BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83. Rhapsodies, Op.79. Intermezzos, Op. 117. Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119.
Emanuel Ax, pianist; Chicago Symphony Orch/James Levine, cond. (Concerto 1); Boston Symphony Orch/Bernard Haitink, cond. (Concerto 2).
SONY CLASSICAL 88697 03510 (2 disks) TT: 72:25 & 76:01

MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26. Romance in F, Op. 85.
Janine Jansen, violinist; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA B0007260 TT: 59:05

MILHAUD: Le Carnaval d'Aix, Op. 83b. Ballade, Op. 61. Five Etudes, Op. 63. Concerto No. l, Op. 127. Fantaisie Pastorale, Op. 188. Concerto No. 2, Op. 228. Concerto No. 3, Op. 270. Concerto No. 4, Op. 295. Concerto No. 5, Op. 346.
Michael Korstick, pianist; SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern/Alun Francis, cond.
cpo 777 162 (2 disks) TT: 136:44

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K. 482 (Orch/Bruno Walter. Nov. 1941). Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310 (Jan. 27, 1939). Concerto in E flat for Two Pianos, K. 365 (with Karl Ulrich Schnabel/London Symphony Orch/Sir Adrian Boult. Oct. 28, 1936). Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K. 478 (with members of Pro Arte Quartet. Dec. 19, 1934). Piano Sonata No. 12 in F, K. 332. June 5, 1946 & June 5, 1947). Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K. 595 (London Symphony Orch/John Barbirolli. May 2, 1934). Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 (Philharmonia Orch/Walter Susskind. June 17-18, 1948). Piano Sonata No. 13 in B flat, K. 333. rec. 1944/45 (U.S. Armed Forces Radio). Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K. 459 (London Symphony Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent. 9-12 Jan. 1937). Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 (Philharmonia Orch/Walter Susskind. June 18-19, 1948). Piano Sonata No. 16 in B flat, K. 570 (June 16, 1948). Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488 (Orch/Artur Rodzinsky. March 3, 1946). Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467. (London Symphony Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent. Jan. 12, 1937). Rondo in A minor, K. 511 (June 4, 1946). Sonata in F, K. 533/494 (Nov. 14, 1943/Frick Museum). Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K. 453 (excerpt) (New Friends of Music Orch/Fritz Stiedry. March 22, 1942).
MUSIC & ARTS 1193 (5 disks) TT: 78:24 / 76:15 / 76:37 / 72:24 / 71:23

SCHUMANN: Piano Quintet in E flat, Op. 44. DVORAK: Piano Quintet in A, Op. 81.
Artur Schnabel, pianist/Pro Arte Quartet
MUSIC & ARTS 1196 TT: 62:56

EMIL REESEN: Orchestral works
Aalborg Symphony Orch/Bo Holten, cond.
DACAPO 8.226031 TT: 67:29

Plácido Domingo, tenor; London Symphony Orch/Karl-Heinz Loges and Marcel Peters, cond.

ROLANDO VILLAZÓN Zarzuela Arias by Sorozabal, Vives, Serrano, Luna, Torrobo, Guerrero and Cano
Rolando Villazón, tenor; Madrid Orch/Plácido Domingo, cond.

ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF - Early Song Recordings for German Radio
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Michael Raucheisen, pianist
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1195 (2 disks) TT: 77:27 & 63:25

One of the major advantages of Sony and RCA uniting is reflected in this new budget-priced 2-CD set of Brahms featuring Emanuel Ax. Piano Concerto No. 1 was recorded for RCA in Chicago's Orchestra Hall July 5, 1983, with the Chicago Symphony conducted by James Levine, the Piano Concerto No. 2 was recorded for Sony in Boston's Symphony Hall April 19 & 21, 1997, with Bernard Haitink and the Boston Symphony. The piano solos were recorded in three venues 1989-1995, and provide perfect fillers for these well-filled CDs. Great value here, and rather brief commentary (in three languages) is given by Ax about the importance of this music to him throughout his career.

Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, now in her mid-twenties, has a superb new recording featuring Mendelssohn's E minor concerto coupled with Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1, with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, an ensemble that played the premiere in March 1845. Jansen plays the Antonio Stradivari, Cremona 1727 "Barrere" violin which she has on extended loan. She—and it—make wonderful sounds, strong competition to the dozens of other recordings currently in the catalog. This issue has a special feature: Jansen as soloist in Bruch's Romance for Viola and Orchestra. Even with this, playing time for this full-price disk is less than an hour.

The cpo label surely is doing their part to promote music of Darius Milhaud (1892-1974). They have a commendable 5-disk set of all 12 symphonies with Alun Francis conducting. Now this twin-CD set offers all of Milhaud's music for piano and orchestra played to perfection by Michael Korstick with the SWR Radio Orchestra directed by Francis. In addition to the familiar Carnaval d'Aix (which was premiered in 1926 by the New York Philharmonic directed by Willem Mengelberg), we have all five piano concertos, the Ballade, Fantaisie Pastorale, and the notorious Etudes, Op. 63 which at their 1921 premiere caused such an uproar that police had to be called. It's unlikely most of the music on these CDs will be heard often in the concert hall, so this splendid release is welcome indeed. Sonics are superb.

Music & Arts continues their devotion to Artur Schnabel—they already have issued all of his Schubert recordings and a live performance of the Schumann concerto—with two important issues. One set contains all of his EMI recordings which include five concertos, Piano Quartet No. 1 and three sonatas (the second pianist in the E-flat concerto K. 365 is the pianist's son, Karl Ulricht, not mentioned in CD notes). We also have live recordings of two concertos and an excerpt from K. 453. Schnabel composed his own cadenzas for K. 467, 482 and 491, and as they are so alien to Mozart's style, to this day they sound rather bizarre. These recordings show the pianist, warts and all. In K. 488 Schnabel had a memory lapse, the performance stopped momentarily, edited out in this transfer but still noticeable. Sound quality throughout is excellent considering the sources, and Farhan Malik's notes are a plus. Two other major Schnabel commercial recordings occupy the other M&A CD, 1934 HMV releases of the piano quintets of Schumann and Dvorák, with the Pro Arte Quartet.

Danish composer/conductor Emil Reesen (1887-1964) was a prominent figure on his country's music scene known for his operettas, ballets, orchestral music and music for films. He even made one recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (one of his own short works), and was a favored conductor on the Danish radio. Dacapo's CD offers a selection of his orchestral works which makes one wonder why he was so popular. Reesen's music is as mundane as it gets; even Festmarch doesn't amount to much. The Aalborg Symphony plays well enough and the sound is fine, but there's nothing here of lasting importance.

Plácido Domingo figures on two new issues. One is a reissue of his first solo album, called Be My Love after the song Mario Lanza made famous, for DGG. Released originally in 1976, it contains14 popular songs sung in five languages, showing the tenor at his best. Domingo as a conductor is featured on the other new CD, a collection of zarzuela arias, many of which were recorded by Domingo three decades ago, superbly sung by Rolando Villazón with the Madrid Orquesta de la Communidad. Complete texts, with English translations, are provided. The DGG issue contains what was on the original LP release, so the playing time is only 45:21; the new Virgin Classics release is only about 12 minutes longer, rather short for a full-priced CD.

The legion of admirers of the late Elisabeth Schwarzkopf will wish to investigate Music & Arts' 2-CD issue of 47 songs and arias made during World War II for the German radio, between 1940 and 1945. The classical music division of Reichsrundfunk Gesellschaft was headed by pianist Michael Raucheisen (who was married to famous soprano Maria Ivogün). He recognized the young soprano's quality and invited her to participate in the radio project "Lied der Welt," which also included recordings by many famous singers of the time. Most of the repertory was new to Schwarzkopf and she virtually sight-read most of the music, not realizing that they were being recorded. This era was prior to Schwarzkopf's later vocal style, and is important not only for that, but because she never made other recordings of most of this music. Raucheisen is accompanist in all performances. There are no texts. A bonus is a 7-minute interview recorded in August 1980 in which the soprano discusses the art of lieder singing with F. J. Maroth. Recommended!

R.E.B. (March 2007)