Outstanding Slav Passion:
Although Balakirevs First Symphony had a long period of gestation,
the finished product is definitely one of the finest examples of its genre.
The normal four-movement structure contains a wealth of themes and developments,
all fused into one satisfying whole. Sinaiskys account is one of the
best we have had in recent years, and comes into direct comparison with
Svetlanovs similarly fiery version on Hyperion.
The first movement is broad and mysterious, rather in the vein of Karajans
classic 1949 account, but obviously this new version benefits from even
greater detail and the bouncing rhythm of the development section is even
more pronounced. Balakirevs dazzling Scherzo is mercurial here with
the BBC strings lithe and deft, almost like winged messengers in their vitality.
I have a soft spot for Karajans Philharmonia rendering of the sublime
slow movement but the BBC players run them close. Indeed, the singing qualities
of their woodwind instruments are almost similar to those fabled players
of fifty years ago.
There is also dash and flair in Sinaiskys Finale, although the
tempo is a little too laid-back for my taste. It does little to detract
from recommending this altogether superb version wholeheartedly. The couplings
are also fine with a passionate and brazenly vivid account of King Lear
and a suitably introspective view of In Bohemia. The latter is sentimental
indeed, and the strings play with real quality, especially in the marvellously
sustained opening to the piece.
I have already made a pointed reference to the quite superb Chandos sound.
It was entirely appropriate that I should listen to this CD on a Marantz
CD-17 (also under review!), to appreciate the wide dynamic range and almost
holographic quality that the engineers have managed to capture. This issue
wins hands down, both for polish and vitality and for technical superlatives.
Copyright © Gerald Fenech, March
Balakirev: Symphony No. 1, King Lear|
Balakirev: Symphonic Poem In Bohemia
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
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