COMPOSERS: Ives; Adams; Stravinsky; Dvorák
LABELS: C Major DVD
ALBUM TITLE: From the New World
WORKS: Ives: The Unanswered Question; Adams: Slonimsky’s Earbox; Stravinsky: The Song of the Nightingale; Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 (from the New World)
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 713408; Blu-ray: 1312115
In most ways, this is a terrific memento of a marvellous concert, whether viewed on DVD or Blu-ray. The performance of the New World Symphony from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons is out of the top drawer, with the same outstanding qualities as their audio recording (July’s Recording of the Month). Remarkably, for a work that might be thought hackneyed, Nelsons makes the Symphony sound fresh and vibrant, finding a genuinely new and effective perspective.
The other three works also make a fascinating progression, with Adams’s Slonimsky’s Earbox coming as a bit of a shock after Ives’s The Unanswered Question, but also seeming to provide an answer of its own. Adams’s debt to Stravinsky is clear once The Song of the Nightingale begins, yet this relatively early work itself provides an uncanny prelude to the Dvoπák. The playing is superb and Nelsons manages to surprise and delight without distorting the musical line.
It is a pity, then, that the recording has undermined what, in the concert, was clearly a remarkable opening. The strings in the Ives were, correctly, placed off-stage. They are supposed to be disembodied, so it shows a lack of courage and understanding to insist on filming them – if the audience are not supposed to see them, why should viewers? Moreover, with surround sound, it should be possible to convey the distance of the sound from the body of the hall, whereas the immediacy of sound here removes this sense of the ethereal. Frustrating.