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Old 14-08-17, 06:39 AM
Todd A Todd A is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 610

I figured I might as well listen to what the Middle Kingdom is up to in terms of orchestral playing. Based on slim internet info, Yu Long is a, or even the, preeminent conductor in mainland China, and has been instrumental in building both the China Philharmonic Orchstra and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and has also worked extensively with other bands. (Of course, since I read neither Mandarin nor Cantonese, and English language information is scarce, I could easily be mistaken.) It looks like Universal Music China decided to work with him and released recordings on both the DG and Decca labels. This particular concert recording also includes cellist Jian Wang, who has made multiple recordings for DG as both soloist and chamber musician, and violist Anxiang Zhang. The performances, as the cover indicates, are from 2007 and 2008. As this was only available as a download and no digital booklet was provided, no further specifics are available without scouring the web.

The Tchaikovsky starts off the disc, and its clear that the China Philharmonic plays at a very high level. Both the Suwon and Korean orchestras mentioned previously in this thread may have a slight edge in execution, but I've heard better played recordings, and recordings not as well played, from eastern and western orchestras alike, so for all intents and purposes, that's not an issue. Interpretively, Long tends toward a fast, potent sound, with powerful timps and lots of excitement. He appears to have no time for exaggerated shifts in tempi or adding additional romanticism to the proceedings. This is hardly my favorite Tchaikovsky work, and while I can't say this is the best I've heard, I would be more than happy to hear something like this in concert.

The main work for me is the Strauss, which is possibly my favorite of the tone poems. Long makes sure to bring out detail, but the balances prevent ideal realization of all details. Long again favors a relatively fast overall tempo, which when combined with a somewhat direct approach, means the piece doesn't flow as well as better performances. It's somewhat generic. Wang plays the solo part expertly, which is no surprise, and Zhang does fine work, as well. There is less spotlighting of the soloists here than in some other recordings. Again, this is a performance I would not mind hearing in concert, but on disc it faces some serious rivals, and when I say that old man Fluffy with young man Meneses remains my favorite, and by a pretty wide margin, that's not surprising.

As mentioned before, the recording was available only as a download, and I got an MP3. (It may be available lossless, but I didn't look as I was content to drop only nine bucks.) Sound is excellent overall, if somewhat lacking in ultimate clarity and dynamics, and the perspective is not ideal - it seems to almost be the conductor's perspective - but I can't say how much of that is due to encoding and how much to more traditional matters of recording technique. I'm thinking the latter is more important. This more or less matches many live recordings from the 90s, and it is clear enough to allow one to hear all manner of score page turning and feet shuffling and other non-musical sounds.

I may very well have to sample more from this conductor.

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