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Respighi, Hindemith, Schmitt / Goetzel, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic

Respighi / Hindemith / Borusan Istanbul Po / Goetz
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  Onyx   Catalog #: 4048  
Composer:  Ottorino RespighiPaul HindemithFlorent Schmitt
Conductor:  Sascha Goetzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Imaginative choice of repertoire, spectacular recording and the promise, I hope, of more to come.

Choices, choices. Determined upon expressing the brilliance of the BIPO their young Austrian Chief Conductor, Sascha Goetzel and the Onyx label opted for variety. The selection of repertoire has been made across the range of composers and includes one eruptive choral and orchestral work. This may well draw in new listeners with a taste for mysterious eastern fragrances. It may be of more limited interest to those already devotees of Respighi and Schmitt.
Probably the best known piece here is the Hindemith with its raucous and wistful qualities strongly emphasised. The Turandot movement
Read more intensely aided by a recording of towering presence. The two outer movements cannot cast off their Germanic cheerfulness complete with Mahlerian trills and shrills in the Marsch finale. Goetzel and Onyx also reached out to the French exotic Schmitt and the luscious Belkis extravaganza by Respighi. In the background, especially with these last two one can sense the presence of Rimsky-Korsakov. The short War Dance in Belkis speaks of savagery as indeed does the whirling and stomping Orgiastic Dance. Clearly Respighi felt other influences and we can hear Ravel in unblushing Bolero mode in The Dance of Belkis at Dawn. The Schmitt is in six movements and is dedicated to Stravinsky. It’s certainly something you need to hear if you are already avid for Rimsky’s Antar and Scheherazade, Stravinsky’s Firebird, Ravel’s Daphnis, Bax’s Spring Fire, Biarent’s Contes d’Orient. The episode titles faithfully lead you to expect something akin to Antar and that is what you get. The bejewelled Prelude leads on to the suavely strolling Dance of the Pearls. The Enchantments of the Sea recall both Debussy and Gaubert. The horn calls remind me of the similar calls in Delius’s magical music for Flecker’s Hassan. The Dances of Lightning and Fear (trs. 12-14) start rather contentedly with full capital made of the cavernous presence of the BIPO acoustic and then develop a splenetic elemental stamping fury.
The balance is cinematic spectacular and the notes by Carenza Hugh-Jones are good.
I do hope that Onyx will continue the series and will resist the temptation to return the BIPO and Mr Goetzel to familiar waters. Why not an all-Schmitt disc including Selamlik, Kermesse, Danse d’Abisaig, Cancunik and from the other end of Schmitt’s life his cello concerto in all but name the superb 1952 Introit, récit et congé for cello and orchestra. I find it inexplicable that cellists and the companies are ignoring this commandingly imaginative piece.
Imaginative choice of repertoire, spectacular recording and the promise, I hope, of more to come.  

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

RESPIGHI Belkis, Queen of Sheba. HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber. SCHMITT La Tragédie de Salomé Sascha Goetzel, cond; Borusan Istanbul PO ONYX 4048 (77:33)

This is a tremendously auspicious debut for Sascha Goetzel and the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic. I admit that my reaction to this CD was made even sweeter by the fact that the Hindemith and the Schmitt are among my favorite orchestral works, but I believe that I still can tell the difference between good performances and bad ones, and these definitely are in the former category.

It seems like only yesterday, but it was really late 1992 when many of us were discovering Respighi’s Belkis for the first time, thanks to a then new Chandos CD with Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia. (Since then, there’s been a second entrant—Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra on Reference—but I have not heard it.) This new performance blows the one on Chandos out of the water with ease. Simon and the Philharmonia are just too genteel for this music, even stuffy. Goetzel and his musicians wallow in its exotic implications, without losing control, and it doesn’t hurt that this is the “first-time recording with the original Arab drum.” These performers believe in the music so completely, and play it so passionately, that one might be led to believe that Belkis, Queen of Sheba is as good as The Pines of Rome . This isn’t great music, whatever that is, but it can give your ears a natural high.

Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis (I’ve just realized that some recordings use this spelling, and others use the plural) is not lacking great recordings. Ormandy, Szell, and Bernstein are among my favorites, and perhaps you already have yours. Goetzel and his orchestra don’t displace my favorites, but there’s no missing what a thoroughly good time the performers are having with this work, and that sense of enjoyment is conveyed to the listener in a most winning manner. The only miscalculation is a mannered tinkering with the tempo in the work’s closing bars.

The Schmitt is like a half-hour visit to the pleasure dome in Xanadu, and if it doesn’t give you a few spiritual orgasms, then perhaps you need to insert Viagra in each of your ears. Like the Respighi, this music has not been recorded with great frequency. However, conductors who bother to record it seem to get it right, and those conductors include Paray, Almeida, Cambreling, and Dervaux. Goetzel, like many of the above, omits the female voices, but still creates an atmosphere replete with sensuality and exoticism.

In the clear light of morning, one has to admit that this orchestra doesn’t boast a rich string sound, and the orchestra’s textures, when everyone is playing together, lack the transparency of the finest competitors. Still, it is easy to forget quibbles such as these when the music-making is so involved, and when the sound is so distinctive. This is no cookie-cutter orchestra, praise be! I share Goetzel’s horror of the generic sound that international orchestras have taken on in the last 40 years, and it is good to hear an orchestra that has real personality and that plays with excitement, even if the ensemble doesn’t yet display the ultimate in technical polish.

The orchestra’s apparent lack of transparency probably is emphasized by the engineers, who have placed it in a lively acoustic environment. Again, it’s not a “safe” choice, but no one could call it noncommittal.

This is a fun CD, and for that reason alone I recommend it highly. I am not sure I want to hear this orchestra playing the Viennese classics—not yet, anyway—but I am looking forward to following it on its continuing journey of discovery.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Belkis, Queen of Sheba: Suite by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Sascha Goetzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Rome, Italy 
Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Sascha Goetzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
La tragédie de Salomé, Op. 50 by Florent Schmitt
Conductor:  Sascha Goetzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907/1910; France 

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