RAVEL: Daphnis and Chloe Suites 1 and 2. Mother
Goose Suite. Bolero.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47. Symphony No. 9 in E
flat, Op. 70.
BARBER: Toccata Festiva, Op. 36. POULENC: Concerto
in G minor for Organ, Strings and Timpani. SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony
No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ."
Haitink is a superb conductor of Impressionistic music and has made many fine recordings of it. In addition to his commercial recordings of Debussy and Ravel, we have marvelous live performances of Debussy's Six Épigraphes antiques and Jeux, Ravel's Schéhérazade, Roussel's Le Festin de l'Araignée, and Poulenc's Les Biches; all included in the 14-CD set Bernard Haitink - Live - The Radio Recordings (see REVIEW). This is an essential set for collectors—and with sonics that usually are superior to the conductor's commercial releases. Pentatone's issue of Ravel offers recordings made in September 1971. Volker Straus was Philips' choice for many years as producer of Concertgebouw recordings, and seldom did he succeed in capturing what to me is the "true Concertgebouw sound." There's no question that the four-channels open up the sound picture considerably, although sound is still rather blurred in bass. However, Mother Goose is particularly effective in the new format. It seems odd this SACD doesn't include Ravel's Alborada del gracioso which was recorded two months later. Instead we have Edo de Waart's Rotterdam Philharmonic recording of Bolero made in December 1974, an attractive filler, and very well recorded—and, a plus, is that it is one of the longest recordings ever made of the work (15:49).
Pentatone has a winner in their issue of two Shostakovich symphonies with the Russian National orchestra conducted by Yakov Kreizberg. These stunning performances are among the best of the more than sixty recordings available of Symphony No. 5 and thirty of Symphony No. 9 (which CD notes oddly state is "for violin and orchestra"). Orchestral playing is top-line virtuoso calibre, with the conclusion of Symphony No. 5 particularly and implacably impressive. Job Maarse produced this recording, made in April 2006 in Moscow's DZZ Studio 5. He did his usual fine engineering although a touch more hall sound would be welcome.
I've been disappointed in sonic quality of the first batch of Ondine SACDs with Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra; I prefer a richer string sound, which the orchestra surely can provide. This release of music for organ and orchestra was recorded during concerts in the Kimmel Center in May 2006 commemorating the hall's new organ, the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest concert hall organ in the U.S.—and it sounds like it indeed. Distinguished organist Olivier Latry was soloist in the these three showpieces for the instrument, and Ondine's engineers have been very successful in capturing splendid orchestral sound. Your woofers will love this recording! The CD booklet is oversize and will not fit into the jewel-case; one must keep the outer cardboard sleeve that accompanies the disk—awkward and space-consuming for sure.
R.E.B. (April 2007)