VERDI: Requiem
Christine Brewer, soprano; Karen Cargill, mezzo-soprano; Stuart Neill, tenor; John Relyea, bass; London Symphony Chorus and Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
LSO LIVE SACD LSO 0683 (2 disks) TT: 45:38 & 36:26

LISZT: Fantasia und Fugue Über Den Choral "Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Undam" aus der oper "Der Prophet." Ave Maria. Andante Religioso. Einleitung zur Legende der Heiligen Elisabeth. NICOLAI: Church Festival Overture on the Choral "Ein Feste Burg Is Unser Gott," Op. 37 for Organ or Pedal Piano, composed by Franz Liszt
Martin Haselböck, organ
NCA SACD 60157-215 TT: 59:0

SMETANA: Quartet No. 1 in E minor "From My Life." SIBELIUS: Quartet No. 4 in D minor, Op. 56 "Voces intimae." Andante Festivo for string quartet, JS 34a
Kocian Quartet
PRAGA SACD 250257 TT:61:18

This live recording of Verdi's Requiem was made during concerts in January 2009 in London's Barbican Hall. Sir Colin Davis's fine 1991 recording made in Munich is still in the catalog thanks to ArkivMusic. This new one is outstanding in many ways—four superb soloists, dynamic chorus and the LSO in top form. The problem for many collectors will be the sound. The Barbican's dry acoustics are unflattering, and the big sonic effects in Dies Irae don't amount to much. A plus is that the two SACDs sell for the price of one.

NCA's disk offers several organ works by Franz Liszt played by distinguished organist Martin Haselböck who can be heard on a CD issued in 1994 also devoted to Liszt. The older CD, on the Orfeo label, includes the composers most famous work, the mighty and lengthy (27:12) Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Undam. The same music opens this new SACD which ends with what apparently was the first work Liszt wrote for the instrument, an adaptation of the chorale Ein Feste Burg as used in Nicolai's Festival Overture. Three quiet introspective works complete the program which was recorded in October 2005 on the Ladegast Organ in the Merseburg Cathedral. Martin Haselböck gives masterful performances of this music, and the rich sounds of the large organ have been perfectly captured by producer Klaus Feldmann and engineer Stephan Reh. The only negative feature is the relatively short playing time.

Smetana's first string quartet (he wrote two) is one of the most personal statements ever composed. Written in 1876 when the composer realized he was going deaf, in its four movements it represents Smetana's tragic life. The first movement is romantic and hopeful, the second a polka, the third an evocation of first love, and in the finale we hear a rather vigorous dance brutally interrupted by deafness after which the work ends softly. George Szell realized the power of this music and made a rich orchestration of it in 1940 which he recorded with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1949 (REVIEW). The sonority of the full symphony orchestra is the best way to hear this moving music, but should you wish to hear the original, here it is in an excellent performance. The suitable coupling is Sibelius's String Quartet No. 4 subtitled "Intimate Voices," written when he thought he might have throat cancer ( he did not). Although the composer discussed writing more string quartets, they never came to be, although in 1922 he wrote the brief (4:47) Andante Festivo included in this recording. The Kocian Quartet plays all this music superbly, and audio quality is full and satisfying.

R.E.B. (December 2009)