VON SUPPÉ: Overtures to Light Cavalry, Boccaccio, Pique Dame, Poet and Peasant, The Model, Isabella, The Beautiful Galatea, and Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna. March from Boccaccio. Humorous Variations on Who comes from afar!, March on Themes from Fatinitza. March Up Hill and Down Dale. Juanita Martch from Donna Juanita.
Royal Scottish National Orch/Neeme Järvi, cond.

POHJOLA: Symphony No. 1. Symphony No. 2.
Finnish Radio Symphony Orch/Sakari Oramo, cond.
ALBA SACD ABCD 339 TT: 60:49

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 "Little Russian." Variations on a Rococo Theme.
Leonard Elschenbroich, cello; Gürzenich Orchester Köln/Dmitrij Kitajenko, cond.
OEHMNS SACD OC 669 TT: 62:56

Here's another Chandos winner from Neeme Järvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (their Saint-Saëns SACD was spectacular (REVIEW). This capacity SACD (79:42) contains vigorous performances of all of the Suppé overtures you know along with two you probably don't (The Model and Isabella), plus two stirring marches and a delightful set of humorous variations. Highly entertaining music played with spirit and panache, and beautifully recorded. A terrific disk!

Last August this site mentioned a fascinating Alba SACD of four string quartets by Finnish composer Seppo Pohjola (REVIEW). Now they have issued another intriguing CD that contains the composer's first two symphonies. The composer experienced a dreadful tragedy when his two older brothers died. Symphony No. 1, composed in 2002, is dedicated to them. As you might expect, it is a dark, brooding score, influenced by Ravel while continuing the Scandinavian tradition of late Sibelius The first movement opens darkly and mysteriously later turning rather violent with suggestions of The Rite of Spring as well as several musical quotes, most obviously Beethoven's Ode to Joy. The second movement begins so softly it is barely audible, with a sad theme played by oboe and bassoon over hushed strings. Bird calls mark the third movement, and the last is an agitated exercise in movement. Symphony No. 2 dates from 2006, again marked by tragedy, brilliantly orchestrated with lots of high percussion. Both of these symphonies are worthy of attention, and these performances by Finland's best orchestra directed by Sakari Oramo are superb. The SACD engineering is of the widest range, vividly capturing the music's dynamics. Pohjola's Symphony No. 3 performed by these artists can be viewed in a recent performance (probably the premiere) on YouTube. The four movements will require separate loading; the first is HERE. Symphony No. 3 is an incredibly intricate score magnificently played, a major contemporary symphony. Let us hope it soon will be issued on SACD, along with other music of this remarkable composer. Check out this outstanding issue.

Back to standard repertory, Oehms continues their fine Tchaikovsky symphony series with this issue of Symphony No. 2. This is given a vigorous reading by Dmitrij Kitajenko with the excellent Gürzenich Orchestra. Audio, although not particularly "surround," is wide range. Unlike previous issues in this series (symphonies 1 and 6) this disk has a generous filler, Rococo Variations with the brilliant cellist Leonard Elschenbroich as soloist. The close-up engineering lets us hear every detail of his virtuoso performance. Even with this, playing time for this CD is only a bit over one hour. For the symphony, I prefer the recent Mikhal Pletnev/Russian National Orchestra recording for its richer orchestral sound of Pentatone's engineers, and because it includes the rarely-heard original version of the first movement of the symphony—although even with this, playing time is very short (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (February 2013)