STRAVINSKY: Suite from The Firebird. Le sacre du printemps.
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse/Tugan Sokhiev, cond.
NAÎVE V 5192 1 CD / 1 DVD TT: 55:00 & 37:00

ORFF: Carmina Burana. Catulli Carmina. Trionfo di Afrodite.
Soloists, choruses and Das Kölner Rundfunk Sinfonie-Orchester/Ferdinand Leitner, cond.
MEMBRAN 233584 (3 disks) TT: 60:26 / 36:35 / 42:44

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13 "Winter Daydreams." Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 "Little Russian." Symphony No. 3 in D, Op. 29 "Polish." Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique."
Moscow Radio Symphony Orch/Gennady Rozhdestvensky, cond.
MELODIYA CD 1001754 (5 disks) TT: 75:38 / 44:27 / 42:13 / 43:37 / 45:39

Young Ossetian conductor Tugan Sokhiev (b. 1977) has a remarkable career thus far. Mentored by Valery Gergiev, he appears often with the Mariinsky Theatre. For several years he led the Welsh National Opera and since 2005 the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. In 2012 Sokhiev became principal conductor and artistic director of the Deutsche Symnphonie-Orchester Berlin. He already has appeared as guest with the Chicago Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras—reviews from the latter said he was a "miracle conductor." Surely the Toulouse Orchestra has never sounded better than in these dynamic Stravinsky performances, both were recorded in September 2011 in La Halle Aux Grains, Toulouse. I like conductors who take chances; it is to his credit that Sokhiev does something no other conductor (to my knowledge) has ever done: in the Rite's frantic sacrificial dance, he stops the orchestra completely for a mini-moment permitting the exciting brass glissandi to be heard, a very exciting effect indeed! And I realize Stravinsky didn't write it that way—perhaps he should have? I have listened to dozens of recordings of this music—many years ago I authored a "basic library" for Stereophile comparing more than 50 recordings, and none of them offer this unique effect. If you enjoy The Rite, you surely must hear this interpretation. In addition to the CD, there is a DVD of a concert performance of Rite filmed in the same location, a film by Jean-Pierre Loisil, not the same performance as heard on the CD. The concert is exciting indeed, beautifully filmed and it is amazing that Sokhiev, elegantly precise in his baton technique, doesn't even work up a sweat! Also interesting is that a member of the Toulouse Orchestra is African-American, obviously a virtuoso trumpet player. He deserves his brief spotlight. This Naïve set has much to offer.

These famous recordings of Carl Orff's trilogy - Carmina Burana, Catulli Carmina and Triumph of Aphrodite have been in and out of the catalog since their original issue. For many years I have own them in a valuable multi-disk set on Acanta called "Carl Orff Collection," which also includes includese Orpheus, Klage der Ariadne, Taednz der Spröden and the two-hour opera Prometheus. Now these famous recordings have returned to the catalog this time on the Membran label, which appears to be part of the Acanta family. There are extensive program notes, but no texts—but this is a very inexpensive reissue. Ferdinand Leitner (1912-1996) was a highly respected conductor who held several posts as music director (Württenberg/Stuttgart) and specialized in Richard Strauss, Wagner and contemporary opera, particularly Orff and Hartmann. Although not stated in CD notes, these Orff recordings were made in 1973 (Carmina) and 1975. Stunning performances, beautifully sung with outstanding soloists, and the engineering, while somewhat dated, does capture the vivid orchestration effectively. A great reissue!

Gennady Rozhdestvensky, at the time of this writing 82, has a remarkable career, a major figure on the musical scene. Highly regarded by all during his career, he led many major organizations including the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow Radio Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, and Vienna Symphony, and appeared often with other leading orchestras. A friend of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Rozhdestvensky premiered many of their works. He recorded profusely including, as you might expect, most of Tchaiovsky's orchestral music. He recorded the most popular symphonies several times; this new compilation of all six was recorded in 1972-1974. They are splendid, vibrant and exciting performances very well played and recorded with rich orchestral sound. Packaging is simple, with notes in English and Russian. It seems odd that the back cover identifies Symphony No. 1 as Winter Dreams and No. 6 as Pathétique, but doesn't mention that Symphony No. 2 is Little Russian, and No. 3 Polish. Doesn't matter really, and the set is budget-priced.


R.E.B. (April 2013)