Korngold: Symphony in F sharp; Much Ado About Nothing Suite

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Korngold
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Symphony in F sharp; Much Ado About Nothing Suite
PERFORMER: LSO/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: 453 436-2
As one of Korngold’s most substantial orchestral works, the F sharp major Symphony, has already received some attention in the recording industry, with fine performances conducted by Downes and Welser-Möst respectively on Chandos and EMI. Now Previn joins the league, providing the performance with the most magic so far. Especially strong in this version are the paradoxical qualities of the piece; the opening clarinet solo is made lyrical and tragic, rather than jagged against the aggression of the orchestra’s terse, biting chords, while in the slow movement the struggle between major, minor and tonal instability is clarified with a sensual response to the marvellous harmonies. The unison orchestral outburst in the first movement is given an admirable build-up of tension and contained power. The most striking moment is perhaps the return of the third movement theme during the finale: mysterious, almost mystical brass chords appear eerily out of the jolliness. The resonant sound quality enriches the slow movement but the inordinate echo length does spoil the important silences in the first movement.

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The filler, the delightful Much Ado About Nothing suite, is sadly minus its glittering first movement. But Previn directs the remainder as it needs to sound – pure Viennese cappuccino, full of heart and lightness, vigour and luxury. Jessica Duchen