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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Suite on Finnish Themes - (1939) – World premiere recording
Symphony for Strings Op. 118a – arr. Rudolf Barshai from String Quartet No. 10 – (1964)
Chamber Symphony Op. 110a – arr. Rudolf Barshai from String Quartet No. 8 - (1960)
Anu Komsi (soprano), Tom Nyman (tenor)
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/Juha Kangas.
Rec. Oct 2001 at the Kaustisen Folk Art Centre Finland (Suite), Kaustinen Church, Finland (Symphonies). DDD
BIS CD-301256 [58’20"]

My only criticism of the current release is that it is billed as a World Premiere recording and yet it is a re-release of a disc originally released in 2002. Still, I suppose this still IS the premiere recording even if this release is its second time around.

As with the Rautavaara CD I reviewed recently, if you didn’t buy this disc when it first came out, make every effort to rectify your omission (provided of course that you want the repertoire). The two symphonies (in arrangements by Rudolf Barshai) are fairly well known and these performances by the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra (only 20 players if the photograph shows everyone) can hold their own with any of the competitive versions in the catalogue, and BIS’s recording is the model of naturalness. I would be happy to recommend this recording to anyone.

The really interesting find on this disc however is the Suite on Finnish Themes which has rarely been mentioned in any of the composer’s correspondence and was unknown until the manuscript was uncovered in a private collection in St. Petersburg, only recently. It was written when the composer was out of favour with the authorities, and remained unperformed until a few years ago. Apparently, the composer did not choose text to the Folk Songs, this was done much later by Shostakovich scholar and expert Manashir Yakubov. The verses were always intended to be sung in Finnish (perhaps this is why the first performance did not occur during the composer’s lifetime; Russia and Finland were at loggerheads during Stalin’s rule. Yakubov searched through texts of Finnish folksongs until he found texts that fitted the melodies, and this is what is presented here. There are seven songs altogether, two of which are instrumental, the remaining five being allocated between the tenor, Tom Nyman (4) and the soprano Anu Komsi (4). If you find the arithmetic confusing I must tell you that three of the songs are shared between both soloists. Both soloists are first-rate and the folksongs give them tuneful melodies to set before us. The only problem is that they only last under 12 minutes, and I for one could have listened to many more.

For the two String Quartet arrangements we have the well known ones by Rudolf Barshai, who was first in the field of many (particularly with respect to the 8th Quartet where there are currently at least six others). There have been other arrangers, but Barshai’s are perhaps the best known. It is good to see that this repertoire has been chosen to accompany the folksongs on this disc as together they make a very satisfying programme.

Juha Kangas can justifiably be very proud of his ensemble which does him proud and BIS has supported the enterprise giving us a transparent, very clear and sonorous recording.

This is part of BIS’s 30th Anniversary release of recordings and is a re-release of BIS CD 1256. The disc itself has the earlier number on the booklet and the disc itself, with the new number on the rear cover and the slip case – very confusing if you are unaware of what the company has done to help us celebrate their 30th Anniversary. Very strongly recommended.

John Phillips



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