TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Francesca
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
GETTY: Plump Jack Overture. Ancestor Suite. Homework
Here are two more excellent recordings of live performances from the Bavarian Radio archives. Previous issues of the seventh symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler were praised on this site (REVIEW). Now we have this Beethoven Ninth recorded in October 2007 in the Vatican in honor of Pope Benedict XVI. It is a fine performance by any standards, but it surely would not replace many of the other versions (there are over 240 other recordings). Audio is a bit undefined in the bass, but soloists and chorus are well-balanced. If this performance and the occasion for it interests you, surely you would prefer to get the DVD of the concert which offers DTS 5.1 sound, Palestrina's Tu es Petrus to begin the concert, an address by the Pope. and a documentary about the concert. Jansons' Tchaikovsky already is well represented in the catalog; he already has recorded all of the symphonies and many other works as well. These are exciting performances of Symphony 5 and Francesca. As with other releases in this series, the sound is big and rich if somewhat undefined in the bass. Fine though this Francesca is, it isn't as dynamic as the recent Gustavo Dudamel/Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra version on DGG (REVIEW) which is better sonically (even though the accompanying Tchaikovsky Five has substandard sound).
Gordon Peter Getty (b. 1934) is one of the wealthiest men in America; his fortune is estimated at about $2.8 billion. Always interested in the arts, he studied singing (which went nowhere), but he always has supported the arts in a major way, including underwriting performances by the San Francisco Opera and the Russian National Orchestra. Getty's attempts at composing are admirable, and he is to be commended for writing music that most listeners find very pleasant to hear, even though it is far removed from major musical statements. He knows how to orchestrate, and this new SACD shows him in a lighter mood: the overture to his opera Plump Jack, two colorful orchestral suites, and two pleasant miniatures. Distinguished conductor Sir Neville Marriner (b. 1924) leads vigorous performances of this pleasant music, and it has been very well recorded in surround sound that keeps the orchestra in front. Hats off to Gordon Getty for his interest in and support of classical music!
R.E.B. (March 2011)