MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand."
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Fantasia
on Polish Airs, Op. 13. Krakowiak - Grand Rondeau de
Concert, Op. 14.
Naxos continues their admirable series of Blue Ray Audio releases with this trio. This format offers the highest quality audio one can experience today; On the TV monitor you will see identification of tracks/repertory, and, if you chose, texts. The block buster here is Mahler's massive Symphony of a Thousand. The recording is not new; it was made June 1-6, 2005 in Warsaw's Philharmonic Concert Hall and it is obvious at the time Naxos was looking ahead to a multi-channel issue. The sense of space is extraordinary; the listener is right in the middle of the performers. Soloists are well-balanced, clear and not too prominent providing a very natural concert hall effect. I doubt the number of performers approached what Mahler wanted, but it sounds as if they are all there, and that's what counts. Separate brass choirs are well defined, and it is stunning to hear the blazing brass from the rear. And the performance itself is among the best ever of this mammoth work, well-paced by Wit (whose neglect by major record companies is inexcusable—fortunately Naxos recognizes his merit and used him often). All of the soloists are first-rate, chorus are excellent, and the Polish orchestra is in top form.
The Chopin disks are rather odd choices for Blue Ray processing simply because these works for piano and orchestra offer minimal challenges for the engineers. On these recordings we hear solid, brilliant piano tone, but orchestral sound is rather muddy. Although there is limited audio coming from rear speakers, there is no surround sound effect. . The extraordinary warmth and presence heard on the Mahler issue is absent here. Eldar Nebolsin is one of the most exciting younger pianists of the day and already has to his credit superb disks of Schubert, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Dohnányi (REVIEW). He is equally accomplished in music of Chopin, and on these two disks we have all of the composer's music for piano and orchestra. All of these performances were issued on regular CDs last fall. Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic are old hands at this repertory; they play it every year for the Chopin Competition, and recently gave a special concert to commemorate Chopin's 200th birthday recorded February 27, 2010, with Nikolai Demidenko as soloist in Concerto No. 1 and Evgeny Kissin in Concerto No. 2, available on DVD (REVIEW). Audio on that DVD is superior to what is heard on these new Blue Ray issues.
All three of these releases have slowly moving abstract images on screen during the performances. I find them distracting and turned off the video.Don't miss the Mahler!
R.E.B. (April 2011)