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Best Recordings of 2010 (# 2)

This continues the “Best Recordings of 2010” countdown. You can view the choices so far here. The lists from the previous years: 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 2 - New Release

R.Strauss, An Alpine Symphony, B.Haitink / London Symphony Orchestra, LSO, LSO Live 689

available at AmazonJ.Strauss, Alpine Symphony,
B.Haitink /. LSO
LSO Live 689

LSO. Haitink. Strauss’ Alpine Symphony: The ingredients don’t, on paper, evoke a gritty ascend to the summit, craggy excitement of rock and thunder, schist and lightning. Or particular Bavarian flair. Well, time to give my etch-a-sketch of stereotypes a good shake: this is a riotous interpretation, a tender one, exploring extremes, and with the most deliciously depraved low tuba note I have yet heard recorded… sounding out with such gusto that it would suffice to prove the existence of the ‘Brown Note’, if it weren’t a myth. One of my favorite recordings on the LSO Live label and—pending the Alpensinfonie-marathon results—my favorite recording of Strauss’ oft-maligned masterpiece. (Dip Your Ears, No. 104)

# 2 – Reissue

J.J.Raff, Complete Symphonies (1-11), Hans Stadlmair / Bamberg Symphony, Tudor 1600

available at AmazonJ.J.Raff, Complete Symphonies (1-11), Hans Stadlmair / Bamberg Symphony
Tudor 1600
From the bold five-movement, 70-minute (nominally) First Symphony (“To the Fatherland”) to his “Seasons” cycle of symphonies Eight through Eleven, Joseph Joachim Raff’s symphonic output is as important as it is ignored. Perhaps it suffered from the quantity of music he wrote? In his time, at least, he was regarded as one of the foremost composers and his symphonies provide hours of highest-quality material to discover. Whether Mendelssohn-flavors (try the gorgeous Second or the Fifth) or Brahmsean dark ardor, or Rheinbergerish touches, Raff combines all this in this extraordinary body of works. He liked programmatic symphonies and perhaps he overdid it with descriptive titles (only two are without such a label or a overriding motto); but whether you are “In the Forest” (Third Symphony) or “In the Alps” (Seventh Symphony) or the loving, losing, and dying of “Leonore” (Fifth Symphony), the music never slavishly stick to a topic or descriptive mode. Does one need all of Raff’s symphonies? Well, once you start exploring with keen interest (and the music merits and probably elicits all that interest), you probably want all Eleven. More to the point: This box set from Tudor with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra’s recordings under Hans Stadlmair combines all the symphonies in their best available versions.

The orchestra is one of Germany’s best, even if it is not nearly as famous as it is good; the quality carried over from its time as the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague had been kept for years—and with the newly gained title of Bavarian State Philharmonic (which means state funding), Jonathan Nott at the helm, and a new generation of musicians being recruited its future looks rather bright, too. Hans Stadlmair, whom I know little about, obviously cared for Raff and made sure that the quality of the music shines through in ways that none of the rival recordings manage. CPO does a many great thing, but if you’ve gotten to know Raff’s symphonies through their set of the “Seasons” (as I unfortunately did), you would rightly have be turned off. No such excuses with the Tudor recordings. I’ve been waiting for them to put all their symphonic Raff in box, and when it happened early this year, I knew this would feature very high on my Best of the Year list. There’s not a bit of disappointment in this set.

-> Best Recordings of 2010 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #6
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OK, I will submit myself a recording. This one is only available from Japan. It is the Bruckner 8 live from Tokyo performance by the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Sergiu Celibidache - some fragments can be listened to on YouTube. This is a different performance from the one issued by EMI, and it's in every way a superiod one (well, I still have a soft spot for the EMI slow movement though I know many disagree.) For one, it's a faster performance - although still one of the slowest on the market. What makes this performance special, well, I'll have to quote jfl: "the drive, the sound, and the sheen eccentric Rumanian elicits from his players" - a special note for the marvelous timpanist Peter Sadlo. This was the Bruckner 8 that we expected from Celi and we finally got it.

I would still like to hear Celi's performance of the work from 1985 and 1979, which is faster yet. And we still need a Bruckner 9 from his early years in Munich; the one issued by EMI is interesting to his fans as it shows his last thoughts on Bruckner's music. But Celi was sick and EMI should have given us this as an appendix and issue another, more representative recording; there are a few great ones out there.

Back to the 8th: there is a strange interpretative choice in the beginning of the finale: the second strike of the timpanis is in pianissimo!!! Still, we have a great Bruckner 8 from Celi - as opposite of an interesting one with many flashes of greatness, which the EMI recording certainly was. This is enough to rejoice.