on 27 February 2013
Some of these EMI Icon boxes have been very, very good. This one is superb. It's a long, long way from being just a random reissue of some half forgotten conductor's work in elderly sound that it may seem to be at first.
To my shame, my only recollections of Silvestri are of a concert of his with the Bournemouth Symphony I attended when I was a youngster, and a couple of rather fine CFP LPs of violin concertos with Leonid Kogan as soloist that I regret parting with, and which are not included here.
Contained within this box of 15 CDs is some of the most exciting and committed conducting and playing I've heard in a very long time. The Dvorak is wonderful, all of it, the Tchaikovsky 4th is very exhilarating, his famous Elgar and Vaughan Williams with the BSO is drop dead gorgeous, The Sorcerer's apprentice out-Stokowskis Stokowski and is one of the many highlights of the set. Ravel's Bolero has rarely sounded so intoxicating, the Symphonie Fantastique is superb, and so it goes on. Its not all on quite such an exalted level of course, the Tchaikovsky Pathetique is a bit ordinary, and the fifth symphony strikes me as rather dull compared to the likes of Muti for example, but everyone should hear this, and at the price there is no excuse. Just buy it.
The recording quality is variable. The discs here range from mid 50s mono to late 60s stereo. Most discs are in stereo however, although the few recordings by EMI France are fairly ropey to be honest. The best sound is easily the BSO performances from the mid 60s which is bordering on excellent.
I can't stop playing these discs. I'm off for a third go at Dvorak's 7th if my nerves can take it.
on 19 March 2013
A must buy for me as I have been a Silvestri fan since hearing him conduct the LPO in Brahm's Symphony no 1 in Watford Town Hall in 1958. Also heard (from outside !) a performance of Elgar no 1 at Salisbury Cathedral in 1968, a magical experience.Don't think he ever recorded the Brahms, but Elgar 1 is/was on a BBC set. Have bought all the odds and ends of his recordings - Testament, Supraphon, Royal Classics, etc over the years so this box is a boon. Not exactly complete, though as various concerto recordings not included, but I suppose as he played second fiddle on these,(oh dear!) they are not totally his performances. Good value for money, as are all the EMI Icon series. Must buy more while they remain available.
P.S. Surely EMI could have found a way of fitting Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony on to one CD - reminds me of playing 78's (ask your grandad).
Yet another PS, Gramophone magazine (April 2013) devotes two pages to this box. Praise, indeed.
on 19 February 2014
When I was a student nearly 50 years ago I bought an LP of Elgar's overture In the South coupled with Vaughan Williams fantasy on the theme by Tallis, conducted by Constantin Silvestri. I played it to death. By the time I spent a year at Southampton University 1969-70, Silvestri was dead and spoken about in hushed tones by audiences in the Winter Gardens, Bournemouth. Until this box came along I had no idea his recorded legacy was so large, or with so many different orchestras. I downloaded these performances the same day as the Romantic box conducted by Klemperer. Some of the repertoire is shared. In some works Silvestri even conducts Klemperer's Philharmonia. The contrast is fascinating. Klemperer fans (of whom I am one) might find Silvestri too mercurial, but I was totally won over by most of these performances.Some are simply magnificent. Dvorak's 7th & 8th are played so winningly that I felt as if I was hearing them for the first time. My favourite performance of the 7th was that by Pierre Monteux with Colin Davis and Raphael Kubelik my joint favourites in the 8th. But Silvestri here, in the 7th with the Vienna Phil and in the 8th with the LPO finds so much previously hidden detail; in particular the woodwind playing is a delight. The phrasing, the shading of dynamics, the ebb and flow, contrast between the fierce and tender, balance of counterpoint, are totally convincing and illuminating. However I found the tempo variations in the 9th too indulgent. Perhaps there, the old fiery Toscanini performance is still too firmly lodged in my memory.
Other sensational performances include the Symphony Fantastique, Franck's symphony in D and Sheherezade. Previously the only performance of the Franck that was at all convincing was the Beecham. This is at least its equal. The repetetive tune in the first movement is teased around most expressively, and as in the Dvorak the balance between the various sections of the orchestra is well nigh perfect so that the whole score is illuminated. In the beautiful slow movement the woodwind solos are wonderfully cushioned by the strings - and when the tune is taken up by the strings it is meltingly beautiful. The articulation in the fugal passages is brilliantly precise.
Surprises in the box include very crisply played orchestral scenes from Prokoviev's love of the three oranges and an idiomatic performance of Shostakovich 5th.
In most of the works I have so far heard the sound is good enough not to impair the beauty of the music or performances. My last review for Amazon was of the Abbado box. The sound from these old performances does not compare with that. It must said too that Silvestri is a very different conductor: he is much more of a risk taker and he is not shy about interpreting the music his way: in that sense he is more like Stokowski. And indeed in this box there are some performances which remind me of him: eg the sorcerer's apprentice. Often it's the little pieces that are most revealing in this box. Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel orchestral music is just exquisite. Danse macabre, Finlandia and the Liszt items are all marvellously characterised. And of course there are those wonderful Elgar and VW items from that famous 60s LP.
So are there any duds here? I didn't find Tchaikowsky's Manfred Symphony very persuasive - Muti's performance is a sure recommendation here - contrary to others I thought Bolero too broad, and the over interpretation of Capriccio Espagnol got a little wearing after the initial excitement.
There are still many things for me to listen to - but I've heard enough already to make this box superb value - especially at the very reasonable amazon download price.
on 23 August 2015
This set was very strongly praised in various quarters when it first appeared and I have to say that the assessments were absolutely right. When I first started buying classical LPs many decades ago as a teenager, Silvestri's was a name which would pop up with considerable frequency, but as it wasn't that of one of the 'great men of the podium' I was being encouraged to see as supreme (Toscanini, Klemperer, Walter, etc) then (in my ignorance) I assumed that he was OK but run of the mill. He was the conductor on the first recording of the Beethoven violin concerto I bought (with Menuhin as soloist) and also it was his Shostakovich 5 which I listened to (endlessly) for years. He was allowed to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic, so he couldn't have been bad -- but that was about it. Now that I possess much more experienced ears, and an infinitely better hi-fi system, I can hear that he was actually pretty marvellous.
His performances, without exception in this large collection, are hugely well prepared, his orchestras playing with tremendous attack and precision. There is a constant freshness in the playing, even when the pieces are utterly familiar and run of the mill. He was clearly alert to everything which is going on within an orchestral texture and careful in balancing all the different strands, so that extra richness and life emerges from the orchestration. Balanced, too, is his response to the opportunities both to press vigorously ahead but also to let music which is slow and lyrical make its mark. You can feel the conviction and clarity of intention in everything he does. Of the many works in this box, I found that only two made me bored and restless: Sheherazade (which surely lasts far too long, despite the nice tunes?) and the Shostakovich 5 (which I'd listened to far too much when young!). Particular highlights for me were the Dvorak symphonies, the Liszt tone poems, the two Stravinsky works, the Symphonie fantastique, and the English works on disc 14.
The recordings mostly date from the late 1950s and early-ish 1960s, though one or two date from 1967-8. They are mostly so good, and so well re-mastered, that they sound as if they were recorded last week. So if you are tempted, don't hesitate!
I echo Paul B's review in saying that this box set of recordings by Constantin Silvestri is very good indeed. His review itemises the individual performances and accordingly I need not repeat the information other than to agree again that, as he says, the quality of the recordings are generally good, with those of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra being among the best. I too heard Silvestri live with the Bournemouth Orchestra, at the Dome, Brighton, in about 1966 or 1967. I am sorry to say I was too young to appreciate his Bruckner Fifth at the time. but I like to think in retrospect that the experience at least obliged me to sit still and address myself to a piece of music which seemed to be the size of the Alps. A great set of recordings. Buy now!
on 22 August 2015
Silvestri is an 'under the radar' name for many, having died at an early age as long ago as 1969.
But he worked wonders with the provinciall Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, after a distinguished career with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Philharmonia.
The recording of Scheherazade included hear is the best I've ever heard - he really got the orchestral sections to 'listen to' each other; and his foreigner's perspective on Elgar shows him taking on the British at their own game and wining.
This box is a real treasure-trove.
on 19 July 2015
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN 5 BUT FOR THE INCLUSION OF 2 DVORAK 9THS. WHEN SO LITTLE OF A CONDUCTOR OF THIS STATURE IS AVAILABLE THEN WHY DO THIS? WHAT HE ACHIEVED AT BOURNMOUTH STILL LIVES ON. I REMEMBER THE FURORE HIS TCHAIKOVSKY 4TH CAUSED. TREVOR HARVEY OF THE GRAMAPHONE ALMOST HAD APPOPLEXY. EXCITING!
Not a household name these days,and a pity.He was neglected for far too long,this box redresses that issue.Now we have most,but not everything,necessary to see Silvestri as the great conductor he was.The prospective purchaser need not hesitate,and rest assured,at Amazon's price(as opposed to the £45.50 charged by the outlet Gramophone usually propounds) this is a snip.Personally,I found EVERY performance of note.Some I actually do not have by others,despite collecting for years,they failed to appeal.In the hands of Silvestri,available in such a compendium,they do.
on 20 August 2013
This formed a good overview of Silvestri's work. Six of the 15 CD's are of Russian works, from Tchaikovsky to Shostakovich. The remainder range around Europe. The performances are uniformly good, and the recordings mostly good (one or two sound rather primitive). Recommended as a summary of Silvestri's work, or as a good mixed classical collection. At around £1.50 per disc it also presents excellent value for money.
on 17 January 2015
Some very fine performances across the board from a very fine, though just occasionally eccentric, conductor. The sound is always acceptable and most of the time very good indeed. His Elgar( In the South) and Dvorak symphonies are particularly fine, but other composers do well out of it as well.These are also testaments to the very fine orchestral standards at the time, with marvellous playing from the Philharmonia, Bournmouth,and LPO orchestras..