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Reviews: Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture - Gergiev

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Reviews: 9

Site review by Castor October 24, 2009
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by Oakland November 3, 2009 (14 of 18 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Anyone who needs another 1812, please raise your hand. Just what I thought; very few. Well, let’s be clear, this Gergiev disc has a host of compelling positives that go well beyond 1812 that makes this collection a most emphatic recommendation. Among them are the accompanying Tchaikovsky works, a couple which are rare (at least to me) and show just how brilliant and versatile a composer the man was, even when composing commissioned works (which all of these are) in as little as two weeks. The performances are engaging for the entire 64 minutes. Hey, I might even go so far as to say that the “1812” performance is the most enjoyable “modern” (last 30 years?) recording I have. (A Haitink/Philips LP released in 1973 remains my favorite recording. But to be fair I was “imprinted” on that recording). The Gergiev recording is very good, indeed (although perhaps less than “demonstration” quality because it is not exactly a model for the employment of “purist” minimalist microphone techniques), especially for large orchestral works.

The content of this disc had several surprises for me. When I first decided to make my purchase and saw references in the promo to “soloists and chorus” I assumed, wrongly, that the “1812 Overture” was a version that included voices. I had enjoyed the Telarc 1812 SACD (1999) largely for the choruses (the performance was not all that), especially the children’s choir, and that feature was a draw for me. I most likely would not have made the Gergiev purchase if I had known that this “1812” is, in fact, the traditional orchestral only version. But by the end of my listen I was only mildly disappointed given the excellent performance and excellent sound quality.

The bass and “cannon” fire on this disc, while short on “authenticism”, are nevertheless, quite effective and the pealing church bells are very well done. (Actually, the only 1812 recording that, for me, had cannon fire that was even remotely believable was the original Telarc LP (1979) and CD. Of course, that disc exhibited unmitigated and often destructive slam that caused its maledictory ban in many high-end shops here in the San Francisco Bay Area. But volatile and pronounced woofer excursion can occur and with more than ample challenges for the mid range, too, on the Gergiev disc. I would characterize the slam factor as “safe and sane”. But make no mistake; this is an all-hands-on-deck recording that can make extreme demands on all resources. (I listen in multi-channel).

And, importantly, the Gergiev discs validates that performance *does* matter, even with the “1812 Overture” a work that has been marginalized as having little imagination, substance, influence, importance, etc. There is a tangible but yet intangible vernacular zest and exuberance that permeates the performance (and defines the ethos for the entire disc) that show that the musicians really appreciate, love and feel the music. Yet there is no sense that the music is in anyway over rehearsed, that it is sculpted or that it’s phoned in. We are talking real electricity and passion with these performances.

“Moscow” Cantata ensured that the mild disappointment of a non-choral “1812” was short-lived by fulfilling my requisite wish for purchasing this disc in the first place, a substantive choral work. The “Moscow” Cantata turned out for me to be the crown jewel of this wonderful disc. The music, choruses, soloists, musicians, and sound quality come together in a glorious way. I found the mezzo-soprano, especially, in the two ariosos, and the baritone, also, to be compelling. The soloists and the chorus lend weight in just the right balance to the music.

The compositions on this disc all of which were commissioned pieces for specific festive occasions, while high quality, are not intended to be “complex” or especially inventive. For sure they are intended to inspire. They are thoroughly enjoyable, passionate and stirring of intuitive senses, but not especially erudite. You don’t have to “figure it out” or “ponder the meaning of life on earth” to relate to these compositions. As somewhat of an exception, “Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem” does add a layer of complexity that the other compositions may not exhibit. This appears to be a rarely recorded piece (unlike the “Festival Coronation March”, also on this disc), but happens to be a piece with which I am familiar. I own a Chandos LP performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Simon. At the time of the LP release (1981) the “Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem” was billed as “a first recording”. While certainly not “complex” this composition, intersperses among the rousing themes a multi-layering of concurrent themes, insightful pauses, and a smattering of brief solos to showcase musicians, without all sacrificing its primary mission to inspire. If you are not familiar with this piece I think you are in for a pleasant surprise.

The other two compositions on this disc, “Festival Coronation March” and the ubiquitous “Marche Slav” are equally well performed and well recorded and while certainly familiar to Tchaikovsky devotees still display a refreshing individuality as performed by the Marinsky Orchestra.

“Playability” is helped immensely in that the disc is cut at a relatively high level so you really don’t need a loud volume to get the desired effect. (While certainly truly "dynamic" these compositions don’t have a lot of "dynamic range". That is, there are not a lot of super quiet passages or dynamic contrasts so the listener need not worry about excessive dynamic range....except for, perhaps, the cannon fire).

If I were just rating the 1812 then this disc would get 4 1/2 stars. But the rest of the Tchaikovsky repertoire performed here easily elevates it to 5 stars.

Robert C. Lang

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Review by hiredfox November 22, 2009 (5 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Two excellent reviews of this disc have been posted above and cover pretty much everything I want to say about it so will not bore you stiff with repetitive prose.

I would urge you all to add this disc to your collection irrespectively of how many other recordings of these familiar pieces are archived in your libraries. This is an outstanding disc in every way, brilliantly conducted, superbly crafted by musicians on top of their game and top-class recording from James Mallinson, all of which adds up to a disc that is a 'no-brain' certainty for future awards.

The Mariinsky Orchestra & Valery Gergiev it seems just cannot help themselves produce outstanding performances for their new in-house label. Three winners out of three.. not bad, not bad at all!


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Review by DSD November 26, 2009 (13 of 27 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have a dissenting view, I have listened to the Mariinsky 1812 through both speakers and my Sennheiser headphones. I am sorry to say I am very disappointed in it's sound quality, not only of the sound of the orchestra but the bass fundamental of the cannon shots are totally missing in two channel stereo. I have the 1991 DSD recorded Telarc 1812 (SACD-60541) and the cannon shots have deep bass with not only tremendous impact but humongous physical size by contrast the Mariinsky 1812 cannon shots sound like pop guns with some low level bass rumble. The Telarc SACD cannons sound like real honest to god cannons using real live ammunition.

The cellos and basses lack the warmth and foundation so important to Tchaikovsky's music, the bass drum, timpani and other percussion instruments lack the impact of the Telarc SACD. By contrast Telarc's bass is firmer, solid and has more weight, it sounds more like the bass I hear in a concert hall.

I was so shocked at how poor this SACD sounds I played the Mariinsky Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 1 & 15 and this SACD while still not great in the deepest low frequencies was superb from the midrange up and sounded just like my PFO review stated . It has the amazing sparkling high frequencies I remembered which are greatly subdued on the Mariinsky Tchaikovsky 1812 SACD and it had the feeling of being in the presence of live musicians.

I recommend getting the 2nd Telarc SACD Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture etc. - Cincinnati Pops/Kunzel, the DSD recorded one which has the advantage of using chorus in the "1812 Overture" for it's deep realistic bass, flow of the music, the smoothness of the strings, warmer sound, more spectacular cannon shots and carillons.

Since Mariinsky records DSD I wanted this to be a great sounding recording, I was so disappointed when I heard it and I hope this is a fluke and their future recordings are of the sonic level of the Shostakovich.

Now that I have sonics out of the way, I was not too impressed with the performances themselves, I have heard many superior performances of the 1812 Overture and I prefer the use of chorus at the beginning as that sounds so "right" to me. I didn't like the Moscow Cantata at all. I did really enjoy the rarely played Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem even with the less than perfect sonics.

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Review by Steve Steckel December 8, 2009 (10 of 18 found this review helpful)
I would like to echo "DSD". I own many recordings of these pieces and most are FAR better, to my ears, than this disc under discussion. It sounds muffled and has little or no impact. I can't believe that John Newton engineered this recording. They hired a chorus for the "Moscow Cantata" why couldn't this same chorus have been used for the "1812"? The only piece that even rises to mediocrity here is the "Festival Overture On The Danish National Anthem". Anyone want this disc? Provide me with your mailing address and I will send it to you, at my expense. It will be worth it to clear space off my shelf for something worth-while. I am not doing a rating because each piece needs to be rated individually.

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Review by onenairb April 27, 2010 (7 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I was soooo looking forward to the arrival of this disk but it was an anti-climax. I would like to agree with the sentiments of DSD and Steve Steckel with respect to the 1812 Overture. I think this is a rather poor, lifeless and uninspiring recording with far better recordings on SACD (and DVD Audio) availible especially the Telarc mentioned by DSD. I don't know why Castor, Oakland or Hiredfox have rated this so highly. (Maybe they work for Mariinsky or LSO). I purchased the first 3 recordings on the Mariinsky label and was very impressed. Maybe my expectations were set too high but this is frankly an inferior mediocre effort IMHO.

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Review by Little Nemo March 13, 2013 (8 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I must say I don't get all the 5-star reviews of the sonics. I have to agree with those who gave poor sonic reviews. The cannons actually clip; that's why there is no bass energy in them. They simply exceed the amplitude limits of the digital format, so all that is left is a weak click where there should be a sonic boom. I suspect the recording was mastered too hot by mistake. Even the rest of the disc is not exactly mind blowing in terms of the sonics. You never get the sense that if you close your eyes the orchestra or vocalists are in the room; it sounds a bit processed and unnatural (the 2-channel, that is; I can't comment on the surround mix).

Must say I love the 2001 Kunzel SACD - I like the choral opening particularly, and the cannons have more than enough energy (some say too much) to give a fitting climax. It also has real 3-dimensional depth to the sound, unlike this one.

Not recommended.

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Review by Luukas January 31, 2014 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Well, I don't like this. I have two recordings of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Op. 49 (Kuchar(Naxos), Pletnev (DG)) and this isn't good performance.
1) Gergiev's tempi are too slow: the lyrical second theme is too hurry. Orchestra's playing is boring, they plays like a machine. The overture moves in the end, and Gergiev doesn't wait in emotionality moments.
2) There aren't real cannon shots. Mariinsky label's 5.1 multichannel recording is very humming and unclear; "cannons" shots aren't come from subwoofer. I recommend Telarc label's 7.1/5.1 multichannel recording of this work; there are real stunning cannon shots! But this release is awful.
The other pieces is performed very well (specially unknown "Moscow Cantata"), but there are better recordings of these works. Just OK, but I say that this is great disappointment. Don't waste your money, buy Telarc's release, it is marvelous!

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Review by wiggy57 December 22, 2014 (1 of 5 found this review helpful)
Has anyone experienced the same problem as I have with this disc. I have an Oppo Blu-Ray player and a Onkyo Receiver. When I play the climax to the main track, "1812 Overture", my amp keeps cutting out the cannons. It physically won't let me hear the cannons, it will play everything in between but not the cannons. I have tried the other 1812 Overture SACD that I have, and this plays fine, cannons and all. I have tried looking in the amps settings, but can't see anything that would cause the problem that I am getting.

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