FALLA: El Amor Brujo. BORODIN: Polovtsian Dances. ENESCU: Rumanian Rhapsodies 1 and 2.
Nan Merriman, mezzo-soprano; Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orch (Falla); Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
BEARAC BRC 2858 TT: 66:20

CHOPIN: Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 "Funeral March." Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20. Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31. Scherzo No. 3 in C# minor, Op. 39. Scherzo No. 4 in E, Op. 54.
Simon Trpceski, pianist
EMI CLASSICS 75586 TT: 64:58
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BAX: Tintagel. DELIUS: The Walk to the Paradise Garden. Irmelin Prelude. A Song of Summer. La Calinda. In a Summer Garden. IRELAND: A London Overture
Hallé Orch (La Calinda/Summer Garden); London Symphony Orch/Sir John Barbirolli, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 79984 TT: 74:12
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Arias from Ernani, Cavalleria Rusticana, L'Arlesiana, Andrea Chénier, Luisa Miller, Don Carlos, Fedora, La Gioconda, Mefistofele, I Pagliacci, Otello, and Rossini's La Danza
Salvatore Licitra, tenor; Giuseppe Verdi Milan Orch/Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL 78852 TT: 60:39
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SIBELIUS: Illalle. Värken flyktar hastigt. Den första kyssen. Svarta rosor. Flickan kom ifran sin älsklings möte. Säv, säv, susa (two versions). Var det en dröm? Demanten pa marssnön. Lastu lainechilla. Souda, souda, sinisora. Kaiutar. Segelfahrt. Im Feld ein Mädchen singt. Sehnsucht. Die stille Stadt. Serenadi. En visa. Den första kyssen. Orgier. Soluppgang. Vänskapens blomma. Six Songs, Op. 88. Narsissi. Hymn to Thaïs, the Unforgettable.
Hannu Jurmu, tenor; Jouni Somero, pianist
NAXOS 8.5570019 TT: 62:28
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ANNA RUSSELL discusses Nabucco and The Magic Flute
VAI AUDIO 1253 TT: 68:45
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El Amor Brujo always was a specialty of Leopold Stokowski. He recorded the Ritual Fire Dance with the All American Youth Orchestra in 1941, and the complete score in 1946 with Nan Merriman and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, a remarkable performance already available on Dutton. Stokowski's Columbia recording from 1960 with Shirley Verrett and the Philadelphia Orchestra is available at budget price, and there are other complete live recordings, an exciting 1964 BBC performance with Gloria Lane, and a live performance from the German radio. The primary reason to get this new Bearac release is for the conductor's remarkable 1953 mono recordings of music from Borodin's Prince Igor (a bit more than the usual excerpts, with a chorus of women), and Enescu's Roumanian Rhapsodies. These are played by "His Symphony Orchestra," obviously a small ensemble, but comprised of top New York performers. There is magic in these interpretations, which are unlike any others. As in his later RCA stereo recording of Rhapsody No. 1, Stokowski omits the final chord. RCA's engineers did quite a bit of highlighting of orchestral detail, but the result is a stimulating listening experience. This CD is available only from BEARAC REISSUES

Young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski (b. Sept. 18, 1979) is at the beginning of what promises to be an extraordinary career. Anyone who heard his performance of Rachmaninoff's Third concerto with the New York Philharmonic some months ago is aware of his astounding virtuosity, and solid musicianship as well. This is his third EMI recording (the others were Russian repertory) and he proves to be as convincing in Chopin as he is in Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. The first Scherzo is demonically played; things settle down for the other three, and the many moods of the sonata are convincingly set forth. Fine sound in these recordings made July 2006 in Suffolk, produced by John Fraser.

Sir John Barbirolli's famous 1965 recording of Bax's Tintagel is one of the best ever made, and in this mid-price remastering it sounds better than ever. EMI's previous issue (47984) also contained three of the Delius works (Walk to Paradise Garden/Irmelin/Song of Summer) and the Ireland overture. EMI has generously added La Calinda and In a Summer Garden recorded about the same time with the Hallé Orchestra. All of these rightfully deserve being called Great Recordings of the Century.

Tenor Salvatore Licitra saved the day for the Met May 11, 2002 when he stepped in at the last moment for Luciano Pavarotti in a gala performance of Tosca, which was to have been the tenor's farewell performance. Sony quickly released his first recital disk two months later, in which he showed solid musicianship and a lovely, if not exceptional, sound. Since that time, Licitra has had considerable but not consistent success. Still at the beginning of his career, he sings with taste and vocal control, but there's little to excite the listener. In a rather feeble crossover effort, this new CD, the tenor's second, is called Forbidden Love, an appellation that hardly applies to most of the music. Even with the "bonus track" of Rossini's La Danza (with pianist Warren Jones), the playing time of the disk is less than 61 minutes.

Sibelius wrote about a hundred songs mostly to Swedish tests, eight settings of German verses, and only a few of Finnish origin. He considered his songs to represent his "innermost self," and many of the songs have intense, brooding power, particularly when heard in their orchestral versions. There are many superb Sibelius song collections currently available, particularly those by Birgit Nilsson (REVIEW), Mattila Karitta (REVIEW), Soile Isokoski in surround sound (REVIEW), as well as some individual performances by Jussi Bjoerling and other leading singers of the past. Now Naxos has issued Volume I in a new set featuring the solid, technically secure voice of Finnish tenor Hannu Jurmu accompanied by pianist Jouni Somero. A high point here is inclusion of five songs in their world premiere recordings, including the first versions of Den första kyssen and Säv, säv, susa. There are no texts, but there is a brief description of each song.

Comedienne Anna Russell (1911-2006) is best-known to collectors for her incredibly funny analysis of Wagner's Ring, recorded live in Town Hall in 1953, available on a mid-priced SONY CLASSICAL CD that also contains a number of her other best skits. Vai Audio offers excerpts from a performance in 1973 during the opening season of the Sydney Opera House. She "takes on," as they say, Verdi's Nabucco and Mozart's Magic Flute, with varying comedic success—nothing could ever approach her version of The Ring. Devoted Anna Russell fans will wish to investigate this.

R.E.B. (March 2007)