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Mozart: Symphonies; Sibelius: Violin Concerto / Tennstedt, Yaron

Release Date: 08/16/2005 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 5004   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean SibeliusWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Yuval Yaron
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the most memorable concerts I ever attended was in December 1974, when East German conductor Klaus Tennstedt made his American debut with the Boston Symphony in the Bruckner Eighth. The orchestra, which often sounded so apathetic with Ozawa, caught fire under Tennstedt in an electrifying account that was the talk of the town. Here was a conductor who really had to be heard “live” in concert. With few exceptions (e.g., a fine Mahler Third for EMI), Tennstedt’s studio recordings lack the magic of his best concert readings. Some of those concerts have been preserved, such as a stunning Mahler Fifth (available in the New York Philharmonic’s 10-disc ”The Mahler Broadcasts”) and a remarkable Bruckner Seventh (in a 10-disc set called “The Read more Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Twentieth Century”). BBC Legends has released exciting accounts of Dvo?ák’s Eighth and Janá?ek’s Sinfonietta. Now, Profil has given us these superb Bavarian Radio broadcasts in excellent sound.

Heard first are two early Mozart works (recorded 1978) written in a style influenced by earlier Italian overtures. The Symphony No. 32 is given a warm, gemütlich reading, with lovely strings and lilting rhythms. Right off, one senses a special chemistry between Tennstedt and his players. Here and there, a few rough edges appear (remember, this is live), and the timpani player barely lands on the beat at work’s end. But I have never heard this piece played before with such an engaging mixture of exuberant fun and expressive tenderness. This account completely displaces my previous favorites, Bohm with the Concertgebouw (Epic LP) and Maag/London Symphony (Decca Legends), which now sound tense and literal. The Symphony No. 1, surely the greatest orchestral work ever composed by an eight-year-old, is lesser fare but well worth hearing. Tennstedt is charming here, though he misses some of the subtle humor offered by Otto Ackermann with the Winterthur Symphony (Concert Hall LP).

The 1905 Sibelius Violin Concerto (from 1978) is with soloist Yuval Yaron, who won the Sibelius Competition in 1975. Before discussing the performance, I need to make six remarks about this fiendishly difficult piece: (1) Nobody I’ve heard follows the score exactly (e.g., Heifetz in the third movement starts his final descent a third higher than what is written, and his rapid account of the slow movement is hardly Adagio di molto. (2) The orchestral part is just as complex as the soloist’s, and for me the finest recordings are those with an empathetic conductor in charge. (3) I generally prefer Oistrakh’s artistry to Heifetz’s, but even in his best Sibelius (1954 with Ehrling) Oistrakh to me sounds a little too suave and generic. Adolf Busch once deprecated Heifetz as sounding “like lukewarm Glazunov,” but I think that description is more aptly applied to Oistrakh’s Sibelius. (4) The 1935 Heifetz/Beecham (Naxos) is my personal benchmark for technical virtuosity, and Beecham’s weighty, rhetorical conducting deserves credit for bringing out a rhapsodic side in Heifetz that the violinist did not show in his remake under Hendl (RCA/BMG). (5) There is a poetic vein in Sibelius that others convey more fully than Heifetz. 6) I love this concerto, but I do not intend to hear every one of its 60-plus recordings.

Yaron and Tennstedt navigate it in 30:42, as opposed to the fastest one I know (Heifetz/Hendl at 26:36) and such slow accounts as Ignatius/Jarnefelt (32:10), Haendel/Berglund (33:41), and Kavakos/Vänskä (34:44). Yaron’s interpretation is heartfelt and impassioned, while Tennstedt is wonderfully Sibelian in his craggy ebb and flow. The major viola part in the first movement is nicely integrated, and the Bavarian winds and brass are loaded with character. Yaron has a few instances of fractional intonation (again, it’s live), and his heavy bow pressure yields some rough, occasionally astringent tone. Briefly a pupil of Heifetz, Yaron has a few of his mentor’s mannerisms (some coy rubatos and a similar approach to portamento), but there is nothing so outright eccentric as Kulenkampff’s swooping (with Furtwängler’s probing leadership on Archipel), Haendel’s hiccup rubatos (with Berglund on EMI), the rather fey, vibrato-less half-tones of Gitlis at the opening (with Horenstein on Vox), and Spivakovsky’s Gypsy-style excesses with Hannikainen (Everest). I prefer Yaron to Kavakos, but the latter’s coupling is an essential item (the concerto’s original and longer 1903 version).

I have several personal favorites in addition to Heifetz/Beecham and this one. The 1940 Bustabo/Zaun with the Berlin State Orchestra (recently on a so-so CD transfer from A Classical Record) is ferociously virtuosic, and the little-known Fritz Zaun provides terrific support. However, the Bustabo’s intensely quivering vibrato won’t be to all tastes. Finnish violinist Anja Ignatius (1943) has Armas Järnefelt (brother-in-law of Sibelius) leading Zaun’s orchestra with absolute rapport. It’s a unique blend of haunting introspection and Nordic melancholy (Symposium). Essentially a non-virtuoso, Ignatius has moments of labored and out-of-tune playing. The 1945 Neveu/Susskind (Dutton) is simply gorgeous, though its very slow finale is controversial. There’s a superb 1953 live account by Julian Sitkovetsky (1925–58), with Nikolai Anosov inspiring the Czech Philharmonic (deleted Supraphon). To my ears, Sitkovetsky is even more dazzling than Heifetz in the last movement (the harmonics are jaw-dropping). Finally, there’s the dynamic duo of Camilla Wicks and Sixten Ehrling (1952 Capitol LP), due out on a Biddulph CD in the near future.

This Profil CD is an eloquent demonstration of Tennstedt’s inspired leadership and the artistry of a very fine violinist. It’s definitely a leading candidate for my 2006 Want List.

-- Jeffrey J. Lipscomb, FANFARE [1/2006]
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Yuval Yaron (Violin)
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1905; Finland 
Date of Recording: 1978 
Symphony no 1 in E flat major, K 16 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1764; London, England 
Date of Recording: 1977 
Symphony no 32 in G major, K 318 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1977 

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