HERBECK: Symphony No. 4 (Organ Symphony). Symphonic Variations in F.
Irénée Peyrot, organ; Hamburg Symphony Orch/Martin Haselböck, cond.
NCA SACD ISBN 60150 TT: 61:36

GALLET: Turuna for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Percussion. VILLA-LOBOS: Quintet in the Form of a Chorus. GUARNIERI: Two Songs for Voice and Flute (Acalanto/Cunhanta). MIGNONE: Five songs for Voice and Bassoon (Assombraçao/Canto de negros/Pinhao quente/Cançao da mae paupérrima/Quando na roçca anoitece). SANTORO: Mini concerto grosso for String Quartet. MIRANDA: Variations on a Theme of Anacieto de Medeiros. RIPPER: Matinas for Oboe and String Quintet
Adriane Queiroz, soprano; Berlin Opera Quintet Soloists; Berlin Opera Modern Chamber Ensemble
NCA SACD ISBN 60195 TT: 67:44

MAHLER-MÜLLER-HORNBACH: Kindertotenlieder. Five Rückert Lieder. Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen.
Klaus Mertens, bass-baritone; Mutare Ensemble/Gerhard Müller-Hornbach, cond.
NCA SACD ISBN 60166 TT: 63:10

GÁL: Concertino for Organ and Strings. Two Religious Songs. Prelude and Fugue in A. Fantasia, Arioso and Capriccio.
István Mátyás, organ/Adrineh Simonian, soprano; Davbid Pennetzdorfer, cello; Vienna Academy Orch/Martin Haselböck, cond.
NCA SACD ISBN 60162 TT: 62:14

MENDELSSOHN: String Quartet in E flat, Op. 44 No. 3. SCHUMANN: String Quartet in A, Op. 41 No. 3.
Gewandhaus Quartet
NCA SACD USBB 60176 TT: 65:59

The intriguing Membran NCA label focuses on the unusual. Many of this group of disks are premiere recordings, of varying interest. The first offers music by Johann Von Herbeck (1831-1877) who was highly influential on Vienna's music scene. A noted choirmaster and court music director, he also directing opera. Herbeck conducted the premiere of Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in December 1865, was a friend of Liszt and advocate of Wagner and Verdi. This SACD contains the last of his four symphonies, and Symphonic Variations in F. Symphony No. 4, written in 18776, is called the "organ symphony" and apparently was the first work of its type ever composed—it preceded Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 by nine years. However, the organ plays a minimal part in Herbeck's symphony and a somber placid mood marks the 26-minute four movement work; even the "scherzo" is subdued. No roaring crescendos here, for sure. Symphonic Variations, written two years before the symphony, is livelier, with an original theme and 11 variations the last of which is reminiscent of Brahms. Martin Haselböck and the fine Hamburg Symphony give excellent performances, and the resonant acoustic seems appropriate for the music.

The SACD of music by Brazilian composers is a total delight in scintillating performances by Berlin Opera Orchestra members assisted by soprano Adriane Queiroz who sings two charming songs by Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) for soprano and solo flute, and five songs for soprano and bassoon by Francisco Mignone (1897-1986). Much of his chamber music has been recorded, and in 1945 Giuseppe Di Stefano recorded one of his songs. Luciano Gallet (1893-1931) is represented by a fascinating work called Turuna for clarinet, violin, viola and percussion. More familiar is Quintet in the Form of a Choros by Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). Claudio Santoro (1919-1989) is represented by a vigorous 8-minute Mini Concerto Grosso for string quintet. Both Rolando Miranda (b. 1948) and Joao Guilherme Ripper (b. 1959) are among the most important Brazilian composers, but their music is sparsely represented in the catalog, an oversight for sure. The major work on this SACD is Miranda's Variations on a famous theme by Anacieto de Medeiros, a virtuoso showpiece for small ensemble, and the disk ends with another display piece, Ripper's Matina originally written for oboe and string orchestra later arranged for oboe and string quartet as heard here. All of the performances are spectacular, and the recorded sound vivid. Don't miss this one.

The next SACD features music of Mahler arranged for chamber orchestra, Songs of a Wayfarer arranged by Arnold Schoenberg, Kindertotenlieder and five songs from Rückertlieder arranged by Gerhard Müller-Hornbach, distinguished composer and teacher who also is artistic director of Mutare Ensemble. There's no question that this music benefits considerably from the richer sounds of a larger orchestra, but should you wish to experience this music performed by an ensemble with only 13 player, here it is. The sensitive soloist is bass-baritone Klaus Mertens who has made numerous recordings including all of the Bach cantatas with Ton Koopman conducting. Excellent recorded sound, and complete texts are provided.

When Viennese-born Jewish composer Hans Gál died in 1987 at the age of 97, his music had virtually disappeared from the concert stage in spite of the fact that many decades ago he was quite famous. Although he composed much chamber music, he also wrote several symphonies and operas. Gál's comic opera Die Heilige Ente premiered in Düsseldorf in 1923 with George Szell on the podium and subsequently performed in more than twenty opera houses. About a dozen recordings of Gál's chamber are currently available, and now we have some of his organ music, all premiere recordings. An organist early in his career, Gál wrote well for the instrument and here we have a brief (19 min.) Concertino for Organ and Strings that doubtless will be added to the organists' repertory, along with several solo works. The beautiful two religious songs composed in 1923 for soprano, organ and cello are gems. Performances are excellent, as is the sonic quality.

The fifth SACD presents splendid performances of quartets by Mendelssohn and Schumann, the former taken from the Gewandhaus's previously issued 4-SACD set of the composer's complete quartets, coupled with the last of Schuman's quartets. Performances are exceptional as one would expect when played by the Gewandhaus Quartet comprised of principals of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. This ensemble, formed in 1808, is the oldest known string quartet. Their association with major composers is unique: Mendelssohn dedicated his violin concerto to Ferdinand David who was at the time first violin, and the quartet premiered music by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Bruch, Reger and Dvorák. This new disk was recorded in June 2006, and the quartet's lustrous sound has been beautifully captured.

R.E.B. (January 2010)