Post by Néstor Castiglione Post by Joseph Serraglio
I’ve heard many FWM concerts live in Severance Hall, on record, and on the air, and don’t find him boring.
Post by Oscar
Vintage Vinyl in University City, Mo. has (2) new, sealed copies of this Cleveland box. Was in store last week. Very nice (rectangular) presentation, but I have heard enough weak-stream, low-information Welser-Möst performances on records. Would much rather hear a new initiative dedicated to, say, Stéphane Denève and his Saint Louisans. He was installed in 2019. Haven't heard him conduct yet, but am very interested.
FWM kept bailing out on guest gigs here in Los Angeles about 20 years ago. Twice he scheduled Prokofiev 6; twice he cancelled last minute. The first time the cancelling wasn't announced until the evening of the concert. Will never forget my disappointment of having to hear yet another Tchaikovsky 5 (led well enough by Alexander Treger) instead of the all too rarely programmed Prokofiev. (Mester in Pasadena had programmed it a year or two before; an excellent performance.)
Finally got to hear FWM in 2012, albeit with the San Francisco Symphony instead of the Cleveland. Program of Mendelssohn 3, a Saariaho piece (a wan, dull work whose name I forget, but vaguely recall it having astronomical connotations), and Shostakovich 6. The Mendelssohn was legatoed and blended to within an inch of its life; the Shostakovich a little better, but not by much. There was no rhythmic snap, no feel for the contrasts of color. Phrases sagged about as appealingly as soggy diapers off a clothes line. Recalled hearing his dreadful EMI recordings as a kid, but was hoping that the passing years had improved his interpretive verve. But no.
It's sad to admit this, but he's "frankly better than most" now. Next to the staggering achievements in vapidity of the likes of YNS, Andris Nelsons, and MGT, ol' FWM sounds like the second coming of Koussy. But I digress...
Anyway, count me in for that SLSO/Denève box, too. Haven't heard them together, but have heard Denève live a couple of times (and much more via CDs). A fine musician who deserves wider recognition than he currently enjoys.
Wishing for a Deneve/SLSO box might bw premature. I don't
see any recordings at all by them yet. Which earlier Deneve
recordings, with Stuttgart Radio, Brussels, Royal Scots
primarily are particularly recommendable? I see recordings
of Ravel, Roussel, Debussy, Poulenc, Honegger, Say,
It was just idle daydreaming. They haven't recorded anything for commercial release, at least as far as I'm aware. But the SLSO must make in-house recordings for their own archives. So if ever there were to be a box of such material, similar to what they did for Vonk in the early 2000s, my wallet would be ready.
My favorite recordings of Denève's are his Roussel, Ravel, Debussy, Honegger, and Prokofiev. In here the spring of his rhythms, natural feel of pacing, subtly contrasted colors which serve to clarify inner parts, and sense of line are all heard at their most attractive. Nothing sounds forced or pushed at the listener; it's almost as if the score were somehow able to play themselves. Yet closer listening reveals the painstaking direction from the podium. Take his Honegger symphonies, for example (which I'm sorry he didn't record an entire cycle of). The Brahmsian color and mien of these works don't make them immediately appealing to present day listeners who now accept Mahler and Shostakovich as models of symphonic discourse. In the hands of some conductors, the second movement of the "Liturgique" can turn into a stream of brownish-grey sludge that one has to jump over in order to reach the cathartic final movement. But Denève manages to breathe air into Honegger's textures, find the glint of light in his orchestration, but without sacrificing the music's weightiness. The web of melody and countermelody from flute, oboe, clarinet, and muted trumpet are allowed to float to the surface, rather than blend into the strings as so often happens. His readings of Honegger's music might be the finest since Munch and Ansermet.
His Prokofiev I've only heard via a DG CD from a few years ago which has been poorly distributed and promoted. (Apparently there's also a Blu-ray of "The Love for Three Oranges" under his direction that I've yet to hear.) But, again, the recording is teeming with all kinds of small touches that cumulatively leave a great impression. If Monteux or Frémaux had recorded Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Cinderella," I'd imagine they would've sounded a lot like Denève.
I suspect that Denève's lack of wider renown has nothing to do with his intrinsic qualities as a musician. Whether it's "The Dude," YNS, MGT, Nelsons, or whoever else the hot flavor-of-the-month is, they all share the common trait of being immaculately photogenic, which is catnip for brain-dead marketing types and the sort of rubes who need social media to dictate what they must listen to, eat, dress, etc. Denève, on the other hand, just looks like a regular guy.