MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL: Pictures at an Exhibition
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Mar iss Jansons, cond.
RCO LIVE RCO 09004 TT: 33:02

GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice
Ewa Podles (Orfeo); Ana Rodrigo (Euridice); Elena da la Merced (Amore); Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid; Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia/Peter Maag, cond.
ARTS SACD 47753 (2 disks) TT: 103:43

HAYDN: Horn Concerto No. 1 in D. Horn Concerto No. 2 in D. Divertimento a Tre. MICHAEL HAYDN: Romance for Horn and String Quartet. Adagio and Allegro Molto for Horn and Trombone from Serenade in D
Jasper de Waal, horn; Henk Rubingh, Marijn Mijnders, violin; Roland Krämer, viola; Benedikt Enzler, cello; Jörgen van Rijen, trombone; Concertgebouw Chamber Orch/Henk Ruybingh, cond.

This live Pictures is the Royal Concertgebouw's fifth recording of the score. The first was in 1952 with Antal Dorati (which won a Gran Prix du Disque), followed by Bernard Haitink in 1962, Sir Colin Davis in 1979, and Riccardo Chailly in 1986. In September 1992 I wrote a "basic library" for Stereophile comparing 37 recordings of Pictures, pointing out that in the score Ravel states the final two notes of ":The Old Castle" are to be played glissando; the only recording to present it this way is Chailly's, which is now available as an import. I had hoped that perhaps in the new Jansons version might play it that way, but such is not the case. The recording was made during concerts May 22 and 23 and August 29, 2008. Why three dates? At any rate, this is a splendid performance, and Jansons doesn't hesitate to add some percussion here and there—really quite unnecessary. This is a mid-price issue and contains only Pictures—why wasn't more music included?

June 19, 1996 there was a performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice in Spain, an all-star production with distinguished conductor Peter Maag on the podium. Maag is well-known for his early stereo recordings, most of which have recently been reissued. Much of his career was focused in Spain, and he here leads a splendid orchestra in Gluck's famous opera with a superb trio of soloists, particularly Ewa Podles who is in stunning form. There are about 50 "complete" recordings of this opera, and you will find versions by Dame Janet Baker (on a Glyndebourne 1982 DVD ), Kathleen Ferrier, and Marilyn Horne as the doomed Orfeo. This recording was issued in regular stereo in 1999—now we have it in a fine SACD version that costs twice as much. Should you wish to experience Gluck's opera in superb sound, here it is.

Jasper de Waal has been first horn of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 2004 and is the magnificent soloist in these works for horn and orchestra by Joseph Haydn and his younger brother, Michael. We also have other works by both composers for small ensemble in one of which Waal is joined by Jörgen van Rijen, principal trombone of the RCOA. It doesn't get better than this. Recordings were made in June and September 2009 in the historic Waalse Church in Amsterdam, and the engineering staff has captured rich, balanced sound. This is an outstanding issue.

R.E.B. (May 2010)