Review by hiredfox November 26, 2009 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
|Let me say from outset that this is one of the most musically satisfying discs that I have bought in along time and the surely amongst the finest Exton recordings yet. It is unusual for Exton in two ways, firstly because the booklet carries extensive notes in English written by an English speaker, so not victim of the usual dodgy translations. Secondly the disc presents a complete concert programme recorded live, providing valuable insight into Manfred Honeck's ideas on programming. A bonus is genuine real time applause after each component.
The disc is characterised by sumptuous playing from The Pittsburgh Symphony, refined in detail, extraordinarily sensitive to the varying dynamics of this ever popular tone poem and essentially free of errors. A first class orchestra on top of it's game for sure. The DSD recording borders on perfection, beautifully balanced, articulated in the finest detail across a broad sound-stage and recreating an unexaggerated, totally convincing acoustic of Heinz Hall. Naturally, there are points of detail that could have been improved (if one wishes to nitpick) - as always in live recordings - most noticeably the far-too distant flugelhorns bordering on inaudibility at the conclusion of Des Helden Gefahren but nothing can be perfect.
This is the fourth or fifth version of Ein Heldenleben on SACD in my collection and by far the most deeply satisfying, a clear first choice for me. Of the other two pieces on this concert disc, the warm-up is the ever (over?)-popular Overture from Verdi's opera "La Forza del Destino" played with light-hearted panache, the concerto a World premier recording of "Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra" by the New Jersey composer Alan Fletcher ( a new name for me). Mr Fletcher was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Orchestra to compose a clarinet concerto for Michael Rusinek in the style of Samuel Barber, "the clarinet concerto that Samuel Barber never wrote.
It is an engaging piece in three movements worthy of a hearing. Having said that it is based on ideas about the "long line and tonal procedures reminiscent of Barber" and to an extent because of that it may strike some as too unoriginal. Filling 'a gap' with a facsimile may not qualify the piece for acceptance in the main repertory but it is an enjoyable 'listen'; other listener's must make up their own minds. I will listen to it again simply because it would not make great sense to play only parts of a disc that the producers had gone to great lengths to present as a whole.
Thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly recommended.
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