David Atherton made a fine reputation for himself as a contemporary music conductor back in his salad days with the London Sinfonietta, nowhere more so than in his three-disc (now two-CD) set of music by Kurt Weill. He certainly hasn’t lost his magic touch in the intervening years. These performances of the two symphonies sweep the (not very full) board. Swift, lean, incisive, and always exciting, Atherton reveals all of this music’s anger, irony, and bittersweet lyricism without a trace of histrionics or self-indulgence. Indeed, a certain coolness is part of the point too. And so in the marvelous Second Symphony, Atherton catches the neo-classical temper of its outer movements with impeccable wit and grace, making the passionate intensity of the magnificent central slow movement all the more shocking as a result.
You will probably be as incredulous as I was to learn that the greatest cycle of Mahler symphonies comes not from any of the usual suspects - Abbado, Bernstein, Chially, Haitink, Kubelik, Rattle, Sinopoli, Solti, Tennstedt - but from the unsung Gary Bertini, who spent the better part of his career as music director of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. Unlike any of those more publicized sets, each of which includes a misfire or two, Bertini is consistently successful from first to last; his performance of each of these works can stand comparison with the very best available.
Having heard the sixth symphony on a radio broadcast (albeit missing the second movement because of problems at the station), I decided to go out on a limb and buy the complete symphonies, being completely unfamiliar with Atterberg.
It was a decision I do not regret.
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British conductor of Polish heritage. One of the leading conductors of the early and mid-20th Century, he is best known for his long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and for appearing in the film Fantasia. He was especially noted for his free-hand conducting style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from the orchestras he directed…
Sir Georg Solti, KBE (21 October 1912 – 5 September 1997) was a Hungarian-British orchestral and operatic conductor. He holds the record for having received the most Grammy Awards, having personally won 31, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.