamics on the trombone chorale are effective, as is the final fade.

The Midsummer Night's Dream Overture is an unhackneyed complement to the symphony, and Mackerras leads a characterful performance. It's good to hear the strings articulating crisply at a reasonable speed. The second theme flows easily; the cross-rhythmic attacks in the development are pointed. The music strides proudly, as it should, into the false ending; the winds transition into the final coda - the real one - with a lovely wistfulness.

The sound earns points for its suggestion of depth and body around the winds, as at the start of the Mendelssohn, and of a sense of texture. It gets demerits for unpleasantly harsh brass outbursts in the symphony's first movement; those in the march bothered me less.

Considering Sir Charles's high profile as a conductor, his recording career was spotty. After a handful of lighter-classical programmes for Philips and EMI - recordings that still stand well - the majors mostly ignored him. Decca did however bring him in for its Janáček opera series in the late 1970s. His "Indian summer" in the Telarc studios, taping cycles of Brahms, Mozart and Gilbert & Sullivan, found him too casual and laissez-faire a disciplinarian. Let this Signum disc and its companion issues stand as a more fitting memorial to him.

Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.




 



We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger