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Odd bedfellows stunningly played, conducted and recorded combine to make a 5 star recommendation!,
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This review is from: Khachaturian: Orchestral Suites from Spartacus & Gayaneh, Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe (Audio CD)
I am delighted that Signum continue to trickle out releases of performances by this fabulous orchestra and its exalted (when sober!) conductor. To my ears, the achievements of this pairing are superior to those of the much vaunted Gergiev and his Kirov/Maryinsky band. There do appear to be difficulties however, as this most unlikely grouping combines Khachaturian recordings from 2005 with the Ravel from 2010, all recorded live in the marvellous acoustic of the St.Petersburg Philharmonie and all 3 works in splendid sound with no discernible difference in sound quality between the 2 recording dates.
The works make uneasy bedfellows, and I can't imagine that there are many who will exclaim with delight "Just the collection I've been waiting for!",but all 3 works are desirable on their own terms.
Suites from Khachaturian ballets are a moveable feast-the composer himself amended the works from performance to performance, and gave others licence to do the same, so numbers appearing with the same titles vary from recording to recording as do the selections for the suites themselves.
Temirkanov repeats the same selections he recorded for EMI with the RPO some years back, which are the shortened versions of most numbers, with usually the " middle eight" cut, and he again omits arguably the one truly inspired number, the Adagio from Gayaneh.
The SPPO are in blisteringly good form -wonderful sinewy Russian strings, plangent rather sour woodwind, and superb rich brass now devoid of all the brass band vibrato that blighted Russian orchestras in the Soviet era. We must not forget the thunderous percussion-the Lezginka from Gayaneh really "rocks" for example. The cod-Tchaikovsky Adagio from Spartacus is beautifully and richly played, though the composer's own recording with the VPO will never be equalled in this piece, let alone surpassed-but this one comes close. If the 2 suites appeal, there will not be disappointment.
We expect the Khachaturian to be great-and it is-but the real curiosity for me at least is the Ravel. I do not recall this orchestra recording it previously.The conductor did record it with the old USSR State Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s, with dubious playing and an equally dubious recording, but this is in a diffrent league. Temirkanov shows himself to be entirely in tune with the idiom, and he conducts a fluid performance, sensuous, exotic and exciting by turns. The orchestra play brilliantly for him, and the recording is first class, with great depth and detail and capturing the unique sound to perfection.
As an interpretation, though lacking the chorus, it stands comparison with the best but the SPPO has to stand compared to the veritable phalanx of great orchestras who have recorded this piece-Boston, Berlin, Vienna, London, Amsterdam, Chicago and Paris to name but a few have all provided us with stunning expositions, and in truth this new recording does not surpass the best from these illustrious bands-but it is sill very, very good! Rapturous applause is included at the end of the Daphnis.
If the grouping appeals, or you want another chance to hear one of the finest orchestras on the planet conducted by Russia's foremost conductor (when at his best), then you need not hesitate as recording and playing are superb!
An oddity-but worth 5 Stars. Stewart Crowe.