Borodin: Symphony No. 2/Kleiber

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

This is fun if you’re either a Kleiber or a Borodin maven. Both of these performances are relatively well-known: Erich Kleiber’s NBC performance from its Music and Arts incarnation (referenced as the source for this issue as well), and his son’s Stuttgart Radio recording from about a zillion pirate issues on labels that deserve oblivion, if they haven’t earned it yet. What makes these interpretations so interesting is that they are in some ways quite different. Carlos, for example, is considerably quicker in the outer sections of the scherzo and in the slow movement, and for all his much vaunted discipline his performance comes across as less taut than his father’s slightly more measured but also more rhythmically precise rendition. The first movements and finales, though, are much closer to each other in general demeanor, being notably cogent, unfussy, and intelligently phrased.

In short, both performances are excellent in their various ways and display a high degree of excitement, musicality, and respect for the score, even if neither orchestra offers the last word in collective virtuosity. The sound of the 1947 NBC broadcast is hardly the best from this source, having little dynamic range and a boxy quality, but it’s also more than clear enough to hear what’s going on in the orchestra in sufficient detail. The Stuttgart recording, from 1972, is perhaps a touch studio-bound as well, but otherwise it’s very much up to the high standards of German radio engineering of the day. The sound rating reflects the Carlos Kleiber performance only, which is the reason I suspect most people will want this disc; but having dad along for the ride is a considerable bonus, and as I said, if you’re a maven, then this is as good as it gets.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Tjeknavorian (RCA)

ALEXANDER BORODIN - Symphony No. 2 (two performances)

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