CD and Other Review

Review: Fritz Brun: Orchestral Works (Moscow Symphony)

Switzerland is not a country that we associate with composers. Other than than Raff, we must wait until the 20th century and composers like Othmar Schoeck, Les Six’s Honegger and Frank Martin in order to find familiar names. So it was with interest to discover this fourth disc in an ongoing series devoted to the symphonic repertoire of Fritz Brun – a Lucerne-raised musician who may be Switzerland’s finest twentieth-century symphonist, writing between 1902 and his death in 1959 ten well constructed if conservatively Romantic symphonies in the style of Brahms.  The English label Guild has finally taken the opportunity to record a complete traversal of his major works with six of his ten symphonies already released. Symphony No 1 – a prize winning student work – whilst bringing up suggestions of Brahms also  hints at Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Bruckner with the large forces of the Moscow Symphony relishing the attractive qualities of this large-scale tonal work.  The Swiss conductor – simply known as Adriano – certainly knows the full worth of this symphony as with the others by this composer already recorded. By contrasting the early symphony with the much later Overture (from 1950), it is obvious that Brun…

November 28, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Stravinsky, Mahler (Australian World Orchestra/Mehta)

Last year’s celebration of Australia’s musical elite diaspora, the Australian World Orchestra, (plus a few resident players) featured Zubin Mehta on the podium. I’ve always regarded Mehta as a superb “technician” but, apart from a wunderkind debut Bruckner Ninth, while still in his twenties with the Vienna Philharmonic, I’ve never found his interpretations particularly engaging.   However, my reactions to this two CD set of the occasion has somewhat changed my thinking. Their performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, in its centenary year, is very fine- without challenging Doráti’s, Bernstein’s first New York version or Igor Markevich’s old Philharmonia (stereo) version where the orchestral shriek at the opening of the second section is truly blood curdling. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the treacherous opening bassoon passage so beautifully shaped. The woodwind is also beautifully captured throughout.  Mehta’s tempi are steady rather than headlong. The performance of  Mahler’s First Symphony was a treat. Mehta included the discarded Blumine (“Flowers’) movement ( as he did in his Israel Philharmonic recording in the late eighties) although Mahler was probably right to remove it, as it sounds genuinely, as distinct from faux, naïve. The string playing was of a caliber we seldom…

November 21, 2014