Blogging Pachelbel #1 — Baumgartner

I’m skipping Fiedler right now because it’s not available for MP3 download, and the CD won’t arrive for a few days.

This is a stunningly slow recording. It clocks in at 6:16 to begin with (the only slower recording is the Paillard), but that’s without 10 measures that are cut from the performance. First, it skips the first two measures of the bass. It then starts to slow and then slows down some more, exhibiting a woozy-headed, completely unsteady tempo, like molasses. The ugliness of the bass line stands out — it’s too strong for the middle parts, and not in tune enough. The balance is very strange, as though the conductor is afraid of letting the lines come to the fore as Pachelbel wrote them. This badly mucks up the balance so that some of the new canonic entrances are inaudible until the third violin gets its statement. This results in some very weird textures and tends to suppress the figuration in certain voices.

But to me the most shocking discovery was that this performances entirely cuts the two couplets of repeated notes and the two couplets before that (mm. 27-34). At 3:06 in the recording:

  • v. 1 cuts from m. 27 to m. 35
  • v. 2 cuts from 29 to 37
  • v. 3 cuts from 31 to 39

This is my favorite part! And I thought all string players loved playing repeated notes under a single bow! It’s one of the loveliest sounds strings can have, a heartbeat-like pulsing that is quite lovely. But this recording sacrifices it to no end that I can imagine.

The ending is grandiose beyond belief, and just unpleasant. It’s as though the conductor misread the composer as Wagner.

Except that Wagner had better taste, and a much more finely tuned sense of historical musical style.