GRAINGER: The Warriors. Irish Tune from County Derry. Danish Folk-Music Suite. Hill-Song No. 1. Beautiful Fresh Flower. Colleen Dhas. Hill-Song No. 2.
Melbourne Symphony Orch/Geoffrey Simon, cond.
CALA SACD CACDS4033 TT: 66:46
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RESPIGHI: Ballad of the Gnomes. Three Botticelli Pictures. Suite in G for Strings and Organ. Adagio with Variations for Cello and Orchestra.
Alexander Baillie, cellist; Leslie Pearson, organist; Philharmonia Orch/Geoffrey Simon, cond.
CALA SACD CACDS4028 TT: 69:04
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ELFMAN: Serenada Schizophrana
Elissa Johnston, soprano; Chorus & Orch; John Mauceri, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL SACD 89780 TT: 46:12
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Welcome indeed is news that Cala is now reissuing some of their recordings on SACD. Apparently these were not originally recorded in surround, but sonic quality on original issues was superb and now Phil Rowlands has provided an entirely satisfying 6-channel mix. The orchestra is in front with other channels providing richness to the sonic picture. Grainer's outrageous The Warriors, with its heavy percussion and "dance orgy," will delight audiophiles, as will Respighi's equally outrageous Ballet of the Gnomes which describes two female gnomes who kidnap and assault a male of their group, have their way with him and then toss him into the sea, all vividly depicted in Respighi's colorful score, written between The Fountains and The Pines of Rome. There's another SACD recording of the Grainger with John Eliot Gardiner and the Philharmonia Orchestra (REVIEW) which is commendable although not as richly recorded. I look forward to future releases in this promising Cala series.

Danny Elfman (b. 1953) is best known for his rousing score for the 1989 film Batman, as well as Beetlejuice the year before and Edward Scissorhands the year after—and for the cutesy music he composed for the TV hit Desperate Housewives. And no question, he is a splendid composer of film scores. This new SACD contains Serenada Schizophrana, which began life as a commission from New York's American Composers Orchestra and ended up as the score for the Imax film Deep Sea 3D. There are seven sections: Pianos, Blue Strings, A Brass Thing, The Quadruped Patrol, "I Forget," Bells and Whistles and End Tag, plus Improv for Alto Sax, with a total playing time of less than 47 minutes. Influence of Philip Glass, Orff, Bernard Herrmann and other film composers is always apparent, but CD notes give no program notes about each section. I Forget features a Spanish text sung by a soprano (Elissa Johnston) with a small chorus. Without visuals, this Elfman score doesn't amount to much except a series of orchestral effects that are easily forgotten. The CD booklet contains a list of performers including more than 90 string players, 8 French horns, 6 each of bassoons and trumpets—in spite of this, big orchestral sound seldom is heard. Sonic quality is rather dry, with unimaginative use of multi-channels.

R.E.B. (October 2006)

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