ADAMS:  Fearful Symmetries.  The Chairman Dances.  SUMERA:  Symphony No. 2
Norrlands Opera Orch/Kristjan Jarvi, cond.
CCn'C 01912 TT:  58:28 (5 channel)
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This CD,  called Shifting Landscapes, supposedly represents "a new era of music," as composers "freed themselves from the corset of rules and focused again on the fascination of the unhindered unfolding of sound...creating "a new sensuality of sound."  However, there's little in any of this music that could be called "sensual."  Adams' highly repetitive energetic scores go on and on in their own rhythmic way.  The stark Sumera Symphony has far more substance.  This Estonian composer, who died in 2000 at the age of 50, wrote five symphonies all of which have been recorded on BIS with Kristjan's older brother, Paavo, conducting, recordings I have yet to hear.  This fine performance makes a strong statement for the music.  It's a compelling work, imaginatively scored, often with a desolate atmosphere along with many mysterious interludes; CD notes tell us little about it. 
Producers should have provided a few tracks for Symmetries; should you wish to just hear the end you'll have to do quite a bit of fast or back tracking to hear it.  The sonic picture is broad, with the orchestra rather distantly  placed in front, ambience only from the other channels. Some listeners may find the sound a bit overly resonant, but there are some sizzling high frequencies as well.  This is a welcome addition to the multi-channel catalog, particularly for the Sumera symphony.

 

HOLST: The Planets, Op. 32. BRITTEN:  Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a
New York Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
SONY SS 87981 TT:  68:09 (5.1 channel)
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  Planets was recorded late in 1971 in Avery Fisher Hall, a site notorious for its poor acoustics.  Engineers have done quite well under the circumstances; there is no question reverb was added to make the sound richer.  Notes also state "the organ overdub was recorded on June 7, 1973 at 30th Street Studio, New York City."  It does seem odd this additional organ wasn't added until two years after the original recording.  Perhaps it was felt the Avery Fisher Hall organ simply was inadequate; at any rate, organ sound now is mightily impressive.  Don't expect the richness—and directionality— heard in Sony's surround issues of Prokofiev and Mussorgsky (REVIEW).  Planets has the same sound heard on the Boulez Bartók recordings made in the same hall about the same time. From rear speakers you'll hear only ambience.  The Britten Interludes, recorded in the 30th Street Studio March 8, 1973,  have far richer sound than Planets.  The booklet includes notes from original LP releases of both works including mention of the Passacaglia from Peter Grimes—which is not included on this CD.  It was on the original LP (M34529) and apparently its inclusion would have made this multi-channel too lengthy. Let us hope it will turn up on another SACD sometime soon.