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Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune was straight-forward, finely graded with lovely French wind sound and refined string backing to inspire the work's subtly changing sinuations. La Mer, too, reinforced what I have always known -- that this is still the finest piece about the sea in all its arresting, suddenly altering moods and glories, and for orchestra and conductor they didn't fail to render poetry and excitement to the full.

Marek Janowski, with this same orchestra has made a series of quite wonderful live performances, available on Chant du Monde (a 4 CD set). I was eager to hear how the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin would respond to his direction in works by Paul Hindemith, whose music I adore. The marking at the start of the first section of Konzertmusik für Streichorchester under Blechbläser is 'Masig schnell, mit Kraft, minum 92'. Janowski, in my estimation was too fast; undeniably exciting as the performance promised to be, but when it slows 4 after letter M to 'Sehr breit, aber stets fliessend, quaver 60', slight imperfections showed up in the brass chordings.

By part 2, things were back to normal, the players coping admirably with the faster tempi (crotchet 144) and not going astray at 'Langsam, crotchet 50' or during the deviations of pulse and challenges of the remaining pages.

Frank Peter Zimmermann was the highly musical and dependable soloist in Hindemith's Violin Concerto, yet I have to remind myself that this is a bold, virtuosic, colourful masterwork of immense stature and considerable challenge. Zimmermann is no David Oistrakh (perhaps the comparison is unfair, but I grew up with both Oistrakh's recorded performances), and from my front stall seat I heard ranging beauties with little contrasting full-toned panache.

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Copyright © 19 December 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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