MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64. BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26.
Midori, violin; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL SS 87740 (F) (DDD) TT: 53:17 (5.1 channel)

RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez. Fantasia para un gentilhombre. VILLA-LOBOS: Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra.
John Williams, guitar; English Chamber Orch/Daniel Barenboim, Sir Charles Groves (Villa-Lobos), cond.
SONY CLASSICAL SS 90381 (F) (DDD) TT: 63:14 (5.1 channel) (NON-HYBRID)

The John Williams SACD is a particularly welcome addition to the multi-channel catalog. The music itself is sure to please—the two Rodrigo works are audience favorites, superbly performed, but the real gem here is the Villa-Lobos written in 1951 at the suggestion of Andrés Segovia but unperformed for some years. The famed guitarist heard the composer's Harp Concerto which includes a virtuoso cadenza and commented to Villa-Lobos that the Fantasia Concertante needed one. Villa-Lobos complied by writing a spectacular cadenza for the Fantasia which was then renamed Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra. What a delight it is! Of course all performances on this SACD are magnificent in every way. All of the recordings were made in London, the Rodrigo in1974 in London, the Villa-Lobos in 1967. I doubt they were originally made for multi-channel, but Richard King's engineering for SACD is outstandingly natural with fine presence, performers in front, ambient sound from the rear. The entire CD is a delight.

Midori has had a long association with Sony and since 1989 has recorded concertos of Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Dvorák, Bartók, Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, and Mozart's Sinfonia concertante and Concerto in D, the latter issued on multi-channel. (REVIEW). Now we have these live recordings made in Berlin's Philharmonie, the Mendelssohn from January 2003, the Bruch from June 2002. No producer is identified for either recording, but Richard King is listed as "Recording Engineer." He did a fine job under the circumstances although the close-up miking of both soloist and orchestra occasionally produces an uncharacteristic steely sound. The orchestra is in front, ambient sound from the rear. It's unfortunate playing time isn't more generous, also unfortunate that both of these SACDs are non-hybrid disks which can be played only on a SACD player.

R.E.B. (September 2003)