Post by M forever Post by catman Post by M forever Post by catman Post by M forever Post by catman Post by Randy Lane
Are there any knock-out first choices when it comes to recordings of
the Borodin Symphonies (individually or integrally)?
I have a sealed copy of the Jarvi box of Borodin Orchestral Works
(http://tinyurl.com/4y54sst). I'm trying to decide whether to open
it or sell it while it is OOP and will fetch a good return. While I
find Jarvi recordings generally serviceable, and the recorded sound is
most always excellent whether the source be DG, Chandos, or BIS, his
readings rarely get me inspired to repeated listenings. I think I have
the Ansermet (#1 and #2 only if I recall) buried somewhere in the
overflowing piles of yet-to-be-listened-to CDs. If not, I will most
certainly acquire it soon.
Playing, interpretation, sound - all "10". Tjeknavorian is a little
known Armenian conductor and the National Philharmonic was a London
pickup orchestra for recordings, but fear not. The playing of the
orchestra is just as good as that of any London orchestra (the players
all came from the sam pool anyway), the conductor shapes everything
nicely and musically, the sound is very pleasant, immediate and
"natural" late 70s sound. It really doesn't get any better than this.
Oh, wait, it does - it's also really cheap!
Back to Borodin, for something rather deft and edgy, you could also
check out Svetlanov's recordings, e.g.
But it seems that used copies at a reasonable price are rare, and
there are some problems with the sound - it's OK for the source and
time, but I seem to recall there are some distortion problems.
Svetlanov did re-record all the symphonies for RCA in the 90s though,
These recordings are a little less edgy, a little less "Soviet" (not
so much horn vibrato, for instance), but still worth hearing, and the
sound is good.
So, I would recommend to get the Tjeknavorian set and the Svetlanov
recordings on RCA. You will not be disappointed.
Tjeknavorian is as good as it gets, but you really need to hear the
new Naxos from Gerard Schwarz -- it's a knockout, and at Naxos prices
-- in fact I just finished writing a rave review for ARG and it will
certainly make my year's end roundup. At those prices you can't afford
to add both Schwarz and Tjeknavorian to your collection. Trust me on
I am always interested in following up on enthusiastic
recommendations, but I will probably not trust you blindly as the last
things I have heard from Seattle/Schwarz were some seriously
underpowered and undercharacterized Shostakovich performances.- Hide quoted text -
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And the last thing *I* heard from Seattle/Schwarz was his
Scheherazade, which I panned royally in ARG. That's why I was so
pleasantly surprised by his Borodin -- a vast step forward all around,
leadership, performance and sound. Now I'm looking forward even more
to his new Rimsky disc with several overtures and Capriccio Espagnol...
Just out of curiosity, do you either "royally pan" recordings or
declare them "a knockout"? Or are there grades in between? Just asking.- Hide quoted text -
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I'm not sure if you're being facetious, but I doubt if Don Vroon would
let me call something a "knockout". He has already made it clear we
can't call anything a "winner" -- why, you'd have to ask him, he puts
so many perfectly good English words on his "don't use" list I can't
keep them all straight. Sometimes I wonder if Joel Flegler issues a
similar list to his reviewers...
I don't "mind" your choice of words, you should use whatever
vocabulary you feel best brings your message across.
That wasn't what my question was about though. I think if you read it
again, it should be clear that I am not criticizing your vocabulary,
but that I am asking if your reviews generally end in a "top or flop"
recording - either the recording is amazing or it totally sucks. Of if
there are grades in between. Some reviewers take their own emotional
reaction as the measure of all things and so arrive at often pretty
extreme reactions (see Hurwitz) - which therefore are useless to the
reader. Of course, a personal element is, and should always be there
in a good review, but it shouldn't be the only standard employed by
the reviewer.- Hide quoted text -
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The Schwarz Borodin is amazing. The Schwarz Scheherazade totally
sucks. Happy now?
More to the point, either you and I have totally different views of
the role of the reviewer, or else you simply don't get it. Anyone who
reviews CDs for ARG or Fanfare has to be passionate about music, and
able to express this passion to the interested record buyer. Say what
you will about Don Vroon's politically incorrect creeds, he is
probably the most passionate reviewer on the ARG staff. Just read his
review of the new Audite CD of Grieg in the Sept/Oct issue: his
passion for the sound of the orchestra, the commitment of the
conductor and the playing of these fine musicians comes through in
every sentence. You may disagree for example that period instruments
and absence of vibrato hurt the ear, but you always know where he
stands; and if you don't agree with his sentiments, or if you feel
he's being too emotional in enthusiastically recommending or rejecting
the records he's reviewing, then you don't have to read his reviews.
It's as simple as that; and it goes for anyone else on our staff or
Flegler's team or (Heaven help me) even the reviewers at Gramophone
who never fail to praise to the skies some record I just panned. If
you can't write your reviews with your heart on your sleeve just like
the man (or woman) on the podium, then you should take up some other
line of work. While you have the Sept/Oct ARG in your hand, read my
review of the travesty that purports to be Sleeping Beauty from the
RPO -- more italics than I can ever recall using before -- that's how
I saw it, and that's how I called it, and once you've read enough of
my reviews or Don's or anyone else's that you know the reviewer's
tastes and how they jibe with your own, then you can simply follow
your own gut instincts -- as I follow mine. If that means you end up
pretty much buying anything I pan and vice versa just like I do when I
read Gramophone, that's cool; but you need to simply take it as a
given that we're going to tell you how we feel about a record, not
just point out all the places where the conductor went against the
score or the first chair horn muffed his part. The reader deserves so
much more than that. *You* deserve so much more than that.