GABRIELLI: Sacrae Symphoniae No. 6: Sonata Pian e forte. Canzon duodecimi toni à 10. Canzon septimi toni à 8. BACH: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. GRAINGER: Lincolnshire Posy. REVUELTAS: Sensemaya. PROKOFIEV: Three scenes from Romeo and Juliet.
WALTON: Crown Imperial March.
Chicago Symphony Brass CSO LIVE CSOR 9011103 TT: 64:46

SAINT-SAËNS: Ballet music from Henry VIII, Ascanio, Etienne Marcel, and Les Barbares
Orchestra Victoria/Guillaume Tourniaire, cond.
MELBA SACD MR 301130 TT: 73:04

D'INDY: Symphony on a French Mountain Air, Op. 25. SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 2 in A minor, Op. 53. CHAUSSON: Soir de fete.
Martin Helmchen, piano; Suisse Romande Orch/.Marek Janowski, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186357 TT: 62:36

The Chicago Symphony is famous for its brilliant brass section. Apparently the group for some years has been presenting highly-acclaimed concerts, and this disk offers performances recorded in Orchestra Hall December 18-20, 2010. There isn't a trace of an audience, and no applause. The playing is magnificent with a wide-ranging program highlighted by Bruce Roberts' arrangement of Revueltas' Sensemaya. The CSO Brass are joined by percussion and clarinet players; the performer list also included "extra musicians" but do not indicate who plays what. Really no problem, but some might wish to know. Producers David Frost and Shawn Murphy and their staff have done a magnificent job in capturing the brass sonorities in splendid SACD audio. Highly recommended!

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) wrote thirteen operas, but only Samson and Delilah is heard today. And everyone knows the familiar ballet interlude, the Bacchanale. Saint-Saëns wrote ballet interludes for all of his operas. This welcome Melba issue offers many of them, most of which will be new to collectors. The program doesn't include the Bacchanale—no need for that when there are dozens already available. The only music that perhaps will be familiar to some listeners are the two dances from Henry VIII. We also have music from Ascanio (12 brief dances), Etienne Marcel (6 dances), and Les Barbares (a lengthy Prologue and 3 dances). The music is charming and very well played by Orchestra Victoria under Guillaume Tourniaire's spirited direction. Audio is warm and resonant. An intriguing release!

Pentatone offers a welcome disk of French music highlighted by one of unjustly neglected masterpieces for piano and orchestra, D'Indy's Symphony on a French Mountain Air. This is more popular on recordings than in the concert hall; there are a number of current recordings of it including performances by Aldo Ciccolini, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer; the historic 1934 recording by Marguerite Long is available, but the one that introduced me to the work, an early Columbia stereo version with Robert Casadesus, Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, is not—although the pianist's live 1955 recording with Ernest Ansermet/Suisse Romande Orchestra is. This superb new recording by Martin Helmchen has the benefit of Pentatone's excellent engineering, and the collaboration of Marek Janowski, who recorded the work eight years ago in France with Catherine Collard as soloist. The program also features two other works seldom heard in concert halls: Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 2, and Chausson's 15-minute Soir du fete, with its traces of Debussy, a colorful end to the program. Another fine release from the enterprising Pentatone label.

R.E.B. (October 2011)