MelbourneSO+Hubert Soudant: Strong, Youthful, Tuneful, Strai
Dan Fee | Berkeley, CA USA | 01/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have had a eye out for conductor Hubert Soudant, ever since I found him conducting the London Philharmonic to accompany an old but entirely stellar recording of the Sibelius plus Tchaikovsky violin concertos, featuring violin soloist Yuval Yaron. The Sibelius was outstanding, and the Tchaikovsky competitive, so I cherished that disc as a sleeper fav on the fav shelf. I think it started out on the old British Pye label, quickly devolved into a label called Precision Records & Tapes or PRT, then just as quickly disappeared when the companies went out of business.
That set my eye for soloist Yuval Yaron, so I found his Accord label 2-CD set of the JSBach solo violin sonatas and partitas. That set went quickly out of print, too. I believe Yaron taught for a while at University of Indiana's famous USA music school, though perhaps by now he has moved on. Pop up, this Australian Broadcasting Company reading of Bruckner 4 on a hybrid ABC/Eloquence disc. Given the strong tilt between the Australian dollar and the USA dollar, and getting this one plays out as a very wise budget choice at the moment.
First, the band is youthful sounding and solid. No weakness in any orchestra department. Strings, woodwinds, brass all rise beautifully to the musical Bruckner 4 occasion. Given the many shifting tasks that the composer assigns to each group of players, their marvelous ability to play well together simply cannot be taken at all for granted. Tonally, each department gets the varied musical weights just right. Soloists emerge and fall back into the overall textures quite properly, nothing shorted. The playing consistently inhabits such a devoted, high level that it is easy to miss this reading's praiseworthy self-confidence. Conductor and band are simply trusting Bruckner, enough to give themselves completely to his guidance and cosmic sense of western classical materials. A listener can easily fall into taking it all for granted. Such a high level of performance is, after all, simply the composer's and the music's due.
Conductor Hubert Soudant (in 1986, per the label documentation) leads a very straightforwardly paced, direct reading. He has no need to push or pull the phrases to make his musical points. He deftly weaves entrances and conjures the huge paragraphs of the symphony with the omnipresent help of the alert and involved instrumentalists who are following him as one. Keeping those long, long phrases unfurling into even longer paragraphs, then letting the paragraphs dovetail as the symphonic movement builds into the unhurried and mighty perorations that mark the composer's style? Well. A listener can be tempted to take the leader's self-effacing vision and those players for granted, too. But. Really we should not.
Soudant and players walk sure-footed in the paths of great Bruckner interpreters of our musical past. Think Szell, or Blomstedt, or Klemperer. We can hear all those subtle inflections of tempo and phrasing, certainly; this Bruckner is very heartily sung, and very, very long-breathed. Yet our ears reveal nothing like the rush and slow of, say, Eugen Jochum or Daniel Barenboim. This warm, this heartfelt directness may not please all listeners. Some who seek more self-consciously dramatic, High Romantic Gestures may find Soudant and the band to be too faithful, too closely wedded to the written pages. (Nowak, 1878/1880 is the edition. I strongly prefer it over the original edition.)
Yet for audiences who like their Bruckner strong, clear, youthful, heartfelt, and wise in its musical plain-speaking address - this disc will very nicely belong. Five stars."