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Mr Demuynck is an enthusiastic conductor from Indiana who has his share of problems controlling the Varna Philharmonic, a Bulgarian orchestra that has doubtless seen better days before the collapse of communism. Now they just seem out of practice. Its ensemble playing is rag-tag, while even its principal players leave much to be desired. The critically important horn player in the Brahms is already out of breath in the opening bars, while the rest of the group struggles for cohesion in an otherwise spirited reading of the Beethoven Eighth. Subtle it is not, but with little rehearsal and something less than a first class orchestra, it would be unfair to attribute that entirely to the conductor. In any case, Mr Demuynck's ideas come across well enough. His idea of Beethoven is hardly that of a timorous, expert craftsman, but the purveyor of mountainous vistas and bold, unimpeded passions. While that is hardly an original way of thinking, it is also welcome in a world where so many conductors have conveniently forgotten this essential element of the music in favor of pristine homogenization of affect. In this case one almost welcomes the gaffes and inaccuracies, which are more than compensated for by good will, engagement and buoyancy of spirit.

That said, we can only hope that Mr Ungar returns to the Brahms with a world-class orchestra before long.

Copyright © 8 December 2001 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA

 

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CD INFORMATION - UNGAR CD1

PURCHASE FROM EVANSVILLE UNIVERSITY

SHORTLY TO BE AVAILABLE FROM AMERICUS RECORDS

 

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