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CLASSICAL  February 2009

CLASSICAL February 2009

Subject:

Starker Plays Dvorak and Others

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 12:12:41 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (71 lines)

Online see: http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/m/mrc756608b.php

Janos Starker
Classic Cello Works

*  Antonin Dvorak: Cello Concerto in b, op. 104
*  Max Bruch: Kol Nidrei, op. 47
*  Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33

Janos Starker, cello
London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati
Mercury Living Presence 4320012 Total Time: 63:48
Also available on SACD:
Mercury Living Presence 4756608

Summary for the Busy Executive: Warm performances of repertory staples.

Janos Starker burst upon the classical scene, at least in the West, with
a series of legendary recordings for EMI of the classics (and even a few
rarities) of the cello repertoire.  Rostropovich, of course, overtook
him, as he overtook every other cellist, but Starker still had his virtues
- superb musicianship and a beautiful, though relatively small tone.

I should say up front that my favorite recording of the Dvorak cello
concerto remains Fournier and Szell on Deutsche Grammophon.  They give
you more steel than others and emphasize Dvorak the symphonist.  However,
Starker and Dorati are certainly in the top rank.  They stress a warm,
flexible lyricism.  Dorati coaxes the best the London Symphony Orchestra
can give.  The opening tutti is gorgeous all by itself.  Starker's solos,
particularly the second-movement cadenza, just about suspends time.
Occasionally, however, the interplay between soloist and orchestra is a
trifle ragged, and Dorati goads the orchestra into overplaying, especially
in the last movement.  But these lapses pop up rarely.  Furthermore, the
sound (I listened to the SACD version, minus the SACD setup) - Mercury's
35mm 3-channel process - is bloody spectacular, even after all these
years, without hokey gooses in the bass.

Bruch's Kol Nidrei, often billed as variations on the Yom Kippur prayer,
actually varies two melodies: the first, the traditional melody of the
Kol Nidrei; the second, a tune that appeared in a collection of settings
by English composer Isaac Nathan of Byron's Hebrew Melodies.  Most
scholars consider Nathan's settings based on traditional Middle European
tunes.  I've never cared for Bruch's arrangement, in any case, and this
performance doesn't change my mind.

We hear the Tchaikovsky in the Wilhelm Fitzenhagen arrangement, now
discredited, but at one time the only way cellists performed the work.
What Tchaikovsky actually wrote differs significantly, and its first
recording dates back only to 1992, with the advocacy of Raphael Wallfisch
and Geoffrey Simon (Chandos CHAN8347).  Isserlis and Lloyd Webber also
play the original.  Anything earlier than that is a stunted distortion.
Fitzenhagen cut out one variation and rearranged the order of those
remaining, which led to further slicing, dicing, and splicing, all by
Fitzenhagen rather than by Tchaikovsky.  The cellist (also the dedicatee)
even inked over Tchaikovsky's original manuscript with his "improvements."
Fitzenhagen's version is nice, a bonbon designed to draw applause for
the soloist.  Tchaikovsky's version, to quote Liszt, is real music.
Dorati has always stood among the eminent conductors of Tchaikovsky's
ballets (he was the first to record all three), and both he and Starker
emphasize the delicacy and clarity of Tchaikovsky's orchestration - a
jewel of a performance.

Incidentally, a normal CD player can handle this SACD disc.

Steve Schwartz

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