VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Lark Ascending. On Wenlock Edge. Flos Campi. BRITTEN: Sinfonia da Requiem.
Michael Dauth, violin (The Lark Ascending); Roger Benedict, viola (Flos Campi); ); Sydney Symphony Orch/Mark Wiggelsworth, cond; Cantillation Chorus (Flos Campi); Steve Davislim, tenor, Hamer Quartet, Benjamin Martin, piano (On Wenlock Edge).
MELBA SACD mr 301131 TT: 74:12

MOZART: Duo in G for Violin and Viola, KV 423. Duo for Violin and Viola in B flat, KV 414. Menuette (from 12 Duos for Horn, IV 487. M. HAYDN: Duo for Violin and Viola No. 1 in C MH 335. Duo for Violin and Piano No. 2 in D, MK 336.
Rachel Podger, violin; Jane Rogers, viola.

IVES: The Unanswered Question.(Jeffrey Work, trumpet). ADAMS: The Wound Dresser (Sanfiord Sylvan, baritone; Jun Iwasaki, violin); BRITTEN: Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 4 in f minor.
Oregon Symphony/Carlos Kalmar, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186393 TT: 78:04

"Arcadia Lost" is the title of Melba's SACD,"a banquet for lovers of British music. Michael Kennedy's fine program notes make no attempt to explain the title, and there is no connection between any of this music and the 2009 film of the same name. Three masterpieces of Vaughan Williams are featured along with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem. Orchestral works feature the excellent Sydney Symphony performing in the Sydney Opera House; the song cycle was recorded in Iwaki Auditorium. Both venues obviously have fine acoustics, beautifully captured by Melba's recording team. There is no recording more beautiful of The Lark Ascending than what is heard here, with Michael Dauth's superb violin soaring effortlessly over the hushed orchestra. Violist Roger Benedict is equally fine in Flos Campi, his instrument blending perfectly with the orchestra and wordless chorus. The remarkable tenor Steve Davislim, who impressed with his previous Melba recordings of music of Britten, Strauss and Schubert, is heard in the six songs comprising On Wenlock Edge, ably assisted by pianist Benjamin Martin and the youthful Hamer Quartet. This is a deluxe presentation with English texts provided. The surround sound is realistic and warm, with performers in front. A beautiful disk in every way, although it is surprising producers didn't track the three sections of the Britten.

Another lovely SACD is Channel Classics' generously-filled disk of duos by Mozart and Haydn written for or arranged for violin and viola expertly played on period instruments by violinist Rachel Podger and violist Jane Rogers. The music is charming, and the sound of the two instruments has been captured with uncommon clarity.\.

The Oregon Symphony, the sixth oldest American orchestra, was founded in 1896 as the Portland Symphony Society; in 1967 the name was changed to Oregon Symphony. Carlos Kalmar has been music director since 2003, and this SACD contains the program they presented in Carnegie Hall in May 2011 during the Spring into Music series. The disk is called "Music in the Time of War," works often associated with war and conflict. The somber program begins with The Unanswered Question by Ives featuring Jeffrey Work as the sterling trumpet soloist. The Wound-Dresser, composed by John Adams in 1988, is an emotional setting of Walt Whitman's poem written after the author had visited wounded soldiers during the Civil War. The gentle music is far removed from most of the composers music. It is beautifully sung by baritone Sanford Sylvan whose enunciation is so clear we really don't need the provided text. Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem has long been a favorite with audiences; there are dozens of recordings of it, but this easily is among th4e finest. The featured work, Symphony No. 4 of Vaughan Williams, is a turbulent often violent work that is an appropriate end to the program. All of these performances were recorded during live May 7/8, 2011 in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland. There are no traces of audience sound, and producer Blanton Alspaugh has done a superb job—audiophiles will not be disappointed.

The Oregon Symphony made their first recording in 1987 for Delos and has made a few other disks for Koch and Albany. Let us hope Pentatone will continue to record this excellent American orchestra.

R.E.B. (February 2012)