SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen, Op. 15. BRAHMS: Paganini Variations, Op. 35
Claudio Arrau, pianist
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 170 TT: 45:50
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BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Op. 56a. Hungarian Dance No. 14 (arr. for string orchestra by Iván Fischer)
Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCS SA 28309 TT: 67:28
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RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden. STRAUSS: Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome. TCHAIKOVSKY: Hopak from Mazeppa. MUSSORGSKY: Dance of the Persian Slaves from Khovanshchina. RABAUD: Marouf: Cobbler of Cairo. RUBINSTEIN: Ballet Music from The Demon. DVORÁK: Polonaise from Rusalka. SAINT-SAËNS: Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah
Minnesota Orch/Eiji Oue, cond.
REFERENCE RECORDINGS SACD RR 71 TT: 60:33
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Here is another welcome reissue from the Philips quadraphonic recordings series, Claudio Arrau recorded in 1974 in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. The Chilean pianist was 71 at the time and still in possession of virtuosity essential for the demanding Brahms variations on the familiar Paganini theme. The gentle Schumann childhood scenes are exquisitely played with utmost control. Arrau's rich sound has been superbly captured in four-channel sound. The only negative feature is the short playing time; surely there are other Arrau treasures in the vaults that could have been included.

All of Iván Fischer's Channel Classics recordings have been memorable, and this new Brahms disk is no exception. It begins with the conductor's arrangement for string orchestra of one of the least-known of the composer's Hungarian dances, No. 14, a rather odd choice. After that we have the Haydn Variations and a powerful account of Symphony No. 1. First-class throughout, and producer Hein Dekker and his engineering staff have provided rich sound in the venue: Palace of Arts in the Millennium City Center in Budapest.

This Minnesota Orchestra/Eiji Oue disk previously was available as a regular CD; now to have it on SACD which permits an even greater realization of the two-track master recordings. Reference Recordings always has been one of the most respected sources for classical music, and we can only hope they will issue many more of their past triumphs on SACD. In the meantime, enjoy what we have here, particularly the unusual items, the delightful ballet music by Rabaud and Rubinstein.

R.E.B. (December 2009)

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