VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: A Sea Symphony
Geraldine McGreevy, sooprano; Thommi Hakala, baritone; MDR Radio Chorus and Orch/Howard Arman, cond.
MDR EDITION SACD VKJK 0731 TT: 66:19

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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op.91
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
RCOA LIVE 13001 TT: 53:17
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RAVEL: Rapsodie espagnole. Pavanne pour une infante defunte. Daphnis & Chloé (complete)
Chorus of the Royal Opera House/London Symphony Orch/Pierre Monteux, cond.
PRAGE SACD PRD/DSD 350 073 TT: 73:41
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Ralph Vaughan Williams' first symphony, A Sea Symphony, is a huge, long work for three soloists, large chorus and orchestra. The text is by Walt Whitman, and there are four movements: A Song for All Seas, All ships; On the Beach at Night, Scherzo (The Waves), and The Explorers. It's a huge tapestry of sound, right from the beginning as the blazing chorus cries out, "Behold, the see itself." There have been a number of memorable recordings of this music, particularly those by Sir Adrian Boult and Bernard Haitink, Some years ago, this site praised a recording of the mighty Sea Symphony conducted by Paul Daniel (REVIEW) also available in surround sound (REVIEW). All are challenged by this new version on the MDR label, a live recording made in Leipzig's Gewandhaus February 4, 2007. The MDR orchestra is the result of combining two radio orchestras. They are featured in several recent worthy Mahler recordings conducted by Fabio Luisi.. The MDR Orchestra is conductor here is Howard Arman who apparently is primarily a choral conductor. He surely understands and loves this Vaughan Williams symphony, and the orchestra plays brilliantly for him. The large chorus could not be bettered, and all three soloists are excellent. Audio is state-of-the-art, not particularly "surround," but full, pleasing and with impact. Complete texts are provided. This is a terrific issue in every way.

Shostakovich's mighty Symphony No. 10 is given a stunning performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons, from concerts given January 29 and February 1 and 4 in the orchestra's main home. The conductor already has recorded all of the Shostakovich symphonies with various orchestras, No. 10 previously with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1994. What a pleasure it is to hear this remarkable symphony played with such drive and intensity, all of the solo parts played to perfection. Audio is rich and full, up closel.with plenty of impact to percussion. And don't miss the previous issue in the RCOA Live series, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 (REVIEW). If you'd like to watch another spectacular RCOA Shostakovich performance, check the Lucerne Festival concert of Symphony No. 8 conducted by Andris Nelsons (REVIEW).

Praga is issuing a series of historic recordings on SACD remastering them to optimize data from original tapes. The SACD process does allow maximum fidelity to the originals, but do not be fooled—these are not "surround" recordings and no attempt has been made to enhance the sound by reprocessing audio. On this Ravel disk we have left and right front, no center, no rear speakers. The Rhapsodie and Pavane were recorded in December 1961, Daphnis in April 1959.These recordings has always been in the catalog, and they have never sounded better. This is a major recording of Daphnis, one of the masterpieces of the 20th century, conducted by the man who led the Paris premiere in 1912. However, do you want to spend premium $$$ for the remastering?

R.E.B. (June 2013)

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