GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F. Rhapsody No. 2. I Got Rhythm
JANÁCEK: Glagolitic Mass. Sinfonietta.
VERDI: Ballet music from Otello, Macbeth, Jérusalem,
Don Carlo, Aida, Il trovatore and I vespri siciliani.
All three of these Naxos Blu Ray Audio disks are a treat for audiophiles. You will hear some of the cleanest sound possible thanks to state-of-the-art processing and the fact that original recordings were expertly engineered. Phil Rowlands produced, engineered and edited the Verdi collection recorded May 14-17, 2011 in The Lighthouse, Poole, Dorsey, UK. Andrzej Sasin was in charge of the Janácek recordings made in Warsaw Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw April 26-27, 2010 (Mass), and September 29-30, 2009 (Sinfonietta). Tim Handley produced the Gershwin which was recorded November 17-20, 2010 in Buffalo's Kleinhans Concert Hall. This sonically is not quite the equal of the others, doubtless because of acoustics of the venue.
Serebrier's Verdi collection gives us the opportunity to hear a rarity—22 minutes of ballet music for the seldom-performed Jerusalem. This and the other Verdi ballet music all receive spirited performances from Serebrier and his British forces. Antoni Wit and his fine Warsaw forces continue to impress; check their recent Blu Ray issue of Szymanowski's first two symphonies (REVIEW) as well as a DVD video issue of the other two symphonies (REVIEW).
Young American pianist Orion Weiss (b. 1981) is at the beginning of a career that has included performances with a number of major orchestras as well as duo-piano concerts with his teacher, Emanuel Ax. Unfortunately, he seems to have little affinity for Gershwin judging from these leisurely performances. You won't hear the pianist fireworks found in many other recordings of the Concerto in F, particularly those by Oscar Levant, Earl Wild, Garrick Ohlsson and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, to mention only a few. Of the three works on this issue, most successful is I Got Rhythm. Considering the subdued Gershwin performances on this issue, perhaps it is just as well Rhapsody in Blue isn't included although it easily would have fit,
The masses of sound in the Glagolitic Mass have been superbly captured, with soloists, chorus and orchestra well-balanced. Perhaps the surround sound process could have been used a bit more imaginatively; performers are always in front with hall sound coming from the rear—how effective it would have been in the Sinfonietta if the extra brass fanfares came from the rear, but they don't. But let us be thankful for what we have—splendid, full-bodied performances that do total justice to the music, beautifully recorded. Let's have more, Naxos!
R.E.B. (April 2012)