BORODIN: String Quartet No. 2 in D. Cello Sonata in B minor. Piano Quintet in C minor
Michal Kanka, cello; Jaromir Klepac, piano; Prague Quartet
PRAGA SACD PRD/DSD 252282 TT: 77:02

MOZART: Sinfonia in G, K. 129. Six Contradances K. 609. March in D, K. 445. Divertimento in F, K. 138. Serenata notturna, K. 239. Adagio in E for Violin and Orchestra, K. 261. Six German Dabnces, KJ. 571. March in D, K. 335.
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orch/Juha Kangas, cond.
ALBA ABCD 312 TT: 66:02

Arias from Eugene Onegin, Otello, Don Carlos, Rusalka, Die Tote Stadt, Les contes d'Hoffmann, Dido and Aeneas; songs by Settle, Bishop, Coates and Trad.
Cheryl Barker, soprano; Queensland Symphony Orch/Guillaume Tourniaire, cond.
MELBA SACD MR 301129 TT: 78:45

Adding to their superb series of SACD recordings on Praga, the Prazak Quartet now turns to music of Borodin with this generous coupling of chamber works, all dedicated performances wonderfully recorded with rich string tone and ideal balances. These are the only surround sound recordings of the two major works; there is no need for others.

Alba's SACD is called "Dancing Mozart," stretching a bit for the title as although the Adagio, K. 261 hardly fits the description. But it is a fine disk of Mozart in a lighter vein very well played by the chamber orchestra directed by Juha Kangas, and they have been recorded with warmth and presence.

Melba attempts to pay tribute to one of Australia's great sopranos, Dame Joan Hammond (1912-1996), with this disk called "Pure Diva" featuring performances by one of Hammond's pupils, soprano Cheryl Barker. Barker's career has been primarily in Australia although she has appeared with considerable success at some major opera houses, but never at the Met. Barker has recorded several operas in English for Chandos, and was featured in a 2003 Netherlands Opera production of Madama Butterfly in which she gave a powerful performance of the title role (REVIEW). This new Melba issue was recorded early in 2010. The soprano's voice is not as controlled as it was almost a decade ago. Joan Hammond possessed a secure high register and total control, qualities not heard in Barker's singing of roles Hammond recorded, and comparing the two does not flatter Barker. She does have the advantage of superb accompaniments by the fine orchestra directed by Guillaume Tourniaire, and Melba's audio picture is rich and well-balanced. This is a well-intended but dubious tribute to Joan Hammond; you should check out Hammond's recordings. There aren't many of them, but a list can be found on ARKIVMUSIC

R.E.B. (September 2011)