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Collection Listening Log

Discussion in 'classical' started by Todd A, Aug 24, 2017.

  1. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    I figured I might as well do some brief descriptions of collections I've amassed of some works without necessarily even trying, or at least without thinking about it too much. To start, I think I'll revisit all seven of the Szymanowski Violin Concerto sets in my collection to see if any newer ones are better than Kulka/Maksymiuk. It's not a strict A/B type thing, just some weekday listening for a while. After this is done, I'm thinking maybe the ten sets of Janacek's String Quartets in my collection. I've ripped almost my entire non-opera collection, so going through my collection is almost too easy. Since I've not listened to some of the recordings in a long time, it could be fun.

    First up, Skride and Petrenko are excellent, but I could have done with more lush romanticism at times. Skride's playing is outstanding, her precision admirable. Listening through cans, her highest notes sound sweet and clean, and Mythes, with her sister, is outstanding.


    Amazon UK link
     
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The then very young Kazakh violinist Alena Baeva (22 at the time of the recording), in conjunction with Bogusław Dawidow and the Opole Philharmonic, delivers a colorful, nearly exotic, fantasy-like take on the concertos. Superb. The only quibble is the short disc length.


    Amazon UK link
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Mr and Mrs Dutoit's recording has several things going for it. First is the sumptuous recorded sound. Second, balances are perfect, and Dutoit and his band play with both precision and a fin de siècle lushness that renders the music exotic and intoxicating and almost too beautiful. Third, Juillet's sound is a bit small in scale (presumably at least partly due to microphone placement and conscious choices at the mixing desk) and thin and sometimes fragile, which actually enhances the effect of the music, especially in the First. The music goes further than Strauss or Korngold is its lush decadence. It's really a pity that Dutoit never recorded more Szymanowski, or Strauss, for that matter. While Juillet does superb work, the orchestral playing is the star of the show.



    Amazon UK link
     
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Rattle and Zehetmair offer a beautiful, lush sound, but not as much as the Dutoits. The approach here is just a tad cooler and more abstract and sounds stylistically more like early Schoenberg than Strauss or Strauss/Korngold. So it still works just fine. Zehetmair's playing is more bracing and firmer, and he's the star. Rattle's Szymanowski, though, is always a treat, and like Dutoit, he will bring out details in his own way, with, for instance, the piano getting a bit more focus in the First.



    Amazon UK link
     
  5. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Ilya Kaler paired with Antoni Wit, in the first of Wit's two appearances. Kaler is very much the virtuoso here, dispatching his part with a bigger, warmer tone than the preceding players, and a sense of ease that is most impressive. He sounds basically flawless, but it ends up sounding like some of the mystery and exoticism are removed. He and Wit keep the overall tempi and sound taut, and Wit brings proper attention to details, and gets an at times playful sound in the First. The Second sounds even grander than the First here, and very Straussian. Playing is all top notch, but the style doesn't appeal as much as other versions.



    Amazon UK link
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    Frank Peter Zimmerman's recording with Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic, made not too long after the latter's recording with Ilya Kaler, is an invigorating affair. Zimmermann plays with virtuosity surpassing Kaler's, with a clean, precise, and focused sound surpassing Zehetmair's. Sony's engineering surpasses Naxos' in terms of clarity, which allows one to appreciate Wit's masterful conducting all the more. Everything is world class. The playing is more intense, almost a superheated reconstruction of late romanticism, but it is shorn of lushness and any hint of bloat, making it sound very disciplined and very modern. The Second, especially, is pushed as hard and fast as I've heard, to often thrilling effect. It is essentially the polar opposite of the Juillet/Dutoit recording, and just as compelling, just for different reasons.


    Amazon UK link
     
  7. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    ^ Zimmerman/Wit was BBC R3 Building a Library top choice. Huge bonus of an excellent recording of Britten's Violin Concerto on the same disc.
     
  8. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    Ending the survey of Szymanowski's violin concertos with my long-time favorite. (I'm not listening to stand alone recordings of the First.) While the drawbacks of this set are obvious - less than ideal orchestral balances, less than ideal sound by contemporary standards - the strengths are very strong. Kulka's playing is more characterful than either Kaler or Zimmermann, though his hefty vibrato in some passages won't be for everyone. His playing soars when it should, sounds lush when it should, and just fits. Jerzy Maksymiuk, who conducted a fair number of EMI recordings back in the 70s and 80s, including a very fine set of Haydn Sturm und Drang symphonies, is very sympathetic to the soloist, and together their approach is one of superheated fantasia in both works. Maksymiuk is at least as good as the marquee conductors named to this point in bringing attention to some orchestral details, though his emphases differ slightly. Every time I listen to one of his recordings, I think I should try at least one more new one. Likewise, I wish Kulka would have recorded more. The violinist did rerecord these concertos for Marco Polo with Karol Stryja, but I've not listened to that recording.

    After relistening to all of the recordings of both concertos in relatively short order, I'd have to say that I now have a triumvirate of favorites: Kulka, Zimmermann, and Juillet. They are all distinct enough that I enjoy them for different reasons. The other four are very fine recordings, too. Since Szymanowski is not exactly core rep like Beethoven or Brahms or Sibelius are core rep, there may be more devotion by soloists to this music, and conductors may also be sympathetic to the music.

    One advantage the Kulka set has that the other discs do not have is that it comes paired with other major Szymanowski works, including Antoni Wit's superb Stabat Mater that cedes primacy to Rattle only because of sound quality.



    Amazon UK link
     
  9. herb

    herb music live

    Today

    Witold Lutoslawski Orchestral Works 3 CD set, Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra. Fascinating to see how he was limited by the politics of Poland, but introduced modern (Schoenberg type) music at the appropriate times.

    Szymanowski was an influence too, I have the Rattle CD box set but have not had time to play it yet.
     
  10. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

  11. herb

    herb music live

    That looks interesting but my Lutoslawski set seems to have been conducted by himself.

    The Rattle CD box that I have not played yet has 4 CDs containing Szymanowski Symphonies 3 and 4, Violin Concertos, King Roger, Orchestral Songs and more. Quite a bargain.
     
  12. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    Ah OK, it seems I misunderstood your post.
     
  13. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    When was that Lutoslawski/Polish NRSO set recorded? Does it include the 3rd symphony?

    He recorded a bunch of his works with the Berlin Phil for Philips in late 1980s, some fairly stellar names invovled - Heinz Holliger, Heinrich Schiff and even Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau did solo duties.
     
  14. herb

    herb music live

    1976 and 1977 so the 3rd and 4th Symphonies are not included. I seem to have them played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic 1985 and 1993 on Sony as world premier recordings, Salonen and Shirley-Quirk. I shall put them on my 'to spin' pile.
     
  15. herb

    herb music live

    Today

    I span the Sony disc and it is superb. The extra is Les Espaces du sommeil sung by John Shirley-Quirk, this led to -

    Lutoslawski NAXOS CD Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Livre pour orchestra, Novelette and Chain No 3.

    Good stuff.

    The full Wand Bruckner Symphonies just delivered, this should be good....
     
  16. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    Well the Salonen 3rd & 4th is good - but last night I gave Edward Gardner & BBC SO version a go (Chandos SACD). Not only a great performance but the recording is magnificent too.

    Might give Barenboim's Chicago version of the 3rd a spin tonight. but I think the 4th edges it. Lutuslawski's control of tension is what gets me about it.

    It may have been mentioned before, but did you see Lutoslawski conduct in Edinburgh - he came in 1992 or 1993, can't have been too long before he passed away, and conducted the RSNO in his piano concerto (with Paul Crossley) and the 3rd Symphony.
     
  17. herb

    herb music live

    No, I did not come up to Edinburgh until 1994, but that Lutoslawski concert would have been booked immediately.

    Gunter Wand's Bruckner Symphonies sounding good - very pleased.
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    [​IMG]


    Time to revisit my collection of Janacek string quartet recordings in fairly short order. I've never listened to all of them in a short period of time, so maybe I'll determine my one true favorite set, if it ends up being just one. I started off with the Janacek Quartet. First was the 1963 Supraphon First. Slow to start, a bit dry, and with less vibrato than might be expected for an older recording, the playing is romantic but comfortable, meaning not much in the way of large dynamic or tempo swings or dramatic sul ponticello playing. This applies to much of the work. In the final movement, the ensemble plays with notable passion as the coda nears. Diggable, but others are more my speed. The 1963 Supraphon Second starts off more impassioned than the earlier work, has more vibrato, sounds warmer, and the playing seems "looser", though that in no way implies that the ensemble doesn't play well. (I have a hard time thinking of poorly executed string quartet recordings or performances.) The 1956 DG Second is a bit slower overall, and in the opening movement they start off with adequate passion, but back off to even slower playing than before. The playing has a flow and familiarity to it; it has passion with slightly less intensity, though part of that may be due to the mono sonics.



    Amazon UK link - Supraphon

    Amazon UK link - DG set
     
  19. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    The Skampa. In their turn of the century membership, the ensemble represents a marked step up from the Janacek Quartet. Execution is more precise, vibrato better used, and, as needed, individual instruments or the ensemble as a whole bring more life to the music. The viola playing jumps out as especially fine in places. There is more intensity, more passion, more striking contrasts, and partly due to the more modern, very close recording, the sul ponticello playing really stings the ear - in a good way. And that's just in the First. The Second here starts off robust and rich and pining, moves to something much more impassioned, and then alternates. Again, the viola playing is superb, and in the second movement, as the violins play in their high registers over the viola and cello, the players sound both distinct and blended perfectly. The third movement's occasional lullaby-esque sound is sweetly conveyed, though some of the additional music is more dramatic. The final movement contains the requisite explosiveness to satisfy, but the dreamy middle section is almost hypnotic, interrupted by those outbursts.

    As mentioned, the sound is very close, and it sounds processed. There's certainly reverb, but it sounds artificial at times. The effect is more noticeable through speakers than cans. A few times, some audible grunts can be heard, presumably from the cellist.


    Amazon UK link
     
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    The Gabrieli's Janacek. Less intense and immediate than the Skampa, the Gabrieli have a more relaxed sound that remains more fluid than the Janacek Quartet. In a number of ways, the more lush and beautiful approach is a step in the direction of the Juilliard, but without going quite so far. The First here is largely romantic, shorn of sharp edges, and though the sul ponticello playing in the second movement is far from wimpy, it lacks the musical fire of the Skampa. It's hard to resist the meltingly beautiful opening of the final movement. The Second is very romantic in this rendition, with some passages played with endearing tenderness, and some with feverishness. The second movement playing calls to mind some of Kat'a Kabanova, and the third remains somewhat restrained much of the time, allowing for maximum contrast with the climax. This recording is not as 'Czech' as the Skampa and other Czech ensembles offer, but it has its own rewards.


    Amazon UK link
     

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