Review by georgeflanagin November 22, 2006 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
|ADHD summary: As mentioned in the discussion thread, this is an unusual disc in terms of the ability to understand its target market. Sonically, it is excellent, and if you are interested in very early Mahler it may appeal to you.
 The Music
Mahler's not-quite-finished orchestration of Schubert's D810 is probably the kind of thing Senator Rick Santorum was worried about when he expressed his concern about "man on dog sex." It is not a finished work by Mahler, and a good bit of the Schubert has been removed in the adulteration.
The above comment should not scare you away from this recording, nor from exploring the superficially similar orchestration by Mahler of the Beethoven Op 95 quartet, nor the entirely different kettle of fish that is Schoenberg's orchestration of the Brahms Piano Quartet Op 25.
Also on this disc is the overplayed fourth movement of Mahler's Symphony #5. I am interested in why, given the large amount of relatively unexplored music there is for string and small orchestra, this movement pops up with such regularity. It is a wonderful ten minutes of music, but there are more interesting choices.
 The Performance and the Competition
Despite its flaws, I like the Mahler/Schubert work. There are a number of performances of this zoological misfit, and my favorite has long been the Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam on BIS CD-674 where this work is coupled with the Mahler/Beethoven amalgam.
The NSA performance is more brisk throughout, and the "coordination" of the orchestra is much better in the difficult first movement. There is less difference between the two in the remaining three movements, all of which are more enjoyable from a musical satisfaction than the first.
If you are unfamiliar with D810, the first movement has a number of angular figures in the music, and several abrupt halts that much easier to do with four instruments than with string forces of 8-6-5-4-2. As a result, the two choices seem to be (a) play it slowly, or (b) play it messy, with the latter being the usual course of action. That is because, like a lot of Schubert's music, the first movement is quite long, anyway.
Kiev Chamber Orchestra follows the crescendo / decrescendo markings carefully, whereas the NSA tends to play with a bit of terrace dynamics that seem more appropriate for a Mozart symphony.
On the Adagietto ... well ... no one is going to buy this disc to get 1/5th of a symphony, so there is not too much to say. The great tempo debate surrounding this music is resolved in the case of the Kiev Chamber Orchestra by taking the middle ground. From our music library we have:
08:33 Zander / Philharmonia (fastest)
09:57 Kofman / Kiev Chamber
11:53 Karajan / Berlin (slowest)
When compared to our other recordings of both these works, the double bass players in the Kiev play loud. Not only are they easy to hear, but they sound like they are pressing hard on their strings -- so, it is not just a question of the microphones' proximity.
 The Sound
As a photographer, I like the word "perspective." In photography, it largely means how close you are to the subject. If you have ever taken a self-portrait by holding the camera at arm's length, you are aware of how unnaturally rounded your face looks in such a photo.
The perspective of the sound on this disc is close, and the sound of the Kiev Chamber Orchestra wraps from wall to wall, even in two channel mode. The string sound is well integrated, and the balance of direct and reflected sound is natural and satisfying.
This is a good-to-very-good recording of a pleasant-but-bastardized piece of music.
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