BERLIOZ: Requiem, Op. 5
Barry Banks, tenor; London Philharmonic Choir; London Symphony Chorus and Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
LSO LIVE LSO 0728 (2 disks) TT:94:04

SZYMANOWSKI: Symphony No. 1. Symphony No. 2
London Symphony Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
LSO LIVE LSO 0731 TT: 47:27

WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger. Siegfried Idyll. Siegfried's Rhine Journey and Funeral Music and Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung
Petra Lang, soprano; Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.

This magnificent recording of the massive Berlioz Requiem is perhaps the last recording of conductor Sir Colin Davis who died April 14, 2013 at the age of 85. He was renowned for his Berlioz and recorded almost all of the composer's orchestral works, famous particularly for his 1969 Philips recording of the Requiem made in Westminster Cathedral. This marvelous recording was reissued in 2008 on the Pentatone label in surround sound, the way it originally was recorded (REVIEW). About six years ago, this site mentioned a video of Davis's rather small-scale Bavarian Radio performance, which seems to have been discontinued (REVIEW). There also is a highly praised audio recording made in Dresden in 1994, which I have yet to hear. Now we have this truly grand performance recorded June 25-25, 2012 in London's St. Paul's Cathedral. A photo shows the large forces involved including the long row of timpani. Producer James Malinson did a superb job in capturing all this in the resonant church. I would have liked a bit more bite to the brass (and a bit more directionality), but what we hear surely is impressive sonically, and the climax of Tuba Mirum will test your speakers. The negative element here is the cost—two full-price disks with a total playing time of but 94 minutes. Surely LSO Live could have included more music.

Another example of LSO Live giving the collector limited playing time is this issue of Szymanowski's first two symphonies with Valery Gergiev on the podium recorded during concerts last year at the Barbican. This site has mentioned many superb recordings of this Polish composer's music, particularly the recent Chandos series (check CD INDEX). There also are surround sound recordings of the first two symphonies conducted by Anthoni Wit (REVIEW) and an exquisite performance of the violin concerto played by Arabella Steinbacher (REVIEW). All of these are superior sonically to what is heard on the new LSO Live disk; Szymanowski's music is sensuous, often exotic, and requires string sonorities not heard here.

Iván Fischer and his first-class Budapest Festival Orchestra provide a pleasant Wagner collection more effective in the gentle Siegfried Idyll than in the music drama excerpts. Everything is neat and beautifully played, but there's little excitement. Petra Lang early in her career focused on mezzo-soprano roles and was praised for her Brangäne, Kundry, Waltraute, and Ortrud. She began singing Brünnhilde last year with considerable success, but on this new recording she sounds tentative. This is a lovely recording in many ways, but other conductors and sopranos find more drama and excitement in this music.

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 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 perfection—the mighty Concertgebouw Orchestra is in top form, and the engineering puts you right in the hall. 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).

R.E.B. (June 2013)