ALFANO: Symphony No. 1 "Classica"(sic). Symphony No. 2.
Frankfurt Brandenburg State Orch/Israel Yinon, cond
cpo 777 080 (F) (DDD) TT: 73:30
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HANDEL: Solomon. Love in Bath.
John Cameron, baritone; Elsie Morison, soprano; Alexander Young, tenor; Lois Marshall (soprano); Beecham Choral Society; Royal Philharmonic Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
EMI CLASSICS GEMENI 86516 (2 CDS) (B) (ADD) TT: 76:03 & 74:29

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RAVEL: Gaspard de la Nuit (orch. Marius Constant). Le tombeau de Couperin. Menuet antique. Pavane pour une infante défunte. Alborada del gracioso .Ondine (piano version).
Carole Bouquet, narrator; Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach, cond.
ONDINE ODE 1051 (F) (DDD) TT: 73:44

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GRIEG: Cello Concerto (after Cello Sonata, Op. 36). Eight Songs arranged for Cello and Orchestra.
Rafael Wallfisch, cellist; London Philharmonic Orch/Vernon Handley, cond.
ASV CD DCA 1176 (F) (DDD) TT: 61:56

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GRIEG: Homage March. Norwegian Dances, Op. 35. Lyric Suite, Op. 54. Symphonic Dances, Op. 64. In Autumn, Op. 11. Two Elegaic Melodies, Op. 34. Suite: From Holberg's Time, Op. 40. Old Norwegian Romance with Variations, Op. 51. Lyric Pieces from Op. 12 and 38.
Daniel Adni, pianist; Hallé, Bournemouth Symphony, Royal Philharmonic and Northern Sinfonia Orch/Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Thomas Beecham, Paavo Berglund and Paul Tortelier, cond.
EMI CLASSICS GEMENI 86513 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 75:20 & 72:15
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HAIEFF: Symphony No. 2. Symphony No. 3. STRAVINSKY: Jeu de cartes
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
ROCD

Franco Alfano (1875-1954) is best-known for his completion of Puccini's Turandot, and often criticized for it—I have no problem whatever with his work on the opera; it uses Puccini's music and surely shows off the singers. It's far superior to the ill-advised Luciano Berio ending (which can be seen in a poorly-sung 2002 Salzburg Festival production conducted by Valery Gergiev (REVIEW) cpo is doing their part for the Alfano cause—they already have issued a new recording of Cyrano de Bergerac with tenor Roman Sadnik in the title role. There's a recent EMI DVD of Roberto Alagna's Montpellier performance, as well as an audio recording of a 1975 Italian Radio production with William Johns. Cyrano was revived at the Met this season for Placido Domingo but it's unlikely this will appear on audio or video recordings. Here is what apparently are the first recordings of Alfano's Symphony No. 1 (premiered in 1912, considerably revised later when he gave it the title Sinfonia classica), and Symphony No. 2 written about two decades later. The first begins in pedantic fashion but improves considerably and you'll hear traces of Richard Strauss and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Much use of made of harps, and there are several poignant oboe solos in the first symphony. Performances are fine, and the label's sound is of its usual high level.

Collectors will welcome EMI's budget reissue of two of the most famous Sir Thomas Beecham Handel recordings. Solomon was recorded in early stereo in 1955/56, Love in Bath in 1959. Beecham has drastically edited and reorchestrated the score, eliminated much of it, and changed the main role from a countertenor to a baritone. Love in Bath is Sir Thomas's arrangement of various Handel works, mostly from operas, to be used for a ballet called The Great Elopement. Delightful music wonderfully played, with soprano Ilsa Hollweg beautifully singing the three-minute Serenade before the finale. Fine sonics, but no texts.

June 30, 1964 Mercury recorded Gina Bachauer's performance of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit with Sir John Gielgud reading Christopher Fry's English translation of the poems by Aloysius Bertrand, a recording still available at mid-price. Now from Ondine we have another performance of this music, this time orchestrated by Marius Constant with Carole Bouquet reading the original French texts. This was recorded May 4, 2004 during a concert in Théatre Mogador in Paris before a very quiet audience. Constant's orchestrations are superb and it is a pleasure to hear this music with the expanded coloristic possibilities of an orchestra (you can hear Sir Eugene Goossens' transcription of the second movement, Le gibet, performed by Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia Orchestra on CALA 1005). This new Ondine CD is a very special release for the company commemorating their 20th anniversary this year. Managing director Reijo Kiilunen explains he chose Ondine as the name for his company because of his love for Ravel's piano masterpiece. Appropriately, the CD also includes the piano original of the work, played by Tzimon Barto.

Grieg's Cello Concerto? Hardly. He didn't write one, but Joseph Horovitz orchestrated Grieg's 1883 Cello Sonata which is heard here with additional orchestration by Benjamin Wallfisch (who wrote the CD notes as well). No question at all—it sounds like Grieg and you'll hear traces of other works, particularly the piano concerto, but the three-movement work is a pleasure to hear as are the 8 songs arranged for cello and orchestra, six of which were arranged by B. Wallfisch, 2 by Michael Freyhan. Raphael Wallfisch is the superb cellist in all with Vernon Handley conducting the London Philharmonic, and the recorded sound is a model of clarity. A lovely disk!

EMI's Gemeni series includes a welcome 2-CD set of "real" Grieg featuring Sir John Barbirolli's 1969/1970 Hallé recordings of the Homage March, Norwegian Dances and Lyric Suite (superb sound!), and Sir Thomas Beecham's famous 1955 recording of the concert overture In Autumn. We also have Pavo Berglund's 1981 recordings of Symphonic Dances and Old Norwegian Romance with Variations. A fine set, and at budget price.

Of extraordinary interest to collectors is a private issue of performances by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony. Featured are two symphonies by Siberian-born Alexei Haieff (1914-1994) who made his career in the United States before settling in Rome in the '70's. Haieff, influenced by Boulanger and Stravinsky, worked with two major choreographers of the past century, won two Guggenheim Fellowships, was awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, had his music performed by major conductors, and was a conductor himself (he led the first broadcast of Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto). Yet today his music is virtually forgotten (nothing by him is listed on the ArkivMusic site). Critics of his time considered him to be a very skilled composer and a very good craftsman. Munch conducted music of Haieff carrying on Serge Koussevitzky's tradition of championing American works, and made this recording of Symphony No. 2 for RCA (issued on LSC 2352, coupled with Easley Blackwood's Symphony #1), out of print for many years. Symphony No. 3 is heard in a broadcast of the premiere performance. There's a good reason why Haieff's orchestral music isn't heard today—it doesn't have much to say, in spite of the craft displayed in its composition. Surely these vivid performances by Munch and the Bostonians do what can be done for this music, which often shows traces of Stravinsky, whose Jeu de cartes fills out this CD (a dazzling performance!), from the RCA stereodisk where it was incongruously coupled with Poulenc's Organ Concerto (LSC 2567)—also deleted. This is a private CD issue; for information contact: roppenheim@satx.rr.com

R.E.B. (June2005)