LISZT: Funérailles. Transcendental Etudes Nos. 10 and 11. 3 Sonetti del Petrarca. RAVEL: Gaspard de la Nuit. SAINT-SAËNS: Danse macabre (based on the transcription by Franz Liszt).
Yevgeny Sudbin, piano
BIS SACD 1828 TT: 73:46

RAVEL: Pavane pour une infante défunte. FAURÉ: Après un reve, Op. 7 No. 1. Elégie, Op. 24. Romance, Op. 69. Pavane, Op. 50. DUBUGNON: Incantatio, Op. 12b. Lied, Op. 44b. DEBUSSY: Clair de Lune. La fille aux cheveux de lin.
Maxim Rysandov, viola/Ashley Wass, piano
BIS SACD 1773 TT: 52:48

DVORÁK: Symphony No. 9 in e minor, Op. 95 "From the New World." Czech Suite, Op. 39. My Home, Op. 62.
Malaysian Philharmonic Orch/Claus Peter Flor, cond.
BIS SACD 1856 TT: 76:35

Young Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin (b. 1980) has a distinguished career with a number of fine recordings, all on the BIS label. His SACD of the last two Beethoven piano concertos with the Minnesota Orchestra directed by Osmo Vänska was mentioned on this site (REVIEW). There are plans for Sudbin and this orchestra to complete this series, now possibly in jeopardy because of the unfortunate Minnesota Orchestra strike situation at this time (Nov. 2012). It is equally unfortunate that Sudbin's other orchestral recordings are with ensembles not of the level of the Minnesota recordings. On this solo disk, the pianist plays some of the most difficult music ever written for the instrument, and impresses mightily. There are no technical problems, and his control of nuance is particularly evident in the Ravel. Sudbin wrote program notes for this disk, speaking at length about the Liszt transcription of Saint-Saëns Danse macabre which was further amended by Vladimir Horowitz (whose 1950 recording is astounding). Several years ago I attended a Baltimore concert in which Arcadi Volodos played the Liszt-Horowitz arrangement, an electrifying performance. Sudbin feels Horowitz went too far in elaborating on Liszt's concept, already a mass of notes, some of which Sudbin chose to eliminate, and he did a touch of further editing as well. It still is a showpiece, and brilliantly played, but I prefer the Horowitz performance—with his added touches—which has a demonic intensity in that mass of notes. The BIS sound is excellent.

BIS has another winner in this disk of music for viola and piano played by young virtuosos Maxim Rysandov and Ashley Wass. The SACD is called Pavane, and opens and closes with pavanes by Ravel and Faure. Most of the music is quiet and introspective, qualities perfectly suited to the instruments, but the dramatic 15-minute Incantion, Op. 12b by Richard Dudgeon shows the passionate, virtuoso side of the viola, an instrument so important—and sometimes rather unappreciated—in orchestras. This is a lovely program, with warm, realistic audio. The only debit is that the program is only 52:48. Easily much more music could have been included.

A new recording of Dvorák's From the New World has formidable competition. ArkivMusic lists well over 200 currently available recordings led by just about every major conductor. This new BIS version is very far down on the preferred list. The Malaysian Philharmonic, founded in 1998, apparently has an active concert schedule. Musicians from 25 nations participate, and a number of famous soloists and conductors have appeared with them; Claus Peter Flor is now the music director. The Malayasian orchestra has made a number of recordings for BIS—this is the first I've heard. Although it is said there are 105 players, it surely doesn't sound like it. Strings are thin and lack body. Orchestral playing throughout is undistinguished. The only plus for this issue is the generous playing time but there are countless other versions of this jmusic far superior. BIS's audio is not their best, unresonant, and there is no "surround" effect. Skip this one.

R.E.B. (November 2012)