DVORÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World." Carnival Overture, Op. 92
MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25. Piano
Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 40. Rondo brilliant, Op. 29.
BRAHMS: A German Requiem, Op. 45.
Pentatone's multi-channel issues so far have focused on European recordings, but here we have Dvorák recorded by Seiji Ozawa with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra of which he was music director from 1969 to 1976.; he had become music director of the Boston Symphony in 1973. These recordings were made in May 1975 in Cupertino Hall in San Francisco—since 1980, the orchestra has played in Davies Symphony Hall. The performances are lively enough, but this is not a memorable New World; the fire and drama that Szell, Ancerl, Talich and numerous other conductors fine in the score are not to be heard here. What is interesting is the way the four-channel sound, masterminded by Vittorio Negri, has opened up the sonic picture. There is a natural quality to the orchestra's sound that was missing from the original release, and for those interested in this early episode of the Japanese conductor's career, this is the version to have.
Young German pianist Martin Helmchin has another fine disk to his credit, this coupling of Mendelssohn's two piano concertos with Rondo brilliant as a complement. Helmchin easily handles the virtuoso fireworks of all of this music. with vigorous accompaniment from Herreweghe and his fine orchestra. Job Maarse produced this recording made in Antwerp, Belgium, in February 2010. For some listeners, the piano tone might be a bit submerged by the orchestra. This disk has strong competititon from Stephen Hough's brilliant Hyperion recording that contains two all of Mendelssohn's works for piano and orchestra with far better value in playing time, and state-of-the-art stereo sonics.
It does seem strange that Johannes Brahms, an agnostic, composed what some consider to be the most important sacred choral work ever written. Perhaps he was influenced by the death of Robert Schumann in 1856, and the death of his mother in 1865. The final version of the work was premiered at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1869 and since that time it has been a staple of the repertory. This fine Pentatone release contains a perfomance recorded live in Berlin's Philharmonie in November 2009, Janowski's latest addition to his Brahms series for the label. Superb soloists, splendid orchestra and chorus mark this issue that stands up well to the the fine recordings already available—over 90 of them!—including versions by most major conductors you can think of. Excellent sound, naturally recreating the performance in Berlin's famous hall. Complete texts are provided in German, English and French.
R.E.B. (November 2010)