Mariss Jansons – Portrait
Chor and Symphonieorchester des Bayerschen Rundfunks
BR KLASSIK 900157 [5 CDs: 354:55]
Mariss Jansons first came to my attention, and I imagine to that of many others, through his excellent Tchaikovsky cycle for Chandos, since when he has gone from strength to strength, marking himself a place as one of the finest conductors of his age. Any retrospective of an artist’s career will understandably mine the archives and this set, which solely concentrates on his recordings for BR Klassik is no different. This set contains some very fine live recordings, but also a glaring anomaly.
The set opens with a disc dedicated to Haydn and in particular a very fine recording of the Harmoniemesse, with its use of wind making this one of my favourites amongst the composer’s choral output. The performance is well sung throughout and the orchestral playing is excellent, my problem is with the Symphony No. 88, and why we only get the third movement, especially when on what I take to be the original recording we not only get the full symphony but also the alternative Finale of No. 53, an anomaly indeed. This performance is also available on DVD.
The second disc presents two of the greatest fourth symphonies of all time, namely those of Beethoven and Brahms. This too has been released as a separate disc, and the full throttle performances here well warrant their inclusion in this set.
The third disc opens with Eine Alpensinfonie by Richard Strauss, never a favourite work of mine; I have always found it just too long and over stodgy, but here the clear playing of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerschen Rundfunks goes some way to addressing that stodginess. When they combine with Anja Harteros in the Four Last Songs the results are lovely and well balanced.
Disc four is a presentation of the Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler, here Jansons is a little quicker through the first three movements, whilst he slows down for the final Adagio, making it the slowest version of this movement that I have. The result of this is fascinating, the slower tempo giving the themes greater time to develop, something that is aided by the clarity of the orchestral playing.
The final disc presents three composers, the first is Edgard Varése who destroyed most of his output before moving from France to America, making Amériques to all intents and purposes his opus 1. Jansons is very adept at bringing out the contrast between the slow quiet Debussyan opening and the new, exciting modernist ideas that would develop in the composer’s music, the difference between what he had left behind and what he saw as the future.
The Symphony of Psalms has always been for me something of a neglected work amongst Stravinsky’s output, although I have loved it ever since I first heard it on an old Supraphon LP. Here the performance is well balanced, with Jansons giving the same priority to the wonderful Chor and Symphonieorchester des Bayerschen Rundfunks, and this performance has led me to listen to this disc most of the five.
The final work is a wonderful recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6; the recording is definitely live as the excitement of the event comes through, especially in the rollicking final Presto.
All these recordings are live, but don’t let that put you off, the recording engineers of Bavarian Radio have years of experience of setting up in the auditorium to produce the best sound possible, something they achieve every time, and not just in the recordings presented here; they are clear, precise and well balanced, and have very little audience participation, including applause. The performances, as intimated, are excellent throughout, making this a worthy testimony to Mariss Jansons tenure as music director of the chorus and orchestra.
Disc 1 [46:54]
Mass in B-Flat Major, Hob. XXII:14 "Harmoniemesse" [42:45]
Symphony No. 88 in G Major, Hob. I:88: III. Menuetto. Allegretto – Trio [4:09]
Malin Hartelius (soprano), Judith Schmid (alto), Christian Elsner (tenor), Franz-Josef Selig (bass), Michaela Knab (soprano), Bernhard Schneider (tenor)
Rec. Waldsassen, Basilika, Germany, 7th October 2008
Disc 2 [74:01]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major, Op. 60 [33:11]
rec. Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 26th November 2012
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 [40:50]
rec. Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich, Germany, 6th to the 10th October 2012
Disc 3 [72:41]
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64, TrV 233 [51:07]
rec. Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich, Germany, 13th to the 15th October 2016
4 Letzte Lieder, TrV 296 [21:34]
Anja Harteros (soprano), Andreas Röhn (violin)
rec. Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich, Germany 25th to the 27th March 2009
Disc 4 [80:45]
Symphony No. 9 in D Major [80:45]
rec. Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich, Germany, 17th to the 21st October 2016
Disc 5 [80:34]
rec. Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich, Germany, 13th to the 16th October 2015
Symphony of Psalms [22:10]
rec. Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich, Germany, 5th and 6th March 2009
Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 54 [29:46]
rec. Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich, Germany, 18th to 21st March 2013