ELGAR: Symphony No. 1, Op. 55. Cockaigne Overture, Op. 40.
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orch/Sakari Oramo, cond.
BIS SACD 1939 TT: 67:17
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BRUCKNER: Study Symphony in F minor
Hamburg Philharmonic Orch/Simone Young, cond.
OEHMS SACD OC 686 TT: 41:48
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HANDEL: Piano Concertos Nos. 13 in F. No. 14 in A, No. 15 in D minor and No. 16 in F.
Matthias Kirschnereit, piano/New German Academy Orch/ Lovard Skou Larsen, cond.
CPO SACD 777 854 TT: 55:32
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About a year ago this site rather unenthusiastically mentioned a recording of Elgar's Symphony No. 2 with Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (REVIEW). Now we have have the second installment in this BIS series, with Symphony No. 1 coupled with Cockaigne Overture. Again there is much of merit, the orchestra plays beautifully, and the recorded sound is clean and clear although not very "surround." The Pentatone issue of Symphony No. 1, coupled with the oratorio The Dream of Gerontius (REVIEW).

Bruckner composed his first symphony in 1863 and called it his Study Symphony in F mi nor. There are the usual four movements found in the composer's symphonies including a scherzo and a very short (for Bruckner) finale. Bruckner later withdrew the symphony, but kept it; it has remained the least-performed of all. It is intriguing to hear the master's earliest attempt at a symphony. There are several rewordings of it, and George Tintner included it in his set of the symphonies. Now the fine Australian conductor Simone Young, who has many honors. She was the first woman conductor at the Vienna State Opera, and the first female conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic. Young is a favorite in Hamburg both at the opera and the Philharmonic of which she is music director. Young already has recorded Bruckner's symphonies , with Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 9 yet to come. Should you be curious about Bruckner's very early opus, this is one way to experience it, but a rather expensive way, at this premium-price disk contains only 42 minute of music.

CPO's Handel disk is called the composer's "Piano Concertos Nos. 13-16," but it actually contains transcriptions by pianist Matthias Kirschnereit of four of the Op. 4 organ concertos including the most famous, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale." CD notes by Kirschnereit justify these arrangements pointing out that Handel often made various transcriptions of his music and that Handel surely would have approved of these for a modern Steinway. And I would agree—these spirited performances are elegant indeed, and have been captured by CPO's engineers with uncommon clarity and perfect balance. This is an outstanding issue in every way except playing time; easily more music could have been included.

R.E.B. (September 2014)

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