Pairing evergreen works by Dvorak and Mussorgsky, this superb video from Belvedere featuring the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the incomparable Mariss Jansons is a musical feast. Ever since its world premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall on December 15, 1893, Dvorak's American-flavored Symphony No.9 has been a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire. Similarly, thanks to Ravel's superb orchestration, Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is a perennial audience favorite.
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, written in the aftermath of the deaths of three of his children, is a sober and powerful work, inexplicably neglected and unlike any other work of choral music from the 19th century. Perhaps most performances don't capture its full weight, but this live recording from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mariss Jansons, does so. There are many deep pleasures here. The orchestra's choir is extraordinary: rich yet without a hint of wobble and utterly clear in its sense of the text. Jansons keeps things at a deliberate pace that lets the music breathe and the currents of personal experience rise to the surface. The soloists, none terribly well known, are fine in their individual numbers, but absolutely transcendent in ensembles, nowhere more so that in the sublime "Quando corpus morietur" finale (track 10); there are a couple of other strong recordings of this work, but it seems likely that no one has ever matched this conclusion. The live recording from the Herkulessaal in Munich is impressively transparent and faithful to the spontaneity of the event. A superb Dvorák release.
Hollow pathos is not his thing. From an artist like Mariss Jansons Friedrich Schiller’s Ode: “An die Freude” must receive a far deeper significance, which also fully encompasses the doubt and profound hope embodied in this text. And thus, in Jansons’s recording of the Ninth Symphony, the choral finale does not degenerate to mere superficial orgy of jubilation, but rather becomes a delicately balanced, wisely developed drama. On October 27, 2007, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks played Beethoven’s Ninth in the presence of the Pope in the Vatican. The recording of this memorable concert is now being released in the highest audiophile recording quality as a multi-channel SACD.
This release comes as quite a surprise. Although John Lucas in his 1993 biography of Sir Reginald Goodall refers in a footnote to the existence of a BBC radio recording of the performance of Boris Godunov given at the Royal Opera Covent Garden on 10 June 1961 under Goodall’s baton, he does not list it in his discography of the conductor’s work in the same volume. It was in the event — with the exception of a single performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel — the last conducting engagement undertaken by Goodall at Covent Garden for ten years. When he next appeared in the pit at the Royal Opera to conduct Parsifal – a BBC recording of one of those performances has already emerged on CD – he had already established his reputation as a Wagnerian. But he had always enjoyed critical approval for his interpretation of Boris, and the appearance of another opera in the sparse representation of Goodall on disc is to be wholeheartedly welcomed.