The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra play Carter and Ives

'The playing under Emilio Pomàrico is colourful and exceptionally accurate for a live recording'

COMPOSERS: Carter; Ives
ALBUM TITLE: Carter • Ives
WORKS: Carter: Symphonia – Sum fluxae pretium spei; Ives: Robert Browning Overture*
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Emilio Pomàrico, *Stefan Asbury


Carter’s Symphonia was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Oliver Knussen in 1998, and recorded by them shortly after. Having conducted Carter’s music for many years, Knussen’s recording has a love and detail this newcomer doesn’t quite equal. Yet the playing under Emilio Pomàrico is colourful and exceptionally accurate for a live recording, and enjoys brighter and more immediate sound.

The opening Partita flows well, but there could be more specificity of character in the interweaving lines and gestures. The central Adagio tenebroso is even slower than in Knussen’s performance, yet its dark character can withstand this, and its less busy textures have clarity and balance, although Pomàrico’s vocalising is intrusive at times. The climax is less shattering though, and the moments of warmth in what is mostly a grim, lurching processional aren’t as well served, despite some distinguished solo playing. If honours are more even in the scurrying finale, Pomàrico’s singing remains quite intrusive. Knussen’s recording, now issued at bargain price, remains first choice.

The Robert Browning Overture is most successful in its quieter sections, although I’m sure that Ives would have approved of the hectic quality in the rest of the piece. Another live performance, it was probably very exciting for the audience, but not quite coherent enough for repeated listening.


Martin Cotton