One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

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

Some items
to consider

16th-19th November

Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!

Nothing but Praise

BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set

Telemann continues to amaze

A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition

Another Bacewicz winner

match any I’ve heard

An outstanding centenary collection

personable, tuneful, approachable

a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.

music that will be new to most people

telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded

hitherto unrecorded Latvian music


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Music for strings, percussion and celesta Sz106 (1936) [27.43]
rec. live, Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, 24 May 1967
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Symphony No.3 Liturgique (1945-6) [26.48]
rec. live, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory, USSR, 28 February 1965
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Agon - ballet for 12 dancers (1953-57) [23.37]
rec. live, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory, USSR, 30 October 1968
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Mravinsky
Reviewed in SACD

This is Mravinsky at his peak. The playing of the Leningrad Philharmonic in these three twentieth century works is quite astonishingly good. All three are live performances but with quiet audiences and at least adequate recording quality. Praga Digitals have extracted as much as seems possible from these fifty year-old broadcast tapes. Everything is in stereo, though the Stravinsky has more space than detail or spread. The Bartók and Honegger do yield a very respectable stereo image which adds to the interest of the performances.

Bartók's great masterpiece has done well in the recording studio with both Karajan and Solti having made recordings which have stood the test of time. Solti in particular made a version with the London Symphony Orchestra which has been adopted as a benchmark for virtuosity as well as quality of sound and interpretation. Decca's recording — made three years before this present one, in 1964 — still sounds as good as any. Mravinsky's performance, whilst it may not obscure Solti, has an intensity and precision that amazed me. Perhaps this Praga issue is worth the price just for the Bartók. However, there is also the Honegger. The Liturgique has been served fairly well on disc with perhaps the finest recording being, again, Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Their 1973 version continues to hold its head high but the Mravinsky has still more tension. The second movement features Leningrad's famous trumpet section at their most piercing and the finale sounds positively dangerous. Oddly, the climactic coda is drawn out overmuch and the huge decrescendo collapse fails to make full impact. The 1965 Soviet recording, though clear, has much more limited dynamic range. Listeners should be sure to press the stop button after Honegger's very quiet ending to prevent Stravinsky bursting in on the following track. Agon is not very well known. This is hardly unexpected for it proceeds from the lively and affirmative opening to become more and more serialist in style. The composer's later music is often rather dense and technical, exhibiting determination rather than inspiration: Agon suffers a bit from this. However, this precise and rhythmic interpretation is still well worth hearing despite the 'spacious-monophonic' feel of the sound. I note that the track numbering drifts at some point, my player ending on 24 whilst the notes say 22. Presentation is up to Praga's normal high standard with plenty of interesting information in the notes. The one mystery is the unexplained presence on the cover of one Ilya Shpilberg along with the LPO. A little research revealed that he was their concertmaster at this time. Perhaps Praga might have told us.

Dave Billinge

Reviews of previous releases: Bartók (Praga) and Honegger (Melodiya)



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
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: See what you will get

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