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Symphonies - Released May 27, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released April 30, 2013 | BR-Klassik

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - La Clef RESMUSICA
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Symphonies - Released July 31, 2015 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award
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Symphonic Music - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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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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Symphonic Music - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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A certain amount of acoustic reverberation is welcome in orchestral recordings, if it has been controlled for a particular effect, but it is omnipresent in Andris Nelsons' 2009 recordings of Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird and the Symphony of Psalms. From the very beginning of the complete music for The Firebird, resonance dominates and creates an aural haze that is so thick that details only emerge as if from a dense fog, and the timbres of certain instruments are blurred into an echoic cloud that seems almost artificially engineered. Other recordings made in Birmingham Symphony Hall by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra certainly have a vibrant acoustic quality, but it is so strong here, it must be a product of microphone placement, mixing, or both. Be that as it may, The Firebird survives this soft-focus reproduction much better than Symphony of Psalms, because its impressionistic colors and intensely lush, chromatic harmonies are already somewhat dream-like and mysterious, whereas the dry sonorities and punchy rhythms of the symphony need a much crisper presentation than they get here. The blurred textures and harmonies that are tolerable in The Firebird become a distraction in the Symphony of Psalms, and the work's dissonant counterpoint and lean, staccato chords bleed into each other in an unsatisfactory way, despite the impressive wall of sound that's created in fortissimo sections and the glorious sound that Nelsons and the orchestra produce on cadences. © TiVo
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Symphonic Poems - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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The three symphonic poems on this 2014 Orfeo release are among the most popular of Richard Strauss' orchestral works, and the live renditions by Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra give them considerable energy and color. The recordings of Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Juan, and Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche are drawn from several performances given in Birmingham Symphony Hall between 2011 and 2013, and as such they represent best parts of those concerts, though careful editing and mixing have made them seamless. The close microphone placement provides clear details, and many passages have the heightened presence of chamber music, so virtually every note can be heard clearly. Note the vibrant sound of the lowest instruments, particularly the contrabassoon, bass clarinet, tuba, and double basses, which add depth and occasionally a truly menacing quality to the music, notably in the darker sections of Also sprach Zarathustra. Nelsons' interpretations are spontaneous, fluid, and a little free in tempo, so it takes some getting accustomed to his use of rubato and rather rhapsodic treatment of the material. But this by no means diminishes the excitement and flamboyance of the playing, which shows the orchestra at its liveliest and most spectacular. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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This 2009 recording of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben and Rosenkavalier Suite with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra offers a clear image of conductor Andris Nelsons' style of interpretation. This was more difficult to see in his previous recording with the Birmingham musicians, a release featuring Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Hamlet overture, which raced from one extreme to the other, from very loud to very quiet, and from very fast to very slow, in a manner that seemed imposed on the music. Here, Nelsons' fluid but always controlled tempos fit more with the music's mercurial character, and in fact enhance it. In Ein Heldenleben, the hero seems bravely impetuous and his spouse sweetly seductive through Nelsons' adroit tempo modifications, and the Rosenkavalier Suite holds together because of Nelsons' use of tempo to articulate form. Anyone who enjoys Strauss' music is likely to be pleased with these performances. While the City of Birmingham Symphony does its best with these difficult scores, it still sounds like a provincial orchestra with somewhat scrawny strings and sometimes overly blatant brass. Orfeo's digital sound, though lush and warm, is not nearly as clear and detailed as it might be. © 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

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Symphonies - Released November 2, 2015 | Orfeo

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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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Symphonies - Released April 24, 2017 | BSO Classics

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Symphonies - Released April 24, 2017 | BSO Classics

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Symphonies - Released April 24, 2017 | BSO Classics

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Andris Nelsons in the magazine