Simon Rattle always had something about him and this was (is?) coupled with
a most encouraging approach to the less common repertoire. It is to be hoped
that this will carry over into the concert programmes of Berliner Philharmoniker.
Lofty Elysian fields indeed although often afflicted with a stultifying lack
of adventure when it comes to repertoire choice.
During the early 1980s and on leave from the CBSO, EMI assigned the Philharmonia
to him. With them he had earlier made a well-received disc of Sibelius 5.
Everything works in the Sinfonietta with proverbial synergy. While I recall
criticism that the Sinfonietta performance did not ring comprehensively true
I do not detect any shortcomings. Indeed the recording is flexible, gripping;
not hectoring but still dramatic. I reckon this high in the leagues alongside
the absurdly little known Serebrier on Reference Recordings. Rattle's way
with the orchestra is wrenchingly resplendent and juicily romantic with that
essential dash of autochthonous paprika that marks out a performance for
the long-term memory.
The Glagolitic Mass lacks the abrasion of the Ancerl Supraphon through
which I first came to know this piece. Hearing those opening fanfares in
Rattle's recording reminded me for the first time of Bruckner. The parallel
had never once crossed my mind in the Ancerl registration. The singing of
the Brummies is fervent but not competitive with Ancerl's choir whose very
breath seems infused with primeval fire and incense. Rattle's soloists are
in style but again I feel that they are outpointed by the reeking intensity
of the Czechs. That said, and much as I love it, the Ancerl is sadly beginning
to wear its years rather heavily. Rattle and his singers bring some refinement
to the proceedings but not so much as to chamfer off the Czech rawness. The
orchestra is a wonder. Jane Parker-Smith gothically plunging organ complements
the proceedings. I have not heard the Mackerras which is highly thought of.
There is no lack of power in the Mass and would make a happy purchase. There
is just that suspicion that more could have been made of it. This compares
with a top-flight Sinfonietta to make a desirable disc.