VILLA-LOBOS: Symphony No. 2 Ascencao. New York Skyline Melody.
Stuttgart SWR Radio Symphony Orch/Carl St. Clair, cond.
cpo 999 785 (F) TT: 54:08
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FARNON: Captain Horatio Hornblower. Symphony No. 2 in B (Ottawa). The Frontiersmen Overture. Goodwood Galop. Alcan Highway. Three Impressions. Seventh Heaven. Playtime. Scherzo from Symphony No. 1 in D flat.
BBC Concert Orch/John Wilson, cond.
DUTTON CDLX 7173 (F) TT: 76:43
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BERLIOZ: Requiem, Op. 5. Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op. 15.
Ronald Dowd, tenor; Dennis Wick, trombone; Wandsworth School Boys' Choir; John Alldis Choir; London Symphony Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
PHILIPS 475 7765 (2 disks) (M) TT: 2 hours 5 min.
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CHOPIN: Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31. Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39. Polonaise No. 6 in A flat, Op. 53 "Heroic." Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Waltz No. 1 in E flat, Op. 18. Mazurka No. 34 in C minor, Op. 56 No. 2. Mazurka No. 35 in C minor, Op. 56 No. 3. Etude Op. 10 No. 12 in C minor "Revolutionary." Nocturne No. 13 in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1. Fantasie-impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66. Preludes, Op. 28 Nos. 20-24. SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 5 in F-sharp, Op. 53 "The Poem of Ecstasy." RACHMANINOFF: Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36.
Alexei Sultanov, pianist
VAI AUDIO VAIA 1266-2 (2 disks) TT: 70:37 & 50:26
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SCHUBERT-LISZT: Auf dem Wasser zu singen. Der Müller und der Bach. Ständchen. Gretchen am Spinnrade. Erlkönig. Die Forelle. SCHUBERT: Fantasy in C, D 760 Wanderer. BRAHMS: Fantasias, Op. 116. LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23. BACH: Siciliana. BEETHOVEN: Choral Fantasy, Op. 80. GLUCK-SGAMBATI: Dance of the Blessed Spirits.
Evgeny Kissin, pianist/Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan (Tchaikovsky)/Berlin Philharmonic Orch/RIAS Kammerchor/Claudio Abbado (Beethoven)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6162 (2 disks) TT: 80:50 & 68:13
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VLADIGEROV: Bulgarian Rhapsody, Op. 16 "Vardar." "Traumspielsuite." Bulgarian Dances, Op. 23.
Berlin Radio Symphony Orch/Horia Andreescu, cond.
cpo 777 125 TT: 79:49
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GRIEG: Slatter - Suite for Orchestra, Op. 72. Norwegian Dances, Op. 35. Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak, Op. 73. The Bridal Procession Passes By from Pictures from Folk Life, Op. 19 No. 2. Ballade, Op. 24. Ringing Bells from Lyric Pieces, Op. 54 No. 6
Royal Scotttish National Orch/Bjarte Engeset, cond.
NAXOS 8.557854 (B) TT: 61:11
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CLARA ROCKMORE'S LOST THEREMIN ALBUM
KREISLER: Liebesleid. MATTHESON: Air. DVORÁK: Humoresque. FULIEHAN: Pastorale. SCHUBERT: Ave Maria. CHOPIN: Nocturne in C# minor. CASSADO: Requiebros. BACH: Adagio. Air. VILLA-LOBOS: Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. HEUBERGER: Midnight Bells. RAVEL: Kaddish. GERSHWIN: Summertime. ROBINSON: Water Boy. PONCE: Estrellita. LOUIGUY: La Vie en Rose.
Clara Rockmore, theremin; Nadia Reisenberg/Cello Ensemble/Jorge Morel, guitar
BRIDGE 9208 (F) TT: 61:03
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Heitor Villa Lobos wrote 12 symphonies from 1916 to 1957, and we are indebted to cpo for their enterprise in recording them. With this issue of Symphony No. 2, the only one remaining is the fifth, and doubtless that will be along soon. Symphony No. 2, rather mysteriously called "Ascension," is long (51:08) and in four movements, with a brilliant scherzo. It's a broad canvas of sweeping orchestral textures and there's no question that it was written by the composer of Uirapurù. New York Skyline Melody, written in 1939 for piano and transcribed for orchestra the same year, is an oddity. The composer calls the process "millimetrization," in which the contours of a skyline are projected onto graph paper and then represented as notes. Carl St. Clair obviously is an expert in music of Villa Lobos, the German orchestra is in top form, the engineering state-of-the-art. Highly recommended, along with previous issues in the series.

Canadian-born Robert Farnon (1917-2005) is best-known for his score for the 1951 epic Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN, which starred Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo. Farnon had enormous success after moving to England in the early '40's and composed numerous short pieces for radio. Many of these are heard on this fine Dutton CD, beautifully played by the BBC Concert Orchestra, along with a five-movement suite from the score for Captain Horatio which is unquestionably the finest music on this recording. Farnon didn't feel his "serious" works were particularly important and did not want them to be performed during his lifetime. In spite of this, Symphony No. 1 was premiered in 1914 in Toronto with Sir Ernest MacMillan conducting, and the following year Eugene Ormandy conducted it with the Philadelphia Orchestra—then it disappeared. MacMillan also conducted the premiere of Symphony No. 2 in March 1943. Music heard on this CD is a welcome, if inconsequential, addition to the catalog. Except for Captain Horatio, there are no duplications of music the composer recorded with the Royal Philharmonic in 1991 for Reference Recordings.

Philips has reissued Sir Colin Davis's famous recordings of Berlioz's Requiem and Symphonie funèbre et triomphale made with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1969. Some consider these to be definitive performances, and in this new 96kHz.24 bit remastering they sound better than ever—and at mid-price. This performance of the Requiem is far superior to the conductor's 1989 Bavarian production just issued on DVD by Image Entertainment. If you don't have these recordings, now is the time to obtain them.

Pianist Alexei Sultanov is a tragic figure in the pianistic world. Born in 1969 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he began playing the piano when only three. After his family moved to Moscow, Sultanov studied at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory and in 1989 won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the youngest ever to win the Gold Medal. In 1995 he won the Thirteenth International Frederick Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and his career blossomed. His career sadly ended in 2005 when he died after several strokes caused by a head injury; just the year before he and his wife had become American citizens. Sultanov was a favorite in Japan, and VAI's 2 CD set documents performances March 31 and April 2, 1996 in Kioi Hall in Tokyo. These are extraordinary performances including one of the finest I've ever heard of Chopin's Sonata No. 3. This is an important issue.

Admirers of Evgeny Kissin already will have everything in DGG's new budget-priced compilation except for four items previously unissued: Bach's Siciliana, Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits, and two of the Schubert-Liszt transcriptions—Erlkönig and Die Forelle. I imagine Kissin would play the Tchaikovsky concerto with more fire than he does in this 1988 Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic live recording made about six months before the conductor's death.

Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978) moved to Berlin after initial studies in Sofia. The first of his five piano concertos won the 1918 Mendelssohn Prize. The first of his two violin concertos premiered in 1921 with Gustav Havemann as soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Fritz Reiner. Vladigerov also worked with director and actor Max Reinhardt. He had an extensive teaching career, and his students included Alexis Weissenberg. Except for his piano music, Vladigerov's music has seldom been recorded, a situation rectified by this CD of orchestral music featuring the composer's best-known work, the nationalistic Bulgarian Rhapsody, Op. 16, also known as Vardar, named after Macedonia's greatest river. Originally composed for violin and piano, Vardar was a great hit and in 1928 the composer conducted the Czech Philharmonic in his orchestration of the work. Also on this disk we have a six-movement suite Vladigerov's wrote for Dream Play,a work by Rheinhardt, as well as seven folksong-based Bulgarian Dances. Often there are traces of Korngold in this music, and cpo is to be congratulated for making this music available in these beautifully recorded, well-played performances.

Again Naxos has come up with a winner with their unusual disk of music of Edvard Grieg containing more than an hour of piano pieces orchestrated by Oistein Sommerfeldt, Hans Sitt, Johan Halvorsen and, of particular interest, Geirr Tveitt's orchestration of the composer's major solo piano work, the Ballade in G minor. A wonderful collection, with Bjarte Engeset (who wrote the comprehensive booklet notes) and the splendid Royal Scottish National Orchestra in fine form, beautifully recorded by the Naxos engineering team.

Those who treasure Clara Rockmore's remarkable Delos CD, "The Art of the Theremin" (1014), will welcome this Bridge release of other works recorded during the same sessions in July 1975. Leon Theremin invented the theremin about 1920. It's an odd-looking instrument: a wooden cabinet houses a vertical pitch antenna rod, and a tubular loop that controls volume, along with tuning knobs and control switches. Low power, high frequency electromagnetic fields are manipulated by the performer's hands, which never actually touch the instrument. Sound produced is eerie and distinctive, often resembling the human voice. The instrument often was used in horror movies for eerie effects. . Rockmore (and her sister, pianist Nadia Heisenberg) were friends of Theremin and studied the unusual instrument with him. Clara made suggestions to improve the theremin and soon became a master of the instrument, giving the first solo concert in New York's Town Hall in October 1934. Bridge's new CD contains other music recorded in 1975, with three changes: an ensemble of cellos is featured in the Villa-Lobos and Fuliehan Pastorale, a guitar in Estrellita. This is an important issue.

R.E.B. (June 2007)