Monday, August 6, 2012

Gliere & Ginastera: Harp Concertos, Etc

"a marvellously enjoyable disc." --Gramophone Magazine

If you are decadent enough to have your CD sound piped through to the bathroom, this is the kind of disc you would surely enjoy there. As JBS noted in reviewing the reissued performances on mid-price Decca, Glière's concertos are unashamed Easy Listening. Composed in 1938, though most of it could have been written 50 or more years earlier, the Harp Concerto is anodyne and ingratiating throughout – and absolutely irresistible if you are in the mood. Rachel Masters is every bit as fluent an exponent as Osian Ellis, and the generous acoustic of All Saints Church, Tooting allows every note to hang deliciously in the air.

The Concerto for coloratura soprano is another mellifluous and undemanding piece. Undemanding for the listener, that is; for the soprano it is a merciless examination of breath control and intonation, with no consonants to articulate, no vowels to colour the sound, and no text to guide the interpretation. Eileen Hulse sails through with scarcely a hint of distress; she even adds some phrases not in the printed Kalmus score, taking her up to an exquisite E in all (from 2'33", bars 140 to 155 in the second movement). It's a pity her final top F fractionally overshoots, but in general I prefer her sensitively blended chamber-music approach to the blowsier operatic delivery of Dame Joan Sutherland (who opts for the lower octave at the end). Neither singer can avoid parts of the faster second movement sounding like a castrato version of The Laughing Policeman.

Gliere's lush late romanticism and Chandos's house-style recording are a marriage made in heaven. But Ginastera's 1956 Concerto is another matter. A colourful display piece, thoroughly Latin American in feel and with a particularly attractive Bartókian Night-Music central movement, its style is generally about half-way between that composer and Bernstein. Much of the scoring is quite heavy when the harp is not playing, and in this instance some of the colours tend to run in the acoustic wash. Having said that, this is another crisp and rhythmically alert performance from soloist and orchestra alike, completing a marvellously enjoyable disc.

No comments:

Post a Comment