on 11 June 2010
Speaking (or writing!) as a Scot who thought that the RSNO missed a trick in not appointing Ms. Alsop Principle Conductor, I have followed her career with interest. This CD is the latest instalment of her collaberation with the Baltimore S.O.
It's good if perhaps not reaching the heights of, say, Ivan Fischer or Mackerras. The Orchestra play well and there is a real sense of purpose to Ms. Alsop's reading of these much loved works. However, in the final balance, the performances don't really hit the heights.
Having said that, I wish these had been available when I was a teenager dipping my toe into the world of classical music in the 70's. Good but not great.
on 16 May 2012
They say women can't read maps; well, be that as it may, some of them can read musical scores, and Marin Alsop proves again on this release that she can read them very well.
The Baltimore has risen to prominence on the international scene since they received such a great boost by appointing David Zinman as Principal Conductor in the '80s. Marin Alsop was on my radar at that time as the very accomplished conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Zinman, now with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, must have been a very hard act to follow, but as a career move, Maestro Alsop did well, and the Baltimore SO is still in great form, judging by the standard of the Dvorak symphonies they have recorded with her. Their playing is of an exceptionally high standard, and this is captured in these recordings, whether it be in the smooth string legatos, the fluid ensembles, or the vibrant tuttis: this is playing and recording of a very high standard indeed.
Ms Alsop is in danger of becoming something of a musical heroine for me: she rarely brings anything but the best out of the orchestras she conducts, and her shaping and honing of the romantic classical repertoire is just about faultless, give or take the odd slight emphasis or bowing direction.
Hard to pick out particular highlights, but the second movement of the 8th - adagio - is quite serene, while the final allegro is just "non troppo" enough, and with superb tonal realism from the brass section.
Yes, this is beautiful music, but here it is a bit more than skin deep.
I still prefer Neeme Jarvi's tense and well-recorded Seventh to this recording of a live performance by Alsop and the BSO. Jarvi's sound is a bit more present, and he catches the uneasiness of this piece very well. Alsop is certainly alive to it, and I thought her account of the scherzo movement particularly strong, but in the other movements too she shows a willingness to disturb the moments of repose or comfort rather better than, say, Andre Previn does in his lovely-sounding but too genial account on Telarc. Alsop's handling of the transitions into the quiet endings of the first two movements is very well done, leaving us not in suspense exactly, but slightly discomfited. The sound here is present but not particularly refined (in comparison, say to Previn's) but the weight of the lower strings and winds is well caught and is important to the success of Alsop's account.
The Eighth is perhaps Dvorak's most likeable symphony, so replete is it with wonderful melodic material. Alsop's account doesn't lessen my sentimental attachment to Karajan's old Decca Vienna account, which was one of the first classical records I owned about 45 years ago, and Kubelik's Berlin account is lovely too. But the great strength of Alsop's account -- and something I don't remember from earlier ones -- is the Mahlerian touch she brings to the slow movement. It's matter of phrasing, dynamics, and pauses, and it gives the movement the "unheimlich" quality that one associates with Mahler's innocent "Naturlauten." Everything else in the performance is just fine, but that second movement seemed really distinctive to me -- the outstanding feature of this fine CD.
on 10 August 2010
I am no musicologist. I simply acquired Dvorak's 7th and 8th symphonies on speculation being familiar with his more popular music.
Personally I enjoyed the 8th more than the 7th although those in the know would probably poo poo such a choice.
As to the production: I found it to be faultless, orchestra and conductor performing brilliantly, sound quality most excellent.