DO.GMA #1 = TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48; Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 – do.gma chamber orchestra/ Mikhail Gurewitsch, director – Audiomax

by | Oct 21, 2010 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

DO.GMA #1 = TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48; Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 – do.gma chamber orchestra/ Mikhail Gurewitsch, director – Audiomax (MD&G) multichannel SACD (2+2+2), 65:01 [Distr. by Koch] ****:

This is a chamber orchestra new to me, with its rather strange name, formed as a sort of professional young musician’s ensemble by conductor Gurewitsch in 2004. They are dedicated to a new, modern, “fresh” approach to all sorts of pieces, especially those that have been well worn and need “new interpretative possibilities”. Honestly, I can’t imagine any ensemble today that would not be fully in line with this sort of philosophy, so whenever I read these things in promotional blurbs or CD booklets it is always with a big fat grain of salt.

And I can’t find out what “do.gma” means! Oh well—I will tell you that the group as a whole has a very nice sound, rich and colorful, and an estimable sense of ensemble unity. I do not hear anything revelatory in these performances in terms of uncovering the hidden Tchaikovsky encrusted by years of falsified and phony performance traditions—it’s just not there. The only thing overtly noticeable about the Serenade, for instance, is the quickened tempo of the opening, something hardly unique, albeit not common. But this hardly makes for anything startling or illuminating.

In fact, as well as they play, I also can’t say that this supplants Ormandy, Karajan, or especially my own favorite (with similar performing forces, about 16-17 players) Yuri Bashmet and his Moscow Soloists on RCA. That recording shines the light on the deficiencies of this one—the Moscow group is crisper, more attuned to nuances of dynamics and articulation, and is one of the finest readings ever made of this work.

Having said that, I don’t want to leave the impression that this is a substandard reading of this piece—it certainly is not, and I find much to enjoy in it, including the fine surround sound, with violins split on two sides. But the main attraction here for me is not the Serenade but the sextet-turned-full orchestra Souvenir de Florence. The composer may have felt that the former was the superior work, but it is the latter that is truly played with brilliance and gusto on this recording. MDG says in the promo material that the Souvenir was recorded in the “usual sextet position” but I can’t hear it; perhaps if I had my speakers set up in the rather odd 2+2+2 positions that MDG is touting I would notice something different. As is, I do think that the work loses a little something spatially when heard in string orchestra format, but in the end it doesn’t matter because the music’s the thing, and the music’s played extremely well here – passionate and quite moving. Recommended.

— Steven Ritter

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