Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 4,
Symphony No. 4,
Vladimir Ghiaurov, cond; Bulgarian Natl RSO
GEGA 355 (63:22)
In the liner notes for this CD it says, “Vladimir Ghiaurov invites the listener … to go beyond the mere listening to music. He wants us to speculate on why exactly these two symphonies have been included in the CD.” It then goes on to explain that
Schubert’s Fourth Symphony, long thought to be a lightweight work, is interpreted here in the style of many of his more dramatic songs, and indeed it is. Ghiaurov, son of the famous Bulgarian bass, brings a singer’s sensibilities to this interpretation, shaping the melodies as if they were
Gretchen am Spinnrade
It works very well; this is the finest performance I’ve heard of this symphony since Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s version in his complete recording of the Schubert symphonies on Teldec. More importantly, the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra is with him every step of the way. Ghiaurov’s general style, although similar to Harnoncourt’s, is different in certain details. For one, he elicits a darker tone from the strings and winds than Harnoncourt does with the Concertgebouw; for another, his shaping of phrases is more consistently detailed with many and varied dynamics, some of them on a note-to-note basis and so subtle that one only notices them by paying very close attention.
Ghiaurov also creates magic with the Mendelssohn “Italian” Symphony—in fact, this performance holds the distinction of being the most dramatic reading since Toscanini’s and the most elegantly played since Cantelli’s. In Ghiaurov’s hands, absolutely nothing in this work sounds trivial or throwaway; every phrase has meaning, and fits into the overall structure, in a way that belies the oft-complained-of lightness of this symphony. The second movement almost sounds like Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff, so well does he delineate the minor-key tune and limn it with dark string tone. The third movement sings with extraordinary breadth—and just listen to the way Ghiaurov gets the strings to dig in during the midmovement bridge. He even manages to make the last two movements sound dramatic—exactly how he pulls off this piece of musical legerdemain, I can’t quite discover, although he does perform each movement one after another without a break, which in itself heightens the tension as he progresses. How I’d love to hear him conduct all five of Mendelssohn’s symphonies!
This disc is a winner. No matter how many versions you have of these two works in your collection, you will find something different, and moving, in Ghiaurov’s performances of them.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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