WALTON: Belshazzar's Feast. Symphony No. 1.
Peter Coleman-Wright, baritone; London Symphony Chorus and Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
LSO LIVE SACD LSO 0681 TT: 80:17

NIELSEN: Symphony No. 4 "The Inex

JOHN WILLIAMS: Sound The Bells!, Fanfare for A Festive Occasion. Alioft...To The Rioyal Masthead!. LAUYRIDSEN: Fanfare For Brass Sextet. O Magnum Mysterium. BROUGHTON: Fanfares, Marches, Hymns & Finale. PUTS: Elegy for Brass. HILTZIK: Spirals.
The Bay Brass
HYPERION SACD HMU 807556 TT: 63:10

These two recent LSO Live issues with Sir Colin Davis on the podium display that the venerable conductor, now 83, still is capable of electrifying performances. However, this past February he collapsed before leading a performance of The Magic Flute at the Royal Opera House, apparently from a heart condition; we wish him well. Many collectors grew up with his superb Berlioz recordings, all of which have never left the catalog. This outstanding performance of Belshazzar's Feast was recorded during concerts September 28-30, 2008. Walton's powerful cantata/oratorio/choral symphony, is given a thrilling reading, with the chorus and orchestra in spectacular form. This is the only SACD version of this large-scale major choral work although at one time André Previn's highly regarded 1972 LSO recording, was available on DVD Audio (REVIEW), but this was discontinued years ago. The coupling on this new LSO issue seems rather odd as this same performance was issued by the same label on a single SACD in 2006 (REVIEW). In this issue, the rather dry acoustic of the Barbican sounds a bit warmer, to the benefit of the music. This seems to be Davis's first Nielsen recording, coupling No. 4 from concerts in May 2010 with No. 5 from October 2009. Cracking energy marks both performances, particularly the Inextinguishable which is given a virtuoso fast-paced reading of immense power. The two sets of timpani in the finale are beautifully recorded. Both of these performances rank highly in the list of Nielsen recordings.

Hyperion's exciting brass SACD takes its title from the first work on the disc, Sound The Bells! by John Williams. This was written in 1993 to celebrate the wedding of Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako Owada (a young lady who lived in Boston for some years); the premiere was given in Japan in June of that year when the Boston "Pops" was on tour. Williams, of course, is a master of this sort of thing, and this is a spectacular two minutes of rousing music, and the other other two works by this composer, Fanfare For A Festive Occasion and Aloft! To The Royal Masthead, are equally impressive. Michael Tilson Thomas's Street Song, the longest work on this disk (18:30) is an exciting work heard here in the composer's version for 12 players including a flugelhorn. The remainder of the music on this superb recording are of equal interest—except for Hiltzik's Spirals, a rather pedantic exercise that resorts to hand-clapping, a weak ending to an otherwise brilliant recording. Performances are stunning, and the recordings, made from 2004 to 2009 and produced by Robina G. Young, offer spectacular sonics, guaranteed to be a showcase for audiophiles.

R.E.B. (April 2011)