BERLIOZ: Requiem, Op. 5
Toby Spence, tenor; SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart / MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig/ Radio-Sinfonieorchestyer Stuttgart des SWR/Roger Norrington, cond.
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC SACD 93.131 TT: 86:10
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MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 2 "Lobgesang."
Christine Oetze, Simona Saturoyá, sopranos; Ian Bostridge, tenor; Chorus sine nomine; Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreiche/Andrés Orozco-Estrada, cond.
PREISER SACD 90796 TT: 64:06
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C.P.E. BACH: Sonata in D minor, Wq 69 (H 53). Fantasia inD, Wq 117/14. Sonata in E flat, Wq 65/42 (H 189). BRITTEN: 5 Waltzes, Op. 3. Holiday Diary, Op. 51. Night-Piece (Notturno).
Dejan Lazic, piano
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCS SA 28511 TT: 69:02
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Berlioz' mighty Requiem is receiving much more attention lately from record producers. This site has mentioned surround sound recordings conducted by Abravanel (REVIEW), Spano (REVIEW), Colin Davis (REVIEW), and Cambreling (REVIEW). Don't forget the historic recordings by Fournet (REVIEW), Scherchen (REVIEW) and Munch (REVIEW), among others. And there are two disappointing videos conducted by Bernstein and Davis (REVIEW). Now we have another surround recording of the work, and it is outstanding in every way. I was not impressed with either of Norrington's recording of the Fantastic Symphony, but here he gets everything right in a reading that is powerful and unrushed, highlighted by magnificent choruses. This was recorded live in September 2003 in Stuttgart's Beethovensaal before a noiseless audience, and the producers/engineers have done their job in spectacular fashion. Audiophiles will be delighted. It is curious that tenor Roby Spencer is quite distant—it sounds as if he is among the chorus—but that is a minor point. This surely is among the finest recordings of Berlioz' masterpiece, sonically only equaled (and perhaps surpassed by) the recent Cambreling version. Requiem usuall takes a bit more than 80 minutes to perform requiring two CDs (except for Spano's hasty performance on Telarc) and it seems odd that recordings of it do not contain appropriate fillers. The Te Deum would easily fit.

Mendelssohn wrote his Symphony No. 2 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of invention of the printing press. Subtitled Lobgesand (Hymn of Praise), it is a large-scale work including three soloists, chorus and orchestra, actually a four-movement symphony with an added cantata. It was well received at its premiere in 1840 but soon fell into disfavor, and for good reason. It lacks the distinctive qualities that marked his Scotch, Italian and Reformation symphonies written during the same period. It receives a fine performance on Preiser's new CD which was recorded live in Vienna's Musikverein in October 2010, with audio that is adequate but not particularly "surround." Should you have interest in hearing this work, surely the way to do so is via the recent DVD with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra filmed September 2, 2005 at the conductor's first concert with that orchestra after assuming the music director's position. That concert also contains two other works of Mendelssohn and the premiere of Wolfgang Rihm's fascinating Vervandlung 2 (REVIEW). The fine video and excellent audio are pluses, but even Chailly and the orchestra long associated with Mendelssohn can't do much for the symphony, one of the composer's least compelling efforts.

Croatian pianist/composer Dejan Lazic (b. 1977), enjoying a distinguished career, has made a number of superb recordings for Channel Classics. He has begun a new series for them called Liaisons, each disk containing music of two composers usually not paired. Lazic states, "when time barriers and stylistic differences are put aside" this juxtaposition shows "many similarities may be discovered: as if the dialect is different, but the language is common." I'm not quite sure what that means, but at any rate here we have three works by C. P. E. Bach coupled with all of Benjamin Britten's simple music for solo piano. Performances are of the highest quality, and the solo piano is very well recorded. If the programming concept is of interest to you, here it is.

R.E.B. (October 2011)

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