shostakovich • Tchaikovsky
Festival Overture, Symphony No 5
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Sokhiev
Young Russian impresses with this underrated French orchestra.
At the risk of sounding callous, Lorin Maazel did Sydney audiences a huge favour injuring his foot and cancelling a series of concerts with the Sydney Symphony in 2005. Apart from the fact that, generally speaking, he was well past his prime and had long become complacent rather than interesting, his two replacements turned out to be absolute crackers: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who achieved one of the greatest Bruckner Eights I’ve ever heard anywhere, and Tugan Sokhiev, a North Ossetian (like Gergiev) who turned in a magnificent Shéhérazade. Nézet-Séguin was recently named successor to Eschenbach in Philadelphia, but Sokhiev is also more than holding his own in Toulouse.
This Tchaikovsky Fifth succeeds, counter-intuitively, in that the listener needs to suspend the usual “Do we really need another…?” especially from a little-known conductor and an orchestra with no real Tchaikovsky tradition, in the company of such masters as Kempe, Karajan (multiple entries) Mvarinsky and even Klemperer’s astonishingly passionate version. I’m happy to report that these considerations were quickly discarded when I heard this rendition. From the first dark woodwind chords everything seems to gel.
I’m driven to the conclusion that there is always room for what I would call a splendidly “central” version of an oft-recorded symphony – central in the sense that there is no narcissistic distortion of tempi or phrasing, and no conducting which draws attention to itself rather than the score. Yet, the Toulouse orchestra plays with a surprisingly idiomatic touch, all the more impressive since this sort of music would hardly be in its standard repertoire. My only (minor) complaint is that the filler (hardly that!) is a wonderfully and dizzyingly played Shostakovich Festival Overture, making the total playing time barely 50’. Surely they could have found something else more substantial.
This article appeared in the June, 2012 issue of Limelight Magazine.
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