SHOSTAKOVICH: The Execution of Stepan Razin. Zoya Suite. Suite on
SAY: Mesopotamia Symphony No. 2, Op. 38. Universe
Symphony No. 3, Op.
HEINZER: Baie Mahault for Violin, Celo, Piano and Orchestra
(1991-1992) Symphony No. 4 (1995/1998)
DALLAS YMPHONY ORCHESTRA BRASS QUINTET
Vladimir Ashkenazy has already has made highly regarded recorded of Shostakovich including all 15 symphonies, most of the concertos, and many other works, mostly with British orchestras. Ashkenazy has a close association with many orchestras and appears to be a favorite in Helsinki; he has already made several recordings with the Helsinki Philharmonic, an orchestra surely familiar with Shostakovich, having recorded six of the symphonies with James DePriest on the podium. On this new release we have a major choral work with a bass-baritone soloist, Execution of Stepan Razin, five movement from the film Zoya, and the lesser-known Suite on Finnish Themes. Execution, with text by Yevtushenko, is about the 17th century Cossack warrior who led an army against the Tsar and finally was defeated and executed in Moscow. The chorus also is heard in the Zoya excerpts, and the Finnish songs feature soprano and tenor soloists. Complete texts are provided, and the stereo sound is excellent with impactful low frequencies. To me the most intriguing part of this issue is the opening movement of Zoya, Tragedy of a Loss, which includes the composer's Prelude in E flat minor, originally for piano (Leopold Stokowski also orchestrated this powerful work and made three recordings of it). This new Ashkenazy set is a fine addition to the Shostakovich discography.
Last March this site mentioned a stunning recording of music of Turkish pianist/composer Fazil Say featuring his Istanbul Symphony and Concerto for Ney and Orchestra (REVIEW). Now we have two more major works, Mesopotamia Symphony No. 2, Op. 38, scored for large orchestra, bass flute, bass recorder and theramin), and Universe Symphony No. 3, Op. 43. The composer says in Symphony No. 2 he "attempts to narrate the story of the present day Middle East as well as the culture of Mesopotamia throughout history......" Throughout the 45-minute work we have vivid interludes of war, battle, images of the sun, moon, rivers and landscapes. Universe Symphony, considerably shorter, was "created from astronomic as opposed to astrologic data." The five sections are Expansion of the Universe, Venus, Storm on Jupiter, Earth-like Planet Glides 581 g, Supernova, and Dark Matter. Both works were recorded in concert December 2012. Audio is spectacularly good—lots of solid low percussion along with ultra-clear scintillating high frequencies. This is a fascinating issue in every way, and highly recommended. The CD booklet is rather odd—it has two front covers, one on each side, with text reversed half-way through.
Listening excitement comes to an abrupt halt with the CD of music of Swiss composer Josef Peter Heinzer (b. 1935). Heinzer apparently is a modest man who enjoys life in the beautiful Swiss countryside, and suggestions of rustic beauty often are found in his music. This disk contains the rather lengthy (33 min) concerto for piano trio and orchestra, and his Symphony No. 4 composed 1995-1996, based on six paintings by his father, all of which are reproduced in the CD booklet. Both the concerto and symphony are lovely indeed, but there is good reason why they will not appear often, if ever, in concerts. Performances are excellent, as is audio.
Sir Edward Elgar apparently was fascinated by the trombone and owned two of them which were stored in the Royal College of Music where they were found by Sue Addison, a contemporar virtuoso of the instrument. These 19th century instruments were heard often by Elgar and Gustav Holst. Addison became fascinated by the unique sound of these early" instruments, and gave a number of performances utilizing them, apparently with great success. It seems Elgar was enamored of the trombone's sound, but there is no record of him ever playing it. To honor the composer and one of his favored instruments, Ms. Addison has assembled a generous collection of music, much of which was composed by Elgar, in transcriptions for the instrument. Most of these feature the trombone accompanied by piano, trumpet, harp , piccolo and double bass. Success of these transcriptions in these unusual arrangements is an acquired taste, but one cannot question the artistry involved. This is a unique approach to this music and this instrument, and detailed CD notes tell the story. If you are a brass buff, you must investigate this. Excellent audio.
The Dallas Symphony has achieved new stature under their dynamic new music director Jalap van Sweden. evidenced by their extraordinary new live recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (REVIEW). Brass playing in that performance is spectacular, and we may assume the players included members of the orchestra's brass quintet heard on this new issue: Ryan Anthony and Kevin Finamore, trumpets, Gregory Kustis, horn, John Kitzman, trombone, and Matt Good, tuba. The latter are featured on this fine new Crystal issue in a wide-ranging program beginning with Nexus, a lively short piece written for this recording. This is followed by a group of varied works arranged for five brass players including a rather dreary prelude to Act III of Meistersinger. Excellent sound, but another 20 minutes of music easily could have been included.