One of the “selling points” of John Storgårds’ new recording of Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony (The Year 1905) with the BBC Philharmonic is that it uses real church bells rather than orchestral tubular bells for possibly the first time since the original recording by the Leningrad Phil. They are interesting but that’s not the main reason to buy this disk. There are two far stronger ones. It’s extremely well played. Storgårds conjures up an almost unbearable amount of tension and it never really relaxes. This is a performance that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout. Needless to say, he’s very well backed up by the BBC’s Salford based orchestra who produce exceptionally lovely string tone and brass that is emphatic without quite the “teeth on edge” quality of some Russian orchestras.
The TSO’s opening concert of the season at Roy Thomson Hall was quite boldly conceived. Basically hand the evening over to the powerhouse duo of soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan and violinist/conductor John Storgårds and see what they come up with. It was an excitingly eclectic programme which produced some great performances but a sadly disappointing turn out.
This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
This CD contains four recent works by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. With the recent announcement of his death they are no doubt among his last and are representative of his final stylistic period in which he abandoned earlier experiments in dodecaphony, use of bird song etc to return to a high romantic style reminiscent at times, inevitably, of Sibelius and even more, perhaps, of Dvořák, though always, always sounding like Rautavaara.