MAHLER:  Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Barbara Bonney, soprano; Matthias Goerne, baritone; Sara Fulgoni, mezzo-soprano; G–sta Winbergh, tenor; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA B0000029 (F) (DDD) TT:  66:31
SHOSTAKOVICH: Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in C Minor, Op. 35. Piano Concerto No. 2 in F, Op. 102. 24 Preludes, Op. 34.
Oleg Marshev, pianist; Helsingborg Symphony Orch/Hannu Lintu, cond.
ONDINE DACOCD 601 (F) (DDD) TT:  76:52

This is the third disk version of Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The first dates from April 1976 when Bernard Haitink recorded it for Philips with Jessye Norman and John Shirley-Quirk (a recording still available on Philips 454 014), the second a live performance October 1987 with Leonard Bernstein, Lucia Popp and Andreas Schmidt (currently available only in DGG's 16-CD set of Mahler symphonies and orchestral songs). Chailly's recording, made in June 2000, is unusual in that it features four instead of two singers, and the order of the songs, devised by the conductor, is changed. Donald Mitchell's notes say Mahler wrote all of his songs with a male voice in mind, usually a baritone, which is perhaps justification for seven of the songs here being assigned to Matthias Goerne - but not Revelge, usually sung by a baritone, here by tenor G–sta Winbergh, his only contribution to the performance.  Mezzo-soprano Sara Fulgoni also is heard only once, appropriately in Urlicht, which Mahler adapted for his second symphony.  Barbara Bonny's five songs include Das himmlische Leben, not one of the Wunderhorn series, but the finale of the composer's fourth symphony, which she had already recorded with Chailly a year earlier. All of the soloists are excellent, Chailly again shows he is one of today's major Mahler conductors, and the sound well captures the Concertgebouw sound, singers are rather close up in the sonic picture, the orchestra a touch distant - and very heavy bass.  The Bernstein live recording is still the finest Concertgebouw recording - let us hope it will be reissued as a single CD.

The two piano concertos of Dimitri Shostakovich are among his brightest, light-hearted works, with one of his loveliest tunes featured in the exquisite middle movement of the second concerto.  There have been many recordings over the years - the composer himself recorded them pre-stereo in 1958 for EMI with the French National Orchestra conducted by AndrČ Cluytens.  Usually a CD contains just one of the concertos although there are as of this writing nine disks contain both, the latest being a Dutton release with Ingrid Jacoby and the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, the first surround sound recording of either work (REVIEW).  Danacord's superb new issue offers brilliant performances by young pianist Oleg Marshev, assisted in the first concerto by the shining trumpet of Jan Karlsson.  What makes this generously-filled CD very special is that it contains as well all 24 Preludes, Op. 34, the only disk to do so.   As Paul Serotsky states in his fine CD notes, these "parade like a queue of stand-up comics, each barely delivering his 'one-liner' before being shunted off by the next...however, not all the 'jokes' are funny..."  Composed in the early '30s when Shostakovich was playing piano for films and writing film music as well, these miniatures (the shortest is  :39, the longest 2:31) are fun to listen to - and Marshev plays them to perfection.  A fine CD.  Good sound, too.

R.E.B. (May 2003)