MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic."
HAYDN: Quartet in E flat, Op. 64 No. 6. Quartet in G, Op. 77 No. 1.
Quartet in D, Op. 20 No. 4.
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Quartet in B flat, Op. 41. Piano Quartet
in E. Barcarolle, Op. 108.
During his tenure as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1985-1998), David Zinman presented all of Mahler's symphonies and one of his greatest triumphs was Symphony No. 6, which some may remember from a nationwide broadcast on NPR. Continuing his RCA Mahler cycle with the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, of which he has been conductor for well over a decade, we have this dynamic performance of Symphony No. 6. The Andante is taken rather briskly, and is placed second in this set; if you prefer of course you can program it to be heard third, the choice of many conductors. The recording was made in Tonhalle Zürich May 14-16, 2007, and producer Chris Hazell and his engineering team have captured the orchestra's sound magnificently; the hammer blows in the finale are mightily impressive. The orchestra is in front with perfect use of ambient sound from other speakers. This is an outstanding issue that occupies two disks, but they are sold for the price of one. This is a Mahler Sixth to treasure.
The Amsterdam String Quartet (Alida Schat/John Wilson Meyer, violins; Jane Rogers, viola; Thomas Pitt, cello) is committed to the music of Haydn. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of the composer (1732-1809), they are presenting numerous concerts of his music and have started a series of recordings of his complete string quartets, performing on historical instruments. This is their second release in the series, and the same high quality of the first (CCS SA 25907). and recorded sound is exemplary. It doesn't get any better than this.
Camille Saint-Saéns usually is underrated as a composer. His music is imaginative, captivating, often powerful, and always charming. His five piano concertos, particularly the last three, are gems of the repertory and should appear more often on concert programs. There is a superb recording of all five on Audite with pianist Anna Malikova and Thomas Sanderling conducting (Concertos 1, 2, 4 REVIEW), and (Concertos 3 and 5 REVIEW). This new MDG issue offers the composer's seldom recorded piano quartets, the first composed in 1853 when he was a student. The second appeared in 1875, and we also have the Barcarolle, Op. 108 written in 1898 for violin, cello, harmonium and piano, later arranged by Saint-Saëns for piano quartet. These are spirited performancesof this lovely music from the Mozart Piano Quartet, and the recorded sound is totally natural—this label has much more sonic success in recording non-orchestral music.
R.E.B. (August 2009)