in: Reviews

November 18, 2011

Morlot Endorsement

by

Ludovic Morlot, conductor with Richard Goode (Stu Rosner photo)

Thursday’s Boston Symphony Orchestra concert, under the able direction of Ludovic Morlot, featured exactly the style of programming I most admire: a smart blend of classic and modern and avoidance of tired warhorses. The closest to a warhorse on this program was Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, a favorite of the Charles Munch years, that is short, witty, and brilliant — a knockout piece perfectly suited for a concert opener. It has Italianate splendor as well as French clarity and a few comic moments, including a chromatic laugh near the end when the meter changes from fast 6/8 to lumbering 2/4 without change in tempo. (One minor carping point: the tambourine, which was just right in the introduction, was too loud at the end.)

Ludovic Morlot has my endorsement all the way. He is an energetic conductor who pays scrupulous attention to the score and projects all the energy needed without showing off — a marked contrast to the antic, overwrought cavorting of last week’s visitor, Myung-Whan Chung. Morlot showed a spacious, expressive beat in the Berlioz that projected pulse and energy rather than metric location, and the orchestra obvious liked it; later in the program, in the Carter Flute Concerto especially, his beat was steady, precise, and exactly placed, which was certainly needed in the difficult rhythms that dominated this brittle piece.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, KV 503, the largest-proportioned of his late concerti, dates from December 1786, at the same time as the “Prague” Symphony in D major, KV 504. This concerto has the same proportions as the more famous 21st concerto in the same key, KV 467 (the so-called “Elvira Madigan” concerto), but it also has more lyricism and less drama. The lyricism is also wrought in the harmony, which is notable for its easy alternation between major and minor modes in the first and third movements. It was a delight to see and hear Richard Goode so much enjoying his own effortless performance. There are several outstanding Mozart pianists today — Barenboim, Levin, Uchida, Perahia are names that spring instantly to mind — but none better than this laid-back master whose tone and shape reveal him as a spiritual descendant of Schnabel. I liked his first-movement cadenza, and I liked his second-movement melodic ornamentations. The orchestra, with slightly reduced strings, provided all the right support, especially when one is aware that the horns, trumpets, and timpani, strong and assertive in KV 467, are restrained in this work, a reassuring, authoritative presence.

I didn’t hear the Carter Flute Concerto at its Boston premiere last year. This new performance is a tribute to one of America’s greatest masters less than a month before his 103rd birthday. Flute concerti are rare enough in any era, and the past century has produced few that are memorable, but this one is surely a significant addition to the repertory. In some thirteen continuous minutes, it has the earmarks of three movements in one. The “first movement” features sharply accented, fragmented gestures punctuated with plenty of percussion (woodblocks, xylophone) that underline the solo flute’s efforts to make itself heard — a genuine struggle that alternates with complex but clear harmonies in the divided strings. The soloist here often engages in a clever dialogue with the orchestral flute in weaving melodic lines — Pan and Echo together. The “slow movement” featured long, expressive notes in the flute supported by divided strings and punctuated by plucked basses and occasional vibraphone — the breathing space was needed, but the audience seemed not to like it, because there was too much coughing. The “finale” is very short and crisp, with combative outbursts in the brass that might have come from Act II scene 2 in Berg’s Wozzeck (a work that Carter admires), but the flute emerged triumphant. Elizabeth Rowe played the solo fearlessly and with expressive warmth. Morlot conducted with perfect precision, and I could see his 4/4 beat at every instant even when he had to use his left hand to indicate an offbeat cue. They should record this interesting and lively work.

Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin is called a pantomime and is based on a seduction scenario as gaudy and wild as any from the early twentieth century, as morally dubious as Oscar Wilde’s Salome; and although it is usually referred to as a ballet, it has none of the set pieces or ensembles that one finds in the Diaghilev repertory. For all that, just as The Wooden Prince, heard earlier this fall, can be thought of as Bartók’s “Firebird,” The Miraculous Mandarin is his “Rite of Spring” and shows an obviously explosive kinship with Stravinsky’s work. The Suite amounts to about two-thirds of the original pantomime score. No other work by Bartók is as aggressive and strident, and it is remarkable that his imagination and skill were able to achieve such a fine massiveness of sound with an orchestral wind section only half the size of Stravinsky’s blockbuster orchestra. This massiveness is evident from the start, where the strings play furiously and are dominant in the first pages, until the full winds are able to shout out the upper textures. (I missed the sound of the organ pedal in reinforcement of the bass line, as the score directs, and perhaps it was omitted.) The “decoy games” specified in the score are outlined by spectacular solos for clarinets, and these players got well-deserved bows. So did the members of the brass section, who projected all the volume and intensity required; it was reassuring to hear them handle these roles so well when last week, in the Tchaikovsky Sixth, they were forced to play far too loud for the needs of the music. Hats off to Ludovic Morlot for his understanding of just what this brilliant score needed for maximum forcefulness and effectiveness.

Mark DeVoto, musicologist and composer, is an expert in Alban Berg, also Ravel and Debussy. A graduate of Harvard College (1961) and Princeton (PhD, 1967), he has published extensively on these composers and many music subjects, most notably, harmony. His most recent book is Schubert’s Great C Major: Biography of a Symphony. His website is here.

 

30 Comments

  1. And wat about that awesome English Horn in the Berlioz!!!!

    Comment by Leslie Miller — November 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

  2. Sorry about the Missing H.  The key is missing from my computer. Interesting.

    Comment by Leslie Miller — November 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

  3. Mark, your gratuitous swipes against last week’s conductor make it appear that you wish you could have reviewed that concert instead of this one.  When considering a new music director, the popularity of the conductor (Chung’s is extraordinary), the quality of the recording contract he brings to the BSO (Deutsche Grammaphon for Chung), and his ability to connect with the musicians (who generally regard Chung as ego-free and saintly) are all of paramount importance. We have had enough of ego-driven, tantrum-laden musical bosses who have dominated the orchestral scene. The musicians’ unions will not support them.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  4. I was told by a BSO source that there was no organ in these performances of The Miraculous Mandarin. I gather it’s a fairly common opt-out.

    Comment by Norton, Bettina A — November 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

  5. Ludovic Morlot would have been the perfect choice for the new BSO Music Director… Per Usual, the BSO board, sat back and failed to make any sensible plans for Levine’s reocccuring serious medical problems.  Yes, Morlot has everything “going for him”.

    I’am excited about attending Tuesday’s concert.

    Dan Lobb’s comments don’t make sense… Mark Devoto as a reviewer is expected to offer his views of a performance.  Chung may not appeal to him because of various shortcomings… I missed the Tuesday concert but a good friend whose views on performances I often share attended and said Chung was a media hype mediocrity.  There are so many of them today… Extraodinary Popularity in my mind is always suspect.

    Comment by Ed Burke — November 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm

  6. Well, I do not take out of mind that today is not 1911 but 2011 and it is possible that a definition of musical director in today word migh be not the one that what we use to.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm

  7. Ed, on the Friday night concert of Chung, almost the entire main floor and most of the balconies rose to a standing ovation, something which is quite rare. Chung’s performance connected with them, and had you been there, I have no doubt that you would have been standing, too. It is almost impossible to obtain a ticket to Chung’s performances in Seoul or in Europe, which is a nice problem for any orchestra to have.
       

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 19, 2011 at 12:30 am

  8. ***…  on the Friday night concert of Chung, almost the entire main floor and most of the balconies rose to a standing ovation, something which is quite rare. Chung’s performance connected with them, and had you been there, I have no doubt that you would have been standing, too. It is almost impossible to obtain a ticket to Chung’s performances in Seoul or in Europe, which is a nice problem for any orchestra to have.
    Dan,
    and did you see that the proverbial “entire main floor” did not delivery any standing ovations?  The amount and the enthusiasm of crowd appreciation might be indicative of a performance quality but most frequently it is not. It is not to mention that generally people at the sites like this tend to express OWN judgment and do not rely upon reaction of others. Also, regardless of my liking of Chung, I wonder how much the person with Chung reputation and already established exposure to world would be able (or will be wiling) to dedicate his time to BSO if he lend in Boston.

    The subject in my view is wider then Chung or any other conductor. I do not think that Koussevitzky-like event possible in our time. Today musical word is much faster, more inner-connected and much more engaged into sort of “free-trade”. Individualism is very much dying swan of musicality. Most of soloists sound alike, most of the best orchestras play in similar way and true Individualistic interpretations by conductors are seldom. I do not want to complain about it, it is what it is. So, what I wonder if it possible to implement in BSO some kind of mechanism that would ride this situation.

    Let face it: during the 2005 – 2011 it was very auditable when BSO was prepared by James Levine and when it was not. I do not think however that it need to be this way. So, what I would like the BSO administration to do is to develop some kind of SYSTEMIC MECHANISM of that would make BSO to play no worse than some kind of default level of artisticism and enthusiasm, the level from which good conductors cold take further. How to do THAT? It would be very interesting if BSO playas, even anonymously, begin to talk on the subject.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 19, 2011 at 9:36 am

  9. I have 3 BSO subscriptions (18 concerts)..  Standing ovations RARE?   These days it’s unusual if a conductor or soloist DOESN’T receive one.
    Years ago when audiences were more discerning, a standing ovation was a rarity. BTW, the only BSO concerts which were sold out this season..when Yo Yo Ma played the Dvorak Cello Concerto 
    Sadly, audience size ranges from half to 4/5ths capacity.

    Romy..your statement ….”Most of soloists sound alike, most of the best orchestras play in similar way and true Individualistic interpretations by conductors are seldom.”  is right on the mark.  Audiences are like sheep..they don’t get the message. 

    Comment by Ed Burke — November 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

  10. Ed, the BSO concerts I attended last season were straightforward, mundane interpretations, and did not receive a standing ovation from many people. The audience size for Myung Whun Chung looked to be close to capacity. If he were to build a regular following in Boston, there would be difficulty obtaining tickets.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

  11. Sometimes the “floor stands” to honor the soloist him/herself rather than the just heard performance. Still, in most cases that I personally observed it was ether a horde reflex or juts a necessity after a few people stood up from first rows who can’t see what a conductor does after s/he steps off the podium.  Anyhow, since when the amount and the eagerness of applauding people become a criterion for an individual?  

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm

  12. Romy, Koussevitzky understood the importance of standing ovations. He persuaded Bartok to alter the ending of the Concerto for Orchestra to include a gigantic flourish which would lift the audience out of their seats.  Today, it is the alternate ending Bartok wrote for Koussevitzky which is most often performed. Indeed, the only performance of the original ending I have heard was by Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra in a broadcast from the early 1970’s.
       I think that we need to recapture some of the showmanship from previous generations of conductors, which we have not really experienced since the passing of Leonard Bernstein. Today, dullness has become standard, aided and abetted by nit-picking critics. Young people still respond to a good show.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

  13. Since this thread is about all things BSO, I note that there are 1,043 seats available for Tuesday’s performance, Nov. 22, just shy of 40% of the house. I guarantee that the orchestra’s twitter account will, as usual, make no mention of ticket availability. The lack of imagination and initiative in the marketing department continues to amaze.

    Comment by Bill — November 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm

  14. Dan, well, I do not care about Koussevitzky views about ovations as well. I have my own view and I agree with my opinion. But I am not in business of filling music halls or spinning publicity around concerts. I attended once Mozart concert in Prague’s concert that happened to be disgusting, literally disgusting. The poor contactor immediately after the final tones ran from the stage and the musicians were sitting like they just dived into a cesspool. A girl from second violin section with whom I accidently made eye contact whispered to me “Sorry”. I have no idea how she knew that I was American…. Anyhow, all of it was in the middle of extremely enthusiastic standing ovations. Sorry, I do not need or care about all of this. Crowd is crowd, it does what it does. If someone wants to cash on crowd instincts then I see nothing wrong with it but the success of failure of crowd stimulation is completely separate subject then what I value in music. Anyhow, I am off to listen Ludovic Morlot tonight….
     

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

  15. Standing ovations in at BSO concerts are meaningless. Or rather, they mean that the piece just played ended loud and fast.

    I’ve been there in recent years on occasions when there was an instantaneous and nearly universal standing O, and after the conductor’s second bow the applause stopped and everybody headed for the doors. If the ovation meant that the people thought this was one of the finest performances they ever heard, they’d bring the conductor back at least four or five times.

    And then there was the all Beethoven concert a couple of years back with the Sixth Symphony before intermission and the Seventh afterwards. Well, the sixth was so well played, especially by the horns, that I had to go to the stage door after the concert and offer my congratulations — the only time I’ve done that. The audience gave it polite applause because it ends calmly. After the seventh there was an enthusiastic (although typically brief) standing ovation all around because it ends loudly.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — November 19, 2011 at 10:26 pm

  16. I have just heard a sold-out concert with Lang Lang playing the Beethoven Emperor Concerto with the Toronto Symphony. This young man has shown us the importance of image and showmanship in selling a concert. The man sitting beside myself and my wife skipped the first half of the concert (Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) but came just to see Lang Lang.  This man knows little about classical music, as I suspect many of the audience did as well.
      The lesson: a big name and an attractive personality is worth gold in the music business. A people-friendly persona such as Myung Whun Chung can turn an orchestra’s future around.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 19, 2011 at 11:33 pm

  17. *** Joe Whipple wrote: Standing ovations in at BSO concerts are meaningless. Or rather, they mean that the piece just played ended loud and fast.

    Yes, Joe is very much correct and it was exactly what I meant – brainless standing ovations are very superficial indicator quality of performance, even though they might be pleasurable for musicians and beneficial for the folks who sell sits.  

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 20, 2011 at 9:46 am

  18. If Chung is popular with audiences and with orchestras alike, more power to him.  I’m sure Dan Lobb is right that musicians’ unions won’t put up with tyrants on the podium today.  We are in times different from Mahler and Toscanini, who threw tantrums and browbeat their orchestras but got incomparably fine results from musicians who supported them all the way even while patiently enduring the blows.  I was definitely annoyed by Chung’s exaggerated gestures on the podium, but what I cared most about was the quality of the performance.  In Weber’s Freischuetz Overture, there was a good deal of fine sound — especially the four horns and the fortissimo clarinet — but Chung’s tempo drove the strings to unavoidably hasty and ragged playing.  This was even more evident in the Tchaikovsky Pathetique — string playing so furiously fast as to be denuded of real color and shape.  And the brass, especially in the first movement, was much too loud when a balanced fortissimo is called for.  One of the main points of the third movement is that the March builds slowly and with energy that reaches an incredible intensity, and it should absolutely not be played Prestissimo with events whirling past like a jet plane.  I remember with much more pleasure Leinsdorf’s fine performance of this same symphony in 1969, an event that helped me change my mind about Tchaikovsky.
    My friend and colleague Vance Koven’s review in these pages of Chung’s execution is remarkably similar to my opinion just expressed.  Our opinions of Tchaikovsky’s music may well be different but that doesn’t matter.  Speaking for myself, I was for many years one of those who, among professional musicians, rated Tchaikovsky fairly low on the 19th-century totem pole simply because of his sentimental excesses and lapses of taste.  I have changed my opinion over the years when I consider the value of his outstanding melodic originality, and especially because of his sense of form, which grew better and better until, in the Sixth Symphony, it reached true greatness.  “Tchaikovsky’s was the largest talent in Russia,” Stravinsky wrote in admiration, “and, with the exception of Mussorgsky’s, the truest.”  It’s easy to find fault with Tchaikovsky’s excesses — I still can’t stand most of the First Piano Concerto (which BTW received its world premiere in Boston).  But over the years I’ve come to love even Romeo and Juliet (1868) for its remarkable imagination and development of ideas, notwithstanding the saccharine D-flat cello theme in the middle of the piece — which seems saccharine only by historical hindsight, because of music that came later.  Tchaikovsky’s worst is often still popular; Tchaikovsky at his best is one of the finest of his time.  And he was a maniacally hard worker who was able to push himself, in a few pieces, to genuine and lasting greatness.

    Comment by Mark DeVoto — November 20, 2011 at 11:14 am

  19. ***  Tchaikovsky’s worst is often still popular; Tchaikovsky at his best is one of the finest of his time.  And he was a maniacally hard worker who was able to push himself, in a few pieces, to genuine and lasting greatness.

    Mark, not necessary. Many of the Tchaikovsky caramel music was written for specific ballet movements and if you see the dance along with music then quite many of the Tchaikovsky syrupy phrases do make sense. The key is that you need to see the ballet original production and only in “proper” performance (very hard, you will not see it live in US and it is hard to obtain even in recordings or bootlegs of the recordings). For sure Tchaikovsky has issues; but no more than any other composers, or a person for this matter.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm

  20. Mark, I understand your comments. But if you will listen to Koussevitzky’s recording with the BSO of the Pathetique, or Mravinsky’s recording with the Leningrad Phil., you will hear the authentic Russian performing tradition in this work. These may not be as well-calculated or as finely polished as the performances you admire, but they carry plenty of passion and guts.  It seems to me that Chung was attampting to recapture the roots of this Russian tradition last week, and the performance of the Mahler Sixth I heard him conduct in October in Seoul was a more restrained, precise, constructed conception, less spontaneous and heart-on-sleeve. I was surprised at the different approach, but I think that he was searching for the old Koussevitzky tradition in Boston.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm

  21. Dan, you may be right, and I’d be happy to be surprised about that kind of raw-guts performance.  I haven’t heard either of the older recordings you mention and I am prepared to be sympathetic.    I may surprise a lot of people by announcing my preference for Otto Klemperer’s Tchaikovsky Sixth.  As for Mahler’s Sixth, which is another kind of tragic symphony, I still have vinyl of the Boston Symphony recording under Leinsdorf, which is as superb as it is surprising.  (I believe this was the first LP recording of the Sixth after Horenstein’s and may well have been only the second recording ever in the modern era of electric recording.  One doesn’t think of either the BSO or Leinsdorf of the mid-1960s as likely to perform Mahler outstandingly, but this performance is absolutely terrific.  On the fourth side is Berg’s _Le Vin_, that is, _Der Wein_ with the original Baudelaire text.)
     
    As for Romy’s defense of Tchaikovsky’s caramel music, nobody need defend his ballets to me — I love them all.  I think it mildly amazing that Tchaikovsky, after seeing Delibes’s _Sylvie_ at a performance in Vienna in 1878, wistfully expressed a wish that he could have written as good a work (he had already composed _Swan Lake_; _Sleeping Beauty_  and _Nutcracker_ were yet to come.)  Mostly I object to the finale of the B flat minor Piano Concerto, the lesser pieces for piano and orchestra, the finale of the Fourth Symphony, and most of the Fifth Symphony, especially the slow movement.   The Fifth Symphony, notwithstanding some pretty moments, is a colossal failure formally, IMHO, simply because of the overworked cyclicism.  But that doesn’t prevent its being loved all over the world.  As for the other symphonies, I especially like the Second, possibly because I’ve heard several good performances.  And there’s an enormous amount of his music that I just don’t know at all, like the operas.  (It will take me a while, with 62 volumes of scores in the collected edition.)

    Comment by Mark DeVoto — November 20, 2011 at 9:49 pm

  22. ***  Mostly I object to the finale of the B flat minor Piano Concerto, the lesser pieces for piano and orchestra, the finale of the Fourth Symphony, and most of the Fifth Symphony, especially the slow movement.   The Fifth Symphony, notwithstanding some pretty moments, is a colossal failure formally, IMHO, simply because of the overworked cyclicism…

    His first Piano Concerto is wonderful and ridicules at the same time. The entire last movement does sound ridicules but the whole concerto is pretty much a compilation of good tunes about nothing; it however does not mean that I would not listen it if interpretation and presentation deserve it. Still, do not forget that he was just 34, it was first Russian Piano Concerto ever written and Russians had no Bach in their history… Do you remember what you did duing your 34? Anyhow, I do not share your view about the Fifth Symphony’s adagio, I absolutely love it.

    Comment by Romy the Cat — November 20, 2011 at 11:32 pm

  23. Mark, when you write things like “_Swan Lake_,” are we to understand it as underlining? If so, you can now actually underline the words by using the U button above the comment box. Click on it before you write the text to be underlined and again when you have finished the text. Sorry if you were already aware of this and the underscores mean something else: no offense intended. But I only noticed the B, I, U, and ABC buttons a few days ago. I suspect they’re new.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — November 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

  24. Dan Lobb wrote: “ ….but I think that he was searching for the old Koussevitzky tradition in Boston.”

    For sure I did not find in what Chung did even remotely resemble any Koussevitzky tradition but I think that this way of thinking is interesting. The play BSO demonstrated in end of 40 was stunning and there are different views attributing that success to Koussevitzky or to the BSO members (a bid subject).  Is it possible to review BSO musical event from the perspective of “closer of further to Koussevitzky traditions”? This is controversial. For sure everyone would jump in ecstasy if BSO today turn into BSO end of 40s. Still, where are our 50 years? Did they teach us something how to play and how to listen Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Bach? An interesting subject and I’m not at ease with answer.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm

  25. Romy, if you have the recordings of the Pathetique Symphony by Koussevitzky and the BSO (from 1930) or Mravinsky and the Leningrad Phil. (from 1961) you will hear the authentic Russian performing tradition, with tempos similar (although even more extreme) than Chung displayed, and a very dramtic, passionate approach.
    For those who prefer Tchaikovsky under Klemperer, an approach far removed from the Russian tradition, Chung would have seemed a radical departure and puzzling. But the audience, and many critics, reagarded Chung’s BSO performance as dramatic and powerful.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

  26. If I am permitted to join the conversation, without attending the concert… (I thought about going there on Tuesday)

    I feel that people here are somewhat off the topic, the same way as most people listen to music.

    I challenge the title key word ‘endorsement’. I know I sound old or ancient, or even like I outlived Koussevitzky from his era. When talking about music directorship, is it too absurd, blind and reckless to base one’s endorsement on a program like this? There is no Beethoven, Brahms or Bruckner? Well well, the last name was intentionally put there to stir the discussion. Levine said he does not understand anything about him. Yet he was the music director of BSO for some years.

    Following the comments, I saw some more disturbing views. QUOTE’an attractive personality is worth gold in the music business. A people-friendly persona such as Myung Whun Chung can turn an orchestra’s future around.‘ENDQUOTE. This reminds me of reading a DVD review on Amazon. One of the reviewers gave low stars to a Mutter DVD, complaining that there was no smile on her face. What a shallow opinion. The reviewer does not understand a bit of that piece. If the BSO puts market before music, I think they should be closed before the next concert. Okay, if this does not happen, I am going to see how tomorrow’s Mahler goes.

    PS:
    ***  Mostly I object to the finale of the B flat minor Piano Concerto, the lesser pieces for piano and orchestra, the finale of the Fourth Symphony, and most of the Fifth Symphony, especially the slow movement.   The Fifth Symphony, notwithstanding some pretty moments, is a colossal failure formally, IMHO, simply because of the overworked cyclicism…

    IMHO, Tchaikovsky Nr.5 is the most well structured piece of all his symphonic works. I am scared to see comment like such.

    Comment by Thorsten Zhu — November 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

  27. *** Many of the Tchaikovsky caramel music was written for specific ballet movements and if you see the dance along with music then quite many of the Tchaikovsky syrupy phrases do make sense. The key is that you need to see the ballet original production and only in “proper” performance (very hard, you will not see it live in US and it is hard to obtain even in recordings or bootlegs of the recordings).

    Taking about Tchaikovsky’s ballet music…

    Here I would like to pitch to BMI readers an interesting thing. It was revealed to me yesterday that VAI released the 1976 Bolshoi production of Swan Lake with Plisetskaya and Bogatirev. Well it was not Bolshoi season production but the Bolshoi troops do what they do in Kremlin Union Palace. This is Grigorovich choreography that might be considered “original”.  This consent is unique. Plisetskaya was 51 and it was one of the last her appearances in Swan Lake . Each single remember of the production did their absolutely best including the orchestra but it all was done with no visible efforts and in very friendly atmosphere, sort of like you kids are dancing around home Christmas tree – VERY rare event. Do not fooled however, the performance of the dancers is not just great but in my view the best ever committed to recording media for this ballet. The Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra lead by Algis  Zhuraitis and what the play they show!!! It is not Ballet Suite music and for most who are accustom to suites it might feel almost like Ludwig Minkus tempos. You will get over it very soon watching the performance.

    The uniqueness of the 1976 Kremlin production is not only in the fact that you most likely will trash any other Swan Lake videos that you might have. It was simply no available before. I had it as a bootleg on VSH tape, in horrifying quality. In beginning of 90s I gave it to videographer to convert it to DVD but his studio was robbed and with all my luck the thefts took his doubling machine with my tape inside. I was looking to replace and I think I paid $120 for another bootleg dub. In 2001 or so, some kind of German company (I do not remember the name) released the performance on DVD. Sure I got it and how much was my disappointment when I realized that the idiots made video to be approximately seconds delayed from sound (that works particularly great for baled.)  How not to wish to have the hands cut off of the cretins who did it? So, yesterday I learned that VAI released this own premastering. I did not receive it yet but I feel that at VAI there are no Morons and the DVD will be fine.

    A few words about quality of the recording.  I feel it is excellent even remarkable. Many people would disagree and find it very far from today Bleu Ray quality. Well, the recording has very defused image but it works phenomenally well for ballet, hiding the unnecessary details and highlighting general metaphors, sort of use of monocle in photography instead of high quality lenses.  The most important is the camera work. You will not see what you see in today MET production when camera is panoraming across sopranos breasts. The camera work is here is very conservative and simply let you to watch and to listen the ballet… and THIS Swan Lake is VERY worth it.

    The caT

    Comment by Romy the Cat — November 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm

  28. Didn’t anybody (reviewer type) go to the Harbison symphony last Friday?

    Comment by Joe Whipple — November 28, 2011 at 9:55 am

  29. Vance Koven’s review should appear today. He reviewed Saturday night’s concert.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  30. *** Mark DeVoto wrote:  “Mostly I object …. most of the Fifth Symphony, especially the slow movement.”

    Oy, Mark, what do you know? You have an opportunity to lose your virginity about the Fifth Symphony’s adagio. I got yesterday a phenomenal rendition of the symphony and had a spectacular listening event of the slow movement.   So, if you Mark will show me a receipt that you have contributed $10 to your town local shelter for homeless Felines and if you are not a republican then I would gladly play for you the “right” version of the Fifth Symphony’s adagio and it might recover you from your TAUD syndrome. (TAUD  comes from “Tchaikovsky Adagio Underappreciation Disorder”)  

    Comment by Romy The Cat — December 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm

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