ROUSSEL: Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 42. Bacchus et Ariane, Op. 43 (complete ballet)
Royal Scottish National Orch/Stéphane Denève, cond.
NAXOS 8.570245 (B) TT: 63:08
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STRAVINSKY: The Soldier's Tale. Symphonies of Wind Instruments.
Jeremy Irons, narrator/ Columbia Chamber Ens/Igor Stravinsky, cond./Columbia Symphony Winds and Brass/Robert Craft, cond. (Symphonies)
SONY CLASSICAL 76586 (F) TT: 68:38
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ALFVÉN: Suite from music for the film Snynove Solbakken. Suite from music for the film Mans kvinna. Elégie, Op. 38.
Norrköpping Symphony Orch/Niklas Willén, cond.
NAXOS 8.557828 (B) TT: 73:12
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SIBELIUS: Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22. Tapiola, Op. 112.
Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond. (Lemminkainen); Helsinki Philharmonic Orch/Paavo Berglund, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 88679 (B) TT: 61:07
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Roussel's ballet Bacchus and Ariane, a showcase for virtuoso orchestras, has always been a favorite of mine. Over the years I've treasured recordings of the second suite by Jean Martinon and the Chicago Symphony recorded in 1964 (never officially issued on CD), the mono recording with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony, and the 1960 Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra version available now thanks to ARKIVMUSIC. Also I've heard a live recording with Antal Dorati and the Concertgebouw from a radio broadcast—unfortunately not included in any of the RCOA Anthologies. Dynamic young conductor Stéphane Denève, director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra since September 2005, has developed it into an extraordinary ensemble based on what is heard on this superb CD. The ballet and Symphony No. 3 are given dynamic performances that live up to highest standards of the past. Add to this the usual (nowadays) Naxos state-of-the-art engineering, and you have a true winner.

Sony Classical recently discovered in their archives never-before-released masters of Stravinsky's only stereo recording of The Soldier's Tale, made in 1967, four years before the composer died. By using this material along with Stravinsky's 1961 studio recording it is possible now to hear the entire work. Actor Jeremy Irons performed The Soldier's Tale in 2004 with the Old Vic in a new English adaptation by noted writer Jeremy Sams. The narration was recorded in London in December 2005, skillfully combined with the music thus creating a major addition to the Stravinsky discography. This issue is just in time to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the composer's birth, June 17, 1882.

For many years Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) was known primarily for his Midsummer Vigil Swedish Rhapsody and some of his exquisite songs recorded by Jussi Bjöerling. Fortunately, much of music has been recorded including all five symphonies, and now, thanks to Naxos, we have music from two of his three film scores, Synnove of Solbakken (1934) and Mans kvinna (1945). Both of these had limited success as cinema, but were praised for Alfvén's lovely music. There are six excerpts (called "complexes") from each film, and as a bonus we have the composer's tribute to fellow composer Johan Gustav Emil Sjögren (1853-1918), a moving Elégie for the latter's funeral. All of this music is beautifully played by the Norrköping Orchestra directed by Niklas Willén, and audio quality is first-rate.

Few of Eugene Ormandy's Sibelius recordings are listed in current catalogs, an unfortunate situation as the conductor had a close association with the composer. Ormandy's magnificent 1978 EMI recording of the Lemminkäinen Legends was last issued on the label in their EMI Classics series (65176), and now we have it at budget-price, coupled as before with Paavo Berglund's 1987 recording of Tapiola. This is self-recommending.

R.E.B. (June 2007)