KARABITS: Concerto for Orchestra No. 2. Concerto for Orchestra No. 3 "Lamentations." Concerto for Orchestra No. 1 "Musical Gift to Kiev." SILVESTROV: Elegie. Abschiedsserenade.
Bournemouth Symphony Orch/Kirill Karabits, cond.
NAXOS 8.572633 TT: 59:26
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan." Symphony No. 8 in E flat major "Symphony of a Thousand."
Rita Cullis, Angela Maria Blasi, Ofelia Sala, sopranos; Catherine Keen, Reinhild Runkel, mezzo-sopranos; Glenn Winslade, tenor; John Bröcheler, baritone; Kurt Rydl, bass; National Choir of the Ukraine "Dumka." Ukrainian Radio Choir. Dresden Philharmonic Children's Choir. Dresden Kapeliknaben/Netherlands Philharmonic Orch/Hartmut Haenchen, cond.
ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5094 (2 disks) TT: 75:29 & 59:48
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VILLA-LOBOS: Symphony No. 3 "War." Symphony No. 4 "Victory"
São Paulo Symphony Orch/Isaac Karabtchevsky, cond.
NAXOS 8.573151 TT: 63:09
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ARNOLD: Sonatina in G minor, Op. 29. COOKE: Sonata in B flat. GREGSON: Tributes. BENJAMIN: Le Tombeau de Ravel. HOROVITZ: Sonatina in B flat.
Michael Collins, clarinet/Michael McHale, piano
CHANDOS CHAN 10758 TT: 69:56
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Composer Ivan Karabits (and his son, conductor Kirill Karabits) probably will be new to most collectors, but surely not for long. This spectacular new Naxos issue gives the opportunity to hear three major works by Ivan, born in 1945, who lived only 57 years. He studied in Kiev, was a respected teacher at the Kiev Tchaikovsky Music Academy, and Rodion Shchedrin mentored him. Karabits' music shows influences of Mahler and Shostakovich, as well as incorporating Ukrainian folk idioms. On this brilliant disk we have his three concertos for orchestra, all with connected movements. The first was composed in 1980-81, the second 1989, and the third, 1986 (this, surprisingly, had its premiere in Las Vagas that year conducted by Virko Baley, who had commissioned it). Karabits' music reflects the political tensions of the time, with serenity broken by violence. Concerto No. 2 ia subtitled "Lamentations," the Concerto No. 2 is "Musical Gift in Kiev." Orchestration throughout is vivid and effective, and in the second section of Concerto No. 2 we hear an unusual delicate sound made by a new percussion instrument made of small bells woven into tresses of hair, designed by the composer's son, Kirill, who was 13 at the time. This CD is filled out with music by a contemporary of Ivan, Valentin Silvestrov, born in 1937. I have never before heard any of his music although quite a bit of it has been recorded. Included on this new disk we have a moving Elegie written in 2002, and Abschiedsserenade composed the following year, both memorials to his good friend and colleague. The music is simple and poignant; if the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 means anything to you, you'll surely enjoy this.

The Naxos disk is conducted by Ivan's son, Kirill Karabits now at the beginning of what promises to be a major career. He was appointed principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony in 2009 and his contract has been extended to 2016. The orchestra plays spectacularly for him, and the recorded sound is typical of Naxos' best. Thank you, once again, Naxos, for another treasure!

Several months ago this site mentioned a superb new Naxos recording of Symphonies 6 and 7 of Villa-Lobos (REVIERW). Now we have the next installment in the commendable series offering Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4, again played by the remarkable São Paulo Orchestra under Isaac Karabtchevsky. Symphonies 3 and 4 date from 1919; there also apparently was a Symphony No. 5, but apparently it never was completed and the score no longer exists. All three were commissioned as a "War Triptych," No. 3 is subtitled War, No. 4, Victory. Because of German torpedo attacks on Brazilian ships during the First World War, Brazil aligned itself against Germany. In 1920, the King and Queen of Belgium visited Rio de Janeiro and the two symphonies were performed at a concert to honor the visiting dignitaries as well as to commemorate the signing of the armistice. The four movements of Symphony No. 3 are Life and Labour, Intrigues and Rumors, Suffering, and The Battle. Symphony No. 4 also has four movements, but no descriptive titles although it does include a funeral march. Superb performances of both works, with audio that does full justice to the music. Avid collectors might wish to investigate a 1955 recording of Symphony No. 4 with the composer directing the French National Radio Orchestra.

Distinguished German conductor Hartmut Haenchen (b. 1943) has enjoyed a highly successful career and held leadership positions with many organizations including the Dresden Philharmonic, Dresden State Opera, Netherlands Opera, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera. This site mentioned a fine recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 5 (REVIEW), recorded in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw with the Netherlands Philharmonic. He also has a recording of Symphony No. 4 with the Dutch orchestra, and there exists a video of his performance of Symphony No. 6 from a Mahler cycle he did with the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, neither of which I have heard. Now we have this outstanding ICA issue of Symphony No. 1 from a concert November 22, 1999, and September 10, 2002, both recorded in the Concertgebouw. These are among the finest performances you'll hear of either work, orchestral playing is spectacular, and the measured tempo at the climax of No. 8 is how it should be.The engineering team did their work to perfection; presumably these were original Radio Nederland productions. Balances, so difficult in Symphony No. 8, are just about perfect and the masses of sound are mightily impressive. This is a outstanding issue sure to delight Mahler fans. And it is mid-priced. No texts, but these are available on the internet should you not already have them.

Recently this site mentioned a stunning Chandos issue of British clarinet concertos played by Michael Collins (REVIEW).Now we have another featuring this remarkable artist, his second devoted to British clarinet sonatas. The first, issued about a year ago, featured music of Ireland, Bax, Bliss, Stanford and Howells. Now we have the works listed above, all challenges for the soloist, magnificently played. Of particular interest is Tributes, a set of 5 short pieces, each written for a leading clarinetist, ending with "To Bela Bartók" composed for Collins. And Arthur Benjamin's Le Tombeau de Ravel is a set of 5 brief valse-caprices suggested by Ravel's famous work. Captivating music all, recorded with remarkably vivid sound by Chandos. Another terrific CD!

R.E.B. (March 2013)