BACH: Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F, BWV 1046. Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F, BWV 1047. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G, BWV 1048. Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, BWV 1049. Brandenburg Concerto No. 56 in D, BWV 1050. Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flaty, BWV 1051.
Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD 80746162 (2 disks) TT: 44:04 & 52:16
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BERNSTEIN: Mass
Randall Scarlata, baritone (Celebrant); Company of Music (Street Chorus); Tölzer Knabenchor (Boys Choir); Chorus Sine Nomine (Chorus); Absolute Ensemble; Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederöstyerreich/Kristjan Järvi, cond.
CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5070 (2 disks) TT: 42:15 & 64:52
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KHACHATURIAN: Violin Concerto. Masquerade Suite.
Ara Malikian, violin; Extremadura Symphony Orch/Jesús Amigo, cond.
SGAE SACD TT: 54:46
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If you are looking for a multi-channel recording of the Bach Brandenburgs you surely could do no better than this magnificent set immaculately played by the Academy of Ancient Music directed by Richard Egarr, who also plays the important solo in Concerto No. 5. These performances have a somewhat different sound as performers have chosen to use the French baroque pitch (A = 392Hz) which is considerably lower than the usual pitch of A = 415Hz. particularly noticeable in Concerto No. 2 which features a solo trumpet (spectacularly played by David Blackadder). There's a complete listing of all performers and the instruments on which they play. This is a stunning set, beautifully recorded in multi-channel sound, with performers in front. The only debit to some might be that there isn't more music on the two disks. Almost another hour of music could have been included.

Leonard Bernstein's Mass has been controversial ever since its premiere at the Kennedy Center September 8, 1971. Harold Schonberg's review is reprinted in the Chandos CD notes: he wrote the Mass is "a combination of superficiality and pretentiousness, and the greatest mélange of styles since the ladies' magazine recipe for steak fried in peanut butter and marshmallow sauce." I agree with him. To me, this is a vapid, overly-long ego trip for Bernstein. The composer's own recording is available, but this new one has the advantage of spectacular surround sound engineering, with front and back, left and right used imaginatively. There is another SACD recording on Harmonia Mundi (I have not heard it) with Berlin forces directed by Kent Nagano. And another one shortly will appear on Naxos, with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony who performed to great acclaim in New York this season. Chandos has provided profuse program notes and complete texts. This two-disk set is priced lower than most releases on the label.

A new SACD of music of Khachaturian is rather puzzling. No where on it (including the disk itself) is the label identified, although there is a reference to a web site: www.nonprofitmusic.org that lists the three recordings thus far issued—but still no label. Ara Malikian is soloist in the violin concerto deftly playing the myriad of notes, but as recorded here, his sound is quite astringent. He is accompanied by the youthful Extremadura Symphony Orchestra directed by its founder, Jesús Amigo. Even with the addition of Masquerade Suite the playing time on this SACD is less than 55 minutes.

R.E.B. (April 2009)

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