KALINNIKOV Symphony No 1 GLAZUNOV Symphony No 5
Now holding posts in Tokyo, Geneva and Monte Carlo, 30 year-old Kazuki Yamada has perhaps been too busy to return to London after a fine debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2011. This latest addition to his growing Exton discography confirms his natural way with the long lines of Silver Age symphonies after the Rachmaninov Second in that concert, and with a great European orchestra that seems to love Exton’s microphones (I’m guessing the Japanese market loves the Czech Philharmonic back). The balance of harp, oscillating fiddles and cello melody at the start of the slow movement of the Kalinnikov is magically transparent but never surgical, thanks to the players’ feeling for rubato, gently harnessed by Yamada. It’s all a far cry from the equally impassioned but more abruptly sectional approach of Hermann Scherchen with the same orchestra back in 1951, and makes me understand, better than the rough-and-ready competition, how and why Tchaikovsky prized Kalinnikov’s gifts so highly, if necessarily briefly, before the younger man died in penury at the age of 35.
The tunes are more solid, the form more diffuse and the temperature cooler in the Glazunov, and Yamada coaxes a captivating warmth and charm from the second theme of the first movement, again at some distance from the hard-pressed intensity of older Russian recordings, but it’s like placing Vishnevskaya’s Tatyana beside Popp’s. We can have both, and this isn’t the Pathétique. Yamada keeps the Scherzo spinning in a properly Tchaikovskian whirl, a command of rhythmic exactness at sometimes challenging tempi that also distinguishes the Khachaturian suite. All this said, if Yamada’s name has caught your eye, search out the precociously mature, preternaturally transparent Schubert Ninth he recorded with one of his ‘home’ bands, the Yokohama Sinfonietta.