SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7, Op. 60 "Leningrad."
LINDBERG: EXPO for Orchestra. Piano Concerto No. 2. Al largo.
HAHN: Violin Concerto. Piano Concerto. Hungarian Suite for Violin, Piano,
Percussion and Strings.
KROMMER: Flute Quartets, Op. 17, 92 and 93
The amazing young Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko (b. 1976) nears the end of his Shostakovich symphony cycle with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic for Naxos with this magnificent account of the powerful Leningrad Symphony; only symphonies 4, 13 and 14 have yet to be released. Symphony No. 7, premiered in 1942, is a symbol of resistance to the Nazis and honors the millions of Soviet citizens who lost their lives in World War II. Samuil Samosud led the premiere conducting the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra March 5, 1942. The American premiere was a studio concert with Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra July 19, 1942, recorded and eventually issued on LP. This broadcast was a battle between Leopold Stokowski and Toscanini; Stokowski wanted to do the U. S. radio premiere and had requested NBC acquire first performance rights, which they did—but Toscanini decided he wanted to conduct the premiere, although he had shown little affinity for music of Shostakovich (he declined the opportunity to give the American premiers of Symphony No. 5). The Toscanini performance was a hasty run through not helped by some of RCA's worst sound, and doubtless Stokowski relished listening to the live broadcast and hearing the music so misrepresented. Stokowski did perform Symphony No. 7 with the NBC Orchestra in Studio 8H December 13, 1942, and that currently is available. Today ArkivMusic lists well over two dozen recordings, and there's no question that the new Petrenko is among the best. The conductor's broad tempi bring total playing time to 79:15; the cumulative effect will delight both those who love this war symphony, and audiophiles as well. An outstanding issue—and at a modest price!
The association Dacapo has with the New York Philharmonic and their music director Alan Gilbert, is producing some stunning disks. The first, issued on SACD. coupled Nielsen's symphonies 2 and 3 (REVIEW), with more Niesen to follow. Now we have this spectacular recording of music of Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, who was the New York Philharmonic's composer-in-residence 2009-2012. For the orchestra's opening night concert in 2009, a major Lindberg work was premiered, EXPO, for Orchestra, composed to celebrate Alan Gilbert's first season as music director of the NYP. It's exposition features two contrasting ideas which meld together in remarkable ways, always with tension and mystery. The Piano Concerto No. 2, written in 2012, is a powerful work of massive substance—no superficial pianistic display here, although both soloist and orchestra are very active. Bronfman plays it spectacularly. The third work, Al largo is a vast symphonic picture including a number of brilliant fanfares. Lindberg's intent was to suggest an offshore turbulent sea and its mysteries and depths. All of this music is played spectacularly by the NYP, and the audio is terrific, although one wonders why it, too, wasn't issued on SACD like the earlier disk. Don't miss this exciting recording!. Also investigate a superb recording of Lindberg's Violin Concerto played by Lisa Batiashvilli (REVIEW).
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947 is known best for his exquisite songs that many major singers include in their concerts. Although born in Portugal, Hahn moved to Paris when very young and spent most of his life there, highly regarded by the social elite.He composed prolifically, opera, ballet, incidental music and concertos in addition to his numerous vocal works. Now there seems to be renewed interested in Hahn's music. About a dozen years ago, Earl Wild recorded a 2-disk set of his charming Le Rossignol Éperdu. and many major singers include Hahn's songs in their recitals. Now we have this important release from the French label Maguelone that contains premiere recordings of two works: the Violin Concerto in E, and Hungarian Suite for Violin, Piano, Percussion and Strings (the piano concerto previously was recorded by Stephen Coombs on Hyperion). The absolute winner here is the violin concerto, an exquisite three-movement work with a particularly gorgeous "song of love" central movement. Apparently this wonderful work has seldom been played although Henryk Szeryng played it in Atlanta in 1986. It is amazing that other violinists haven't championed it—aren't we all rather tired with the standard violin repertory? Young violinist Denis Clavier plays the concerto to perfection with impeccable intonation, and is given strong support by the fine orchestra directed by Fernand Quattrocchi in a live recording from a concert given in September 1997. The piano concerto isn't as inspired as the one for violin, but the Hungarian Suite with its unusual instrumentation, is quite fascinating, in three movements including several vivacious dances. It also is a live recording. Audio throughout is excellent, well-balanced and capturing the rich sonorities of Hahn's scoring. Check this one out!
I've always enjoyed music of Czech composer Franz Krommer (1959-1831). He had the misfortune of being compared with Beethoven, but that didn't keep him from composing prolifically for string quartet and various combinations of wind and string instruments. Here is a charming set from Claves that offers three quartets featuring master flutist Peter Lukas Graf with the Camina Trio. Graf was born in 1929; these recordings were made in April 1986. Graf has a distinguished legacy of superb recordings and this is one of them. Excellent, well-balanced sound.
R.E.B. (June 2013)