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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Scotty, beam us up

Beethoven: Symphony no. 3; Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales

Giuseppe Sinopoli, the great Venetian conductor, has a reputation for cool and aloof interpretations, but I'm always as aware of his passionate undercurrents as I am of the cerebral arguments with which he builds his interpretations.  Back in 2015 I noted the dramatic tension in his Schubert Unfinished Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra, contrasting it with a slightly underpowered version from Philippe Jordan. Sinopoli's white-hot recording of Schumann's 2nd Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic (one of my all-time favourite discs) is another example. It was his experience in the opera pit, I believe, that provides the dynamic force of many of his orchestral recordings, and we hear it again in this release of a recording from Tel Aviv on October 28, 1993. There's plenty of drama in Beethoven's Eroica, but few recordings are as dramatically, indeed theatrically, shaped and shaded as this performance with the high-performing musicians of the Israel Philharmonic. Though Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales might seem at first glance to be more about music (in this case, Schubert's waltzes) than anything dramatic or theatrical, or indeed anything extra-musical at all. But after the composer orchestrated his original piano work, it was soon adapted as a ballet, Adélaïde, ou le langage des fleurs, with a plot taken from Dumas's La Dame aux Camélias. As one of the greatest interpreter's of Verdi's La Traviata, Giuseppe Sinopoli certainly knows his way around that story!

Sinopoli's day job may have been at the podium, but he had an astonishing range of interests and expertise, from medicine and criminology to anthropology and art collecting. There's a popular misconception that someone with a sophisticated intellectual life must be cold and analytical. It's like the common misinterpretation of the character of Spock in Star Trek's many iterations as exclusively cerebral. The half-Vulcan and half-human Spock is Gene Roddenbury's stand-in for all of the thoughtful people who pay attention to, and believe passionately in, the arts and culture and philosophy. To hold these not-at-all contradictory sides of our nature in balance is a worthy goal for us all, and the recordings of Giuseppe Sinopoli are powerful models.

This disc will be released in North America on September 7, 2018.

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