GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F. Rhapsody in Blue. Cuban
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. The Seasons (July-December),
STRAUSS: Josephs Legende, Op. 63.
Since winning the Gold Medal in the 1997 Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, California-born Jon Nakamatsu's career has flourished. He has appeared with many major orchestras, given numerous recitals, and made a series of fine recordings of music of Brahms, Chopin and Liszt (although his Rochester recording of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3, his vehicle at the Competition, is somewhat disappointing). But all is right on this stunning new issue of Gershwin, vivid, imaginative performances of the Concerto and Rhapsody. Conductor Tyzik and the splendid orchestra provide brilliant accompaniment, and the sonic quality is state-of-the-art. Recorded in July 2006 at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester and produced by Robina G. Young, the aural picture is just about perfect: a solid piano sound, warm but sharply defined orchestral textures, and a sense of presence that SACD should always provide (and usually doesn't). A terrific SACD!
Ondine's fifth SACD with Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra offers Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, coupled with July-December from the same composer's The Seasons (January-June were fillers on their issue of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. I was not impressed by sonic quality or performance of Symphony No. 5 (see REVIEW). It was recorded in Kimmel Center in May 2005; this Symphony No. 4 was recorded in March 2006, and has the same kind of sound, rather pallid overall—and it's surprising the important solo piccolo in the third movement is quite recessed. The performance is, of course, well played, but there's little "fate" in this lethargic reading. No question, the finest Ondine PO issue is the Barber/Poulenc/Saint-Saëns organ disk (see REVIEW). Like other releases in the series, the packaging is overdone. The regular-sized jewel box cannot hold the CD booklet, so it's necessary to keep the outer packaging to keep them together, a bit of an inconvenience because of space required.
About seven years ago, DGG issued of Richard Strauss's Josephs Legend with Giuseppe Sinopoli and the Dresden State Orchestra (see REVIEW). That fine recording didn't last long in the catalog and was resurrected by ArkivMusic in their very important Arkiv Reissue series (see REVIEW). Now that reissue perhaps is not as important as before because of this superb new version with Iván Fischer leading the virtuoso Budapest Festival Orchestra. Oddly, CD notes to not give the venue (although probably it was The Palace of Arts in Budapest), or the date, although they do provide information on digital converters, speakers, amplifiers, cables and mixing board. Regardless of where or when, the result is a remarkably rich representation of Strauss's heavily-scored ballet, and liner notes give a detailed description of what's going during each of the 70 tracks. Highly recommended!
R.E.B. (July 2007)