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Monday, November 28, 2011

Revisiting Sibelius

Too much of my music listening takes place in the car, where the nuances of the tunes at hand are eaten away by a slowly deteriorating muffler. But I recently got a copy of Itzhak Perlman's old recording of the Sibelius violin concerto – his debut concerto disc, with Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony.

Perlman's later version with Andre Previn conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony is etched somewhere in my brain, as are four recordings with Heifetz* and singles by Hahn, Midori, Oistrakh, Spivakov, and others. Which feels like a burdensome collection, fueled by a degree of obsessiveness I'd rather not acknowledge.

So it was a pleasure to hear this piece again and realize that this version, car noise notwithstanding, was giving me orchestral textures I'd missed or overlooked (overheard? That doesn't work!) before. I was drawn that much deeper into the experience of listening, while still alert enough to run no stop signs.

What's especially pleasurable about this experience is taking the new insights to the other, more familiar recordings I mentioned, and listening again, forcing myself to push the solo line to the back of my ears and find those elusive textures.

Which brings us back to the problem of obsessiveness. I'm now suffering a bit of Sibelius fatigue. On to his shelf-neighbor, Shostakovich, to lighten the mood.


*Conducted by Stokowski, Beecham, Mitropoulos, and Hendl.