BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (Frank Peter Zimermann, violin). Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 (Emanuel Ax, piano). SCHUMANN: Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 47. RCO Chamber Soloists. Bernard Haitink, cond.
RCOA LIVE SACD LC14237 (2 disks) TT: 38:37 / 76:20

MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde
Roberto Sacca, tenor. Stephen Gaad, baritone. Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Jonathan Nott, cond.
TUDOR SACD 7202 TT: 62:00

VIVALDI: "The Folk Seasons"
Barocco Boreale
ALBA SACD ABCD 402 TT: 79:31

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has made several recordings of the Brahms violin concerto. The first was in 1947 with Ossy Renardy and Charles Munch at the podium (REVIEW). The second was in 1958 with Eduard van Beinum and Arthur Grumiaux, and tin 1973 Bernard Haitink made two recordings, one with Henryk Szeryng, the other with Hermann Krebbers. This RCOA Live set offers yet another, a live performance from March 2010 with Haitink and Frank Peter Zimmermann as soloist. Haitink led the Concertgebouw for 27 years, leaving the post in 1988, after which he became honorary conductor, and he is identified as such on this new recording. The venerable Dutch conductor has recorded the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with Claudio Arrau and Vladimir Ashkenazy, and there is a video with Arthur Rubinstein (REVIEEW). On this new set the soloist is Emanuel Ax, who also has recorded the work previously. The Concertgebouw performance was from concerts March 21, 2010. An oddity here is inclusion of the Schumann piano quartet with Ax joined by players of the Concertgebouw: Vesky Eschenazy, violin, Henk Rubingh, viola, and Gregor Horsch, cello, recorded in 2010 in Amsterdam's Waalse Church. All of these performances are first-class, and audio quality is excellent. This set of 2 disks is sold for the price of one.

Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde is written for two vocal soloists, a tenor and a contralto. but the composer indicated that it could be performed with a baritone instead of a contralto—the vocal range is similar. Leonard Bernstein made the first recording of this version with James King and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and that set a standard almost impossible to match. Michael Tilson Thomas also chose a baritone for his San Francisco recording, but he had the luxury of a young Thomas Hamnpson. This new recording surely cannot match that level of vocal quality. The orchestra is excellent, but tenor Roberto Saccà is taxed by the heldentenor requirements of The Drinking Song of Earth's Sorrow, and his voice throughout is rather unsteady. Baritone Stephen Gadd is at the beginning of a promising career and has the distinction of winning the Kathleen Ferrier memorial scholarship in the first Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition. Neither soloist is helped by the engiuneers—they sound as if they were iun the orchestra instead of in front of it. All in all, this is not a competitive version of this music. I look forard to the impending releast of a new version of Mahler's masterpiece with Jonas Kaufmann singing both parts. Surely he will have no vocal problems. We'll see!

ALBA's Vivaldi SACD is a mew aproach to the com,poser. Using the concept of all music being "folk" music, the ensemble Barocco Boreale gives an unusual twist to the familiar Four Seasions. Unusual accents prevail, and the playhers seem devoted to extracting as many unusual sounds from their instruments as possible. This presentatiuon was a part of the annual folk music festival Kuistinen held in Finland. It is a surprising and different approach which probably will have liited appeal. In addition to Four Seasons, the sidisk also incloudes three other Vivaldi concertos. All are expertly played in the chosen style with the ensemble headed by violinists Kreeta-Maria Kentala and Siiri Virkkala. Recordings were made June 2016 in Kaustinen Chuch. Audio is excellent, if not particularly "surround."

R.E.B. (April 2017)