PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet Ballet
London Symphony Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
LSO LIVE LSO O682 (2 disks) TT: 138:58

SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder
Stig Andersen (Waldemar); Soile Isokoski (Tove); Monica Groop (Waldtaube); Ralf Lukas (Bauer); Andreas Conrad (Klaus-Narr); Barbara Sukowa (Speaker); Philharmonia Voices; City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus; Philharmonia Orch/Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond.
SIGNUM CLASSICS SACD SIGD173 (2 disks) TT: 58:21 & 50:09

'THE GENTS" Music of Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Röntgen and Richard Strauss

Valery Gergiev, recognized as a master interpreter of music of Serge Prokofiev, has recorded all seven symphonies, all five piano concertos (with Alexander Toradze), five operas (Betrothal in a Monastery, Ivan the Terrible, Love the Three Oranges, Semyon Kotkom, The Gambler), Alexander Nevsky and the Scythian Suite. Now we have this new live recording of the ballet Romeo and Juliet recorded with the London Symphony in Barbican Hall November 21 and 23 2008. In spite of its excellence, it almost seems superfluous. Gergiev already has recorded the score in 1990 with the Kirov Theater Orchestra, available both on CD and DVD.

Schoenberg's massive oratorio Gurrelieder (Songs of Gurre) had its premiere in Vienna February 23, 1913. Texts are by Danish novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen on the medieval tragedy of the ill-fated love of Danish King Valdemar for his mistress Tove who is killed by Queen Helvig. The first part consists of songs for Valdemar and Tove ending with the familiar Song of the Wood Dove. Valdemar calls the dead from their graves to which they return after which we hear the radiant concluding magnificent choral setting of Sunrise. Scored for large orchestra, Wagner's influence is always apparent. Leopold Stokowski gave the American premiere in 1932 with the Philadelphia Orchestra; his historic live recording is still available. The next recording, conducted by René Leibowitz, dates from 1953 and it also is currently in the catalog. Since that time, many major conductors have recorded Schoenberg's masterpiece. Now we have this superb live recording made in Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall in London February 28, 2009. The cast would not be bettered, and the engineers have done a fine job in capturing the massive orchestral and choral sounds. Fortunately the ending of the concluding Sunrise is not marred by applause. Complete texts and translations are provided. A quality release!

The latest recording by The Gents, the all-male Dutch vocal ensemble, is a fine collection of lieder under the direction of Béni Csillag who has been conductor of the group since August 2008. The Gents is equally at home in jazz and pop music as well as the classics (their SACD of English music was mentioned on this site REVIEW). In four of the Schubert songs (Ständchen, Nachtviolen, Abendstern, and An Sylvia) The Gents is joined by soprano Lennejke Ruiten. As usual with Channel Classics, the recorded sound is warm and resonant.

R.E.B. (December 2009)