MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. Violin Concerto in D minor. Violin Sonata in F minor
Tianwa Yang, violin; Roman Descharmes, piano; Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois, cond.
NAXOS BLU RAY AUDIO NBD0032 TT: 66:39
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GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue. Strike Up the Band Overture. Promenade (arr. Sol Berkowitz). Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess.
Orion Weiss, piano; John Fullam, clarinet; Buffalo Philharmonic Orch/JoAnn Falletta, cond.
NAXOS BLUE RAY AUDIO NDB 0033 TT: 54:16
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ROSSINI: Overtures to La Gazza Ladra, Semiramide,Elisabeth, Regina d'Inghilterra (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Otello, Le siege de Corinthe, Sinfonia in D 'al Conventello,' Ermione, Guilliaume Tell, Eduardo e Cristina, L'inganno felice, La scala di seta, Demetrio e Polibio, Il Signor Bruschiuno, Sinfonia di Bologna, Sigismondo.
Prague Philharmonic Choir/Prague Sinfonia Orch/Christian Benda, cond.
NAXOS BLU RAY AUDIO NBD0028 TT: 1:57:46
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Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed two violin concertos, the first when he was only 13. The second, which was his last large orchestral work, had its premiere in 1845 and since that time has become a repertory staple for all violinists. ArkivMusic currently lists more than 200 recordings. The early concerto is fairly traditional in form but was relatively unperformed until Yehudi Menuhin "discovered" it in 1951 and recorded it. There is good reason why it is considered a minor work. Both concertos are very well played on this new recording made 2011-12 in Finland's Hankasalmi Church. Young violinist Tianwa Yang already has made a number of acclaimed recordings for Naxos including music of Sarasate and Piazzolla as well as challenging music of Wolfgang Rihm. Yang is in superb form, orchestral accompaniments are excellent, and her sound has been recorded with uncommon clarity. Orchestral sound is full and resonant, but rear speakers add minimally to the audio effect. A plus is inclusion of the rarely heard violin sonata in F. This is a quality issue for those who wish to investigate lesser-known Mendelssohn.

Last year this site mentioned a Blu Ray Gershwin issue of the Piano Concerto, Rhapsody No. 2, and I Got Rhythm Variations featuring pianist Orion Weiss with JoAnn Falletta and the Buffaloi Philharmonic (REVIEW). Now we have a second all Gershwin disk with the same performers and although it has its moments, it too is diappointing. The soloist takes a very leisurely approach to the familiar Rhapsody, one of the slowest ever recorded (18:27). There's little excitement here; Weiss fares better in the ambling Promenade heard here in an arrangement for piano, clarinet and orchestra. Falletta gives dynamic performances of the Strike Up the Band Overture (which begins this program in spetaular fashion) and the Catfish Row suite, and the Buffalo Orchestra is excellent. Audio is full and rich, if not particularly surround.

Naxos recently issued two CDs of Rossini overtures recorded in Prague; through the advantages of Blu Ray technology, both are included on this new Blu Ray disk. Although performances are spirited and the orchestra is excellent, Rossini overtures should be dynamic preludes to the operas, and these readings are somewhat bland. Christian Benda is a distinguished conductor descended from the 18th century Benda family of composers. He has made a number of fine recordings, particularly for Naxos, but this music of Rossini could use a bit more fire (just listen to those old Toscanini/New York Philharmonic recordings!). Although the highest technology was utilized in the recording process (recordings were made in Prague 2011-2012), we have a rather dry acoustic that robs strings of their richness, and rear channels provide limited presence (unfortunately). Producers have even supplied a chorus for the brief choral part in Ermione. Super clear sound here, but the Marriner recording of eight overtures (including Tancredi, The Italian Woman in Algiers and La cambiale di matrimonio, none included on the new disk), taped in 1974 in four-track sound and finally released in multi-channel (REVIEW), has a rich sonic presence superior to the Naxos recorded almost four decades later.

R.E.B. (July 2013)

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