Previn takes a straightforward approach that allows the music to build in an effortless, natural manner. The playing is stunning—perfect brass, beautifully colored winds—and the solo work is of a consistently high caliber.
The Shostakovich recordings with the Chicago Symphony date from 1977. Just a few years earlier, Previn recorded a very fine version of the Eighth Symphony. Like that performance, these are unfussy readings in which the conductor seems to be interested primarily in realizing the composer's wishes rather than imposing a particular interpretive vision on the music. The Fourth Symphony is a complex, overpowering work that can, in the wrong hands, seem like a series of imaginative but disjunct musicalRead more episodes. Previn takes a straightforward approach that allows the music to build in an effortless, natural manner. Some of the playing is stunning—perfect brass, beautifully colored winds—and the solo work is of a consistently high caliber. The finale is particularly well served. The funeral march is perfectly paced, and the final pages of the last movement are impeccably detailed— the trumpet outbursts that herald the end of the work are powerful, not strident, and the timpani are remarkably distinct. There are times when one might prefer the bite and edge that Rozhdestvensky brought to the score, especially in the handling of the astonishing string fugato in the first movement, but Previn's performance is always convincing and takes its place among the most successful readings of this symphony on disc. Previn's Fifth is also very good. It is more relaxed than his earlier reading with the London Symphony, but it is equally hard to fault. The scherzo is light and agile, the slow movement intense but never pushed; Previn takes the finale at a good, fast clip throughout and keeps the coda imposing and affecting without stretching out the final pages.
The Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes, which are split between the two CDs, are beautifully played by the London Symphony. Previn's performances are colorful and energetic. But the Sinfonia da Requiem, while nicely detailed, sounds restrained, especially in the more raucous sections of the central Dies Irae. The recorded sound is excellent, with the London Symphony recordings a bit more vivid than the slightly later Chicago. These reissues represent Previn at his best.
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