MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G
Miah Persson, soprano; Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.

BERG: Piano Sonata, Op. 1 (orch. Verbey). Three Pieces, Op. 6. Der Wein (2 performances). Passacaglia. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Three Fragments from Wozzeck. Symphonic Pieces from Lulu.JOHANN STRAUSS-BERG: Wein, Weib und Gesang!
Geraldine McGreevy, soprano; Robert Murray, tenor; Isabelle van Keulen, violin; Gothenburg Symphony Orch/Mario Venzago, cond.
CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5074 (2 disks) TT: 79:35 & 77:45

BEETHOVEN: "Rasumovsky" String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2."Razumovsky" String Quartet in C, Op. 59 No. 3
Quartetto Italiano
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 176 TT: 70:27

Mahler's Symphony No. 4, the most popular of his nine completed symphonies, expectedly is the most recorded; currently there are over 100 versions by most major conductors. Four of these are splendid performances on SACD: Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw (REVIEW), David Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra (REVIEW), Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra (REVIEW), and Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (REVIEW), plus one version that disappoints (primarily because of inferior sonics) with the Bamberg Symphony conducted by Jonathan Nott (REVIEW). Now we have another superb recording, with Iván Fischer and his first-rate Budapest Festival Orchestra in a straight-forward meticulous reading that has the advantage of warm, well-balanced surround sound. It is a welcome addition to the catalog although it doesn't replace its competitors.

The Chandos twin-disk Berg set (each SACD filled to capacity) offers the composer's best-known music in powerful performances magnificently played. Douglas Jarman, a specialist in music of the Second Viennese School, has written two books about Berg, and his "critical edition" of the Violin Concerto published in 1966. is heard in this new recording with Isabelle van Keulen as the sterling soloist. Der Wein (The Wine), three poems by Baudelaire translated by Stefan George, was written in 1925 for Czech soprano Ruzena Herlinger. Here it is heard in two versions, in French sung by tenor Robert Murray, and the standard German version sung by soprano Geraldine McGreevy. She also is heard as Marie in an excerpt from Wozzeck, and as both Lulu and Countess Geschwitz in excerpts from Lulu. Many collectors cherish the 1961 Mercury recording of the Lulu excerpts with Antal Dorati and the London Symphony (currently available on a mid-price Mercury Living Presence CD) with soprano Helga Pilarczyk as Lulu who shreiks a blood-curdling scream as Lulu is murdered by Jack the Ripper—the scream is omitted on the Chandos recording. The Gothenburg Symphony is in top form and the Chandos engineering team have captured Berg's rich textures with uncommon clarity and impact. The two-for-one price is another plus in an outstanding issue.

Philips recorded Quartetto Italiano's performances of all of Beethoven's quartets in 1973, some in four-channel sound. Two of these are heard on Pentatone's new issue of the Rasumovsky quartets of Op. 59. These remarkable performances sound better than ever in this first release of the original multi-channel tapes. This is some of the most natural string sound you will ever hear, and the performances deserve their legendary status. Recommended!

R.E.B. (August 2009)