MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor "Nature."
Michaela Schuster, alto; Mädchen der Chöre am Kölner Dom; Damenchor der Oper Köln; Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz, cond.
OEHMS SACD OC 648 (2 disks) TT: 33:25 & 60:38

BEETHOVEN: Piano SonataNo. 30 in E, Op. 101. Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
Mari Kodama, piano
PENTATONE SACD 5186 389 TT: 63:21

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Pique Dame Overture.
Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Dmitri Kitajenko, cond.
OEHMS SACD OC667 TT: 53:45

Mahler's time surely has come! Who would have thought that ArkivMusik now lists well over forty recordings of his Symphony No. 3, and some leading conductors have recorded it multiple times. More than a half century ago, collectors had to rely on the 1951 Vienna recording with F. Charles Adler, who was a student of Mahler (this has been reissued and still is quite impressive). As of this writing, there are 6 versions on SACD (Michael Tilson Thomas, Mariss Jansons, David Zinman, Valery Gergiuev, Jonathan Nott, and Zubin Mehta) as well as a DVD with Claudio Abbado, and a documentary about the music along with a complete performance conducted by Glen Cortese. This new ,version from Cologne is among the best. Markus Stenz already has to his credit fine recordings of symphonies 2. 4 and 5 as well as an exceptiona lrecording of DesKnaben Wunderhorn (REVIEW). The same high performance standards apply to this new Symphony 3; it is among the finest available of this massive score in every way.

It almost seems natural today for pianists of all ages to record all 32 of Beethoven's piano sonatas. In addition to releases of historic recordings by ArturSchnabnel,WilhelmKempff, Claudio Arrau,and Alfred Brendel, we have new recordings by pianists of our time, so competition is fierce. Japanese-born Mari Kodama has spent much of her life in Paris where she now lives with her husband, conductor Kent Nagano, and their 13-year old daughter who is studying the piano. Kodama has been presenting concerts of all of Beethoven's sonatas for more than a decade, and with this SACD of the last three sonatas has just about completed her traversal (only a few of the earlier sonatas remain unrecorded. Kodama has the advantage of Pentatone's rich close-up sound.

About a year ago this site favorably mentioned an Oehms release of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 with the Gürzenich Orchestra conducted by Dmitri Kitajenko (REVIEW). Apparently this orchestra and conductor are recording the composer's symphonies, and now we have Symphony No. 5, a fine performance quite well recorded in a rather dry acoustic that accenting the brass. Symphony No. 6 had no filler; this new disk offers one, the brief Pique Dame Overture, and even with that, playing time is well less than an hour. Neither of these are competion for Mikhail Pletnev's superb Pentatone versions.

R.E.B. (February 2012)