SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 4 in C minor "Tragic." Symphony No. 5 in B flat.
Netherlands Chamber Orch/Gordan Mikolic, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 340 TT: 67:54
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SCHUBERT: Sonatina in D for Violin and Piano in D, D. 384 (Op. 137 No. 1). Sonatina for Violin and Piano in A minor, D. 385 (Op. 137 No. 2). Sonatina for Violin and Piano in G minor, D. 408 (Op. 137 No. 2). Rondo for Violin and Piano in B minor "Rondo Brillant," D. 895 (Op. 70)
Julia Fischer, violin; Martin Helmchen, piano
PENTATONE SACD 5186 347 TT: 64:31
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FALLA: Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve. El Amor Brujo. Excerpts from El Sombrero de Tres Picos. Siete Canciones Populares Espagnolas. Homenaje. Tus Ojillos Negros.
Juanita Lascarro, soprano; David Garcia Mir, percussion; Peter and Zoltán Katona, guitars
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCSA 28809 TT: 67:00
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Here are two winners from the enterprising Pentatone label. The first offers two Schubert symphonies played by the sterling Netherlands Chamber Orchestra directed by Gordon Mikolic, who has a distinguished career as a violin virtuoso (the CD cover shows him playing that instrument) along with his conducting. He has been artistic director of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra since 2004, and previous Pentatone issues feature music of Haydn, Britten, Mozart, Bartók and Hartmann. These delightful Schubert symphonies are performed to perfection. The other CD is the first in a projected set of Schubert's complete works for violin and piano played by Julia Fischer and Martin Helmchen. Both of these fine young artists are in top form; let us hope they will be able to conclude this series even though Fischer has now signed with DGG. Audio on both of these releases is state-of-the-art.

Channel Classics' Falla SACD is a fascinating experiment, featuring arrangements for guitars of some of the composer's most familiar music. Actually, Falla composed only one work for the guitar, although often he used the instrument in his orchestral works. Hungarian-born brothers Peter and Zoltán Katona are heard in their own transcriptions of some of these, the major one being El Amor Brujo, in which they are joined by soprano Juanita Lascarro who is at the beginning of a promising career. Her voice doesn't have the huskiness required for this music; she is more effective in the Seven Popular Spanish Songs. In some of this music the Katona brothers utilize electric guitars and synthesizers, and are joined in a subtle way by percussionist David Garcia Mir. Although the audio is clear and resonant, this is not the sonic spectacular one might expect it would be.

R.E.B. (December 2009)

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