BRAHMS: Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80; Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53; Haydn Variations, Op. 56a – Yvonne Naef, alto/ Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Vonk – PentaTone

by | Oct 26, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80; Alto Rhapsody, Op.
53; Haydn Variations, Op. 56a – Yvonne Naef, alto/ Netherlands Radio
Symphony Orchestra/Hans Vonk – PentaTone Multichannel SACD PTC 5186
045  42:42 ***:

Intended as a memorial for the late Hans Vonk (1942-2004), this
all-Brahms group from 18-21 August 2003 could have spliced to the late
conductor’s reading of the Brahms D Major Symphony offered on the same
label (PTC 5186 042). But aside from the merely music-for-your-money
consideration, these are thoroughly thoughtful, even affecting
realizations of music obviously dear to the conductor’s heart. I heard
and met Vonk only once, and he urged that I seek out more of his work
through his long association with the Hague Residenz Orchestra.

The elegiac Alto Rhapsody, clearly a valediction for the dying
conductor as much as it is Goethe’s evocation of spiritual longing, has
the graceful power of the classic renditions from Kathleen Ferrier and
Marian Anderson. Ms. Naef’s plaintive voice more than once reminded me
of Maureen Forrester. The opening C Minor Academic Festival Overture
has the athletic wit and fervent rhetoric we who relish the George
Szell version can well appreciate. The Haydn Variations, with its eight
variants and concluding passacaglia, is clearly a study-piece for the
later E Minor Symphony. Vonk, who conducted all three works from the
confines of a wheelchair, elicits wonderful interior effects and some
subtle degrees of nuance from his responsive orchestra. All of the
interpretations fall well within the middle European tradition we
imbibed from Bruno Walter and Eduard van Beinum. The liner notes for
the album include a touching reminiscence from Job Maarse, the record
producer who had worked with Hans Vonk at the Hague in the late 1970’s
and then again for the final sessions at PentaTone.  Mr. Maarse
calls Hans Vonk a great one, and many auditors of his two Brahms SACDs
may well concur.

–Gary Lemco

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