This release is the inaugural issue in the 'American Symphony Orchestras' series by the Naxos label, certainly a welcome undertaking. Compelling though the Colorado Symphony is here, and patriotic though we all are in these disturbing times, this issue is more about the young American conductor, Marin Alsop, than about this talented ensemble. Alsop is a conductor who seems destined for fame – if she has not already achieved it – and more prestigious conducting posts, which likely will come her way.
Her Romeo and Juliet, the leadoff piece here, is well-phrased, moderately-paced, delivered with reasonable commitment and a sense of passion by the Colorado players, and ultimately competitive with the better (countless) versions of this warhorse. But it is, of course, the Symphony that most will be interested in here.
In a live recording from September 8-10, 2001 in the orchestra's home, Boettcher Hall, it opens dramatically enough with a forceful presentation of the 'fate' motto, that appears throughout the work. The main theme is given with an appropriate urgency and the alternate material presented with playfulness and delicacy. The development section that ensues has a slight lumbering quality about it, and there are moments when the music seems to lose its focus. In the end, Alsop's rendition of this movement, while decently-played and logically presented, cannot rank with the better versions. The second movement, at ten-and-a-half minutes, is simply too slow, even if Alsop makes a good case for her tempo.
The Scherzo is better, though the pizzicato strings are a bit blurred. The finale is spirited and colorful, perhaps the most successful movement here. In the end, this must be judged a better-than-average recording of the symphony, actually a fine performance overall, for a live effort. But, in such a crowded field, it can only be strongly recommended to fans of AlsOp. Sound is decent and notes by the ubiquitous Keith Anderson are informative. One can only speculate that under studio conditions with a world-class orchestra, Alsop might have produced a more compelling version of the symphony.
Copyright © 2002, Robert Cummings