MATVEJEFF: Ad Astra. Cello Concerto "Crossroads." LINKOLA: Piano Concerto No. 1 "The Masquerade."
Tuomas Lehto, cello. Heri Sigfridsson, piano. Turku Philharmonic Orch/Dima Slobodeniouk, cond.
ALBA SACD ABCD 364 TT: 70:40

FAURÉ: Requiem. (ed. Marc Rigaudiere). Offertoire from Requiem (ed. John Rutter). Cantique de Jean Racine. Messe Basse.
Gerald Finley, baritone; Tom Pickard, treb le; Choir of King's College, Cambridge/Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Stephen Cleobury, cond.

BERLIOZ: Harold in Italy, p. 16. Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9. Benvenuto Cellini Overture, Op. 12. Reverie and Caprice, Op. 8.
Lise Berhand, viola. Giovanni Radivo, violin. Lyon National Orc/Leonard Slatkin, cond.

Alba has their part to promote music of Finnish composers: they already have several CDs of music of these two composers, but this is their first multi-channel release. It is an remarkable issue: premiere recordings of three major works by relatively unknown composers in brilliant performances recorded in state-of-the art surround sound. Young Finnish conductor-pianist-composer Ville Matvejeff (b. 1986) is at the beginning of an exciting career in all three capacities. Here we have two of his works. Ad Astra, a 13-minute orchestral work inspired by The radiant resurrection towards the end, a painting by Finnish visionary artist Akseli Gallen Kallela (1865-1931). This is musical imagery of the highest order. The other work is a Cello Concerto written recently for a friend, Tuomas Lehto, soloist in this recording. The subtitle Crossroads refers to its "rock style," but this is quite subdued; most of the work is reflective giving the soloist plenty of opportunity for rich cello sonorities. The work ends softly as does Ad Astra. . Jukka Kubjika (b. 1955) is another leading Finnish composer known for his operas, music for jazz ensembles, and film music. He always wanted to write a piano concerto and had the opportunity when the Turku Philharmonic commissioned the work in 2011. This is a major concerto inspired by a grand old castle; the five movements depict various activities that took place there: The Evening in the Castle, The Vaudeville and the Sad Clown, Te Mirror of the Stream, An Old Sailor and a Dancing Marionette, and The Ball. You'll hear traces of Russia in this captivating work, particularly Prokofiev, and the solo part offers many opportunities for virtuoso display. The performance by Finnish pianist Henri Siidsson is terrific. I had not heard him before, but this makes me curious to hear his recordings of Racmaninoff and Sibelius. This is an outstanding SACD very much worth checking into.

Those who love Fauré's Requiem surely will with to investigate this new recording. There are dozens of fine versions of this including a famous one made in 1967 I with the King's College Choir and New Philharmonia Orchestra directed by Sir David Willcocks, reissued in EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series. This new recording also features the King's College Choir this time directed by Stephen Cleobury and in the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. This is the composer's original version as presented in the premiere in 1888; later the composer re-orchestrated it heard in most recordings. This has been reconstructed by Marc Rigaudiere, and we hear the chorus of men and boys accompanied by an orchestra of period instruments, with two organists. We also have Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine and the brief Messe Basse. Profuse program notes describe the differences between the original and revised versions, and complete texts are provided. A lovely recoding, captured in warm, resonant not particularly "surround" sound.

This site previously mentioned Leonard Slatkin's Blu Ray recordings of Ravel - Volume I (REVIEW) and Volume II (REVIEW), and the Berlioz disk featuring Symphonie fantastique (REVIEW). All of these were made recently with Orchestre National de Lyon, of which Slatkin has been music director since 2011. Slatkin surely has had a distinguished caree, was associated with many leading international orchestras, and has recorded profusely for various labels. Now Naxos is featuring him in French music with the Lyon orchestra issuing them on reglar CD as well as Blu Ray audio. These promise much sonically, but I find the result unstisfactory. I imagine the Naxos engineers pretty much accurately captured what was there. . Unfortunately performances and orchestral playing disappoint. The Lyon orchestra has been around under various names since 1969, a competent but hardly virtuoso ensemble. As with their previous releases in this series, the orchestra sounds thin and understaffed. Some might prefer this "French" sound for this repertory, but I don't—I want to hear a large, rich orchestral sond. The raher unresonant acostic of the venue dininishes the music. Harold in Italy has attrated most major condctors but to me it is the least interesting of the composer's major works—even the final movement, Orgy of the Brigands, doesn't amount to much; even Toscanini couldn't do much with it. The most successful piece on this disk is Reverie and Caprice, a gentle work that benefits from a smalk-scale performance. :oe Berjamd sirely plays the solo part admirably, but she could have had more help from the podium. The two overtures are lackluster, particularly. Roman Carnival should blaze and it surely doesn't here. This is the only multi-channel disk available of Harold; the Munch/Bopston Symphony vesion is a two-channel recording processed for SACD technology.

R.E.B. (September 2014)