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Reviews: Stravinsky: Petrouchka, Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances - Jansons

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Reviews: 5

Site review by Polly Nomial March 24, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by nickc December 22, 2005 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Absolute dream coupling, great performances with reference quality sound - do I need to say any more?
Petrushka is one of Stravinsky's three seminal early-twentieth century ballets; the story of a puppet at a fair who comes to life and is spurned by his love, the Ballerina. He finally is killed by his rival the Moor but his ghost lives on to haunt. I originally thought the bustle of the opening fairground scene was slighlty low-key but Ramesh's excellent review has reminded me it's not right to start at a hundred miles an hour. (Jansons' timings are almost identical to both Jarvi/Cincinatti and Colin Davis's rendition with this very orchestra from the late 70s). All the succeeding dances are strongly characterised - I've never noticed the strong hint of the Rite about 1'40" into the Blackamoor as much before.
Although written in Los Angeles Rachmaninov's Dances are as Russian as ice floating down the Neva - when it comes to sweeping romanticism and nostalgia there was nobody like Sergei. Just listening to the Concertgebouw is a joy in itself - from the brazen outbursts of the first movement to the skirling and spectral winds of the ghostly waltz to the burnished brass and deep strings in the Alleluya section of the last movement.
The sound in MC is absolutely reference quality - I think it may even take over from my beloved Ivan Fischer Dvorak 8 and 9. Really, if there is a better acoustic than the Concertgebouw for surging romantic music I've yet to hear it! This is an Everett Porter Polyhymnia preduction - turn the volume way up and you are just buffeted in what I can only call piles of sound. I much preferred this than the Mahler 3 and 9 with Chailly as sound. Christophe Huss from in France gave it a 6/10 for sound - not as bizarre as his rating for the Hyperion Shostakovich piano concertos but still way too harsh I thought: ignore that!
As you can imagine - my advice is to buy!

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Review by thepilot February 3, 2006 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is a feast for the ears and for the heart, because the sound quality is exemplary, the hall surrounds the listener, the instruments sound glorious (the strings are to die for, the brass will knock you out of your room, and the woodwinds are velvety) and the performances are stunning. The Stravinsky is a little bit cautious, but in Symphonic Dances Jansons pulls all the stops.Must have, more please from RCO and Jansons.

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Review by jmvilleneuve August 22, 2007 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
A common occurrence is to purchase a recording for a main piece, but after listening to it you end up loving some « filler » music much more than the music that made you buy it in the first place. This is what happened to me here, I bought this recording for the Stravinsky which if find great sonically but missing a childish/magical ingredient. But I was delighted by the Rachmaninoff. I always found the symphonic dances spectacular but badly constructed and lacking depth. This version was a revelation for me, the energy and vision of the conductor gave this music a unity of purpose that captivated me from beginning to end.

This recording is live so this excuses certain things but I want to discuss the only weak point of this SACD. The sound take is obviously the result of multi-miking and the sound engineer(s) went overboard with it. At many spots in this recording there is not a realistic image of a full symphonic orchestra, more like a “zoom” on specific instruments, and sometimes that perspective change so quickly that the ear gets confused.

This is compensated (maybe the good aspect of multi-miking) by an hyper-clarity of all instruments that are each vividly captured. The image is solid, the dynamic stellar and there is good balance of all frequencies (e.g. thrilling mid-bass, stellar highs, etc.) There is a good feeling of the acoustic of the concert hall from the softest solos to the full orchestral tuttis.

I rate the overall music on this SACD at 4 out of 5, but I give the interpretation of the Symphonic Dances 5 out of 5. There are many difficult transitions in this music but Mariss Jansons manages all of them with brio. The first movement (as the third) has a general form of fast-slow-fast. At the end of the slow section (from 7:30 to 8:30) the conductor leads a gorgeous transition out of the slow section that seems nearly magical. After repeated listening of this single passage I think the secret is for the conductor not to accelerate too quickly and as the orchestration becomes richer there is a sense of build-up without needing to accelerate too quickly. So by the time we reach the re-exposition of the main theme we did not loose contact with the music.

For a more complete review and much more on my web site, check

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Review by jeffreybehr May 18, 2012 (5 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This will address the 'Symphonic Dances', for which I bought the disc. I've not yet listened to the Stravinsky.

I find the performance excellent--energetic and assertively conducted when the music requires that and tender when the music needs that. I find the recording also excellent...quite natural and, interesting in light of another's comments, NOT spotlited. All instruments sounded about in the right place left-to-right and front-to-back and also at about the right relative level. My only quibble was that it was recorded in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam in concert, meaning that the orchestra was in its normal position on stage, and that means there's not much sound to the space around it. But I'll keep this recording and play it often.

Well done, RCO Live!

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