HOVHANESS:  Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, Op. 132.  Symphony No. 66, Hymn to Glacier Peak, Op. 428.  Symphony No. 50, Mount St. Helens, Op. 360.  Storm on Mount Wildcat, Op. 2 No. 3.
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch/Gerard Schwarz, cond.
TELARC SACD 60604 TT:  71:45 (5.1 channel)
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Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000),  perhaps the most prolific composer of the last century, wrote sixty-seven symphonies and a plethora of other works.  His first symphony was criticized by Aaaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein when the composer was on a scholarship in Tanglewood in 1942; as a result he burned more than 1,000 pieces of other music he had written.  Things changed when Leopold Stokowski conducted the first symphony in Los Angeles and commissioned Mysterious Mountain - and when Fritz Reiner recorded this in Chicago, Hovhaness' career surged forward.  Aside from Mysterious Mountain, his best-known work is And God Created Great Whales commissioned by André Kostelanetz in 1970 which effectively includes recorded sounds of whales.  For the past three decades Hovhaness has had a cult following - his music, with its mystic often subdued strings, soft brass chorales, and religious atmosphere and occasional bells, appeals to many.  For others, he often wrote the same piece over and over.  On this CD we have three of his symphonies, which have their delectable moments (including "Love Song to Hinako" from Symphony 66) and their banal as well ("Volcano" from Symphony No. 50).   Also we have one of his earliest works, Storm on Mount Wildcat, a very mild look at the subject.   Schwarz and the fine orchestra do what can be done with the music, and Telarc's engineers have given us a rather distant but well-balanced sonic picture with hall sound from the rear.

 

FAURÉ:  Sonata No. 1 in A, Op. 13.  FRANCK:  Sonata in A.  MASSENET:  Meditation from Thaïs.  SAINT-SA└NS:  Havanaise, Op. 83
Yo-Yo Ma, cellist; Kathryn Stott, pianist
SONY CLASSICAL 87287 TT:  66:18 (5.l channel)
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Yo-Yo Ma on his new recording returns to the place of his birth; he was born in Paris in 1955, and this CD called La BelleÉpoque features music of the Parisienne "golden age" at the beginning of the 20th Century.  The two featured works, the sonatas of Fauréand Franck, were originally written for violin.  The composer himself  made this version for cello and piano; Ma transcribed the Faur╚ as well as the two other shorter pieces.  Ma's artistry and technical command are supreme, his sensitivity for the music total.  Pianist Kathryn Stott, who has made many solo recordings of merit, is an ideal partner, and Sony's surround sound places the two performers in front with ambient sound from the back.  Relatively generous (66:18) playing time, and recommended.

 R.E.B. (May 2003) (NEXT SURROUND REVIEW)