RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. SAINT-SAËNS:
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22. DE FALLA: Nights in the
Gardens of Spain
DE RIIS: Amsterdam (2004). Riflession (2014). Ballet (1997/2013), Pop
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (2014)
HARTKE: The Ascent of the Equestrian in a Balloon,.
(1995). Alvorada: Three Madrigals for Strring Orchestra. (1983). A
Brandenburg Autumn (2006). Muse of the Missouri (2012).
DUTTTON EPOCH here has another fascinating issue in their SACD series. Again they have been able to obtain original four-track surround recordings never before issued in multi-channel. Artur Rubinsteun is soloist in Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns and De Falla, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The legendary pianist had previously recorded all three works. Early in his career, Rubinstein often played the Saint-Saëns and recorded it first in 1939 with Philippe Gaubert and the Paris Conservatory Orchestra (REVIEW). He later recorded it with Alfred Wallenstein and the Symphony of the Air; there is another recording conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos. ass well as a video with André Previn and the London Symphony. The Rachmaninoff concerto is Rubinstein's second; in 1956 he recorded it with Fritz Reiner in Chicago, and there are two previous recordings of Nights in the Gardens of Spain, one with Enrique Jorda, the other a live performance with Ernest Ansermet. The Philadelphia performances are grand indeed, and the great interest here is audio quality. RCA's engineers always had a problem recording in the acoustically dry Academy of Music. Both the Saint-Saëns and De Falla were recorded there January 2, 1969 produced by John Pfeiffer, engineered by Max Wilcox, who was Rubinstein's RCA producer. Surely the multi-track recording helped to create a most natural, rich sound, The Rachmaninoff was recorded November 24, 1971 in Scottish Rite Cathedral'; Paul Goodman was producer and again Max Wilcox engineered. There is a very realistic sonic picture here. These splendid performances are heard in new sonic splendor. Let us hope DUTTON will continue to unveil more of these long-lost treasures—there is a huge catalog available.
Anthony Paul De Ritis has a great sense of humor. He has said he likes to write "happy music" ...all to often contemporary music sounds scary or ugly to listeners—as if writing something beautiful or pleasant is an insult to the intelligent." What is heard on this delightful new SACD is highly enjoyable, a natural and effective combination of regular instruments and electronic sounds. Amsterdam (the name really doesn't mean anything) was premiered in 2004; the composer relates the debacle of that occasion when lack of electricity changed the performance. Riflession ("Reflections") was written for Patrick de Ritis (not relation), bassoonist of the Vienna Symphony. It is a fascinating work, with jagged orchestral interjections. Ballet (20:32), is scored for two pianos, played here by Vicky Chow and Saskia Lankhoorn with the ensemble Duo X99.To me, this is the least interesting work in this collection. The Pop Concerto consists of arrangements of four classic pop songs: Bring It On, You Oughta Know, Beautiful Day, and The Way You Make Me Feel. The guitar carries the vocal line in each .It was written for Eliot Fisk, who wrote his own cadenzas. This is a terrific concerto in every way and, of course, perfectly performed. All of this music is expertly played by the splendid orchestra under Gil Rose's direction. Engineers have captured all of this in realistic, ultra-sound. This is a major issue of American music.
Another American composer, Stephen Hartke, is featured on a second BMOP
SACD. Although this composer is highly regarded on the current musical
scene, and has received numerous commissions, to me his music is more
academic than inspired. This disk includes four works written over a
period of three decades, beginning with The Ascent of the Equestrian
Balloon, a dissonant "celebrity piece" to commemorate
the composer's son's second birthday. A Brandenburg Autumn is
a tribute to the baroque concerto grosso, Alvorada is three
madrigals, and the final work, Muse of the Mission takes its
name from one of Kansas City's famous fountains, not suggested by the
music. The composer wrote the program notes. Excellent performances from
Gil Rose and his fine orchestra, with audio to match—but there
is nothing here that I would want to hear often.
R.E.B. (April 2017)