2008-08-11 00:21:59 UTC
Dances recently. I had known and liked the piece for a while, but not
listened to it for a long time. A concert I heard with the NYP and
Dutoit rekindled my interest in this incredibly original and inventive
piece. Unfortunately, dutoit's own recording with the PhilaO (Decca)
is a little disappointing. So is Ormandy's (Sony) which is a real
disappointment, especially given that he premiered the piece. But the
recording doesn't even suggest particular familiarity with the music
or its style. It is just very tired and univolved. A pity.
So far, my favorites are Janson's two accounts with the StPP (EMI),
closely followed, but leading his live recording with the RCO (RCO
live). His readings have everything. Rhythm, color, expressivity,
drive, great playing from both orchestras and also nice sound (very
close and direct on EMI, more distant but well balanced and capturing
the acoustics of the hall well on RCO live). Ashkenazy's recording
with the RCO is also very good and rather "exciting", but he cares
little for color and small details, and a lot of that is washed out in
the boomy recording in which the Concertgebouw sounds like a massive
airplane hangar. Other versions I liked were Maazel/BP (DG) which is
extremely well played and pays a lot of attention to balances and fine
detail, but unfortunately, part of the fun is spoilt by the very dry
and bright recording, and Zinman/BalSO (Telarc) which isn't quite on
the same level orchestrally as the others but very meticulously
prepared and transparently played.
I also started to listen to a number of versions of Isle of the Dead.
So far, the one I like best is Reiner/CSO (RCA), a very sombre and to-
the-point account in a recording which is rather good for its age
(1957, as I was told here) which works very well in this piece -
things can get mushy very easily as they do in Ashkenazy's recording
in which the orchestra textures aren't as well controlled and the
already mentioned boomy recording mashes everything together too much.
Dutoit's PhilaO recording (Decca) is more athmospheric, but here the
recording is too soft-focus and too distant, too. Decca apparently
wanted to re-create some kind of "classic Philadelphia sound", but
what they do doesn't work so well.
What are your favorites? Please don't just list names, also say why.