GJEILO: The Ground. Serenity. Ubi Caritas. Dark Night of the Soul. The Spheres. Tota pulchra es. Prelude: Exsulte. Jubilate. Phoenix, Agnus Dei. Unicornis captivatur. Evening Prayer.
Phoenix Chorale/Charles Bruffy, cond.

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73. Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Hamburg Philharmonic Orch/Simone Young, cond.
OEHMS SACD OC 676 TT: 57:29

MASSENET: Don Quichotte
Ferruccio Furlanetto (Don Quichotte). Anna Kiknadze (Dulcinée). Andrei Serov (Sancho Panza). Eleonora Vindau (Pedro). Yulia Matochkina (Garcias). Carlos D'Onofrio (Rodriguez).Dmitry Koleushko (Juan). Didier Jouanny (Chef des bandits). Soloists' Ensemble of the Mariinsky; Academyu of Young Singers; Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev, cond.
MARIINSKY SACD MARO 523 (2 disks) TT: 111 min. 34 sec.

Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) was born in 1978. Moving to the United States in 2001, he studied at Juilliard and now makes his home in Phoenix. He is best known for his choral music, featured on this superb Chandos disk. The program includes Phoenix, a setting of the Agnus Dei, dedicated to the Phoenix Chorale and their conductor, Charles Bruffy. Other music supposedly was inspired by Norway's spectacular Northern Lights. Some songs feature instrumental solists and the Harrington String Quartet. The music is wonderful, the performances could not be bettered. Engineering richly captures the choral textures. If you enjoy choral singing and unusual repertory, don't miss this!

Early last year this site unenthusiastically mentioned Simone Young's recording of Symphony No. 1 of Brahms (REVIEW). Now we have the same forces in the same composer's Symphony No. 2. While Symphony No. 1 was sluggish, Young keeps Symphony No. 2 moving energetically resulting in a less than idyllic reading. Symphony No. 1 had no filler; this issue does—the Tragic Overture, but even with this, playing time is less than an hour.

Don Quichotte was Massenet's last successful opera, completed in 1910, composed with the great Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin in mind. Over the years, leading basses have assumed the role of the errant knight, including Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov and José Van Dam; recordings are available by each of them. Massenet, 67 at the time, was in love with Lucy Arbell who sang Dulcinée at the premiere, an ill-fated one-way romance; the composer died two years later. This new recording was made in May 2011 during concert performances in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre. The cast is uniformly strong, with Ferruccio Furlanetto, today's leading Quichotte, in fine form. Gergiev leads a dynamic performance, and the brilliant Spanish sections are particularly effective. Unfortunately, recorded sound is clear but excessively resonant, with singers far too distant, rather odd for a concert performance. This is a deluxe presentation with complete libretto in French and English.

R.E.B. (March 2012)