Mstation Classical Reviews

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Mon, 01 May 2006

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No 5, Verdi, Sibelius

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No 5 in b minor Op64 [44.59]
Guiseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Overture La Forza del Destino [8.02]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Valse Triste Op44 [5.15

Bonus Disc - DVD of The Geneva Concert [59.00]; Documentary on the
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra [33.00]; Interview with Daniel Barenboim
and Edward Said [83.00].

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
rec Aug 2004, The Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland. Live Recording.
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62190-5

Occasionally there is a music project that is based on so laudable an idea and carried out with such exemplary aplomb that one cannot help but stand back in awe and gaze. Such is the concept that results in this disc. We know that Barenboim is a great musician, but to be able to pull together as unlikely sounding a group as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and make them play like this is nothing less than miraculous. The orchestra is comprised entirely of young musicians. Nothing so unusual in that; there are plenty of international youth orchestras (e.g. The Mahler Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abado, the European Union Youth Orchestra under just about anybody famous that you can name) which give the great concert house denizens of the European capitals a run for their money. The remarkable thing here is that the players are drawn in equal numbers from Israel and the Arab countries, including Palestine. A less likely combination for successful artistic partnership is hard to imagine. Maybe the thing that makes it possible at all is the fact that Barenboim and his co-founder the Palestinian writer the late Edward Said, have such political skill as to be able to get the Spanish to host the whole thing and, largely, to pay for it. The orchestra has gathered every summer since 1998 in Andalusia for workshops and rehearsals, learning as much about the pettiness of the long-running Israeli-Arab hatred as about the intricacies of Western symphonic music. Such is the fundraising that the West-Eastern Divan pays scholarships and bursaries for talented young Israeli or Arab musicians to study at conservatoria in Europe as well, and this has resulted in numerous graduates of the orchestra occupying permanent positions in orchestras around the Mediterranean.

So what of the music? Well, intensive rehearsal, the envy of most professional orchestras, top players in complete command of their techniques, and Daniel Barenboim. How bad could it possibly be? This is absolutely first rank Tchaikovsky playing in what is arguably his greatest work. Similarly the overture to La Forza del Destino simply buzzes with sinister energy. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra wowed the public at the 2005 Proms in London and they clearly wowed the audience in this live recording in Geneva the previous year. Phenomenal playing under inspired leadership. Highly recommendable, and the bonus DVD is interesting as well. ((c)Peter Wells 2006)

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La Fille Mal Gardee

Heinz Spoerli after Jean Dauberval, La Fille Ma Gardee
Herold, Hertel
Kozlova, Jensen, Ris, Henssler
Basler Ballett
Weiner Symphoniker
John Lanchberry
DVD, Deutche Grammophon, Unitel

Ballets are more of a natural for DVD's than symphonies I have to say and even some operas don't fare very well. Most especially the ones where the sets don't stand extended closeup views -- after all the sets weren't actually designed to be examnined in that way. You can also say the same for ballet but the increased movement on stage seems to cancel this out to some extent.

La Fille Ma Gardee is a comic romp that tells of two lovers. It was first performed two weeks before the fall of the Bastille which was quite bad timing for an extended season even if this was the first ballet to be about real people rather than mythical tales of the gods twisted to aggrandize someone close by.

This ballet was revived some years later and the choreography changed in some respects but its charm and fun remain and a lot of ballet fans have found themselves liking it rather more than they thought they would. (Count K)

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Weir, Gillian

On Stage at the Royal Festival Hall
Gillian Weir
CD, Priory

Here we have one the countries finest organists playing various works on the organ of the Royal Festival Hall. Her distinguished career should not go un-noticed! She was a student of the Royal College of Music, and whilst there, won several prestigious awards and prizes, and in 1965, was invited to play her debut recital at the Royal Festival Hall thus marking the beginning of her long relationship with the concert hall. Ever since, she has been the primary performer at both the Festival, and Queen Elizabeth halls, being soloist at such important events as the Halls 25th Jubilee, and the RFH Organ’s 50th birthday. Dame Gillian Weir is also a notable Messiaen performer, being involved deeply in the celebration concerts of his 70th and 80th birthdays. For more information visit

This recording was made shortly before the organs removal from the hall due to major renovation. It is a unique insight into the sound of the vast instrument at a major point in its life. The album ‘On Stage’, contains many of Dame Gillian’s most frequently performed works, showing off both her skill at working an instrument, and showing off the organ in all its intricateness. With such a varied programme, one is not short of lush harmony, precise melodic lines, solemnity, and excitement.

This is well worth a look, if only to have a record of the last days of the RFH organ, before is arrives triumphant again in 2007. (E Walton)

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Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
March Caprice [4.08]
Three Small Tone Poems
Summer Evening [6.17]
Winter Night [5.42]
Spring Morning [7.24]
American Rhapsody [9.29]
The Walk to the Paradise Garden [9.11]
Two Pieces for Small Orchestra
	On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring [5.53]
	Summer Night on the River [6.19]
A song before Sunrise [5.25]
Fantastic Dance [3.49]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
rec Aug 2002, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
NAXOS 8.557143 [63.38]

This charming disc shows that there is more to the orchestral music of Delius than is generally perceived. The normal thought about Delius is that his music surges from pianissimo to climax in a mighty mezzo-piano and is all slow and impressionistic. There is plenty of that aspect here, but much more besides. In a clever piece of programming the disc opens with a rather unexpected Marche Caprice, with prominent brasses and a jaunty rhythmic style. This would be an interesting one with which to play "Name the Composer"; few people would guess Delius.

Also included here are Delius' two most famous works "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" and "The Walk to the Paradise Garden", the latter being the famous orchestral interlude from Delius' opera A Village Romeo and Juliet. Both of these well known works are given sympathetic readings by Lloyd-Jones and RSNO. Their collaborations in English symphonic music for Naxos have become highly regarded - not least their splendid series of the complete symphonies of Arnold Bax. The recording is also highly enjoyable, the Naxos engineers by now knowing the ways of the Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow of old. Here is clarity and lucidity in the string sound, with excellent balance where the brass do get to open out. As an example, another of the more well-known works is the second of the Three Small Tone Poems, Winter Night, which is a jolly and light-hearted Sleigh ride, complete with sleigh bells. Also, however, there is orchestral power in which the brass and horns do get their big moment.

The Two Pieces for Small Orchestra, which include On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, are typically Delius. Translucent colours and subtle textures abound and the performance is definitely worthy of repeated listening. Added to this the addition of further rarities such as the large (for Delius) American Rhapsody; more of a landscape tone poem of the mid-west plains than a Gershwin-esque jaunt through the jazz streets of Chicago; and the languid flute, bassoon and strings of A Song before Sunrise, and you have a well worthwhile collection of enjoyable orchestral pieces. ((c) 2006 Peter Wells)

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