BERLIOZ: Gramde Messe des Mortes, p. 5
KERNIS: Flute Concerto (2015). Air (for flute and orchestra)
(1996). Second Symphony (1991)
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Symphonic
Distinguished American conductor John Nelson (b. 1941) has been music director of a number of orchestras and frequently guest conducts many of the major orchestras. He has particular interest in large-scale choral works, and in music of Berlioz. His recordings of Benvenuto Cellini and Les Troyens have been praised. Now we have his magnificent performance of the mighty Berlioz Requiem. This easily challenges historic recordings including those by Sir Colin Davis, Charles Munch and Leonard Bernstein, to mention only a few. And don't forget the historic Hermann Scherchen recording, and the live Sir Thomas Beecham BBC performance recently issued on Pristine (REVIEW). Amd we must not overloo the important first recording made in 1943 with Jean Fournet on the podium. . Most of these have been reviewed on this site.The Nelson version is a live performance recorded March 9, 2019 in London's St. Paul Cathedral. The huge choruses are outstanding, and it is a pleasure to hear the brilliant brass outbursts in Tuba mirum. The format for this release is somewhat odd. The first disk is a regular CD containing the entire work (81:35) in stereo, and the second disk, a DVD, contains a video of the entire concert which is 7 minus longer - and it is mulli-channel. Engineers have done a superb job capturing the rich church atmosphere, and we find ourselves right in the center of the venue. I'm surprised he first disk is not SACD. I'm sure a majority of collectors will wish to experience this stupendous performance in muli-channel sound and watch it as well. An outstanding issue, in any case.
This side has praised many recordings of music of American composer Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960). For information about this major composer, check S.G.S.'s review of three of his works: Newly Dawn Sky, Too Hot Toccata and Symphony of Waves (REVIEW). This new recording is very much a Baltimore affair. The orchestra is the fine Peabody Symphony consisting of some of the finest young players at the Conservatory, and Marin Alsop is music director of the Baltimore Symphony. The Flute Concerto was written for concert violinist Mariha Piccinnini who is on the faculty at the Peabody. The concerto has four movements: Portrait, Pastorale-Barcarolle, Pavan, and Taran-Tula. The first three movements open quietly before getting into more animated sections, and the final movement throughout is a vigorous dance. We also have the Air, a gentle eleven-minute piece for flute and orchestra described by Kernis as "a love letter to the flute." Piccinnini plays these with impressive virtuosity although, as recorded here, her sound is not opulent. Second Symphony dates from 1991 and reflects the composer's reaction to the brutality of the Persian Gulf War. The three movements are Alarm, Air/Ground, and Barricade. Scored for large orchestra, it is highly percussive and dissonant. I imagine most listeners would not cure to hear it often, no matter how well played. Recordings were made in Peabody's Concert Hall April 2017 and October 2016 (Symphony). The Peabody engineering group did their work well . Another inriguing issue in the Naxos American Classics series.
Pianist Dong Hyek Lim, born in South Korea in 1984, has won a number of important competitions in the pianist world; at the 15th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw he shared third prize with his elder brother, Dong-Min Lim. Early in his career he made a number of recordings for EMI. He already has two recordings for Warner Classics, one a Chopin program, the other violin sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven with Li Young Lim (his sister?) who has a major career - she won first prize in the 2015 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium. On this third Dong Hyek Lim turns to Rachmaninoff, and as he studied extensively in Russia, one might say he has a particular affinity for the Russian master's music. Surely this performance of Concerto No. 2 is among the finest with leisurely tempi but virtuoso fireworks as well. Strong support is given by the London Philharmonic directed by Alexander Vedernikov In the two-piano version of Symphonic Dances, Linn is joined by his mentor, famed Martha Argerich, who also has recorded this music with Alexandre Rabinovitch, Nelson Friere, Nelson Goer her and Nicolas Economou. The Concerto was recorded September 2018 in London's Maida Vale Studios, the two-piano recording was made December 2018 in Berlin's Teldex Studio. Excellent audio.
R.E.B. (October 2019)