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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Wind Serenade, rather weak String Serenade, 13 Dec 2008
This review is from: Serenade in E, Op.22 / Serenade in D-Min, Op.44 (Audio CD)
This CD is very much a Jekyll and Hyde job. Sad to say, the Serenade for Strings comes across rather poorly. The first movement is played at an ingratiatingly slow adagio rather than at the moderato pace demanded by the score, and the plummy, boomy sound exaggerates the bass notes and makes the treble notes sound slightly screechy. My CD pressing of the strings serenade is, as they used to say in the old days, a "swinger", a term that referred to old shellac records whose hole was not exactly central, so that the music wobbled a little. On my copy of the CD, this effect, while not troublesome throughout the whole of the Strings Serfenade, can be distinctly heard at the end of movements and in places where the violins play at high registers. The Larghetto is nicely handled, though some will find the pace exaggeratedly slow, and the final movement brings a welcome acceleration and is played at the allegro vivace asked for by the composer.

By contrast with the Serenade for Strings, the Wind Serenade is excellently recorded and played, so much so that it is very difficult to believe that the ensemble belongs to the same chamber music group and is playing under the same conductor, and the recording has an accuracy, clarity and immediacy that is largely lacking from the first half of the CD. Rarely have I heard a woodwind group play with such sensitivity and understanding, and the cello and the double bass blend subtly and unobtrusively with the other instruments, the outcome being a recording of real excellence.

It is, in short, as though two recordings, done at different times, in different places, and by different groups have been uncomfortably glued together to make up a single CD. Fans of the Serenade for Strings should try elsewhere (the impressive ASMF/Marriner interpretation, combined with the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, is available at half the price of this CD), but those searching for a really good recording of the Wind Serenade need look no further - the Chamber Orchestra of Europe account must surely be the definitive version. In any case, though, and if at all possible, try this CD before you buy.
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