This England - Kalmar
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186471
Classical - Orchestral
Elgar - Cockaigne (In London Town), Op. 40
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 5
Britten - Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia Op. 33a & b
The Oregon Symphony
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Review by Graham Williams - December 12, 2012
The previous release from Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony Orchestra was something quite special Music for a Time of War - Kalmar, and if this new SACD doesn't quite measure up to the earlier disc it is no fault of the conductor, the orchestra or the excellent recording from the Soundmirror team. It is simply that each of the works featured here faces considerable competition from the many versions currently available on CD.
Kalmar has already demonstrated his considerable empathy with English music and once again his performances here are immaculately prepared and executed marvellously by his Oregon players.
Elgar's Cockaigne Overture (In London Town) making a welcome first appearance on SACD is a total success. This tricky piece presents no problems for Kalmar who confidently negotiates the many varied and frequently changing moods in this work. The orchestra responds enthusiastically to his direction while the recording thrillingly captures the visceral slam of the bass drum and the rasp of the rich Oregon brass.
The 5th Symphony of Vaughan Williams dates from 1938 and is closely related to the composer's opera 'A Pilgrim's Progress'.It uses material from the opera in three of its four movements and its predominantly modal style and restrained lyricism presents special challenges for conductors.
Kalmar's performance is beautifully controlled and deeply felt (tempi are closer to those of Boult than Haitink ). Perhaps overall it lacks a little of the sense of tranquillity found in some of the finest versions of the work – especially the one by André Previn and the LSO from the 1970s – but nevertheless Kalmar's assimilation of, and engagement with, this music is self evident. The central rhapsodic 'Romanza' features some lovely solos from cor anglais, violin, viola and horn, so it is unfortunate that a cough some two minutes into the movement disturbs the mood of rapt serenity that Kalmar has so carefully achieved.
'Dawn', the first of the 'Four Sea Interludes' from Britten's opera 'Peter Grimes', also suffers from a small amount of unwelcome audience participation, though again this will only be of concern to the hypersensitive listener. Kalmar's account of these interludes is masterly and it is pleasing to see that he has included the 'Passacaglia' from Act 2 of the opera whose theme is the music for Grimes' tortured cry of '...and God have mercy upon me!' earlier in the same Act. His slow-burn approach to this piece pays dividends as it builds to a searing climax. The graphic final 'Storm' has a convincing vehemence and urgency.
The works on this SACD were recorded at public performances in Portland on February18 and 19 2012 (Vaughan Williams and Elgar) and May12,13 and 14 (Britten). As I have indicated the engineers have achieved a vivid and realistic sound quality in spite of the difficulties of live recording. Orchestral detail is exceptionally clear whilst timpani and percussion are especially well reproduced.
A clear recommendation is warranted.
Copyright © 2012 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net