Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Greatness in musical partnership

Mravinsky Edition, volume 3: works by Tchaikovsky, Bach, Weber, Wagner, Scriabin, Kalinnikov, Bruckner, Shostakovich

I've come to historic recordings fairly late, but I've had such good luck with recent releases that I'm beginning to search them out. This 6 CD set, the 3rd volume in Profil's Mravinsky Edition, is a superb example of well-documented remastered recordings of special significance. It's easy enough to filter out sonic shortcomings when the performances are so vital. Mravinsky had a lifelong relationship with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, and it's fascinating to hear the development of their musical partnership from 1938 to 1961. The obvious highlights in this package are the Tchaikovsky Symphonies #4 and (especially) #5 and a blistering performance of the Shostakovich 8th Symphony. But I was completely bowled over by Mravinsky's take on Bruckner's 8th Symphony, which I've been listening to a lot lately. In my review of Mariss Jansson's recent recording, I talked about the balance in Bruckner 8 between what Vincent Van Gogh referred to as "Tranquility of Touch" and "Intensity of Thought". It's no surprise that Mravinsky comes down on the intense side. Shostakovich biographer David Fanning describes just this intensity:
The Leningrad Philharmonic play like a wild stallion, only just held in check by the willpower of its master. Every smallest movement is placed with fierce pride; at any moment it may break into such a frenzied gallop that you hardly know whether to feel exhilarated or terrified.
An outstanding production all around.

The Mravinsky Edition covers feature a monochrome detail of his portrait by Lev Russov. Here it is in colour:

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