KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35. BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26.
Arabella Steinbacher, violin; Gulbenkian Orch/Lawrence Foster, cond.
PENTTONE SACD 5186503 TT: 70:23

WAGNER: Tannhäuser -
Robert Dean Smith (Tannhäuser). Christian Gerhaher (Wolfram). Peter Sonn (Walther). Albert Dohmen (Landgraf of Thüringen). Nina Stemme (Elisabeth). Marina Prudenskaya (Venus). Wilhelm Schwinghammer (Biterolf). Berlin Radio Chorus and Orch/Marek Janowski, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186405 (3 disks) P.T. 2:50:47

JANACEK: Glagolitic Mass. Taras Bulba.
Aga Mikolaj, soprano. Iris Vermillion, contralto. Stuart Neill, tenor. Arutjun Kotchinian, bas. Iveta Apkalna, organ. Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Marek Janowski, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 388 TT: 64:53

The remarkable young violinist Arabella Steinbacher already has made acclaimed recordings, mostly for Pentatone, of concertos by Bartôk, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Dvorák, Khachaturian, Milhaud, and Shostakovich. Now she turns her attention to somewhat lighter fare with this fine issue of concertos of Korngold and Bruch. As always, her tone and intonation are perfect and she is able to convey the beauties of both scores. The Korngold in recent years has become a favorite with many violinists many of whom have recorded it (there are over 20 currently available), notably Perlman, Hahn, Shaham and Mutter. Many collectors first heard this marvelous work in the Jascha Heifetz 1953 Los Angeles recording, and some might even know the 1947 stunning live performance with Efrem Kurtz and the New York Philharmonic currently available on Music & Arts. Steinbacher's performances rank among the elite, with appropriately lush accompaniment from the excellent Gulbenkian Orchestra. Add to this, Pentatone's recording is full and rich, not particularly "surround." This is an admirable addition to the catalog. .

Pentatone continues their commendable Wagner series with this splendid Tannhäuser, presented here in the Dresden version. Strong casting throughout with particular kudos to Robert Dean Smith in the title role, Nina Stemme's Elisabeth and Christian Gerhaher's Wolfram. Marek Janowski's brisk approach to the score still retains the majestic interludes, and both the chorus and orchestra are outstanding. Hard to believe that this is a "live" performance recorded May 5, 2012 in Berlin's Philharmonie. There are no audience sounds whatever, nor applause. If there were any retakes, no mention is made of them. This is the usual luxurious Pentatone presentation in their Wagner series, profuse notes, complete libretto in German and English. We still have all of this fastened into the jacket, Zurich (REVIEW),Danish Opera (REVIEW), Berlin (REVIEW), none of which challenge the James Levine/Metropolitan Opera performance (REVIEW).

Glagolitic Mass was premiered in 1927, revised shortly thereafter, and today is known in the form heard on this new release. There is no serenity in this "mass," instead we have terror and death all conveyed by sometimes violent orchestration and vociferous vocal outbursts. There have been many fine recordings over the years including one usually considered to be "definitive," Rafael Kubelik's 1964 version with Bavarian forces. This site mentioned a superlative performance with the Polish forces directed by Anthony Wit wonderfully recorded by Naxos in their Blu Ray Audio series (REVIEW). Now we have this magnificent Pentatone release, which easily one of the top versions. As you would expect, conductor Marek Janowski emphasizes the music's energy. He excels in a wide repertory (his Bruckner series on Pentatone has been praised on this site). Pentatone's recording is ultra-clear and surprisingly unresonant, although not particularly imaginative so far as surround sound is concerned. However, every abrasive detail of Janacek's scoring emerges with impact, not only in the featured work, but its companion, the symphonic poem Taras Bulba. Needless to say, the organ solo movement in the Mass is mightily impressive. Complete texts are provided in Czech and English.

R.E.B. (June 2013)