RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Orchestral suites from Snow Maiden, Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and The Maiden Fevroniya, and Mlada.
Russian National Orch/Mikhail Pletnev, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 362 TT: 60:32

GRAAF: Symphony in D, Op. 14 No. 1. ZAPPA: Symphony in B flat "The Cello Symphony." Symphony in D. SCHWINDL: Symphony in D, Op. 9 No. 3. MOZART: Symphony No. 5 in B flat, KV 22 "The Hague." Aria "Conservati Fedele" KV 23. STAMITZ: Symphony in C, Op. 24 No. 1
New Dutch Academy Orch/Simon Murphy, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 365 TT: 68:12

MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 in E minor
Tonhalle Orchetra Zurich/David Zinman, cond.
RCA RED SEAL SACD 50650 TT: 78:32

Mikhail Pletnev and his superb Russian National Orchestra offer a feast of orchestral music of Rimsky-Korsakov, none of which he recorded previously. Two fine DGG issues recorded in 1994 contain only the overture to The Tsar's Bride and the familiar suite from Le Coq'Or. This Pentatone issue offers music from the three operas listed above, and there are plenty of orchestral fireworks to please the audiophile, particularlyBattle of Kershenets from Invisible City. Mlada, an opera/ballet written in 1890 should be programmed more often. The Infernal Rondo, with its vivid orchestral colors, almost matches A Night on Bare Mountain, and the exotic apparition of Queen Cleopatra almost out-Scheherazades Scheherazade. These recordings were made in the MCO Hilversum studios in January 2009, and Job Maarse and his staff have been highly successful in capturing the rich orchestral textures. An outstanding release!

Thge other Pentatone issue offers world premiere recordings of recently discovered music by 18th Century Dutch composers played in the Court of Orange in the Hague. One of the composers is virtuoso cellist and composer Francesco Zappa (1763-1788), surely not to be confused with the rock star Frank Zappa (1940-1993)! Two of his brief "symphonies" are heard here, along with works by Christian Ernst Graaf (1763-1804), Friedrich Schwindl (1737-1786), Carl Stamitz (1746-1801), and Mozart, the early Symphony No. 5 and a brief concert aria, both of these included as they were composed in The Hague in 1765-66. The expert performances are given on period instruments. Recordings were made June 15, 16 and 17, 2009 in the Great Church of Maassluis, and producer Carl Schuurbiers and his crew recreate the warm acoustics of the venue.

David Zinman and his Tonhalle Orchestra continue their RCA Mahler cycle with Symphony No. 7; they already have recorded the first six, all admirable if not definitive, numbers 2, 4 and 6 of particular merit. There are three other SACD issues of Mahler's most problematic symphony, Gerviev and the London Symphony (REVIEW), Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony (REVIEW), and Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (REVIEW). All are superior to the new Zinman recording which was made September 22-25, 2008 in Zurich's Tonhalle. Audio for the Zinman series has been excellent, particularly the recent Symphony No. 6 (REVIEW). However, audio on this Seventh disappoints. The pickup is distant, sometimes oddly balanced, and percussion has little impact, even at the opening of the finale. Strings sound undernourished, particularly in the "moonlight" episode of the first movement. It's odd to explain the difference in sound between these two recordings. Producer for both was Chris Hazell with sound engineer Simon Eadon, but the executive producers were different. I'm curious how the engineering staff is going to cope with Symphony No. 8 which doubtless will soon be issued. In the meantime, if you want a Mahler Seven, choose one of the others, or, if you can find it, the DVD video with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw.

R.E.B. (March 2010)