GILLIS: Symphony No. 1: An American Symphony (1941). Symphony No. 2: A Symphony of Faith (1942). Symphony No. 5 1/2: A Symphony for Fun (1947).
Sinfonia Varsovia/Ian Hobson, cond.
ALBANY TROY SACD 888 TT: 78:30
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WAGNER: Das Rheingold
John Bröcheler (Wotan); Timothy DuFore (Donner); Andrew Brunsdon (Froh); Christopher Doig (Loge); Elizabeth Campbell (Fricka); Kate Ladner (Freia); Liane Keegan (Erda); John Wegner (Alberich); Richard Greager (Mime); Andrew Collis (Fasolt); David Hibbard (Fafner); Natalie Jones (Woglinde); Donna-Maree Dunlop (Wellgunde); Zan McKendree-Wright (Flosshilde); Adelaide Symphony Orch/Asher Fisch, cond.
MELBA SACD MR 301089-90 TT: 73:03 & 76:05
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CHESKY: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Concerto for Orchestra. Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra.
Lova Derwinger, pianist; Martin Kuuskmann, bassoon; Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera/Rossen Gergov, cond.
CHESKY SACD 326 TT: 69:00
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Albany Troy continues their spectacular SACD series of music of American composer Don Gillis with this brilliant issue of four symphonies. This site already has reviewed the label's releases of Star-Spangled Symphony, Amarillo and Dance Symphony (REVIEW), Symphonies 5, 6 and Paul Bunyon Overture (REVIEW), Symphony X, Shindig, Encore Concerto and Symphony 5 1/2 (REVIEW), and Symphony No. 7, Portrait of a Frontier Town and The Alamo (REVIEW). Only the latter has thus far been issued on SACD; the others are regular stereo, with superlative sonics. Albany Troy's Gillis recordings are with the Albany Symphony conducted by David Alan Miller or by Sinfonia Varsovia directed by Ian Hobson. The only work shared by both orchestras/conductors is the delightful Symphony 5 l/2. Symphonies 1 (1941) and 2 (1942) are nationalistic in nature reflecting the composer's observations on international chaos; he considered No. l to be a "war" symphony, and No. 2 "implies through music the ideals of this nation." Symphony 5 1/2 is totally different, appropriately subtitled A Symphony for Fun. Arthur Fiedler and the Boston "Pops" gave the premiere June 25, 1947, and September 21, 1947 Arturo Toscanini conducted it with the NBC Symphony. Hobson and the superb orchestra are in top form, and the artificially produced surround sound is totally effective in creating the sound of an orchestra playing in an acoustically-perfect auditorium. Strongly recommended!

Melba's Das Rheingold is the second installment in their issue of live performances recorded at the Adelaide Festival with the State Opera of South Australia. For the most part singers are Australian, and first-class. Die Walküre was issued some months ago (see REVIEW). Das Rheingold continues the high level of performance, highlighted by John Bröcheler's Wotan. The cast is strong throughout, with conductor Asher Fisch leading a performances that emphasizes the lyric elements of the score but misses none of the drama. The surround sound is excellent, with plenty of space around the singers. The orchestra is rather recessed, natural in perspective.But don't expect the sheer sonic impact heard on the somewhat over-produced Solti 1958 Decca recording.

In October 2005 this site reviewed an extraordinary SACD of music by David Chesky featuring his concertos for violin and flute (see REVIEW). Now we have another terrific disk from the same source, called "Urban Concertos," with his Piano Concerto, Bassoon Concerto and Concerto for Orchestra, each one approximately 24 minutes in length. Unfortunately, program notes are minimal telling us nothing about the three works except that all were inspired by sounds from the streets of New York—jazz, Latin, world, hip hop, rock and popular, with a nod to Bartók, Stravinsky and other "classical" composers. All three concertos are highly rhythmic and percussive, challenging not only for the featured soloists, but for everyone involved. The 24-minute Piano Concerto has two spiky outer movements separated by a nostalgic interlude that begins and ends softly after a jazzy middle section. The last movement is filled with large smashing chord clusters, all highly rhythmic of course, and punctuated by percussion—and surprisingly this vivid concerto ends quietly. The 24-minute Bassoon Concerto is a welcome addition to the repertory, a true tour de force for the soloist, filled with whimsy, and the fabled bassoon opening of Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps, one of the most famous bassoon solos in orchestral repertory, quoted several times. Chesky's Concerto for Orchestra surely won't replace Bartók's, but it is an imaginative exercise in orchestral writing and proves again that David Chesky is an important composer on today's music scene. I've never heard of conductor or soloists featured on this disk—they are first-rate throughout, as is the Norrlands Opera Orchestra. Sonic quality is outstanding, as we have come to expect from the label. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (February 2007)

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