SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43. Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49.
ELGAR: Enigma Variations, Op. 36. Introduction
and Allegro, Op. 47.
VAN OTTERLOO: Serenade. WOUD: The Call. GABRIELI: Canzon in echo duodecimi
toni a 10. HENZE: Ragtimes & Habaneras. SCHMIDT: Variants
with Solo Cadenzas for trumpet quartet. BOURGEOIS: Concerto Grosso, Op. 61.
What a pleasure it is to hear the Royal Concertgebouw Brass, an organization founded in 2003. It consists basically of 14 players, with an unending source of additional players when required. The conductor is Ivan Meylemans who since 1994 was principal trombone of the RCOA and now is focusing on a promising conducting career. This SACD offers "studio" recordings made in the Concertgebouw in November and December 2006 with an engineering staff headed by Everett Porter. They very successfully captured the hall's rich acoustics. The wide-ranging program begins with Willem van Otterloo's 1944 four-movement Serenade, followed by The Call by Nick Would, timpanist of the RCOA composed for the group's first American tour in 2005, which is a showcase for brass. The ten brief, delightful Ragtimes and Habanears by Henze show the lighter size of the composer, followed by Schmidt's Variants which features solo cadenzas for trumpet quartet. The program ends with Concerto Grosso, Op. 61 by Derek Bourgeois written in 1979 for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, music that ends brilliantly with what the composer called "a crazy rhumba." Needless to say, performances are stunning. A wonderful SACD in every way!
SACDs in the LSO Live series have generally been of high quality sonically, with some notable exceptions: Sir Colin Davis's Walton Symphony No. 1 (see REVIEW) and his recording of Sibelius's Symphonies 3 and 7 (see REVIEW). However, all is well from an audio viewpoint on this new Sibelius disk. The conductor's 1979 Boston recording of Pohjola's Daughter has been issued on Pentatone in 4-track sound (REVIEW), now we have this live performance compiled from LSO concerts in September and October 2005, and it is even better—a powerful presentation of this magnificent symphonic poem written in 1906 just before his Symphony No. 3. Davis made two previous recordings of Symphony No. 2 (Boston Symphony on Philips / LSO on RCA); there also exists a live performance from Dresden. This latest version is perhaps is perhaps his best. The Elgar SACD isn't quite as successful for various reasons. Sonically it is dryer and short on bass. Surprisingly, although Davis has recorded most of Elgar's orchestral works, this is the only one currently available of Enigma (his Philips recording with the LSO made more than four decades ago is discontinued), and admirers of the conductor might wish to have it for that reason alone—but it is inexcusable for LSO Live to issue a full-price disk with playing time of but 47:56.
R.E.B. (July 2007)