BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica." Symphony No. 4 in B flat, Op. 60. Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale." Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93. Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral." The Creatures of Prometheus Overtuure, Op. 43. Leonore Overture No. 3 in C, Op. 72a. Overtures to Fidelio, Op. 72b, Coriolan, Op. 62, Egmont, Op. 84, The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113, Zur Namensfeier, Op. 115, König Stephan, Op. 117
Katerina Beranova, soprano; Lilli Paasikivik, mezzo-soprano; Robert Dean Smith, tenor; Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass-baritone; GewandhausChor; GewandhausKinderchor; MDR Rundfunkchor; Gewandhausorchester/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA 478 2721 (5 disks) TT: 70:59 / 77:15 / 75:34 / 73:31 / 75:00
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MARTINU: Symphony No. 1. Symphony No. 2. Symphony No. 3. Symphony No. 4. Symphony No. 5. Symphony No. 6 "Fantaisie symphonic"
BBC Symphony Orch/Jiri Belohlavek, cond.
ONYX 4061 (3 disks) 62:01 / 64:27 ./ 56:22
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SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 7 in b minor, D. 759 "Unfinished." Rondo in A for Violin and Strings, D. 438. Polonaise in B flat for Violin and Orcherstra, D. 580. Concert Piece in D for Violin and Orchestra, D. 345
Andreas Janke, violin; Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/David Zinman, cond.
RCA RED SEAL 95335 TT: 51:52
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CHISHOLM: Piano Concerto No. 1 "Piobaireachd." Piano Concerto No. 2 "Hindustani"
Danny Driver, piano; BBC Scottish Symphony Orch/Ropry Macdonald, cond.
HYPERION CDA67880 TT: 68:43
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DELIBES: Suites from Sylvia and Coppélia.
San Francisco Ballet Orch/Martin West, cond.
REFERENCE RR 125 TT: 73:06
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They will never stop. New recordings of Beethoven's symphonies continue on a regular basis, and they must be selling or companies involved would be reluctant to issue them. This site mentioned a superb new DGG set with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra in January 2009 (REVIEW). Now the same label has a new set with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra of which he has been music director since 2005. By astute coupling and utilizing maximum playing time for each of the five disks, it is possible to include all of the overtures except for Leonore 1 and 2. Chailly tells of his careful studying of interpretations of the past including interpretations by Toscanini, Karajan, Gardiner and Markevitch and has come up with his own vision of the music "which represent the sum of thirty years years of preoccupation with Beethoven." Recordings were made over a period of three years (2007-2009) and sonically are rich and satisfying; Andrew Cornall and his staff did a terrific job in capturing warm acoustics of Leipzig's Gewandhaus. Chailly's performances are dynamic to say the least, and magnificently played. This is a deluxe presentation in every way. These are well-balanced stereo recordings,with rich definition. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under their then music director Kurt Masur, recorded all of the Beethoven symphonies in 1972-1974 in splendid four-channel sound, issued in that format on Pentatone and well worth investigating (REVIEW).

Another superb set offers all six symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu in live performances by the BBC Symphony directed by Jiri Belohlávek, recorded during separate concerts given in London's Barbican Hall, October 2009 and 2010. The Czech conductor is known for his interpretations of this music; he previously recorded all of them in Prague along with many concertos for various instruments, major choral works including The Epic of Gilgamesh and Field Mass, and three ballets: Who Is the Most Powerful in the World, Spalicek, and The Butterfly that Stamped (REVIEW). These new recordings of all six symphonies is of major importance. Collectors would not want to be without Charles Munch's 1956 recording of the Sixth, which was written for and dedicated to him; this fine recording was made about a year after Munch gave the world premiere in Boston. If you can find the EMI set, this is included in their Great Conductors of the 20th Century series (REVIEW). Also available is a 1967 concert performance from the Prague Spring Festival in which he leads the Czech Radio Symphony (REVIEW).

David Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra have some highly respected recordings for Arte Nova and RCA including the complete symphonies of Mahler, Beethoven (plus the concertos), and Brahms as well as almost all of Richard Strauss's symphonic works. Now he turns to Schubert and one of the initial releases is this disk contains what is identified as "Symphony No. 7." Actually, most listeners known it as Symphony No. 8. This is the symphony with only two movements and it is not known why Schubert didn't complete it—perhaps he felt it was perfect as it was. He did make a few sketches for a final movement, but they do not amount to much. And to add to the confusion, in 1821 Schubert sketched a four-movement Symphony in E but left it virtually incomplete although there have been attempts to orchestrate it, notably by Felix Weingartner. So the Unfinished really can be considered Symphony No. 7 (although on ArkivMusic it still is identified as No. 8), and for this recording Zinman has gone back to the original scores and the result is one of the finer recordings of this music. For fillers, we have Andreas Janke, concertmaster of the Zurich Orchestra as soloist in Schubert's Rondo in A, Polonaise in B flat, and Concert Piece in D. Excellent sound. Highly recommended if you wish to add to your collection of Unfinisheds.

Interest is increasingin music of Scottish composer Erik Chisholm (1904-1965) thanks to efforts of Dutton Laboratories which has recorded two major symphonic works, Pictures from Dante and Symphony No. 2, the latter mentioned on this site (REVIEW). There are no less than seven disks of the composer's music for piano played by Murray McLachian on the Diversions label. Chisolm's two piano concertos receive their premiere recordings on this fascinating Hyperion CD. Concerto No. 1, composed in 1932, revised in 1938, is based on "Piobaireachd," referring to classical music of Highland bagpipers, and all four movements are based on these elements, often quite realistically. The second movement is an energetic Scottish dance, the third a rather mysterious adagio, the fourth a wild syncopated Scottish reel. Concerto No. 2 dates from 1949, dedicated to Adolph Hallis who played the premiere that year. The work was revised by the composer in 1953. It is called the "Hindustani Concerto" because each of its three movements is based on ragas which in themselves are improvised by the soloist often in an impressionistic style, accompanied by delicate orchestration. The brilliant young pianist Danny Driver plays this very difficult music with conviction, and Scottish-born Rory Macdonald and the BBC Scottish Symphony play their countryman's music with dedication. Excellent sound. These are welcome additions to the catalog for those interested in the unusual, but it is unlikely any major pianist will champion them.

I have the highest regard for Reference Recordings. Their standards are the highest, with "Prof." Keith Johnson's engineering magic and Tam Henderson's production expertise. For decades they have produced recordings that capture audio with uncommon clarity, they have won many awards, and often their recordings are used for audio demonstration purposes. Their series of recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra is memorable, and their few adventures into SACD have been acclaimed, particularly their recent Britten disk with the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern conducting (REVIEW). Their latest issue of suites from ballets of Delibes is disappointing, not sonically but simply because the performances, although spirited, cannot convince because of the small size of the orchestra. Strings are particularly thin. Ths delightful music demands big orchestral sound which is, unfortunately, not heard here.

R.E.B. (May 2012)