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Symphonic Music - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, a programmatic work based on Lord Byron's Manfred via the Russian critic Vladimir Stasov, has been performed less often even than the three earlier Tchaikovsky symphonies, to say nothing of the mighty final three (although most of the major Russian conductors have recorded it at some point during their careers). It was composed in 1885, at the height of the composer's career. Tchaikovsky was ambivalent about the work, at first proclaiming it one of his best, but later threatening to destroy it. The symphony shows the influence of Berlioz's program works (including an "idée fixe"), and is not boring in the least. The reasons for its neglect include its length, its orchestral complexity (it calls for two harps, not something all orchestras can provide, as well as a harmonium or organ and gigantic brass and wind sections), and a certain lack of cohesion. Russian conductors may bull through the work and thus avoid the latter issue, but Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a live recording, tries for a more measured approach. Listeners may wish for more blood and guts as the finale proceeds, but there are many attractions: the Birmingham players punch above their weight in a perilously difficult score (apparently, it's true, having four spliced-together chances), and Nelsons gives the work a level of detail and balance that's especially impressive in a live performance. The Marche Slave, Op. 31, serves as a curtain raiser, and Nelsons' energetic reading works very well: annotator Tobias Hell points out its thematic similarities (the Marche Slave was about the Serbian struggle against the Turks, Manfred about the Greek independence war). If this is not the last word on the Manfred Symphony, it is one that will be welcomed into many collections. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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Symphonies - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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Symphonies - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

From
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Symphonies - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

Dmitry Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 in C major, "Leningrad," has been extremely popular since it was premiered in 1942, and its use as wartime propaganda gave it legendary status among symphonies composed during World War II. Yet despite its supposed simplicity, and widespread publicity of the symphony as a symbol of resistance, it remains an enigmatic work that takes on new meanings and interpretations over the years. While he contemplated titles for the four movements, Shostakovich never supplied it with a program, so the symphony can be taken as absolute music that functions purely by its own formal design and expressive needs. Or it can be read as one of Shostakovich's profoundly personal testaments, where nothing is truly as it seems on the surface. Andris Nelsons may well have interpreted it in this light, for his handling of the piece's moods tends to emphasize veiled sonorities and dark turns of expression, aspects that would be played down in a more overtly heroic reading. Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra even play it with the elegiac tone and sardonic edge usually reserved for the Tenth or Fifteenth symphonies, giving the music a grieving and sometimes bitter tone that seemingly puts the lie to the victorious outcome of the Finale. This 2011 recording shows nothing of the manipulated wartime image of Shostakovich, but leans more toward an understanding of the composer that has emerged since his death in 1975: one of a troubled artist who suffered for his art, even when hailed as a hero in the service of the Soviet government. This performance is highly recommended for its insights, if not necessarily for the quality of the live recording. © TiVo

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Andris Nelsons in the magazine