77. Jansug Kakhidze, Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, 2003

Holst - The Planets (Kakhidze, Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, 2003)

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I must admit that I have no idea who Jansug Kakhidze is, or where Tbilisi is. For me this is a good thing, because I have no pre-conceived ideas about the music or the conductor. I’m not saddled with any thoughts like “Oh, him. I’ve always love / hated / been indifferent to his conducting. And the orchestra. Oh my. What an orchestra. They’ve always been horrible / great / boring / exciting…”

Anyway, now I’m listening to “Mars”, and enjoying it. It’s brisk. Now I’m enjoying it a little less, because a host of slightly out of tune instruments have made their appearance. Oh dear. At 1:15 a brass instrument (horn or tenor tuba) plays a wrong note. But the astonishing thing about this particular mistake is that the player takes almost an ewntire bar before he or she corrects it. I’ve never heard that before. Usually, when someone makes a mistake they try to correct it as soon as possible. Here, it sounds like the player didn’t realise he or she played a wrong note until maybe a fellow player elbowed the player in the ribs. (Player to player: “What are you doing???”) Please pardon my amazement, but I’m utterly amazed that wrong note went for so long. As I’m listening, I’m hearing more out-of-tune-ness from a variety of instruments. And now the organ has joined in the “What’s going on here?” caper. The organ makes its presence felt (if that’s the right phrase – and I’m not sure it is) from 1:48-2:05. I can’t describe how odd that organ sounds. You’ll have to hear for yourself. The only word I can think of is “dinky”. It’s a dinky organ sound. As “Mars” progresses, there are more slightly out-of-tune instruments here and there, but at 4:09-4:10 a couple of instruments are horribly out of tune. All of this is a great pity to me, because I like Jansug’s overall conception of “Mars”, and it’s all very well recorded (which lets you hear those mistakes loud and clear). At 5:44 the dinky organ has returned, but I can’t talk much more about this “Mars”. In fact, I won’t.

“Venus” is better. It’s not terribly well played, but I hear where everyone’s coming from. There’s more out-of-tune-ness (it’s thankfully not as gruesome as it was in “Mars”), but I have to mention the solo violin. From 2:27-2:30 the solo violin is unbelievably out of tune. It’s only one note, but it’s held for quite some time – and it’s not the note it’s supposed to be.

“Mercury” is unusual in that it’s much quieter than “Venus”. (What’s usual is that “Venus” is quieter than “Mercury”.) And it’s actually not bad. Phew.

“Jupiter” features a fair bit of not-great playing from everyone involved, but as far as interpretations go it’s fine.

“Saturn” goes as well as it can, given the circumstances. (See previous paragraphs.)

“Uranus” is OK, except for that four-second pause after the introduction (0:15-0:19), which for a moment made me wonder if the orchestra had finally decided to give up and stop playing. Oh, and the horrendously out-of-tune instruments scattered throughout the movement. And the organ at 4:03-4:04, which sounded like a blender in reverse.

“Neptune” is probably the best of the lot. No major mishaps, no interpretative quirks.

So, that was the Kakhidze / Tbilisi Planets. It was an experience.

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5 thoughts on “77. Jansug Kakhidze, Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, 2003

  1. Richard Hembree December 9, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    Hi Peter, I happen to have this recording and agree with you about the quality of the sound versus the intonation of many of the instruments. One little thing I noticed, however, is that you stated the violin solo was horribly out of tune on one note in Venus. It is actually one of the double reeds accompanying the solo that plays the wrong note, a half step too low, and it clashes with the violin because it is an octave (and a half step) lower than the soloist. It could be that the violin is out of tune anyways (I don’t have a perfect ear) but I wouldn’t blame him or her for struggling to find the pitch in that situation. The part of this recording that I’ve always hated is when that (2nd?) oboe player plays that wrong note in one of the most beautiful passages in this piece.

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    • Peter December 9, 2016 / 2:59 pm

      Howdy, Richard. I think we’re both right. I’ve just listened to that bum note again, and I can now hear both the violin and the reeds out of tune. I had previously laid the blame squarely at the feet fingers of the violinist, but now that I’ve heard it again I’d say the violin is sharp and the reeds are flat. It makes an unholy sound.

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  2. Richard Hembree December 9, 2016 / 2:18 pm

    One more thought: The recording I have is actually the Mardjani (Georgian Festival Orchestra) one, which we all know is identical. Somehow I suspect my recording to be the fake one however, as the recording sounds somewhat edited (very wet and echo-y) whereas this somewhat dryer version sounds like it’s recorded in a real hall. I also listened to Saturn and found a wrong note in the third trumpet at 5:22. The player fixed the note a couple bars later when the phrase repeats but it’s still terribly out of tune.

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    • Peter December 9, 2016 / 3:05 pm

      Snap!

      I also have the Mardjani CD, the one with this cover:

      Holst - The Planets (Mardjani)

      I just listened to 5:22 in Saturn and noticed it this time. That was painful.

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