Author Topic: Interesting, iconic and iconoclastic recordings of The Prague Symphony.  (Read 1062 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Have at it!
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Offline Mandryka

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I just had a madeleine moment.

Many years ago I was driving at midnight though some rather glamorous parts of London, it was a Friday or Saturday night, midsummer. The streets were crowded with beautiful and rich people enjoying city life. And on the car radio was playing The Prague Symphony. And the combination of music and place made me very happy to be alive.

For no good reason, I just started listening to Herbert Blomstedt’s recording on Denon, and that sense of well-being returned very palpably. It made me think that I need to find a place in my life for Mozart’s symphonies again.

« Last Edit: July 02, 2022, 05:04:07 AM by Mandryka »
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Online Spotted Horses

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I think I first came to love the symphony in a Bohm recording which I now consider rather prosaic. I really learned what it is about with the Harnoncourt, RCO, which I had on vinyl.




Offline Florestan

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Pinnock, Kripps, Tate, Marriner.

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Offline Jo498

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That's probably the first Mozart symphony I distinctly remember hearing as a teenager. It was an LP of 38+39 with Sawallisch/Czech PO. I definitely got to know these two and even a few early ones before 40+41!
Almost 2 years ago I found that Sawallisch recording on CD (last 4 symphonies) but I think it's a bit too straightforward, good, but not very special. My first on CD was Harnoncourt/Concertgebouw. This certainly qualifies for excentric with large orchestra, Harnoncourtesque mannerisms slowish tempo in the first movement and all repeat, so it lasts almost 20 min...
The "classic" recommendation is Maag on Decca (ca. 1960). This is also rather straightforward but has more energy than Sawallisch and very good sound for the vintage, so its reputation is deserved. The later Maag with an Italian orchestra on Arts is a bit more flexible and lyrical, colorful smallish orchestra and also quite good.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
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Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline Mandryka

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15 years ago, which is about the last time I listened to this symphony, I was really impressed with the one here. So I’m giving it another go. Now the rubato just feels unnecessary and intrusive, but I’ve learned that how rubato feels is a very variable thing - one person’s meat is another person’s poison in the rubato department, and I can feel differently myself depending on how the wind blows.

More worryingly is a heaviness, unsmilingness.

Some of the older ones - the two Maags for example - are too blended a sonority for me. Big international symphony orchestra values, if not faultless implementation of those values. I want to hear the attacks and I want to hear the timbres, I don’t want all the music tidily aligned and sweetly consonant. Harnoncourt’s sound is one of the main positives about the  recording.
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Online Spotted Horses

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I have Bruggen, I don't recall what it is like. There is also Mackerras/Prague, which would be less homogenized than the traditional recordings (but with a harpsichord tinkling away). I seem to have remarkably few recordings of the Mozart symphonies, though I love them.

I stand by Harnoncourt, Concertgebouw, idiosyncrasies notwithstanding.

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Well I'm just gonna weigh in in favor of good ol' Bruno Walter, who wasn't HIP or anything, but man did he know how to conduct Mozart.

Both the Columbia SO and NYPO recordings are excellent.
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On the traditional side, Bohm who was such a marvelous Mozartean in all of his recordings.

Online Spotted Horses

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Well I'm just gonna weigh in in favor of good ol' Bruno Walter, who wasn't HIP or anything, but man did he know how to conduct Mozart.

Both the Columbia SO and NYPO recordings are excellent.

There is also Bruno Walter WPO (live) on DG.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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That's probably the first Mozart symphony I distinctly remember hearing as a teenager. It was an LP of 38+39 with Sawallisch/Czech PO. I definitely got to know these two and even a few early ones before 40+41!

Very interesting!
I rather like Jaap ter Linden, here.
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Offline VonStupp

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I believe Rafael Kubelik did another with Chicago on Mercury, but I think I prefer his Bavarian recording.

VS

« Last Edit: July 03, 2022, 06:58:19 AM by VonStupp »
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Online Spotted Horses

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I believe Rafael Kubelik did another with Chicago on Mercury, but I think I prefer his Bavarian recording.

I forgot I have that! :)

Offline Jo498

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I got this years ago but never listened to it because back then, DVDs were a hassle and I never mentally got used to the fact that they aren't any more with my current setup...

Quote
Some of the older ones - the two Maags for example - are too blended a sonority for me. Big international symphony orchestra values, if not faultless implementation of those values. I want to hear the attacks and I want to hear the timbres,
I think that's not quite fair about the second 1990s? Maag recording with a smallish Italian orchestra; sure, it's still far from HIP but not streamlined (in fact the coupled #39 is so mannered in the finale that I don't like it).
It's probably also too blended for you despite the dryish mono (or very early stereo) sound but a "tough"/lean and mean historical one is Markevitch/DG (not sure about details and availability, I have it in a box).
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Mandryka

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I got this years ago but never listened to it because back then, DVDs were a hassle and I never mentally got used to the fact that they aren't any more with my current setup...
I think that's not quite fair about the second 1990s? Maag recording with a smallish Italian orchestra; sure, it's still far from HIP but not streamlined (in fact the coupled #39 is so mannered in the finale that I don't like it).
It's probably also too blended for you despite the dryish mono (or very early stereo) sound but a "tough"/lean and mean historical one is Markevitch/DG (not sure about details and availability, I have it in a box).

No what I said wasn’t fair about the second Maag, which I enjoyed much more. Listened to Norrington (Stuttgart) this morning, and to Mackerras (Scottish) last night, but my mind has been rather occupied more by Reger op 74 than by this symphony!  I can say that the Mackerras was nicer than in memory - his Czech recording of the Prague used to be a favourite (but I can’t find it!)
« Last Edit: July 03, 2022, 08:01:58 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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A much more interesting sound on this Hogwood recording. Pretty conventional at the level of poetry, I mean there are no unexpected affekts. Alert, but still there’s something deeply unsatisfactory about it.  It’s as if I’m hearing a well oiled and well practised machine - all the pistons and cogwheels working perfectly in synch. I don’t like that, if that’s what classical music is about then I don’t have a place for it. I don’t think music should sound like it’s being played by a machine. I don’t want to single out Hogwood for a bashing, nearly all of them are like that. And Hogwood’s machine sounds good.




And this is the big big advantage of this Harnoncourt DVD. They don’t sound like clockwork. It’s just that, at the level of affekt, expression, they are revisionary and it takes a bit of mental adjustment. Maybe the way to put it is like this: Harnoncourt is more Don Giovanni than Cosi.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2022, 10:08:02 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Jo498

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The symphony has been related to both Don Giovanni (intro, first mvmt.) and Figaro (finale), certainly also because Prague had a special affinity with these operas. Even beyond the intro the first movement is very dramatic and often dark, e.g. the plaintive bassoon figure in the second theme group.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Online Spotted Horses

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I forgot I have that! :)

Started listening to the Kubelik/Chicago recording of Mozart Symphony No 38 on Mercury. Dreary in the extreme.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Started listening to the Kubelik/Chicago recording of Mozart Symphony No 38 on Mercury. Dreary in the extreme.

That's unfortunate.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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http://www.karlhenning.com/
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Offline Mandryka

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Started to explore this live one from Haitink in Dresden. Lovely sound, lovely orchestral sound, and a lively interpretation - it moves forward at all times, without ever feeling driven.
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