NEW RECORDINGS RECALL RECENT
SOUTH FLORIDA PERFORMANCES
By Lawrence Budmen
A series of newly released recordings spotlight artists who have recently performed in South Florida. These cds confirm the strong impression made by these musicians in their local appearances. The recordings also feature some unusual repertoire and new editions of familiar works.
The Quebec based conductor Bernard Labadie led a rousing Bach program last season with the New World Symphony and will return next season for another Baroque concert. He directs his Canadian ensembles (La Chapelle de Quebec and Les Violons du Roy) in a new edition of Mozart's "Requiem in D Minor," K.626, revised and completed by the pianist and musicologist Robert D. Levin, on the Dorian label (www.dorian.com). Labadie leads an extremely powerful performance of this problematical score. The Quebec choir sings with intense emotion. Every note is deeply felt. Concertmaster Nicole Trotier plays an expressive violin solo. (She was the guest concertmaster for Labadie's NWS concerts.) This live performance was recorded in Troy, New York ten days after the horrific events of September 11, 2001. The emotions of that moment are heard in every bar of this deeply moving performance. Levin's transparent re-orchestration lightens the texture. His version is far superior to the familiar completion by Franz Xavier Sussmayr.
Paavo Jarvi was a high voltage guest conductor with the NWS last season. This gifted maestro will be returning to Miami next season with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, of which he is music director. His new Stravinsky disc on Telarc (www.telarc.com) is a real winner. The Cincinnati orchestra is now one of the best in the country. The playing of this ensemble is splendid. The strings have a dark, rich almost Russian tone. The winds have individuality and character. Brass and percussion are solid and firm. Jarvi conducts a highly colorful performance of the Suite from "The Firebird" in the large scaled 1919 version. This edition is filled with instrumental coloration and orchestral excitement - a vivid reminder that Stravinsky's teacher was Rimsky-Korsakov. "Petrouchka" is given a refreshingly restrained performance. Jarvi emphasizes the music's folk roots rather than orchestral flash. Bravo Paavo!
The memory of conductor Leon Botstein's performance of Mahler's 5th Symphony in Miami last June with the American Russian Young Artists' Orchestra still rings in the mind's ear. The multi-talented Botstein manages to juggle multiple careers as college president, historian, musicologist, impresario, and conductor. Unfamiliar music of the 19th and 20th century has long been the centerpiece of Botstein's conducting repertoire. A Telarc recording of works by Max Reger is a festival of Romantic chromaticism. Taken in small doses, this is very appealing music, superbly played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Russian composer Reinhold Gliere was a musical nationalist. His conservative style was greatly influenced by Ukrainian and Central Asian folk music. His 1911 "Symphony No.3," Opus 42 ("Ilya Murometz") is his most ambitious score. This is a massive work lasting 72 minutes. The new Telarc recording by Botstein and the London Symphony Orchestra sets a new standard for this orchestral showpiece. The string playing is lush and full toned. The sweetness of the wind playing is striking. Botstein revels in this score's Russian hues. Previous efforts by Stokowski, Ormandy, and Donald Johanos are surpassed by this magnificent performance that will win new converts to this unique score.
Two veteran violinists who have recently demonstrated that their technique and art continue undiminished are spotlighted on new releases. At a recent Florida Philharmonic concert, Joseph Silverstein gave an eloquent, deeply felt performance of Beethoven's "Violin Concerto" with virtuosity to burn. On flutist-conductor Ransom Wilson's new Image label (www.imagerecordings.com) Silverstein plays the complete solo violin music of J.S. Bach. The richness of Silverstein's tone in these partitas and sonatas is awesome. Instead of sounding like a technical exercise, this is music of grace and beauty in Silverstein's hands. Another master violin virtuoso is Aaron Rosand, who played a wonderful recital at the Sunday Afternoons of Music series in Coral Gables last fall and recently gave a virtuoso performance of Brahms's "Violin Concerto" with the Florida Philharmonic. His new disc of works for violin and orchestra by Max Bruch on Vox records (www.voxcd.com) is a truly great recording. In addition to the familiar "Violin Concerto No.1" Rosand also offers the beautiful "Scottish Fantasy" and the gorgeous (but rarely played) "Romance," Opus 42. All of these works are played with absolute mastery of the instrument and a truly idiomatic feeling for the music's 19th century romanticism. He is given sympathetic support by conductor Christoph Wyneken and the NDR Radio Philharmonic of Hanover.
The Barromeo String Quartet impressed as a young, vigorous group with refreshingly unconventional interpretive ideas when they opened the NWS chamber music series last fall. Two new recordings on the Image label prove that the initial impression was no fluke. A disc of Beethoven quartets ("Quartet in F Minor" Opus 95 and "Quartet in C Major," Opus 59, No.3) is musically invigorating. The music making has a burning inner fire. Their breathtaking performance of the C Major Quartet makes the Guarneri Quartet sound tame indeed. An all Ravel disc features a lush, beautiful performance of the "String Quartet" (1904). The players' lightness of touch is matched by the gorgeous sound of their playing. The Barromeo is definitely a quartet for a new century!
Although the major record labels have all but abandoned classical recordings, innovative new labels have helped to fill the void. It is wonderful to see the performances of so many arresting musicians preserved for posterity.