John S. Gray
Georg Tintner's legacy continues with the Naxos release of three more excellent live recordings with Symphony Nova Scotia. Hearing these broadcasts, it is easily forgotten now, just how much of a low point the Halifax orchestra had sunk into, during the dark days of the dissolution of the old Atlantic Symphony and the faltering recovery under Boris Brott. Tintner's arrival as music director there produced results, in little more than a year, that were nothing short of miraculous. That the orchestra pulled itself up by its bootstraps is by now a legend, but it probably would have never have occurred without the active intervention of Tintner.
The orchestra on all these recordings is warm, balanced and precise. Aside from the occasional stray bassoon note in the Brahms Third, the musicians are in top form. Principal oboist Suzanne LeMieux shines all over these discs. It is incredible to think that one is hearing a "mere" provincial orchestra in the Maritimes.
Tintner's brief but endearing talks from the stage are a feature on these CD's, as they are in the previous two. The personal insights, particularly of the last farewell between Mozart and Haydn (on Vol. 4) are deeply moving.
The Brahms 2nd Serenade in A major Op. 16 (Vol. 5) is especially well-served by these Naxos discs. While I will make no claim to have heard all the recordings of this work that exist on the market, those that I do know leave me somewhat cold, unlike this one.
Tintner's Beethoven 4th Symphony is a good addition to any collection. I can see no reason why one wouldn't gain as much from it as from standard recordings from, say, von Karajan or Colin Davis. On this same (Vol. 3) disc, the seldom-played Schumann Symphony No. 2 receives a much-deserved rescue from obscurity at the hands of Tintner and SNS: Invaluable.
Two of Joseph Haydn's late symphonies, the No. 103 and No. 104 are paired on Vol. 4. Interestingly enough, the No. 103 was actually recorded in the Sir James Dunn Theatre in Halifax, legendary among musicians for its acoustics, which vary from indifferent to downright awful, depending on who you ask. But this recording sounds nearly as good as the others do from the stage of the more luxurious wood-paneled Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
Unlike the first two CD's in this Naxos Memorial series, the Halifax audience does manifest itself with an occasional cough or sneeze, but generally the listening experience at home or under headphones is free from such distractions. Tanya Tintner's programme notes are up to her usual high standard. Full marks, Naxos.