I was eagerly anticipating this release, as I'm an admirer of Janowski's conducting. And to hear him work his magic with the Pentatone team - well, perhaps my expectations were set too high.
First, just a side note - do not be momentarily enticed, as was I, by seeing the words "Boston Symphony" on the cover. Janowski is not conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but rather the WDR Symphony Orchestra. Hindemith's Concert Music for Strings and Brass was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and that work is sometimes referred to as the "Boston Symphony". Now that we've got that cleared up, let's get to the music.
Beginning with the Symphonic Metamorphosis, things do not start promisingly. The tempos are so fast, that Janowski merely skates the surface of this music, seeming to regard it as just an "audience pleaser" lollipop. Indeed, the March is taken so absurdly fast, it is not the least bit thrilling (as it absolutely should be), but instead is a mad-dash, helter-skelter race to the end. All those myriad details in the winds and, especially strings, are completely lost in the scramble. Even if the finest orchestra in the world could actually play all those notes at this speed, Janowski could not possibly care less if they were there or not.
Moving on to Nobilissima Visione, tempos are more sensibly judged. But, here the monotony of uninspired, uninvolving lack of interest sets in. It plods along until at last we reach the end. I find it annoying that Hindemith can be made to sound so utterly bland.
Finally, we reach the point in the program where, perhaps after coffee has been served to everyone involved, the music-making takes flight and we at last hear some real Hindemith. In Concert Music for Strings and Brass (aka "Boston Symphony"), the playing achieves new heights and a sense of dramatic involvement not attained in the preceding works. Janowski finally finds something in Hindemith which seems to inspire him. The playing here is glorious; the singing, yearning string lines, the rich golden brass interjections, imaginative and truly lovely solo playing sprinkled throughout each section, along with some real excitement.
Pentatone provides absolutely glorious sound, as usual. It is richly upholstered, with golden brass and silky strings, in a warm (but not too reverberant) acoustic. Lost details, as noted above, are not the fault of the recording engineers. No, that issue lies solely with Janowski.
So, in the end, this is a mixed bag. The "Boston Symphony" deserves a full recommendation; but unfortunately the rest can easily be passed over.
Leave a Reply.