Shostakovich: Jazz & Variety - Litton
BIS BIS 2472
Classical - Orchestral
Shostakovich: Jazz Suite, Age of Gold Suite, Limpid Stream Suite, Suite for Variety Orchestra, Tahiti Trot
Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - April 27, 2022
Here is a marvellously played and recorded programme that, for sure, will brighten up anyone’s day.
The photograph on the back of the liner notes of this SACD shows Shostakovich at an FC Spartak Moscow football match in 1942 and the expression on his face matches that which I would expect to see on most listeners faces when they audition this recording.
Shostakovich’s chameleon-like ability to embrace successfully very different musical styles and genres is now well-known, and over the past thirty years his many film scores, ballets and other light music have become familiar to audiences both in the concert hall and on disc.
Though the five works in this collection are already available on SACD in various combinations, (often in versions now increasingly difficult to find) this one is definitely a winner not only for the fine playing of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, who perform these pieces with confidence and joie de vivre, but also Andrew Litton’s supple direction throughout.
Most of the works recorded here are of music composed in the late 1920s and 1930s and captivate with their brilliant orchestration, wit, charm and toe-tapping melodies. These characteristics are typified in the ‘Suite for Jazz Orchestra No.1’ from 1934 (which Litton here conducts and plays the piano part) and the later ‘Suite for Variety Orchestra’ that gained much of its current popularity from its use of the haunting ‘Waltz No.2’ in the Stanley Kubrick 1999 film ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, but its other seven movements are equally attractive.
Turning to the ballet, we are treated to an appropriately rumbustious account of the familiar Suite from ’The Age of Gold’ followed by the possibly less familiar but equally entertaining Suite from ‘The Limpid Stream’ arranged by Konstantin Titarenko. The latter includes, as the fourth of its five movements, a lovely adagio that features a ravishing cello solo played with notable elegance and sensitivity by Ng Pei-Sian the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s Principal cellist.
During a tour through the Ukraine, Shostakovich and the conductor Nikolai Malko heard a recording of the Vincent Youmans song ‘Tea for Two’ from the musical ‘No, No, Nanette’. Malko challenged Shostakovich that he couldn’t write the song down and orchestrate it in an hour. Apparently the composer gave Malko the completed score in 45 minutes! This short piece, called ‘Tahiti Trot’ rounds off Litton’s delicious programme.
It only remains to note that the BIS multi-channel recording made at the Esplanade Concert Hall in August 2019 is impeccably engineered by Fabian Frank (Arcantus Musikproduction) and producer Robert Suff with a wide and finely detailed soundstage.
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