BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E flat "Romantic." (original version)
Bavarian State Orch/Kent Nagano, cond.
SONY SACD 88697368812 TT: 75:07
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WAGNER: Lohengrin
Johan Botha, tenor (Lohengrin); Adrianne Pieczonka, soprano (Elsa); Kwangchul Youn, bass (King Henry); Falk Stuckmann, baritone (Telramund); Petra Lang, mezzo-soprano (Ortrud); Eike Wilm Schulte, baritone (Herald); Prague Chamber Choir; WDR RadioChoir Cologne; WDR Symphony Orchestra of Cologne/Semyon Bychkov, cond.
PROFIL SACD PH09004 (3 disks) TT: 71:29 / 73:12 / 70:34
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NORGARD: Symphony No. 3 (1972-75). Symphony No. 7 (2004-06)
Ulla Munch, alto; Danish National Vocal Ensemble; Danish National Choir (Symphony 3); Danish National Symphony Orch/Thomas Dausgaard, cond.
DACAPO SACD 6.220547 TT: 69:23
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Several years ago this site mentioned a fine SACD of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 with the Berlin Radio Symphony directed by Kent Nagano issued on Harmonia Mundi (REVIEW). Now we have this new recording of Symphony No. 4, and it seems odd he chose to record it in the original version. This is one case where the original Bruckner symphony is decidedly inferior to the revised one. The original is more repitative and there are numerous differences, particularly in the scherzo. Eliahu Inbal recorded the original version for Teldec more than two decades ago with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony (8.42921), no longer available. Inbal's interpretation was more direct than Nagano's, with a total playing time of 68:18 compared with Negano's 75:07. The latter was recorded in Munich September 19, 2007. The two producers, Felix Gargerie and Andreas Caemmerer, did a splendid job capturing the performance in surround sound. The avid Bruckernite surely would wish to investigate this new Sony release, but for most listeners the revised version is the one to have. I haven't heard the Oehms release with Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic, but it surely would be worth investigating. And the current catalog contains numerous non-SACD superlative performances, particularly those by Abbado, Jochum, Böhm, Haitink, Chailly and Van Beinum.

Early in 2006 this site reviewed an excellent SACD of Strauss's Elektra with Semyon Bychkov conducting (REVIEW). Now we have another outstanding release from the same source, Wagner's Lohengrin recorded in June 2008 in Cologne after two live performances—although apparently previously these artists had presented the opera in Spain and at the Vienna State Opera. Producers have gathered together as fine a group of Wagnerian singers as is possible today. This dedicated performance is strongly cast throughout, with John Botha actually sounding like a heldentenor. The true stars of this are Bychkov and the magnificent orchestra—and the production crew who have captured it all in some of the most natural, wide-range sound you'll ever experience. The large booklet gives profuse program notes and a complete libretto in German, English and French. A quality issue, indeed!

And quite dazzling is the Dacapo issue of Danish composer Per Norgard's Symphonies 3 and 7. Symphony No. 3 dates from 1972-1975; Symphony No. 7 was written over a two-year period beginning in 2004. Both symphonies are fascinating, imaginatively written and scored, and have something to say. Symphony No. 3 was composed during Norgard's "infinity" period which focuses on "motion," and usually there are many things going on at the same time, with many brilliant cascading effects in percussion and high instruments. A large chorus is heard in the second movement with a text by Rilke from his poem Sing die Gärten from his Sonnets to Orpheus, and later quotes Schubert's Du bist die Ruh, all in the most grandiose fashion. The work is dedicated to Thomas Daussgard who conducts this performance. Symphony No. 7 is on a somewhat lesser scale, but equally impressive. It's unique scoring includes14 "tuned toms" as well as a large battery of percussion. Countless bits of themes and ideas are tossed about and developed. The SACD engineering is spectacular. The orchestra is in front with ample reflected sounds from other speakers, with a wide dynamic range and the many shimmering percussive effects perfectly captured. This is an outstanding release! Get it!

R.E.B. (June 2009)

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