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Collection Listening Log

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

  1. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    My Schumann set from Dana Ciocarlie arrived after just over a week, and I started in on disc one. Papillons is light and fairly direct; the Op 11 sonata offers a bit more contrast and a sense of spontaneity, even if it doesn't match the control of some heavy hitters; and the Op 3 Paganini Studies are quite nice. The initial impression is that Ciocarlie's style is more my speed than Eric le Sage, though some A/Bs will be warranted to determine my preferred complete set. (Since I dumped the Demus, it's safe to say that this is better than that.)

    A very nice disc for $0.67.


    Amazon UK link. The price has gone up, but is still more than reasonable.
     
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Skipping to disc three in Ciocarlie's Schumann set. The Abegg Variations are positively delightful, all fun and vivacious, and I can't think of any version off the top of my head that is materially better. DBT is generally light-ish fun, though Wild und lustig is played think, heavy, and almost clumsy, though purposely so, which then contrasts splendidly with the delicate and dreamy Zart und singend right after. There's certainly plenty of spontaneity throughout the whole work. The rarely heard (for me) Opp 32 and 76 works are also very well done. This disc is even better than the first.
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The first of two appearances by Solti, this time in the form of his 1965 LSO recording. Solti does the slow and eerie thing just swell in the Introduzione, but what he really wants to do is get to the tuttis and have the band belt it out. Solti is high on excitement, no question, but he sometimes pushes things quite a bit. You know, standard Solti. (I never got to hear him in person, but this type of approach very often works splendidly in concert.) The Giuoco delle coppie, in contrast, is a bit slow overall, though Solti never loosens his iron grip, making sure to get each pairing to play just so, and still managing to generate as much energy as some other recordings. The Elegia, coming in at a tight 6'32", starts off tense and mysterious and the erupts into a searing climax. While the studio sound is cleaner, though more artificial, than the Kubelik Orfeo recording, I think, somewhat against expectations, that Kubelik actually generates more intensity. Anyway, very nice. The Intermezzo interrotto has a nice first theme, but the brash interruption is Solti's focus, and it's generally well done, though the hard right-left stereo detracts a bit. The Finale, predictably, is of the high voltage variety, and Solti gets the results he wants. At times, the overall effect is somewhat bludgeoning, aurally speaking, but it keeps one alert and paying attention.



    Amazon UK link
     
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Solti's Chicago recording. Solti evidently was not satisfied that his LSO recording was intense enough, because he shaves sixteen seconds off the Introduzione. To be sure, there's enough mystery at the start, but the playing is imposing, as the Chicagoans can do if so ordered. The playing comes perilously close to being too much of a good thing, but it remains a good thing. Solti also appears to have thought the Giuoco delle coppie in the LSO recording too slow, because he shaves almost forty seconds off the timing of it. There's no room for even one second of relaxation or anything other than tight execution here. The Elegia has a one second difference in timing, but as is obvious in the opening bars, the CSO plays with more weight and authority. The night music portion works well, and the climaxes are as intense as one expects. Solti also tightens up the previously tight Intermezzo interrotto, with the initial theme a bit too rushed, but the interruption bold and weighty and blatty. The Finale starts with a bold fanfare, as expected, and then moves into superbly well-executed, high energy playing more or less through the end.

    Both of Solti's recordings are solid, with the LSO one more to my taste, displaying plenty of energy without potentially overdoing it as often.



    Amazon UK link
     
  5. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Hugo Wolff's never mentioned recording. Wolff allows himself a bit more time and breathing room in a couple movements, letting slower music flow and sound more beautiful, while still getting plenty of power where needed. None of the timings are outside the norm. Nothing gets botched. Nothing sounds especially noteworthy. Sound quality is excellent. It is perfectly fine in every regard. It is also forgettable.

    For some reason, this is the second time I've listened to this in 2017. I doubt I ever listen to it again.
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Salonen's performance starts with a very slow Introduzione, with the opening very dark and very subdued, the strings playing mostly a hushed pianissimo. The very low level sound takes some getting used to, and a higher volume setting than normal. I ended up around unity gain, and with that when the massed strings finally arrive at about 3'30", the effect is powerful but not especially exciting. Salonen almost seems intent on dissecting the score like Celibidache, bringing this extended passage into relief, then that one, though the finer details get swallowed by the reverberant recording. It holds together well, but it lacks both the night music aspect and the excitement of other recordings. The Giuoco delle coppie starts with a martial sounding side drum, and then Salonen gets exact playing from the instrumental pairs. The music maintains an insistent overall rhythmic feel, but it's all terribly abstract. There's no folksiness that some Hungarian conductors bring, nor a real sense of playfulness. It's more dutiful. The Elegia sounds better, with the winds, anchored by the flute, doing their best to create a mysterious, if abstract, atmosphere. The climaxes are loud but clouded, but somewhat matter of fact, not really evoking much of anything. That kind of thing works in Stravinsky, but not as much here. About 4'30"-ish in, Salonen brings the strings to the fore ever so slightly more than normal when the orchestra repeats a passage to superb effect. The Intermezzo interrotto starts with a comparatively light, wind-led theme that does sound sort of folksy, with the string melody quite lovely and almost romantic, while the interruption is well executed and approximates humor. The Finale starts off with a fast fanfare, with Salonen then driving the Angelenos to play with speed nearing haste, generating some heat while so doing. Salonen generates some mystery in the quieter passages here, and the spacious recording makes the most of the bass drum, which intrudes ominously. Overall, there are some things that are not so hot in this recording, and then some things that are superb.



    Amazon UK link
     
  7. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Eschenbach starts his Introduzione in slow, dark, rich fashion, though rather than sounding eerie, it sounds more processional. The massed violins don't display the last word in bite, but, especially given that this is taken from live performances, the execution is more than admirable, and as the movement progresses at a sometimes leisurely pace, the little orchestral details pop into focus most realistically. Eschenbach takes the Giuoco delle coppie at a slightly slow tempo, but the energy and rhythmic verve mask that, and each pair of instruments gets their due. The unbright sound makes the oboes, in particular, stand out, as they sound a bit richer than normal. In the Elegia, Eschenbach subjects the music to the Philly virtuosic treatment, with the rich strings anchoring the music, which sounds suitably mysterious in the quiet music, and satisfyingly searing in the climaxes, and string playing around halfway in that sounds too good to be true. The slow tempo elicits a more Mahlerian sound than Kubelik, though this time in the slowest music. Good stuff. The Intermezzo interrotto starts off with a lushly beautiful and rich theme that sounds almost too romantic, and that makes the interruption, with an exaggerated trombone glissando and the peppy and playful music immediately thereafter sound even better than is typically the case. The Finale starts off more restrained than some versions, but it doesn't take long at all for the pace to pick up, with the strings again offering a plush sound overall, but also some extremely fine detail. The tuba gets its rich, gnarled blatty due, too. Eschenbach knows how and when to slow down just enough, and when to speed back up, but not too much, using well nigh flawless transitions, to generate the perfect proportions of energy and excitement, with hints of folksiness blended in. The work ends with a blistering coda.

    Superb sound, some of the best, makes this set attractive. So does the pairing with Martinu's Memorial to Lidice, which here receives a performance of immense power that surpasses even Ancerl. This recording was pivotal for me in reassessing Eschenbach as a conductor. A masterful disc all the way around, and one that has improved with age.


    Amazon UK link
     
  8. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Sakarai Oramo's CfO. Sakari Oramo and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, presented in superb sound, basically recorded a musical advertisement demonstrating why composers should entrust their music to the Finns. Without executive flaw, and with ample detail, color, mystery, and power, always when and where needed, it is a joy to listen to. Pick just about any detail, and it's just right. Harp glissandi? Yep. Muted trumpets? Sure thing. Proper piano in strict time in quiet passages. No problem. It's almost like an orchestral equivalent of Steven Osborne's piano playing. There is literally nothing substantive to kvetch about. That written, it does lack the more folk-inspired elements audible in some Hungarian versions, the occasional sense of playfulness or sorrow or unbridled intensity in a few other versions, or the too good to be true string playing evident in spots in Eschenbach's recording, to compare it to the last version I listened to. I guess this lack of interpretive distinction becomes the distinction. Okay, there's one wider than normal dynamic adjustment at the beginning of the Intermezzo interroto, and later in the same movement the percussionist does indeed thwack his cymbal with the thick end of the side drum stick (or maybe something bigger) and Oramo lets that thing decay, but that's about it. It doesn't rank among my favorite versions, but it's impossible to go wrong with this disc. I originally bought this disc more to hear the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion, with Paavali Jumppanen one of the ivory ticklers, and that performance is so good that it almost makes the work an unqualified success. (I don't care who performs it; the original is just better.) The CfO is the reason to keep it. A newcomer couldn't go wrong with it.



    Amazon UK link
     
  9. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Kubelik's studio recording with the Beantown band for DG. Slightly slower than the Orfeo recording across the board, this recording gives nothing away in terms of intensity or bite in the faster passages, and boasts more exact sounding playing. (It is a studio effort.) DG's sound is a bit bright and edgy, but it's more detailed. The later live effort seems more spontaneous, but this more carefully crafted recording offers a more pristine take. The Giuoco delle coppie sounds more formal and serious than the live recording, but it moves along at a perfectly judged pace and never sounds sluggish. The biggest difference comes in the Elegia, which at 7'19" is markedly slower than in the smokin' live performance. The opening is darker and more funereal, and Kubelik gets a wonderfully eerie sound from the winds early on. Even with the slower overall tempo, Kubelik generates oodles on intensity in the climaxes, with the timps knocked out with thumping insistence. The Intermezzo interrotto sound in the main theme is attractive but not especially gorgeous in a romantic-type way, but all those microphones allow one to hear what the strings and winds are doing with ease. The interruption is just about perfect in every regard. The Finale, while taking almost fifty seconds longer, most certainly does not sound any less energetic or intense in the fast passages, and it sounds tighter; rather, Kubelik imparts a bit more color and gentle tempo flexibility in the slower music. As so often happens with this conductor, everything sounds just right. One of the great studio recordings.



    Amazon UK link
     
  10. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Seiji Ozawa's recording with the Saito Kinen Orchestra, an orchestra he helped establish. This appears to be at least the third recording of the work by the conductor. This is the best recorded live recording of this work I've heard, and it may just be the best recorded version in my collection. At the very least, sound is SOTA. (And though it's the other work not under consideration here, that big bass drum thwack in the first movement of the MSPC gets me every time.) And that's the stereo PCM layer. (The stereo SACD layer is pretty much the same, and I've never listened to the surround version.) The highly polished playing and Ozawa's meticulous and involved direction deliver a finely crafted version that possesses adequate intensity, gobs of detail, and a somewhat anonymous sound. Typically, this last trait would not be a good thing, and I don't think it's a good thing here; rather, it doesn't matter at all. The Giuoco delle coppie is quite energetic and fun, and the strings are simply marvelous, weighty and bouncy in the low strings, and marvelously clear in the violins. The Elegia, at a taut 7' even, approaches Kubelik levels of blistering intensity in the climaxes, and the slower music sounds more like a tetchy dirge. The Intermezzo interrotto has a lovely first theme, and the interruption is raucous, with a bold trombone glissando and more bouncy low string playing. The Finale starts with a bold fanfare, and Ozawa opts for a generally quite robust approach, with the needed backing off when and where appropriate. The brass playing around 6'-ish is about the most detailed and differentiated between instruments as I've heard either on this recording, or any recording of any work, and the timp playing at the end is super clean, with each thwack audible. Nice.

    This recording exceeded expectations when I bought it, and it continues to impress now, and the sonics make it an aural treat every time I spin it.



    Amazon UK link
     
  11. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Zoltan Kocsis conducting some Bartok. Kocsis nails the first movement. The slower and quieter night music is mysterious and dark, the tuttis powerful and intense, and the wind playing is both superbly executed and perfectly balanced. Kocsis' tempo choices all sound right and his transitions are seamless. Those winds make the snappy Giuoco delle coppie a real treat, and the perfectly clear recorded sound allows one to enjoy both the wind parts and the contrasting parts at once with ease. The side drum is uncommonly clean sounding, too, with each tapped out note close to an event, and there is no other recording that boasts such tight and fast bassoon playing, especially at around 4'-ish in. The Elegia starts with dark hued night music, and though the climaxes are not as intense as some other versions, Kocsis keeps the playing tense and relentlessly forward moving at all times. Kocsis does not pussyfoot around in the Intermezzo interrotto, which is the fastest in my collection, coming in at a fast and tight 3'46". As a result the beautiful melody that gets interrupted is much faster than normal, but here it almost morphs into a dreamy dance, with the interruption a delight, and the music after the trombone glissando very circus-like. The Finale, at 9'46", is not one of the fastest around, though the listener would hardly know that in the incredibly fast, agile, and frenetic opening, which is just spot on. The slower music later on gets slightly more relaxed treatment, with the violas popping out of the mix a couple or so minutes in like in no other version. The clarity of the recording allows every little detail to be heard, which leads to an almost overwhelming, giddy feeling in the music. It's pure, vigorous excitement.

    That one of the great interpreters of Bartok's piano compositions recorded one of the greatest versions of the Concerto for Orchestra is not surprising.

    The playing and sound of this disc is so good that it's the only one that I decided to listen to the entire disc straight through. It includes quite probably the best ever recording of the Dance Suite and an exceptional recording of the Hungarian Peasant Songs. It's one of the very best Bartok recordings in my collection.



    Amazon UK link
     
  12. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Ivan Fischer's job for Philips, the last of the bunch. I didn't save it and Kocsis' recording for the end for no reason. These two conductors and their Hungarian orchestras demonstrate that one can rely on modern recordings to get the best of the best even with longstanding reference recordings available. Fischer's timing in the Introduzione is similar to Kocsis, but the playing flows slightly better, and the more blended sound, if less finely detailed and slightly edgier, presents a more traditional orchestral sound. Like Kocsis, the slower music is mysterious, but Fischer ekes out more intensity in the tuttis. Also like Kocsis, Fischer takes the Giuoco delle coppie at a proper quick clip, with fine playing from the pairs, and a processional brass chorale. The Elegia goes the Kubelik route, coming in notably faster than normal, and achieving that with mysterious night music partnered to near blistering climaxes. The Intermezzo interrotto starts peppy, moves to a main theme that sounds slightly quick but definitely attractive, and the interruption is dispatched with some mischievous haste, with the trombone glissando not exaggerated, and the music after light and tight. Fischer goes for a straight up fast reading of the Finale, and as such, it's mighty exciting, and nothing in my collection sounds better played. Like Kocsis, the bassoons get their due, though more in this movement.

    Overall, Fischer's set sounds more sophisticated and urbane, Kocsis' sounds more folk music infused and fiery. Together, they are the best of the best.



    Amazon UK link
     
  13. pianoman

    pianoman pfm Member

    These are the very two recordings that ‘won’ Radio 3’s Building a Library when Rob Cowan did the comparisons. I bought the Kocsis on the strength of that and have to say it’s terrific and superseded previous favourites ( Boulez and Leinsdorf)
     
  14. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Sunny Shostakovich! Well, sunny-ish, at any rate. When I first became familiar with Shostakovich's string quartets, I liked pretty much all of them right away, with a special fondness for the darker, more challenging late quartets, but the Ninth has long stood out for me. Coming after the tumultuous Eighth, it is calm and introspective and upbeat - in relative terms - for the first three movements, a bit dark in fourth, and intense in the finale, but without the sense of dread of its immediate predecessor. It seems to combine a number of elements, both early and late. It always ends up being a highlight when I listen to a new cycle. It's high time I revisit all nine Ninths I own in short order.

    I decided to start with the Brodsky Quartet's first recording. The Moderato con moto is contained and content and quite attractive. It doesn't shake a sense of weariness completely though, though the Adagio seems to shake weariness or wincing completely, and just unfolds at a leisurely pace. The Allegretto introduces a bit more customary DSCH bite in the faster passages, and the hints of William Tell can be heard in the violins. The second Adagio brings some gloom, but the playing is kind of soggy, with anemic pizzicati. The Brodsky launch into the concluding Allegro with good drive and intensity. The slow playing in the middle has one section with some fine piano playing from the violins while the cello grunts out its tune. The Brodsky play the concluding crescendo with sufficient power, but the sonics hamper the effort. Overall, not one of my preferred versions.

    Sound for the recording has some glare and is not ideally clear and the strings can sound too metallic at times.



    Amazon UK link
     
  15. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Fitzwilliam's recording of the Ninth, though older, is in better sound than Brodsky I, which makes the opening movement sound more tonally attractive, and the sense of relaxation is not as complete; there's a hint of weariness, which is never quite dispelled completely in the first Adagio, which sounds almost elegiac at times. The Allegretto starts off on a lighter note, with a buoyant ostinato and vibrant William Tell homage. The second Adagio sounds more relentlessly glum and sorrowful, with the pizzicati almost nervous. The Fitzwilliam play the Allegro at a slower overall pace than the Brodsky, but they generate more intensity and scale. It has darker, more dramatic impact. The central section is anchored by effectively hushed violins, with the potent cello pizzicati a stark contrast. The slower build up during the closing crescendo generates a sense of inevitability to the coda. Definitely better than the first Brodsky recording.

    Excellent analog Decca sound.



    Amazon UK link
     
  16. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Rubio's Ninth. The Rubio, playing on Rubio instruments, have always struck me as perhaps just a tad too beautiful sounding for the DSCH quartets, though that is less of a problem here. The Moderato con moto glides along mostly smoothly and beautifully, but there's also remarkable clarity of all instruments, with both the second violin and viola parts sounding distinct. While lovely on the surface, there are hints of tension. The first Adagio exemplifies the perhaps too lovely sound, with an almost romantic tinge to the playing, but it is not all beauty; there's a sense of sorrow in the mix. The Allegretto, at a tight 3'47, has a really bouncy ostinato, and the William Tell music sounds playful. The playing never sounds a sharp or potentially sarcastic in the prior two recordings, but it works very well. The second Adagio is more contained and smoother than the preceding versions, missing some of the darkness, but in exchange it sounds more "Slavic", meaning informed by older composers. The Rubio play the concluding Allegro at a swift 9'54", which, when combined with the beautiful playing, sands off the musical rough edges and some of the intensity, but again there's something of a tradeoff in being able to hear all the instruments so well. Also, the link between this work and the Fourteenth Symphony (Les Attentives II, specifically the repeated "khokhochu" sung by the soprano) is somewhat more pronounced. The quiet violins and loud cello section comes off well, but the crescendo build up doesn't generate a great deal of intensity until the last thirty seconds or so. It's a bit too smooth for maximum satisfaction, but it's still good overall.



    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shostakovi...qid=1510153252&sr=8-14&keywords=RUBIO+QUARTET
     
  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Mandelring's Ninth. The Moderato con moto sounds both lighter than normal Shostakovich, but also dark-ish given the healthy, balanced dose of low string sound. The first Adagio strikes a good balance between attractive, more relaxed playing and something with hints of tension, before switching to outright lovely playing near the end of the movement. The Allegretto is somewhat gentle for the first fifty seconds or so, with the subdued playing making less of the William Tell music, but the more intense playing later in the movement is quite intense. The Mandelring prove to be experts at precise and controlled dynamic gradation. The second Adagio sounds quite cool throughout. The Allegro, at 8'48", cooks. Intense and vigorous, the virtuosic display is invigorating. The "khokhochu" music is dispatched more quickly than in the preceding Rubio, making the linkage less clear. The Mandelring don't really hold fire until the long crescendo; the entire movement is agitated and aggressive. The playing displayed here has not been topped by even the Emerson in terms of executive brilliance. There's a lot to enjoy here, to be sure, but as with the cycle as a whole, I'm not on the ensemble's wavelength. I can't quite put my finger on it.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/SHOSTAKOVI...pID=51dfBGmq1BL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Beethoven Quartet's Ninth. One has to listen through the less than ideal sound here, but what one hears in the Moderato con moto is playing that sounds less relaxed or cheerful than the preceding versions. It's sort of tetchy and nervous. The first Adagio keeps a large degree of this nervous feel, never becoming notably relaxed or comfortable. The Allegretto, perhaps due more to the transfer than the playing, starts off more subdued, with both the ostinato and William Tell music mumbled out. The more intense playing after the opening indicates that it is probably more interpretation than sound. The second Adagio sounds bleak, very much in line with late DSCH. One could wish for slightly better execution in the middle pizzicati and fugue. The concluding Allegro is on the very brisk side, and while the execution does not match the Mandelring, the Beethoven generate a lot in the way of biting intensity and an at times nasty demeanor. The "khokhochu" music is rushed through, though the connection is more obvious here, and the Beethoven slow down more before the final crescendo, which is biting. Overall, a most satisfying version, if not the first choice for me.

    And though one must listen through the transfers, revisiting this does make me curious what the Beethoven Quartet sound like in Beethoven, in their Soviet cycle that never made it to the West.



    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shostakovi...ywords=beethoven+shostakovich+string+quartets
     
  19. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Emerson's Ninth. With rich low strings at the open, the piece doesn't sound especially light, though it does lighten up afterward into something approaching fun and relaxation. The first Adagio, despite its somewhat quick overall tempo, sounds downright attractive, if maybe a bit cool, which doesn't really hurt here. The Allegretto starts plucky and the William Tell music sounds more mischievous, and even when the playing becomes more vibrant, it doesn't tip over into excess intensity, while the first violin largely maintains a somewhat playful vibe. The second Adagio sounds more desolate and cold than anything else, and as always with the Emerson on record, one can marvel at the ensemble playing, be it the perfectly controlled slow middle section and perfectly scaled pizzicati, and likewise in the Allegro they deliver ample power and drive, while making it sound easy. Even with the fairly swift tempo, the "khokhochu" music is distinctive. After the final slow passage, the Emerson ratchet up the intensity to deliver a whopper of a coda. Superb.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shostakovi...&keywords=emerson+string+quartet+shostakovich
     
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Pacifica's Ninth. The Pacifica take Moderato con moto at a comfortable pace, making the music sound sort of relaxed, though it never entirely shakes more serious undertones. The segue to the first Adagio is so seamless one doesn't even notice it, and while the music continues, the beauty that can be extracted from Shostakovich's quartet is quite remarkable, with the slow-ish timing just increasing the amount of goodness one gets to hear. The Allegretto is lighter and quicker, with the William Tell music nice and jaunty, and while the playing stays light, it veers mighty close to something fiercer. In the second Adagio, the Pacifica play just a smidge on the quick side, and while they make it a point to avoid excess intensity, there's a sense of darkness or dread bubbling beneath the surface. The Allegro is not especially fast, but the Pacifica slash their way through the opening nicely enough, and play with plenty drive and intensity. The "khokhochu" music is nicely accented. Each instrument gets its individual due in this very fine recording, with each cutting through the din to good effect. The Pacifica play until reaching a near fever pitch before backing off into slow moving gloom and introspection before starting in on the defiant and triumphant crescendo ending in a coda at least equal to the Emerson. More superb stuff.


    Amazon UK link (twofer): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shostakovi...pID=61Zuvyu91fL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

    Amazon UK link (complete cycle): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Soviet-Exp...pID=51a6iXrpRwL&preST=_SX342_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
     

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