TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
PHILIPS SACD 475 619 (5.1 channel) TT: 42:26

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique."
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
PHILIPS SACD 475 619 (5.1 channel) TT: 44:00

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11, Op. 103 "The Year 1905."
Royal Scottish National Orch/Alexander Lazarev, cond.
LINN SACD CKD 247 (5.1 channel) TT: 60:33

TAVENER: The Veil of the Temple.
Patricia Rosario, soprano; Choir of the Temple Church; The Holst Singers; Brass of English Chamber Orch/Stephen Layton, cond.
RCA SACD 666 154 (5.1 channel) TT: 76:22 & 71:34

The two Tchaikovsky symphonies were recorded in Vienna's Musikverein, No. 4 October 17-21, 2002, No. 6 September 2-4, 2004. Philip Siney was balance engineer and sound mixer for both, Jürgen Bulgrin was engineer for both assisted by Andrew Wedman (No. 4) and Wolf-Dieter Karwatky (No. 6). In spite of being recorded two years apart, sound just about the same: big, rich and impactful conveying Gergiev's high-powered interpretations. The Vienna orchestra plays magnificently in both with resplendent brass punctuating the end of the development section of the first movement of No. 6. There is a great deal of information coming from all speakers most of the time providing a fine concert-hall effect—but listening closely to rear speakers it seems there a touch of time delay has been added. However the engineers processed these recordings, the result is entirely satisfactory. A definite minus is the fact that neither symphony has a filler; there's no excuse for such short playing time on full-priced SACDs.

Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11 has been a showcase for sonic engineers ever since Stokowski's pioneering Capitol recording made in Houston in 1958 immediately after he conducted the American premiere. The Capital recording remains an audio spectacular (see REVIEW). The heavily-scored symphony needs massive orchestral sound for maximum effect, and it doesn't quite get that here—the Royal Scottish National Orchestra doesn't have the tonal weight essential, although they play very well under Alexander Lazarev who has been principal conductor since 1977. Interpretively, don't expect the drama of Stokowski's recording, or the energy of Mravinsky's, but you won't be disappointed with this fine Linn release.The recording was made in Usher Hall, Edinburgh January 22-23, 2004. Sonic quality is typical of Linn, ultra-clear and with wide dynamic range. The RSNO's Chandos recordings of seven of Shostakovich's symphonies have a bigger but not necessarily better sound.

What is heard on RCA's 2-CD set is an abbreviated (but still 148 minute) version of Tavener's The Veil of the Temple commissioned by the Temple Music Trust to be performed in London's Temple Church by their choir and the Holst Singers. The first performance was overnight June 27-28, 2003. The composer made an abbreviated version for concert use and this had its premiere at Royal Albert Hall at a Proms Concert August 1, 2004. However what we have here is the shortened version excerpted from the 2003 premiere. Tavener said in his music he reveals "the mystery of the death and burial of Christ through his Rising. In creating man, God entrusted him with the task of completing the Temple, and himself becoming the Temple of God." The score is typical of the composer, long passages of somber sonorities punctuated by outbursts of ecstatic sound, particularly in the final pages. Presumably this performance is exactly what the composer intended, and his favorite soprano, Patricia Rosario, is brilliant in her solos. It's all very impressive in its own way. The surround sound well captures the acoustics of Temple Church but it's unfortunate the recording wasn't taken from the Royal Albert Hall performance to take advantage of its massive organ sound. RCA has provided complete texts and 46 cuing tracks. The booklet, unfortunately, is attached to the fold-out package making it rather cumbersome to use.

R.E.B. (May 2004)