<< -- 2 -- Ron Bierman POINTING THE WAY
I used the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons to compare
the modern approach to that of Jos van Immerseel and the Anima Eterna.
Differences in instrument sounds are subtle for civilian listeners. Horns are a
shade rougher, woodwinds a bit warmer. The most apparent differences are in
size. Jansons leads the usual hundred or so musicians, Immerseel fifty eight.
Much of the reduction is in the strings. Richard Strauss, as a conductor, was
concerned that brass can swamp the rest of the orchestra. He once said, 'Don't
look at the trombones, you'll only encourage them.' For quite some time now,
I've felt conductors and orchestrators have over-reacted to his advice. I've
always preferred Schumann's supposedly clumsy, brass-heavy orchestrations for
example, to Mahler's revisions. Sections of the Rhenish Symphony are
eviscerated when strings overwhelm brass in music demanding heroic horn calls.
So it will come as no surprise that I often prefer Anima Eterna's smaller
string section. Many portions of Tchaikovsky's Fourth benefit from a lighter
sound and more balance among sections. The waltz of the first movement dances
even though Immerseel's tempo is slower than Jansons'
[listen -- track 1, 5:13-6:29]. The pizzicato
third movement is more delicate and playful [listen --
track 3, 2:56-4:01]. The finale sounds more joyful
[listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:34].
I'll guess Immerseel's performance is closer to what Tchaikovsky had in mind.
Jansons does generate more of the devastating pathos modern audiences expect,
and the climaxes are more likely to pull you up out of your chair with an
urgent need to co-conduct. It is a terrific performance, though I could do with
a less cavernous auditorium.
Copyright © 21 May 2003
Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA