PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 4 (revised version). The Prodigal Son.
COPLAND: Rodeo (complete ballet). Dance Panels.
El Salón México. Danzón
RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimanteles. Gaspard de la nuit (orch.
Constant). Le tombeau de Couperin. La Valse.
Three new Blu Ray audio disks from Naxos, two of which are outstanding. It should be clarified that these can only be used on Blu Ray players. All of the Naxos Blu Ray issues are also issued on regular CD, but not SACD. Marin Alsop's previous Prokofiev recording on Naxos was warmly received in September 2012 (REVIEW). That offered the familiar Symphony No. 5 coupled with a suite of music from The Year 1941. Now we have the revised version of Symphony No. 4 and a suite from The Prodigal Son ballet. Actually both were written at the same time (1928-29) and some music is used in both works. The colorful ballet was a success, but when Koussevizky conducted the premiere of Symphony No. 4 in Boston in 1930 it was dismissed as an inferior work. Some years later, Prokofiev revised the work, expanding the orchestration. Alsop is at her best in this repertory, and she leads a brilliant performance from the São Paulo Orchestra of which she is now principal conductor. As with the previous Prokofiev issue, audio is superb, not particularly surround, but rich, full and wide in dynamic range.
That also could be said of the Copland disk with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony. of which he has been music director since 2007. This is an attractive Copland collection containing the complete Rodeo, El Salón México and Cuban Dance, as well as the lesser-known Dance Panels which seldom appears on recordings. The sessions were made in Detroit's Orchestra Hall in the Max M. Fisher Music Center in 2012. Audio is excellent, not particularly surround and very clear with pleasant resonance, although engineers have not taken full advantage of their opportunity with the bass drum whacks in Sálon México.
The disappointing disk is the Ravel collection with Slatkin and the Lyon National Orchestra of which he has been music director since 2011. It seems Naxos is planning a Ravel cycle with this orchestra and conductor; this site unenthusiastically mentioned the first issue (REVIEW). This second volume has the same problems. The Lyon Orchestra is not first-class and has a thin sound. Slatkin's rather sluggish direction doesn't help, and the engineering is hardly state-of-the-art. String sound is thin and unresonant, brass and percussion are muted. Skip this one.
R.E.B. (January 2014)