SIBELIUS: Kullervo, Op. 7
WEINBERG: Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 52. Flute Concerto No.
2, Op. 148. Concerto No 1 for Flute and String Orchestra, Op. 75. Concerto
for Clarinet and String Orchesytra, Op. 104.
GILLIS: Twinkletoes. Rhapsody for Harp and Orchestra. The
Encore Concerto (Piano Concerto No. 1). Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera. Rhapsody
for Trumpet and Orchestra.
Incredibly, there are now four SACD issues of Sibelius' Kullervo; two of them mentioned on this site: Ari Rasilainen and the Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic on cpo, and Robert Spano with the Atlanta Symphony on Telarc (see REVIEW). This latest has much to offer, particularly radiant soprano Soile Isokoski. Leif Segerstam conducts a rather leisurely but powerful performance of a work he recorded some years ago for Chandos with the same soprano. The recording was made in Finlandia Hall in December 2007; engineer Enno Mäemets did a splendid job in capturing the performance and the hall's warm acoustics. Like many SACD recordings, this one is 5.0 instead of 5.1; the absence of the .l channel is not noticeable. A libretto is provided in Finnish and English. This is a splendid companion for the award-winning Ondine release of Sibelius songs with Isokoski and Segerstam (REVIEW).
Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Soviet composer of Polish-Jewish origin, was born in Warsaw in 1919, and died in Moscow in 1996.To many, he is known as Moissei Vainberg, and that is how his name is listed in the aged, huge final issue of the now defunct Schwann Opus catalog (which lists recordings of many of the composer's 26 symphonies, all now deleted).Weinberg was a close friend and associate of Shostakovich, and only now is his music gaining the recognition it so richly deserves. This superb Chandos issue offers four of his concerted works, three of which are concertos, two for flute, one for clarinet. The other is Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra, a poignant three-movement work that begins and ends softly. This music will be discussed at length on this site by S.G.S. Performances on this recording are magnificent, and the Chandos SACD audio could not be bettered—performers are in front, with splendid presence and balance. Highly recommended!
Albany Troy's Don Gillis recordings are of major interest to audio buffs and those interested in American music. For information on many of these, check this REVIEW. Here is another issue in the series, featuring some of the composer's frothiest music and his sense of humor. Twinkletoes originally was to be part of a ballet which never was completed—and one could easily take this 4:33 piece as by Leroy Anderson. Gillis' comic gift is even more apparent in Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera, his first work played by the NBC Symphony (with Milton Katims on the podium). As Ray Bono's CD notes say, the piece is a "ball of energy." Encore Concerto has already been recorded for Troy by Alan Feinberg with David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony (REVIEW); on this new release Ian Hobson plays the solo part as well as conducting, and even his expertise can't make much of this minor work. The works for harp and trumpet soloists are equally pleasant, if unmemorable. This release offers pleasant additions to the Gillis discography, and, as usual with the label, audio quality is superb.
R.E.B. (June 2008)