Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 10
Günther Herbig, cond; Saarbrücken RSO; Saar Youth O
BERLIN 1615 (55:51) Live: Saarbrücken 4/10/2005
I found Herbig’s Mahler Ninth (reviewed last issue) to be on the cool side, interpretively. While it’s presumptuous to generalize, the kind of stark drama so prevalent in the Shostakovich symphony heard here seems to elicit a stronger response from this conductor.
In the first movement, the kind of emphasis and emotional contrast
that I felt was often missing in the Mahler performance is evident. Here is the regret, the anger, and most of all, the profound sense of melancholy that pervade this movement. The towering climax at its heart is all one would wish—screaming winds, slashing strings, and dramatic percussion. The sinuous, seductive clarinets that restate the flute theme (itself beautifully somber) after order has been restored have a decidedly mournful air. The rest of the winds add a bit more life to the theme as they take it up, but the mood is far from jolly; the flutes in the mysterious coda add just the right touch. At almost 25 minutes, this performance is among the more expansive, but it never feels slow or ponderous, such is the integrity of the interpretation.
The manic Allegro is further evidence of the effectiveness of the performance: this dynamic, angry music can’t be allowed to flag, and Herbig maintains the momentum, and his orchestra is right there with him. The Allegretto insinuates itself with quiet determination, borrowing the mournful quality of the opening movement. After the jaunty, disjointed attempt at jollification, we are indeed back in the mood of the first movement, signaled by the horn call. This is all very effectively done, the horn sounding more mysterious than commanding, and eliciting responses from the orchestra that heighten the mystery—until that hopelessly hollow march barges in.
After a suitably brooding Andante, the finale’s march erupts with a particularly impish clarinet, then gathers steam. However one feels about this part of the movement—Michael Steinberg refers to the composer’s debt to Hayden—it is carried off with aplomb, leavened with a touch of delicacy and wit, by Herbig and the orchestra.
The sound affords the listener a midhall perspective, and some detail is smoothed over or indistinct, especially in the louder passages for percussion; I would have preferred a sharper focus and a higher dynamic level with more impact, but in general there is decent definition and fidelity in the production.
One mystery remains: reference is made to members of the youth orchestra, who are credited in the booklet with “assisting” the RSO; what form that assistance took, and how many members of the other orchestra participated, is not stated.
There are relatively few recordings of the 10th that have maintained a prominent place in my library. Karajan/DG remains near the top, along with Rostropovich (available on Elatus as an import); of relatively recent vintage, Jansons still holds sway, and EMI has the edge in sound over this new issue; only time will tell whether Herbig’s account has the staying power to share space with these others.
From the photos printed in the inside back cover of the booklet, there are several more Shostakovich symphonies available (or pending) from these performers. I will definitely be on the lookout, based on the success of this performance.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 10 in E minor, Op. 93 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Saarland Youth Symphony Orchestra members
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1953; USSR
Date of Recording: 04/10/2005
Venue: Congress Hall, Saarbrücken, Germany
Length: 55 Minutes 51 Secs.
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