Manze’s Muffled RVW Antartica and Ninth

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

Have today’s conductors and orchestras forgotten how to play loudly? I sometimes wonder. Perhaps Manze’s baroque bona fides hamper him in more opulently scored music; but then, in his original element as a period instrument violinist, he was as flashy and showy as they come. Why doesn’t that virtuoso impulse translate to a flat-out, technicolor extravaganza like the Sinfonia Antartica (complete with annoying narration before each movement that isn’t tracked so that you can ignore it)? I don’t know. What I do know is that the music needs more glitz and glamor, more swagger, more humor in the second movement, more terror in the third, and in general just plain more of everything.

The Ninth isn’t as extrovert a work, but it suffers from the same liabilities in this performance. The saxophones don’t snap and snarl as they should in the scherzo, and the climaxes lack heft. The very last explosion before the end features a bang on the cymbals and a crash on the tam-tam that ought to be loud enough to wake the dead. Adrian Boult, in his first recording for Everest, had the London Philharmonic whack the daylights out of it. This is not a moment for delicacy, but Manze lets these opportunities to show some musical muscle pass by without comment. The playing isn’t bad, of course. Manze and the band know this stuff, and have the chops for it. Both symphonies are smartly paced and there’s a lot of fine solo work, but it’s all just so damn lacking in charisma. RVW, as we all know, was quite a personality. You’d scarcely know it here.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: No 7 (Previn/LSO); No. 9 (Boult 1)

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