BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”; RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales – The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/ Giuseppe Sinopoli – Helicon 02-9653, 68:05 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
From the live concert 28 October 1993 from the Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, we have a thoughtful, disciplined Eroica Symphony from Giuseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001), whose work in psychology, medicine, and original music composition made him a probing force in creative expression. Similar to the Eroica conceptions from fellow Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, Sinopoli favors a linear lyrical approach, especially milking the E Minor melody that serves to seduce us into thinking Beethoven could accept a spirit of compromise in regard to the disjunction between harmony and rhythm in the first movement. And when the brass do synchronize the relationship and blare out with assertive force the marriage of true minds, the effect proves quite colossal. The purity of line Sinopoli educes from the IPO strings and winds warrants kudos all its own.
Sinopoli’s expansive Marcia funebre: Adagio assai, opening with the bass fiddles’ imitation of snare drums, attains a sustained, taut homogeneity of mood that well defines the heart of the symphony. The C Major interlude achieves a valedictory sense of triumph, or Paradise Lost. The churning strings, rolling tympani, and brass pageantry dissolve into halting tears, and the mournful procession renews itself, moving to the sustained fugue, in which the IPO divided strings evince with the winds and fateful tympani an unearthly, valedictory effect. The intimacy of the last pages, ending with a kin of stuttered statement of the march motif, leaves us bereft of heroism. Agile, fleet energy, however, marks the Scherzo, the running staccati in the strings suddenly bursting with whistling panache via a scale into the winds and horns. The excellently played hunting-horn Trio suggests what Sinopoli could bring to his Weber and Bruckner. A hustling fanfare opens the famous theme-and-variations of the Finale: Allegro molto, with its rough humor after Beethoven’s several incarnations of his “Prometheus” ballet tune. The oboe announces the theme proper, and Sinopoli’s responsive bass fiddles fill the sonority. Then, the usual agogics and polyphony ensue, bright in color and large in orchestral mass. The IPO flute, having been brilliant thus far, extends his virtuosity further. A maelstrom of a coda, horns pouring thunder, concludes this reading, and we must guess at the audience reaction.
The Ravel set of eight Valses nobles et sentimentales (1912), after the Beethoven, rather shock our nervous system as they deconstruct Schubert into sound clusters and rhythmic or melodic kernels tinged by the composer’s exotic colors. Several of these languorous pieces seem left over from the ballet Daphnis et Chloe. Dalliance and whimsy alternate and interchange so smoothly that any real passion becomes superfluous. Eminently transparent, the IPO string and woodwind forces under Sinopoli dream their way through the elegantly mazy lines in Ravel’s mock-Viennese divertissement, a rare moment when the conductor might have been mistaken for Martinon or Boulez.
Inspired and Inspiring…