TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.
Russian National Orch/Mikhail Pletnev, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186384 TT: 60:19
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BEETHOVEN: Overtures: Fidelio, Op. 72c. Leonore No. 1, Op. 138. Leonore No. 2, Op. 72a. Leonare No. 3, Op. 72b. Coriolan, Op. 62. Egmont, Op. 84. King Stephen, Op. 117. The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43. The Consecration of the House, Op. 124. Nameday, Op. 115. The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113.
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Kurt Masur, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186148 (2 disks) TT: 1:32:29
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VAN DER AA: Spaces of Blank. KETTING: Trajecten. KEURIS: Antologia. GUBAYDULINA: The Rider of the White Horse. NAS: No reason to panic.
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano/Ed Spanjaard, cond. (Van Der AA); Markus Stenz, cond. (Ketting); David Robertson, cond./Royal Concertgebouw Orch.
RCO LIVE SACD 10003 TT: 80:42
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Mikhail Pletnev is a specialist in Tchaikovsky, both as pianist and conductor. There are DVDs of his stunning performances of the Concert Fantasy and first two concertos recorded in Russia with Vladimir Fedoseyev on the podium. Pletnev first attracted attention as a conductor with his 1991 recording with the Russian National Orchestra of the composer's Symphony No. 6, which is still in the catalog; a few years later he recorded all of Tchaikovsky's symphonies and major orchestral works with the same orchestra for DG. Since that time he also has made complete recordings of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Apparently now he is making yet another recording of the symphonies for Pentatone, the first of which is this coupling of Symphony No. 4 and Romeo and Juliet. Both are given dynamic readings, and the Russian orchestra is in top shape. The recordings were made in a Moscow Studio in June 2010 with Job Maarse as recording engineer. Audio is wide range, full and satisfying although not particularly "surround." Cymbals, on the far right, are overly prominent and have a harsh, metallic sound with little shimmer, the only debut on an otherwise first-class issue.

In April 2005 this site mentioned the outstanding Beethoven symphony series recorded 1972-1974 with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (REVIEW). Now we have an equally fine set of all of Beethoven's overtures recorded during the same period. These solid, insightful performances are beautifully played and conveyed in the most natural four-channel sound. This is a terrific set well worth investigating.

When this site reviewed a fascinating DVD about Sofia Gubaidulina's violin concerto written for Anne-Sophie Mutter (REVIEW), mention was made of a remarkable orchestral work by this composer, The Rider of the White Horse, lamenting that it was not commercially available. Well, now it is, on this superb issue in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's Live series called Horizons. The performance is the one I had heard on an air-check, with David Robertson on the podium, and it is a stunning 10:27 of brilliant, imaginative music scored for large orchestra and organ. All of the music heard on this disk was recorded 2008-2009 and throughout we have the joy of hearing this magnificent orchestra in sonic verity—this will test your audio system. Mezzos-soprano Christianne Stotijn collaborated with composer Van Der Aa in the longest work on the SACD (27:02), Spaces of Blank, settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, Anne Carson and Rozalie Hirs, all depicting "journeys through spaces that stand for Angst in the German Romantic sense of the word." Ed Spanjaard conducts and Stotijn is radiant in this difficult music. We also have the works by Ketting and Keuris listed above, the former conducted by Markus Stenz. David Robertson leads the rest, Nas's No reason to Panic is "an experiment," inspired by the process of preparing the stage for a piano concerto performance, with all instruments except strings on stage making varied sounds—along with clumps and sounds produced by stagehands. . Entertaining, indeed! This is a remarkable disk, with, as mentioned above, audio quality of the highest order. Don't miss it.

R.E.B. (April 2011)

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