The Verbier Festival Orchestra is a training orchestra, an ensemble consisting of about 100 musicians aged 17 to 29. The Festival website divulges that more than 1,000 musicians applied for a post in the orchestra for the 2010 concerts. Thus, the listener is hearing the cream of the crop among student and young musicians from across the globe. This performance attests to the collective talent of the 2009 ensemble, despite some nervous playing from the horns.
The Tenth is one of the Shostakovich's greatest symphonies. The first movement may be the composer's finest symphonic movement, both structurally and musically, and the ensuing Scherzo, supposedly a depiction of Josef Stalin, is also a gripping creation. But the third movement has some static moments and the first half of the finale, an Andante struggling to get to its Allegro portion, can test your patience. Still, the work as a whole is quite compelling and in a good performance is fully worthwhile.
Here, Temirkanov draws a spirited, if sometimes flawed performance from his young Verbier players. The strings may be the best part of this group, although most sections acquit themselves quite well, despite occasional but not damaging sloppiness. The first flute was superb throughout. The horns, as suggested above, had a few imprecisions, most notably in the first movement.
As for Temirkanov's view of the work, I can say his tempos were judicious in their moderate to brisk character, his sense of the work's dramatic flow intense, and his grip on Shostakovich's idiom here – that ability to move from the work's tragedy and terror to its triumph and exultation – is spot on. Of all the Shostakovich Tenths I've heard, which include Karajan, Ormandy, Andrew Davis, Berglund, Haitink, Slovak, Barshai and others, this one may well be a contender of sorts. These young kids play with real spirit, and if they don't have the precision of the Berlin or Philadelphia ensembles, they still impart a real sense of commitment. The sound reproduction is good and the camera work fine.
Copyright © 2010, Robert Cummings