DEBUSSY: La Mer. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. BRITTEN: Four
Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. MERCURE: Kaléidoscope.
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G major
More than a year ago this site mentioned a superb SACD of Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 with the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Ségun (REVIEW). The young conductor, now in his early '30s, was appointed conductor of that orchestra in 2000 and next year will replace Valery Gergiev as conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Here is another fine recording from Nézet-Ségun and his first-class Canadian orchestra offering a rather odd combination of works: two Debussy favorites, the Four Sea Interludes from Britten's Peter Grimes, and Kaléidoscope by Canadian composer Pierre Mercure, born in 1927 who died in 1966 in an auto crash. Mercure studied with Nadia Boulanger and Darius Milhaud, and was considered one of Canada's most promising composers. Little of his music is currently available on recordings: Seiji Ozawa recorded Triptyque with the Toronto Symphony for Sony, and Simon Streatfeild can be heard leading the Vancouver CBC Ochestra in his Divertissement for Strings on Naxos. The 11-minute Kaléidoscope is a vivid orchestral work, highly rhythmic with a touch of jazz and Glenn Miller, a welcome addition to the catalog. Other works are given superlative performances. The Montréal orchestra is rather small (about 60 players), and music on this disk would have benefited from more strings. However, they play very well indeed, and Nézet-Ségun's attention to detail is vividly captured by the production team headed by Johanne Goyette, who also produced the excellent ATMA Debussy disk with Yoav Talmi and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec (see REVIEW).
Including this release, the mighty Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra has recorded Mahler's Symphony No. 4 no less than eight times, the first dating from 1939, a broadcast performance with Willem Mengelberg and Jo Vincent as soloist, to this day one of the major performances of this work. In 1952, Eduard van Beinum recorded it with Margaret Ritchie, and Bernard Haitink made two recordings, in 1967 with Elly Ameling and in 1983 with Roberta Alexander. Leonard Bernstein's live performance in 1987 with boy soprano Helmut Wittek was issued by DGG, and in 1999 Riccardo Chailly made a recording with Barbara Bonney. This new Mahler Symphony 4 was recorded during a performance November 7, 2006, a concert that marked the 50th anniversary of Haitink's first concert with the famous Dutch orchestra, which he led with distinction for more than a quarter-century. It is a loving performance, but Christine Schäfer's big voice, impressive though it is, is hardly appropriate for this music. It does seem odd that RCO Live didn't include something else on this disk from the same concert. The 5.0 surround sound is full and natural. If you're counting, the eighth version is a special SACD issued to radio stations to promote the excellent series Live! At The Concertgebouw, recorded in October 2002 with Barbara Frittoli as soloist.
The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet has another hit with their SACD called Brazil. Matthew Greif makes his first appearance as a member of LAGQ, joining founding members Bill Kanengiser, John Dearman and Scott Tennant. On this SACD they are featured in music of Sergio Assad, Marco Pereira, Hermeto Pascoal, Baden Powell, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Heitor Villa-Lobos, for the most part up-tempo repertory. They are joined by singer Luciana Sousa, percussionist Kevin Ricard, and woodwind player Katisse Buckingham. The SACD formet is utilized very effectively with four-corner directionality, usually with one player in each corner. For detailed information on who is where, one can visit the Telarc website: www.telarc.com/lagq
R.E.B. (November 2007)