“Simply Strings” = BARTOK: Divertimento for Strings; JANACEK: Suite for String Orchestra; SIBELIUS: Impromtu nach Nos. 5 & 6 for Strings; BRITTEN: Simple Symphony – Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn/ Ruben Gazarian – Bayer-Records multichannel SACD BR 100 371, 67:28 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
The Württemberg Chamber Orchestra has a very solid reputation, established worldwide over its 50 years of existence, which were celebrated just last year. It has been acclaimed for its exquisite sound and has made several other recordings for Bayer. Armenian conductor Ruben Gazarian has led the orchestra since 2002.
The program of works by four composers is well balanced. Bartok indicated a somewhat pre-symphonic character by titling his work Divertimento, but it’s certainly not Mozartian. In three movements all in the same key, it opens with jazz-like effects due to the use of two superimposed scales at once. In the third movement, violin and cello solos remind one of Hungarian music. The Divertimento as whole is a realization of what the neo-classical approach could still communicate in 1939.
Janacek’s Suite is not at all the wilder Janacek we are used to. It is an earlier work heavily influenced by Dvorak and even Tchaikovsky. The 1877 piece has six short movements, with some Wagnerian-tinged harmonies in the second. Its fifth movement comes the closest to the speech-based style of some of the composer’s later music. Enjoyable, but Janacek hasn’t quite found his unique style as yet. Britten’s Simple Symphony is also a suite though that’s not part of the title. Two of its four movements are based on dance forms of the baroque. Some of the themes were composed by Britten at only age 10. The plucked strings section of the second movement was inspired by the Scherzo of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. The entire work is quite straightforward, simple and diatonic, as befits its title.
The string tone of the orchestra is rich and involving, with a rather close but not too-close perspective in this excellent example of hi-res surround.
— John Sunier
This is a delightful holiday collection.