2008年3月29日 星期六


Marin Alsop指揮倫敦愛樂(London Philharmonic Orchestra)的布拉姆斯四首交響曲全集在台灣並沒有正式引進,曾經在佳佳西門店或大眾許昌店看過零星幾片,要四片全部蒐集完整必須有點靠運氣,不然就是要花上一個多月時間下專單!三月中旬,倫敦愛樂首次來台演出,Naxos本地代理商卻沒有把握這個難得機會,實在有點可惜。

Marin Alsop的最新作品將是與Baltimore Symphony Orchestra灌錄的德弗札克最後三首交響曲。預計從2008年4月起陸續發行。

Naxos 8570233
Symphony No 4,Op. 98. 21 Hungarian Dances,WoO 1 - No. 2 in D minor;No. 4 in F minor;No. 5 in F sharp minor;No. 6 in D flat;No. 7 in A;No. 8 in A minor;No. 9 in E minor

Marin Alsop brings her excellent budget Brahms cycle to a close
The LPO, London’s finest Brahms ensemble, has been in vintage form during this cycle under Marin Alsop’s measured and thoughtful direction. Not since the classically incisive Loughran/HallÈ recordings of the mid‑1970s has there been a more obviously collectable budget-price Brahms set, though Sanderling’s celebrated 1970s Dresden cycle is currently a formidable three-CD budget-price competitor.
Alsop’s reading of the Fourth Symphony is not dissimilar to Sir Adrian Boult’s 1972 LPO recording (EMI – nla). Like Boult, Alsop is happy to establish a tempo and emotional trajectory for each movement and leave it at that – a plausible view given the astonishing degree of thematic integration that underpins the work.
As elsewhere in the cycle, tempi tend to be measured. The Andante moderato is downright slow, though like Reiner and Barbirolli before her Alsop manages to maintain line and interest. The Scherzo, happily, is a true Allegro giocoso, which is important. By acting out the role of a conventional finale, the Scherzo leaves the actual finale free to enact its own tragic destiny.
Sparer-toned performances heedful of Brahms’s marking Allegro energico e passionato (Mengelberg on Naxos Historical, Toscanini on RCA, Klemperer on EMI, Karajan variously) spell out the finale’s tragic mood from the first. Others (Furtwangler, Barbirolli, Sanderling) have taken broader tempi then manoeuvred the orchestra freely towards the tragic summation. Carlos Kleiber, famously, got the best of both worlds.
The Blackheath recording sounds well if played at a decent level. In the Scherzo, the triangle (deliciously placed and recorded in the Hungarian Dances) is more an impression than a presence. There is also an editing glitch midway through the movement, not the first in this series. The seven Hungarian Dances, unorchestrated by Brahms, are heard in newly commissioned orchestrations by Peter Breiner. I didn’t much care for the thudding fairground timpani in No 6. Elsewhere, piquancy is the watchword, with stylish playing from the LPO, gamesomely led. (Gramophone 2/2008,Richard Osborne)

Naxos 8557430
Variations on a Theme by Haydn, 'St Antoni Chorale,Op. 56a. Symphony No 3,Op. 90.

Alsop's symphony is fine but it's the Variations that give this disc distinction
Brand-new budget-price recordings which can rub shoulders with the best are rarer than one imagines (Colin Davis's 1962 HMV Concert Classics recording of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was an early example) but this fine new Brahms disc probably comes into that category.
Finding a recommendable Brahms Third is more difficult than one might suppose. Since Felix Weingartner made his very fine LPO recording in 1938, the number of great, or even successful, Thirds can probably be listed on the fingers of two hands. (Three candidates for the right hand are listed above.) Marin Alsop's reading is certainly fine: dark of hue, lyrical and long drawn, though never, even for a moment, comatose. Rhythm is good, articulation keen, phrasing exquisite, the reading's crepuscular colours glowingly realised by the LPO. The reading has a quality of melancholy, a wistfulness crossed with a sense of incipient tragedy, which is almost Elgarian (Elgar's fascination with the piece is well attested).
Readings such as Furtwängler's and Sanderling's, which are more inclined to tower and course, may not have allowed themselves to be overtopped by the St Antoni Variations, yet there is something rather wonderful about the transition we have here from dark to light. It is a long time since I heard a performance of the Variations as well grounded and as keenly profiled as this. Winds are splendidly to the fore: skirling flutes, songful oboes, grumbling descants on the horns “in deep B”. It is, above all, a reading of great character: the horn-led sixth variation a burgherly jaunt, the seventh variation a handsome galliard, the finale a Meistersinger-like revel.
(Gramophone 3/2007, Richard Osborne)

Naxos 8557429
21 Hungarian Dances - G minor (orch Brahms);F (orch Brahms);F (orch Brahms);F sharp minor (orch Dvorák);D (orch Dvorák);B minor (orch Dvorák);E minor (orch Dvorák);E minor (orch Dvorák) Symphony No 2,Op. 73.

Older hands may find a few cavils but this is well judged, sunny Brahms
This is a late-summer idyll of a performance, easily paced, nicely judged and warmly played. For first-time buyers it will provide unalloyed pleasure; for older hands it will satisfy without necessarily enlightening or surprising.
It is one of those Brahms performances whose centre of gravity is in the violas, cellos and horns. This is apt to the symphony’s lyrical, ruminative character, though there are times when the music is robbed of its light and shade. In the finale, for example, one rather misses the chill-before-dawn mood of the lead-in to the recapitulation; and one needs a keener differentiation of horn and trumpet tone to catch the final page’s incomparable D major blaze. Alsop’s account of the third movement is strong in contrast, the oboe-led Allegretto grazioso strangely muted, the quicker 2/4 section done more or less to perfection. That said, you might think the slow movement under-characterised: insufficiently distinct in tone and temper from the first.
The symphony was recorded in Blackheath Concert Hall, the Hungarian Dances in what used to be Watford Town Hall: a bigger, brawnier acoustic that doesn’t suit the music quite so well. In dance No 18 in D, one of Dvorák’s orchestrations, there is a noisy, cluttered feel to the performance. By contrast, the alfresco No 3 in F, winningly and economically orchestrated by Brahms himself, is played with real charm and style.(Gramophone 1/2006, Richard Osborne)

Naxos 8557428
Academic Festival Overture,Op. 80. Symphony No 1,Op. 68. Tragic Overture,Op. 81.

Two views on bold generous-spirited Brahms
Naxos first recorded the Brahms symphonies in the early 1990s with the Belgian Radio Orchestra, a minor league player alongside the London Philharmonic, a Brahms ensemble of pedigree and power. As for Marin Alsop, pigeon-holed as a modernist with a gift for refined and colourful music-making, she has found the grander, more conservative orchestras reluctant to offer her Brahms in the concert hall. They shouldn’t have worried. These are the kind of bold, generous-spirited performances which a Stokowski or a Koussevitsky would probably have been pleased to hear.
The sound is full, warm and accommodating. It is not vintage Watford Colosseum – the drum at the start of the symphony, recessed but in its own reverberant acoustic, ends up overpowering the strings – nor is the editing flawless. It is, though, a good advert for the virtues of studio recording– superior to the recent LSO Live super-budget Brahms First with its airless acoustic and ‘all right on the night’ orchestral playing.
That said, Brahms in tragic mode doesn’t always suit Alsop’s essentially warm-hearted manner. This is not merely a case of fullish sonorities blunting the edge of Brahms’s discourse in a way which is never the case with Klemperer’s 1957 Kingsway Hall account of the Tragic Overture. With Alsop, the lyric pathos is for real. It is the music’s more turbulent sequences which take on a somewhat manufactured air: more an effort of instrumentalism than an embodiment of mood.
There have also been more unpitying performances of the symphony’s C minor introduction and more remorseless accounts of its 6/8 Allegro, where the dramatic and lyrical subjects have been bound within a single all-consuming pulse (Klemperer again). Alsop’s tempi never drag (the Andante sostenuto is superbly done) though they are strangely uncoordinated in the finale where the statement of the big tune must be as slow (crotchet=92) as any on record. Not everyone needs to follow the formula crotchet=112, accelerating to 144 at the animato, favoured in both the exposition and the re-exposition by Toscanini, Karajan, Kurt Sanderling and others, or the more ‘evolutionary’ approach favoured by Klemperer, and James Loughran in his very fine 1970s Hallé cycle. Alsop appears to be allowing rhetoric to take precedence over grammar, which simply won’t do in a structure as long-pondered and closely worked as this.
There are moments of unwonted cosseting in the Academic Festival Overture which Klemperer, in his memorable mid-price cycle, conducts in a wittier, more bracingly theatrical manner. Nonetheless, these are humane, affectionate performances from which browsers and bargain-minded first-time buyers should derive a good deal of pleasure. (Richard Osborne)

And a response from Rob Cowan who was asked to review the disc without being told whose Brahms it was…
The symphony’s opening bodes well: a steady tread, springy and not too broad, with strong timpani and a powerful climax to the reprise of the opening. The switch from Un poco sostenuto to Allegro is unceremonious and just a little abrupt, tempo relations thereafter nicely judged (idyllic horn answering clarinet at 4’56”, for example), the sound frame clear and comfortable. But there’s no tension. The lead-back to the repeated exposition is deadpan, and at the point just before the recapitulation where the lower strings goad the violins into action (at around 10’57”), the violins sound oddly inhibited. The recapitulation itself flushes red as the timps raise a short-lived storm (at 14’48”).
Elsewhere the overall approach seems geared more toward achieving homogenised textures (Karajan’s influence, perhaps?). Certain inner details, such as the all-important contrabassoon, come across well, but there isn’t a tight enough hold on pulse, forward momentum, on the ‘long’ view. This first movement needs to be more granitic, more obdurate, pesante.
I sense someone schooled in the Big Romantics, maybe the fin-de-siècle or later, trying hard with a very good (though not world-class) orchestra, a lively, generous-hearted maestro, though not necessarily a seasoned Brahmsian. The overall impression is fairly sympathetic but some passages sound perfunctory. I’m thinking of the over-prominent staccato duplets at around 7’07” into the slow movement (beneath the solo violin) while the big string theme in the finale (4’34”) lacks a sense of brio. True, the subsequent call for animation is duly met but the spirit remains low-key (including what sounds like a tentative return to the string theme at 8’41”). And you can hardly hear the important trombone line at 15’26”.
Am I being too fussy? It’s a worthy Brahms First; there’s heart aplenty and if I had never heard the work before, I would have no trouble gauging its greatness from this performance. But comparative listening demands more, and the best of the rivals are superior. The overtures are good, the breezy Academic Festival better suited to what I’m assuming is the interpreter’s bright and affirmative character than the grittier Tragic. Good, fairly ambient sound.
(Gramophone 3/2005, Rob Cowan)