MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 in E minor "Song of the Night."
Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz, cond.
OEHMS SACD OC 652 TT: 77:35

GOLDMARK: Symphony No. 1, Op. 36 "Rustic Wedding Symphony." Symphony No. 2 in E flat, Op. 35.
Singapore Symphony Orch/Lan Shui, cond.
BIS SACD 1842 TT: 76:22

"THE PHOENIX RISING" - Tudor Church Music by William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Morley, Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, and Robert White
Stile Antico Ensemble
HYPERION SACD 807572 TT: 74:34

Markus Stenz continues his fine Mahler series with the Gürzenich Orchestra with this splendid performance of Symphony No. 7. There is no lack of recordings of this rather macabre symphony, and my favorite remains the live performance with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw recorded live Christmas day 1985 (REVIEW). However, this new one approaches it in intensity, particularly in the final movement—the burst of bells in the final pages (beginning at 15:26) have never sounded so exuberant. Superb audio is another plus, with fine ambient sound from rear speakers. An outstanding Mahler issue!

If Tudor church music of the early 1920s is of interest to you, investigate this fine Hyperion issue of music of the time, sponsored by the Carnegie UK Trust whose purpose is to celebrate this repertory through publication and promotion. This SACD offers what surely could be considered definitive performances by the splendid group of young British singers, Stile Antico. Excellent sonics, with an appropriate resonant atmosphere. Complete texts are provided.

Hungarian composer Karl Gold mark (1830-1915), one of 20 children, had a respectable career. Some of his music was remarkably popular, particularly the first of his seven operas, The Queen of Sheba, premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 1875. For several decades it was a favorite but soon was forgotten. This opera had its American premiere at the Met's opening night in November 1885.and 27 performances were given that season. Sheba returned three years later for 20 performances—but none since. At the time, the Met seemed to highly favor Goldmark; they gave the U. S. premiere of the opera Merlin in 1887, but it only had four performances. Goldmark wrote quite a bit of chamber music, and a violin concerto that several leading violinists attempted unsuccessfully to resurrect. His best known work is his symphony known as the Rustic Wedding Symphony (only sketches remain of an earliere first symphony). Rustic Wedding actually is a five-movement suite each depicting an activity at the wedding. Surprisingly, Sir Thomas Beecham championed it and made a recording, but even he could not do much for it. It is too long (43 min +), repetitive and boring. And the same applies to the even lesser-heard Symphony, Op. 35. Aside from a moderately engaging brief scherzo, it is equally tedious. The Singapore Symphony and conductor Lan Shui do what can be done for this music, and the BIS sound is totally satisfying. Perhaps this music should be bottled and sold as an aid to sleeping.

R.E.B. (September 2013)