PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26. Symphony No. 5 in B flat, Op. 100
Denis Matsuev, piano; Mariinsky Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
MARIINSKY SACD MAR 0459 TT: 70:38
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COUPERIN: Les Nations - Sonatas et Suites de Simphonies en Trio. REBEL: Les Caractères de la danse
Florilegium
CHANNEL CLASICS SACD SA 33213 TT: 65:33
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SARASATE: Opera fantasies on Bizet's Carmen, Weber's Der Freischutz, Flotow's Martha, Verdi's La forza del destino, and Gounod's Romeo and Juliet
MDG SACD 903 1819 TT: 74:16
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Matsuev, Gergiev and the superb Mariinsky Orchestra here offer brilliant performances of two of Prokfiev's best-known works. Without question, this is among the top recorded performances of the Piano Concerto No. 3. Uncommon sensitivity is on display throughout, emphasizing the humor in the score, and pianistic fireworks are dazzling. This recording was made in three sessions: June 19-20 and October 5, 2012. The piano is well-balanced with the orchestra and we can always hear the soloist. The same artists collaborated on Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody, a SACD issued about three years ago, spectacular performances diminished by audio that muddied the piano (REVIEW). This new recording has a new crew: producer, Vladimir Ryabenko, who also was engineer and recording director. He did a brilliant job—terrific audio, with a fine solid bass. And this reading of Symphony No. 5, recorded April 5, 2012, is one of the most powerful you will hear. Gergiev already had recorded a fine set of the piano concertos with Alexander Toradze and the Kirov Orchestra, and there is a DVD of his performance of Symphony No. 5 recorded at the opening concert of the 2012 Salzburg Festival, with the Vienna Philharmonic (REVIEW).

Nobody records intimate chamber music better than Channel Classics, and here is their recent release of a group of works by Françoise Couperin (1668-1733, the most distinguished harpsichordist of his time. We have sonatas and suites, a delightful collection of charming dances The disk is filled with a nine-minute suite of dances by a contemporary of Couperin, Jean-Féry Rebel. The Florilegium ensemble consists of Ashley Solomon, flute and Andrew Crawford, flutes, Bojan Cicic and Tomo Suni, violins, Reiko Ichise, viola da gamba, David Miller, therobo, and Terence Charlston, harpsichord. There assured playing has been captured in the warm resonance of All Saints' Church, Durham Road, London. If this repertory interests you, this is an essential disk.

Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908) had a remarkable career as a soloist, and a number of major works for violin and orchestra were dedicates to him: Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and first and third violin concertos, and Bruch's concerto No2 and Scottish Fantasy. As a composer, Sarasate is best known for his Zapateado, Romanza andaluza, Zigeunerweisen, and best-known work, fantasy on themes from Bizet's Carmen, which opens this fine new recording of six of the composer's works drawing on music from the opera. Most of these are relatively unknown, but all are showcases for the soloist, replete with the technical demands one would expect from one of the great masters of the instrument, Volker Reinhold (b. 1963) meets these requirements with beauty of tone and virtuosity, ably accompanied by his long-time accompanist, pianist Ralph Zedler. Audi is rich and well-balanced. A fine release!

R.E.B. (April 2014)

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