Sascha Goetzel conducts Respighi, Hindemith & Schmitt

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COMPOSERS: Hindemith,Respighi,Schmitt
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Respighi: Belkis, Queen of Sheba; Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber; Schmitt: The Tragedy of Salome
PERFORMER: Borusan Istanbul PO/Sascha Goetzel
CATALOGUE NO: 4048

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Istanbul is a European Capital of Culture for 2010, and this is the debut international release of its hometown Philharmonic, a full-size symphonic ensemble for over a decade, with ambitions to be one of Europe’s top ten orchestras.

Nearly all the players are Turkish, which undoubtedly contributes to the sinuously idiomatic contributions by individual players to the cunningly chosen opening item here, Respighi’s Belkis, Queen of Sheba, which draws liberally on oriental and Arabic influences for its melodic and rhythmic content. Exotically melismatic woodwind writing is a particular feature: a shrieking clarinet solo in the ‘War dance’ section fairly rips out of the speakers with uninhibited fervour.

Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis is a less obviously spiced-up proposition, but again has oriental elements, especially in the Scherzo (based on a tune from Weber’s incidental music for Turandot), with its dancing, concertante-style wind and brass contributions, and tolling tubular bells. Conductor Sascha Goetzel calibrates dynamic terracing particularly deftly here, disguising the potentially repetitive impact of Hindemith’s melodic writing.

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Goetzel also excels in Florent Schmitt’s festeringly erotic Tragedy of Salome, screwing the tension up expertly in the work’s many crashing climaxes, and drawing playing of hot commitment and intensity from the orchestra. Inter-sectional ensemble is not always perfectly co-ordinated, and while the recorded sound is generally vivid, there’s a certain mid-range mugginess in heavily scored passages. But overall this is a notably impressive calling-card, in a refreshingly unhackneyed choice of repertoire. Terry Blain