BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E.
BRITTEN: Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10. HARTMANN: Concerto
funèbre. BARTÓK: Divertimento for String Orchestra.
GETTY: Young America. Three Welsh Songs. Annabel Lee. Victorian
Scenes. Jerusalem (excerpt).
Pentatone's RQR (Remastered Quadro Recordings) reissues of four-track recordings made in the '70's have been of uniform superb quality. However, their recent surround sound recordings of large orchestral works have not quite come up to that standard. Releases of Dvorak's New World, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet (REVIEW), Schmidt's Symphony No. 4 (REVIEW), and Mahler Symphony No. 5 (REVIEW), haven't been particularly successful as surround sound listening experiences. That surely has changed with this issue of Bruckner's mighty Symphony No. 7. Recorded live in Vienna in June 2004 in that city's Konzerthaus, it offers a broad, warm sonic picture with the orchestra in front, appropriate reflected sound from the rear. The massive brass climaxes are powerfully captured. Interpretively, too, this performance has much to offer although I would have prefered the final pages played slower. Even though a live recording, there are no audience sounds and no applause at the end (fortunately!).The recent Philips SACD with Seiji Ozawa and the Saito Kinen Orchestra (REVIEW) pales by comparison, both in performance and sound. Highly recommended!
The Britten/Hartmann/Bartók SACD loosely ties all three together with the concept of "music from the silence before the storm," the storm being the imminent holocaust. Britten's Variations was composed in 1937 in a spurt of creativity to be performanced by the Boyd Neel Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival that year. Bartók's Divertimento appeared two years later, commissioned by Paul Sacher for the Basle Chamber Orchestra. Hartmann began composition on his Concerto funèbre (originally called Musik der Trauer) in 1938 as a "silent protest" after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia that year. It is a sombre, four-movement work that includes a funeral march as part of the Adagio. Apparently the composer felt this was an important, meaninful work, an opinion I doubt many others would share. Gordon Nicolic, who has had a distinguished career both as a violin soloist, orchestral player (beginning in 1999 he was concertmaster of the London Symphony), and chamber music performer, and now is Artistic Director and Leader of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, leads the group in vivid performances of this music. Recordings were made in Doopsgezinde Singelkerk in Amsterdam in 2004, produced by Job Maarse. The sound is very close-up and clear with little hall ambience.
Gordon Getty, son of the famous multi-millionaire J. Paul, has composed mostly for the voice, his best-known work being The White Election, a setting of poems by Emily Dickinson. His large-scale choral/orchestral work Joan and the Bells has been recorded on SACD (see REVIEW). This new Pentatone releases contains the complete choral works of the composer (with exception of Joan), and an interlude called Jerusalem from his 1987 opera Plump Jack. These performances present a strong case for the music, which should be popular with choruses searching for Americana to program. The San Francisco recordings were made in February 2004 in Davis Symphony Hall, a site perfect for recording, and sonic quality is equal to what is heard on Michael Tilson Thomas' Mahler recordings in the same venue. Job Maarse was the producer, as he was for the other works which were recorded in Regentenbau Concert Hall in Bad Kissingen, Germany, July 2003. Soprano Lisa Delan, and baritone Vladimir Chernov, who sang in Joan and the Bells, also are heard in the excerpt from Plump Jack, music that does not make me eager to hear the entire opera. This SACD is a deluxe production, with extensive notes and complete texts, all in a booklet glued inside the jewel-box.
R.E.B. (August 2005)