SIBELIUS: Overture in E. Ballet Scene. Belshazzar's Feast.The Language of the Birds. Cortège. Minuet.
Tirku Philharmonic Orch/Leif Segerstam, cond.
NAXOS 8.573300 TT: 63:0

BALADA: Cumbres - a Short Symphony for Band. Concerto for Pianoi, Winds and Percussion. Concerto for Cello and Nine Players. Viola Concertto. Sonata for Ten Winds.
Enrico Graf, piano. David Premo, cello. Ashan Pillai, viola. Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble. Denis Colwell, Stephen Story. Thomas Thompson. George Vosburgh, cond.
NAXOS 8.573064 TT: 79:39

HERZ: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C mijnor, Op. 74. Grande fantasie militaire sur La fille du regiment. Fantasie et variations sur la marche d'Otello de Rossini. Grande polonaise brillante.
Howard Shelley, piano/conductor/Tasmanian Symphony Orchesestra
HYPERION CDA 68100 YTT: 65:10

SHOSTAKOVICVH: Symphony No. 10 in E minor. Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Boston Symphony Orch/Andris Nelsons, cond.
DGG 4795059 TT: 64:52


Naxos' disk is of major importance. The story of Belshazzar's Feas, in which the exiled Babylonian king and the Jews who eventually regain their freedom, was the subject of Walton's hugely successful large-scale work of the same name. Scored for baritone and orchestra, it was premiered in England in 1931 and since has become a staple of the choral repertory for organizations that can assemble the required large forces reqyured, Early in his career, Sibelius wrote a considerable amount of incidental music for plays, and in 1908 comp;composed incidental music for Belshazaar's Feast, a play by his countryman, Hjalmar Fredrik Eugen Procopé, There are 11 movements including some rather exotic dances untypical of Sibelius, and there have been recordings by Sir Thomas Beecham and Gennady Rozhdestgvensky. Now we have the complete suite in a superb performance, with mezzo soprano Pia Pajala singing the briefSong of the Jewish Girl. The disk begins with two other early works, a rather lengthy (11:41) overture originally intended as the first two movements of a symphony, wisely not used for that purpose. There also is a brief (7:59) ballet scene, and the disk ends with four excerpts from incidental music written in 1911 for Adolph Paul's play The Language of the Birds, which includes a lively Wedding March. All of this music has been recorded before, but this new disk is a splendid collection superbly played by the Turku Philharmonic under Leif Sebgerstam's firm direction. recordings made in 2014.. Excellent audio, and text is provided for the vocal excerpt.

Over the years this site has mentioned a number of important recordings of music of Catalon composer Leonardo Balada (b. 1933): Piano Concerto No. 3/Concierto Madrigal for Guitar, Zapato, Columbus, Violin Concerto Mp/ 1. Folk Drea,s(REVIEW), Symphony No. 5/Divertimento (REVIEW), This fascinating new disk in the series offers three remarkable works all featuring woodwinds. Program notes were written by the composer giving details of each work. Cumbres is "a short symphony for band, composed in 1971. The Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion dates from 1973 and features the piano as a highly percussive instrument with clusters of sound, ending soft and mysteriously. Concerto for Cello and Nine Players is an early work (1962-67) It is intended to display the beauty of the solo instrument contrasted with the rather brittle accompaniment. The Violin Concerto is a much later work (2009-2010)an d here it receives its world premiere recording, with the challenging solo part brilliantly played by Ashan Pillai. The concluding work, Sonata for Ten Winds, composed in 1979.has become a staple of the repertory. All of this music is challenging for listeners as well as musicians, presented to perfection here. An important issue. Thank you once again, Naxos!

Hyperion's commendable Romantic Piano Concerto series has contained some remarkable resurrected treasures, one of which is this latest release, Volume 66, that contains the conclusion of their series of piano concertos of Australian born pianist Henri Herz (1803 - 18886). Herz spent most of his life in France and was wildly successful as a super-virtuoso, and his music reflects his technical skills. This contains his Piano Concerto No. 2 along with three of the composer's grand fantasies for piano and orchestra. All of this music is delightful and unjustly neglected by today's audiences. Not a dull moment, and often humorous episodes with comic interplay between soloist and orchestra. Howard Shelley is the spectacular pianist—what a fine artist he is with many imposing recordings to his credit and here he also conducts the excellent Tasmanian Symphony. Totally wide-range, natural audio is another plus. Don't miss this one!

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has brought new vigor to the Boston Symphony since he became Music Director in 2013. He already has recorded a considerable amount of Shostakovich including the two violin concerto with Arabella Steinbacher, Symphony No. 7 with the City of Birmingham Orchestra (of which he currently is music director).. For the Boston Symphony's own label he has recorded symphonies 6, 7, 8 and 9. There is a video of Symphony No. 8 with the Royal Concertgebouw (REVIEW),. Here now is Symphony No. 10 recorded in Symphony Hall in April of last year. The performance is electric, and the recorded sound among the finest I've ever heard on disk. The rich sounds of the BSO are captured with resounding resonance and impact—an audiophile's show-piece indeed. The gloomy Passacaglia from Shostakovich's powerful score for Lady Macbeth of Misensk makes an appropriate opener.


R.E.B. (August 2015)