Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Smetana - Bartered Bride, 'From my Life' - Simon, London Symphony






Smetana - Bartered Bride, 'From my Life' - Simon, London Symphony
Symphonic | Eac, single flac, cue | log, cover | 1 CD, 242 MB
October 28, 1992 | Chandos | RapidShare



Geoffrey Simon and the LSO give splendidly exuberant performances of The bartered bride pieces, but the interest of this record is of course George Szell's orchestration of the string quartet.

He made it in 1940, and conducted the first performance the following year with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, having, he said, hesitated long about the propriety of such enterprises. One can only judge by the outcome. Szell's insistence that he "had not changed a note" can be taken with a pinch of salt, incidentally: especially in the last movement, there is a good deal of extraneous matter, though this seems to me to be less disturbing than the arrangement of the earlier movements. The material of the original opening Allegro undoubtedly extends the expressive and technical range of the string quartet, but not beyond its capabilities; indeed, in the very extending to a point of tension lies a crucial part of the expression. Doubling the opening viola melody with horns is the natural thing to do in the circumstances, and the second subject lends itself to more varied orchestral treatment; but the material is actually weakened, in my view, by being coloured in like this. The Largo opens as in the original with a solo cello, with full strings answering; the effect is to sentimentalize. The A/la polka that precedes it goes better: it is cheerfully scored in the manner of The bartered bride. So far, it is all really no more than an orchestration exercise such as is done, not always with such distinction, by advanced students, and as such could be left in a conductor's bottom drawer.

The finale, I have to admit against my better judgement, is rather effective; and the reason is that Smetana somewhat changes the nature of what he is doing. When the autobiographical element in the work reaches the moment of his deafness and the dreadful tinnitus that struck him, the colours of the orchestra become effective. The high E is on piccolo as well as violin; it is answered by a quartet of horns at one point, and so on. It must have been an enjoyable exercise for Szell to do, but this is really the most that can be said. It does not enhance, but diminishes, the experience of the original quartet. J. W.


CD Content

# Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), opera, JB 1:100 Overture
# Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), opera, JB 1:100 Dance of the Villagers
# Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), opera, JB 1:100 Polka
# Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), opera, JB 1:100 Furiant
# Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), opera, JB 1:100 Fanfare
# Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), opera, JB 1:100 Dance of the Comedians
# String Quartet No. 1 in E minor ("Z mého, zivota," "From My Life"), JB 1:105


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