Friday, March 31, 2017

Svendsen, Johan Severin. (1840-1911) Symphonic Works. CD 1.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 25-2-2010.
Second listen: 7-11-2011.
Third listen: 31-3-2017.
Label: CPO.
DC 1 from 3.
Recording dates: June 1997.
Recording venue: Reformatu Baznica, Riga.
Recording engineer: Vilnis Kaksis.
Running time: 68:36.
Classical relevance to me: This performance is of interest.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 1, opus 4 in D major.
No. 2, opus 15 in B flat major.

Works performed by:
Latvian National SO, Terje Mikkelsen.

We all think that Svendsen wrote 2 Symphonies, but that is not quite true.  His wife Sarah threw the manuscript of No. 3 which was completed after a long time working on it, into the fire in a fit of jealousy. The idea that the product of somebody's painstaking labors might go up in flames and smoke to satisfy personal revenge is just too horrible to imagine, and yet that is what happened.
So we have to do with two symphonies that survived such base motives to destroy it. For all I know she might have burnt all the efforts of his labors.
Anyway Mikkelsen's take on Svendsen is a mixed blessing for me. While he delivers workmanship performances, a bit robust and a tad deficient on detail and commitment, taken as a whole there is enough to enjoy. But be aware that there are better performances around as the present set. Mikkelsen does not really get to the heart of Svendsen's Symphonies, because the playing tends to be matter of fact, rather than to plunge emotionally and spiritually into background and motives of both scores. It keeps it's distance from the listener. It is by all means a enjoyable ride, but there is so much more in these beautiful works as is coming out.
The recording offers a lot of details and depth, but the acoustic is rather dry, and has in the second symphony some problems with keeping the timpani and basses from getting boomy. Not much, but enough to notice. Furthermore I would have liked the technician to keep away from the buttons while recording. In an ideal situation he would have set all to rights before starting. As it is he modifies the orchestral balance in the first symphony, and is adding reverb to the second symphony. Both changes are startling to my ears. Most of you will not hear this, so there's the comfort.




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