record reviews; classical music 17; replay
Friday 08 September 1995
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Karel Sejna
(Supraphon SU 1916-2 011)
Kubelik mastered their lyricism; Szell, their rhythmic vitality; Talich, their nostalgic sentiment; and Maazel, their instrumental sophistication. But if you want a truly comprehensive interpretation of the Slavonic Dances, one where vernal freshness and musical intelligence reign supreme, then it simply has to be Karel Sejna's prize-winning 1959 recording with the Czech Philharmonic.
Sejna started his career in 1921 leading the orchestra's double-bass section, then Talich spotted his conducting talent and it was success all the way from there - albeit largely within Czech borders. Sejna's discography, which is currently reappearing on mid-price Supraphon CDs, includes all Smetana's major orchestral works plus significant Dvorak. His mastery of the Czech romantic idiom is roughly analogous to Boult's of our own, while these particular performances achieve a perfect blend of "top line" and counter-melody (much aided by remarkably good stereo sound), perfect tempo relations, keen orchestral attack in the faster pieces (try Dances Nos 1, 5, 8 or 15), delightfully pointed wind-playing (try Nos 5 and 7), warmly inflected string lines (Nos 4,10 and 15) and a childlike candour that lends a sunny countenance even to the darker pieces in Op 72. As musical tonics go, this one would be hard to beat.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli:
The Vatican Recordings
with the Symphony Orchestra of the RAI Rome /
Massimo Freccia and Gianandrea Gavazzeni
(Memoria / Complete Record Co 999-001; four CDs)
Someone up there must have been listening when, 11 bars before the end of Michelangeli's 1960 Vatican City performance of the Emperor, lightning struck, thunder rolled and the pianist himself responded with a ferocious spurt of virtuosity. And you can hear it all for yourself in a fairly serviceable recording, although there's keen representation from "the other side" in a reading of Liszt's Totentanz (from 1962) where the piano upstages the orchestra with such energy, control, beauty of tone and phrasal imagination that no words can do it justice.
It's a sensational performance, provocative (Pope John XXIII bore witness) and coupled with a long-breathed, tonally resounding account of the Schumann Concerto. And that's just one CD of four, the others boasting that 1960 Emperor, plus 1987 mono recordings of Beethovens's Sonata Op 2 No 3, Chopin's Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante, Debussy's Images (both sets), Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit and a 1977 set of Debussy's Preludes (Book 1). "Late" Michelangeli was less prone to minute calculation than his younger self, but the range of nuance granted to, say, Debussy's "Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut" beggars description. Absolutely riveting stuff.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict