Saturday, January 28, 2012

Awards 2011 - Symphony

Suk: Asrael
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Mackerras

Was there an element of sentiment involved in Charles Mackerras's win here? He had died a little less than a year before reviewers got to listen to this album, so perhaps they allowed their judgement to be clouded a tiny bit. But it's clear the disc won on its own merits: Fanfare's Jonathan Woolf calls it "a performance of grip, precision, structural acuity, and expressive power". In Gramophone, Rob Cowan notes that "It's always problematical when a new recording has to confront rivalry from an almost impossibly great benchmark... in this particular context, Václav Talich's 1952 Czech Philharmonic recording". But, he points out, "Mackerras actually learnt Asrael from Talich and this performance... betrays an almost symbiotic identification with the music". Jan Smaczny in BBC Music Magazine calls this recording "the closest to the definitive version we have".

Korngold: Symphony; Much Ado about Nothing
Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg/Marc Albrecht

Walton: Symphonies nos.1 & 2
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins

Borodin: Symphonies nos.1-3
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz

Shostakovich: Symphony no.10
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko

I completely failed to predict this one. I was pretty sure Petrenko had it: his Shostakovich won the Symphony Award in 2009 and was runner-up in 2010 - and in fact under 2011's rules he would have won it then because he was pipped by what I would now classify as an Archive recording, Mahler from Klaus Tennstedt. But ARG wasn't so keen. Is it always ARG that's the downer? Not always. This year was clearly a good one for a particular kind of symphony - ones a classical enthusiast probably knows already but that are not necessarily counted among the elite.

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