Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 7. 1961.
Fine Arts Section
Fine Arts Section
Tchaikovsky, Romeo and Juliet. Fantasy Overtime. Nuteracker Suite, Op.7la. Phllharmonle Orchestra/Igor Markevitch. World Record Club. Tz 136.
World Record Club seem to be keeping up the good work: this week they Introduce a pleasant disc which has on it the most lyrical interpretation of the Nutcracker yet produced. Not calling upon any great amount of power or depth of sound, the Suite, If less attractive than Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, nevertheless has its merits. The Philharmonia plays marvellously; the woodwind has to be heard to be believed, they are 80 clear and vibrant (notice the Impressive bassoon sound in the Danse Chinolse). Likewise the strings and percussion are alive—notice how the sound of the latter appears to come for once from behind rather than in front of the body of the orchestra. Markevltch has treated the Suite to a delicate handling; with some extremely decisive and precise orchestral phrasing. The fantasy-overture fares worse. Though Markevltch again adopts a lyrical approach, the result is unconvincing. The Orchestra lacks power where needed—especially in the bases and cellos, and the tempi are ridiculously erratic. Of the Philharmonia ver-sians of Romeo, by far the most desirable is the ageing (1955) copy by Fistoularl.
Constantin Silvtestri. Overtures. Humperdinck. Haensel and Gretel. Mendelessohn. A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21. Glinka, Russian and Ludmilla. Rimsky-Korsakoy. May Night. Borodin. Prince Igor. Philharmonia Orchesitra/Constantin Sil-ventri. H.M.V. MALP 1749.
This is generally unimaginative playing; Silvestri does no justice to his usual competent standard, here Haensel and Gretel suffers chiefly from erraticity; the transitions between passages are very roughly defined and equally roughly accomplished. The Midsummer Night's Dream is, on the other hand, quite beautifully Interpreted, excepting the odd sour note from the brass, and the fortissimo rendering of passages, pianissimo. Here, the strings excel, as they do in Russian and Ludmilla, also a fairly competent reading, in which the woodwind and intonation is clean and sparkling, the timpani too loud, the bass pizzicato inaudible. May Night and Prince Igor finish the selection: the former, folky overture is not terribly Inspiring music, but receives a fair (apart from some horrible, fuzzy horn playing) performance. The Borodin too is only fairly successful; "only fair" in fact, by virtue of the irregularity of the tempi—Silvestri has gone to absurd lengths in this overture. The recording throughout is very clear, with little surface noise.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. (a) Tannhaieuser: Dich, teure Halle; Allmacht'ge Jungfrau. (b) Der Freischuetz: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer; Und ob die Wolke. (c) Lohengrin: Elnsam in trueben Tagen; Euch Luften, die meln Klagen. Philharmonia Orchestra (a and b) Walter Susskind and (c) Heinz Wallberg with Christa Ludwig (mezzo-soprano). World Record Club. Tz 137.
Schwarzkopf is a soprano of magnificent stature. Her exquisite voice is exemplified here, in the beautiful music to which she sings. Her poignancy as the maid Elsa, in Wagner's moving hymn of praise is matched only by her faultless, spirited creation of Weber's remarkable heroine, Agathe. In all she sings with surety of character and clarity of expression (only in the extreme upper register becoming slightly hazy in her enunciation). In this, the best of the single Schwarzkopf discs available, all the fire and maturity possessive in a great voice has been resourcefully and warmly transferred to the operatic heroines—Agathe. Elsa and Elisabeth. There is a slight air of theatricality in Euch Luften, die meln Klagen, but nothing significant. Credit must go to Christa Ludwig as a fine machinating Ortrud, to the Orchestra, and to the conductors—especially Walter Susskind. as the best person in this field of work I know of.
Chopin. Polonaises, Nos. 1-6. Mal-cuzynski (piano), Columbia 33 Mcx 1690.
Apart from one other recording (by Stefan Askenase), this appears to be the only six-Polonaises set that has come out in recent years; Rubinstein's disc has been reissued once, first appeared in 1953. This is a wholly satisfactory account of these works, played by Malcuzyn-ski in the traditional grand manner. He has managed to capture the intense emotivity inherent in the pieces; from the magnificent pages of the darkly sombre C-sharp Minor to the tritely exciting A major. His dynamics are keen and extended; lesser pianists have been accused of disflavouring the often-played Chopin, not so Malcuzynski: the playing seldom becomes cloudy—even in the most ardent of passages—the attitude never lapses. He has successfully combined a marvellous technical efficiency with accuracy, beauty and artistry of tone: the result being the best played album of Chopin polonaises (Including Rubinstein's by a fraction), to yet appear. Two points—some badly dropped notes in the A-flat Major, and a poor idea of pianissimo in certain passages.
An Average Night ...
It is quite obvious, from the account given by the National Orchestra in Its last red concert series, Rolf Llebermann and Hon-egger are two Inferior musicians. In attempting to surmount the difficulty of interpreting the former's brash Furioso, and the biatantly absurd Honegger Fifth Symphony, John Hopkins lost himself completely in the mire and bog that is this (music) ? What pretensions either gentleman has to musical aspiration I know not; that both are given to the trite, banal, raucous and atonal, is indication enough of their significance—pitifully small; enough to suit their need. It proved embarrassing to listen to, I have little doubt it was painful to perform. In between these two articles came Berlioz' Royal Hunt and Storm: satisfying music in a way, but tonight, unimaginatively played.
To complement, or rather contrast the Initial half of the concert, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor proved a satisfactory Inclusion. Visiting artist William Pleeth played with distinction and the necessary reserve, the Interpreting of Elgar particularly calls for. His style is neither Insipid nor exclusively brilliant; It is a compromise—as he showed here, clean, lucid and secure; his harmonics came across very well, indeed, only once or twice did his bowing fall to draw from the music, the beautiful lyricism of Elgar. Mr Pleeth's rendering of the work, was, if anything. just short of the definitive. Dvorak's Scherzo Capriccioso was written in the composer's twenty-second year; it is a lively and colourful piece, revealing as it does, many traits clearly visible in his later symphonies and chamber music. It was treated to an exciting but rather flashy reading—unfortunately though, not too flashy, as to remove the bad odour exuded in the earlier stages by the combined efforts of Messrs. L. and H.
Ballado O Scmalz
It is one necessary evil of the Western cinema audience, to take what passes as foreign cinema, as passing as. if not unusual, then at least, very good. People tend too often towards dispassionate praise of some-come-quickly exotic cinema; whether, it is in fact, inferior to an Hollywood or Ealing equivalent: and to point to the un-apparent merits in films from foreign climes, whilst overlooking or ignoring the beauty "sometimes" available in the domestic product. This would appear to suit the case of Ballado o Soldatie, a second-rate Soviet movie about war; nonetheless, the recipient of much deserved praise, and many prizes.
A frail—but in no way tenuous—plot, woven from halting moments in the life of a soldier returning home on leave, has been sincerely dealt with, but has no great substance or Imaginative phrases from which a capable director might have profited. Grigori Chukhrai exploits all the better known graphics of the cinema, and some of the lesser known ones too: his use of the Dovzhenko close-up is congruous; his overuse of certain shot constructions, tedious. The one real merit of the film is in the performance of Shanna Prokhorenko and Vladimir Iva-shov (both from the State Institute of Cinematography), as the young couple. They display little amount of technique and learned acting, but are nevertheless, pure and fresh in their attempts.
Chukhrai's earlier film, The Forty First, was in every way much more satisfying material. It is amazing how a film such as Ballado can be praised so highly, on such unwarranted ground, it is. In fact, no better (or worse) than an average American or English product. The English dialogue dubbing, finally, is the most ludicrous, most nonsensical effort of cheap commercialism I have ever seen and heard.