PROKOFIEV Visions Fugitives HINDEMITH 5 Pieces
The playing of the Camerata Nordica on this disc of music from between the wars is, in a word, sensational. They bring less vibrato than Barshai’s Moscow Chamber Orchestra to Prokofiev’s fleeting visions, also a bit less bite, but every little number tells its own story. The parody waltz of No 11 is stiff and pawky, yet swifter and less mannered than Bashmet, leading directly (in Barshai’s ordering) into No 10, Ridicolosamente, a touch slower, heavier and less ridiculous than Barshai’s absurdist flight of fancy. The glissandos of No 13 conjure an apparition of something crawling, slithering; they always use such effects and techniques not as an end in themselves (though the disc is certainly a celebration of sheer virtuosity) but to bring characters and shadows to life, even in the superficially abstract quintets by Hindemith and Webern.
The former may be conceived for a school orchestra, the latter for an experimental string quartet, but Tønnesen reveals the yearning expression they hold in common across the bridge of tonality, by the side of which Marriner’s Academy are neat and genteel. Camerata Nordica’s collective imagination – and they do often sound like an unconducted string quartet – tends towards the extremes of tempo and colour which suit early Britten (12/13) less well than mature Bartók. Only Ferenc Fricsay takes the central nightmare of the Divertimento more slowly, yet how surely Tønnesen builds its successive waves of terror and the silences that separate them. The cimbalom-like double-stopping to launch the finale is just this side of hysterical, before the violin solo at 2'50" brings a memory of The Lark Ascending in rhapsodic invention, somehow then leaping forwards to seething Ligetian polyphony within a bare two minutes: Bartók in a nutshell.