DISCS / In pursuit of the creative moment

DVORAK: Symphony No 8. Symphonic Variations London Philharmonic / Sir Charles Mackerras (EMI Eminence 5 65026 2)

THE REAL thing, a Dvorak disc which has it all: geniality, grandeur, frolic, fire, the russety earth-tones, the spirit of song and dance. And atmosphere. No other recording of the symphony is so rich in it.

Mackerras instinctively gives Dvorak his space. Together they lend real enchantment to the arrival of solo flute on the threshold of the first movement. And in a moment of breathtaking stillness towards the close of the second, anxiety stirs deep in the lower strings like the ghostly echo of a troubled past in the stones of some ancient castle or church.

Perhaps the trumpets might have rejoiced more in the return of the opening cello theme at the climax of the first movement; the horns more than compensate with their rollicking trills in the finale. If you know the symphony well you will surely double-take at a subtly different version of the finale's main theme just after the central climax. No doubt Mackerras has unearthed some intriguing authentication for that. But then everything here sounds like it's recapturing that precious moment of creative urge - not least the Symphonic Variations, which seem to evolve in the playing of them.

At mid-price this isn't just a bargain, it's a steal. ES

PERHAPS I shouldn't have read the notes first. In most respects this is an outstanding Dvorak Eight. As you'd expect, Mackerras takes nothing for granted. Everything from the minutest details to the grand design feels as though it has been heard afresh. But Mackerras doesn't go for sensational new perspectives either - unless you count one tiny textual re-reading in the finale.

This is mature music-making, with plenty of affection. The light-shade contrasts in the Adagio, the lilt of the Scherzo (truly grazioso), the growth of the first movement towards the introductory theme's climactic return, brass glowing through driving string figures - it's all beautifully done, and beautifully recorded too.

Compare it with the Ozawa recording reviewed in Double Play earlier this year and there's no question that Mackerras wins in matters of taste, and yet there's an edge and excitement in the Ozawa that I do slightly miss. Intelligent insight or the reek of slivovits? I wish I didn't have to make the choice. Still, I can't remember a more convincing Symphonic Variations, the tiny movements fused expertly like links in a living chain. SJ

LIGETI: Cello Concerto.

Piano Concerto. Chamber

Concerto

Ensemble Modern

(Sony SK 58945)

GYORGY LIGETI is a puzzle that you can't put down. His music is full of secrets and surprises and conundrums, a sound world of illusion, of indeterminate spaces and shifting perspectives. He is both mystic and cartoonist, often at one and the same time. He tweaks the imagination in amazing ways.

A single tone changing colour and shape almost imperceptibly draws you into the twilight zone that is his Cello Concerto. In this musical no- man's-land, a single consonant chord can have a cathartic effect, transforming the soundscape, turning the listener's ear in new directions. Then there are the 'spook house' effects, parodies of musical tics from an erstwhile avant-garde: like the scarifying exclamation marks in the fourth movement of the Piano Concerto, which could be terrifying if they weren't so comical.

This is a terrific piece, changing personality and physiognomy as swiftly and mystifyingly as does the composer. And the virtuosity of the performers is startling. Everybody gets to be a star in the Chamber Concerto: Paul Klee's amazing 'twittering machine' has nothing on this. Dump the computer games: Ligeti has soul as well as intrigue. ES

MODERNIST or post-modernist, tonal or atonal, traditional Western or 'World'- embracing - none of these tags quite sticks to the music of Gyorgy Ligeti. Of all the great musical arrivals of the Sixties and Seventies he now seems the one most likely to survive, but not as the emblem of his times, more as one of this century's great originals, answerable only to his own laws and inner demands.

Echoes of modernist fashion flit through the Cello Concerto (1966), and yet its whispered, seductive, impressionistic sound world is essentially like nothing else. The Chamber Concerto explores this dream territory further, sometimes alarming, sometimes wickedly funny, often quietly voluptuous. Then comes the wonderful mid-Eighties Piano Concerto, with its wild African-Hungarian dance rhythms, anguished slow lyricism and desperate clowning - Shostakovich would have loved the police whistle and toy siren at the slow movement's climax.

Ensemble Modern play all three works with real understanding - the language doesn't sound new to them, but it isn't over-familiar either. Miklos Perenyi is a suitably subtle soloist in the Cello Concerto. Ueli Wiget's playing in the Piano Concerto doesn't quite have the relentless Mephistophelian energy I'd hoped for, but it is a strong, well thought-out performance that leaps the hurdles of the last three last movements with impressive agility. Good, atmospheric recordings. SJ

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on The Crimson Field
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal