WAGNER: Die Walküe
MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor, "Nature." Symphony
No. 5 in C sharp minor.
SAINT-SAËNS: Danse macabe, Op. 40. (arr. for organ b Edwin Lemare, rev.
Vincent Warnier). Cyprès et Lauriers, Op. 156. Symphony No. 3
in C minor, Op. 78.
Zubin Mehta's views on Wagner's Ring are well documented. He conducted the remarkable Valencia production mentioned on this site about five years ago (REVIEW). This "Ring of the 21st Century" was fascinating in every way, with fine singers and impressive often stunning visual effects. This new release is a dynamic performance of Die Walküre recorded during performances in July 2002, five years before the Valencia production. Peter Seiffert is a rather unsteady Siegmund (he is much better in the Valencia production), with Waltrude Meier splendid as Sieglinde. John Tomlinson is somewhat strained as Wotan, Gabriele Schnaut is a powerful Brünnhilde. Audio is excellent, but there are many other Walküres superior to this—although it is intriguing to get the entire opera in high quality audio on a single disk. This is a deluxe presentation in a cardboard box and includes the complete libretto.
Zubin Mehta again is featured in two major Mahler symphonies in live recordings with the first-class Bavarian State Opera Orchestra. . No. 3 was recorded in Vienna's Musikverein September 16, 2004, Symphony No. 5 in the Bavarian State Opera House December 15, 2009. The distinguished conductor already has recorded all of the symphonies (except 8 and 9) with various orchestras. These are terrific performances of both works, with the orchestra in top form. Recordings are a co-production of French Radio and engineers Andreas Cammerer, Joseph Schütz, and Alessandro Binetti. They have done a magnificent job in providing a huge symphonic feast for the ears, well balanced and highly detailed. Audiophiles will not be disappointed with this. Of interest is that producers have provided 7 tracks for the first movement of Symphony No. 3, 14 for the second movement. How convenient! These are valuable additions to the Mahler discography, and as with the Mehta Walküre mentioned above, wonderful to have both works in state-of-the-art surround sonics on a single disk. Recommended!
Audiophiles who expect a blu ray audio disk of Saint-Saëns mighty organ symphony to be a sonic spectacular will be disappointed with this new Naxos issue. This is another in a series of Blu Ray audio issues with Leonard Slatkin and the Lyon Orchestra. Previously this site unenthusiastically mentioned issues of Berlioz (Harold in Italy) and Fantastique, Ravel Volume I and Volume II, This new disk is very odd. It begins with the composer's Danse macabre, an early work written in 1872 for baritone and piano to a French text by Henri Cazakus. In this, Death appears at midnight on Halloween playing his violin to accompany skeletons who must dance until dawn. The composer orchestrated the work a few years later and that is the version often heard in concert halls. The music attracted Franz Liszt who made famous transcription for piano later further edited by Vladimir Horowitz You can see this on YouTube in a stunning performance by Arcady Volodos This new disk begins with Vincent Warnier's transcription for organ which is far removed from the virtuoso piano version. I don't understand why it is included except possibly to display the sound of the Cavaille-Coll/Gonzalez/Aubertin organ in the Lyon concert hall.
Then we have a seldom-heard work of Saint-Saëns, Cyprès et Lariers, the first movement of which is for solo organ, with some festive trumpets in the second. It is not a major work of this remarkable composer. The Symphony is given a rather bland performance; with little of the excitement and grandeur other conductors find in it. Slatkin's reading is not helped by the sometimes tentative playing of the Lyon Orchestra. .The organ has a rather reedy sound and the dry acoustic of the venue. eliminates the possibility of the big, grandiose organ sound essential for this music.
This site was reviewed many SACDs of the popular symphony. All of them are superior to this new one, particularly by Eschenbach and Comissiona, and don't forget the historic 1959 Boston Symphony/Charles Munch version now available at mid-price on RCA (REVIEW). The new Naxos issue has limited playing time (57:48). Why didn't producers also include the orchestral version of Danse macabre, and one or two of the other symphonic poems?
R.E.B. (January 2015)