RESPIGHI: Brazilian Impressions. La Boutique Fantasque.
Royal Liege Philharmonic Oc/John Neschling, cond.
BIS SACD 2050 TT: 68:59

STENHAMMAR: Excelsior! Op. 13 (Symphonic overture). Mellanspel in Sängen, Op. 44. Serenade in F, Op. 31.
Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orch/Christian Lindberg, cond.
BIS SACD 2058 TT: 58:19

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade, Op. 35
Jonathan Crow, violin; Toronto Symphony Orch/ Peter Oundian, cond.

This Respighi SACD is an absolute winner! John Neschling leads the fine Royal Liege Philharmonic in vibrant, virtuoso performances of these colorful scores. We have the composer's Brazilian Impressions, a three-movement suite composed 1927-1928 when the composer was in Rio. The first is an exotic nocturne, Tropical Night, the second, Buraran, is rather eerie, suggesting snakes in that district, quoting the Dies Irae. The third, Song and Dance, is a lively festive series of dances. The ballet La Boutique Fanasque was premiered in 1918 by Diageliv Ballet Russe and was an instant hit. The scenario is involves puppets in love and for this Respighi arranged music by Rossini. There have been many recordings of Boutiue, fewer of Impressions. This superb new issue easily is among the finest, and it has the advantage of outstanding sonics—ultra clear, wide in dynamic range, with rich strings and razor-sharp percussion. Don't miss this one!

In November 2013 this site mentioned a BIS recording of three of Wilhelm Stenhammar's quartets, which added to their large catalog of the composer's music. (REVIEW) . Almost two decades ago, they issued a performance of the composer's most popular work, Serenade, Op. 31 with Neemi Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony, with no coupling. Now we have this new recording on SACD made in March 2013 made in Antwerp, Belgium. This time the label is far more generous as we have another of the comoser's better-known works, the symphonic overture Excelsior! written in 1896. and premiered that year by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Arthur Nikisch to limited success. It is a vigorous episodic work that reaches no real climax. Next we have a brief (6:14) interlude from Mellanspel ur Sängen, a large scale cantata for singers,chorus and orchestra, the imposing excerpt here containg powerful brass exclamations. Some have suggested that this work could have been called Stenhammar's Symphony No. 3, one commentated (inappropriately) that it is equal to the Mahler Eighth, which of course it doesn't approach. There does not appear to be a complete recording of it, although excerpts were recorded rded more than three decades ago available on the Caprice label. It surely would be interesting to hear the entire work. The Flemish orchestra plays beautifully throughout on this new disk, and audio is state-of-the-art. Recommended!

Yet another Scheherazade? Well, here it is, to be added to the list of well over a hundred recordings of Rimsky-Korsakov's colorful masterpiece. Just about all conductors have recorded it, and many of the greatest orchestras have e made multiple recordings. This new Toronto version, the first in their new association with Chandos, surely is among the best. The orchestra plays beautifully and the many solos are dispatched with beauty and virtuosity. The recording was made during live performances in June 2013 in Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto and the engineers have captured impressive orchestral textures. Conductor Peter Oundjian has been music director of the fine Toronto orchestra for a decade and is highly regarded throughout the musical world. Already available are his recordings of American piano concertos (REVIEW), and John Adams. It is inexplicable that this new release contains only Scheherazade—short value indeed for a full-price disk!

R.E.B. (August 2014)