SCHUMANN-MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in B flat, Op. 38 "Spring." Symphony No. 2 in C, Op 61. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 97 "Rhenish." Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op 120.
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA 478 0037 (2 disks) (F) TT: 120:15

ROUSSEL: Symphony No. 2. Pour une fête de printemps. Suite in F.
Royal Scottish National Orch/Stéphane Denève, cond.
NAXOS 8.570529 (B) TT: 68:43

ROUSSEL: Symphony No. 3, Op. 42. Le Festin de l'araignée, Op. 17.
Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach, cond.
ONDINE ODE 1107 (F) TT: 59:41

ACTOR: Violin Concerto. Symphony No. 2. Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra
Pip Clarke, violin; Stuart Chafetz, timpani; Slovak Radio Symphony Orch/Kirk Trevor, cond.
ALBANY TROY 1017 (F) TT: 67:14

RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome. Brazilian Impressions. ROSSINI-RESPIGHI: The Fantastic Toyshop
Philharmonia Orch/Alceo Galliera, cond.

In 1988 Riccardo Chailly recorded Schumann's First and Fourth symphonies with the Concertgebouw, still available, thanks to ArkivMusic. Now he has recorded all four with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra of which he has been principal conductor since 2005. For these, recorded in 2007 and 2008, he uses Mahler's revisions. Mahler felt Schumann's original orchestrations could be improved and made many changes: 830 in the first, 365 in the second, 465 in the third, and 466 in the fourth. A majority of these "changes" are minute, mostly in dynamics, although there also is considerable re-scoring. The result is a richer sound, and Chailly's dynamic performances are magnificent. You surely will recognize these familiar symphonies, but they are resplendent as altered by Mahler. The two disks sell for the price of one. Highly recommended!

About a year ago, this site mentioned a superb Naxos issue of Roussel's Symphony No. 3 and complete ballet Bacchus et Ariane with Stéphanae Denève and the Royal Scottish Orchestra (REVIEW). Now we have another Roussel CD from the same source. There is good reason why Roussel's Symphony No. 2 isn't heard often. Composed from 1919-1921, it is a long symphony (42:51 in this performance) with three movements. One can admire the instrumentation, but Roussel's symphony rambles on...and on...and the most interesting parts are those that he used a decade later in his ballet Bacchus and Ariane. Far more compelling is Pour une fête de printemps written about the same time as the symphony, and even of more interest is the three-movement Suite in F composed in 1926, Roussel's distinctive treatment of three Baroque dances. Stéphane Denève and the Scottish orchestra play this music brilliantly, and Naxos' sound is outstanding. Surely worth owning, but I doubt you'll play the symphony very often. Christoph Eschenbach completes his Ondine series of Roussel's symphonies with Symphony No. 3 coupled with Le Festin de l'ariaignée, both recorded live during concerts in Théâtre Mogado, Paris in 2005. This performance of Symphony No. 3 is rather subdued and misses much of the score's humor. There is much exhuberence in this symphony, but not in this performance. Eschenbach's approach is far more effective in the insect ballet, and for this engineers have provided 22 tracking cues. Orchestre de Paris is in good form, audio is superb. Surely Denève's recording of Symphony No. 3 is the one to own.

The CD devoted to music of American composer Lee Actor is a keeper. Born in 1952 in Denver, Actor had a successful career in the videogame industry, was a violinist in the Albany Symphony, and now concentrates on conducting and composing. Judging by what is heard on this CD, Actor is an important addition to today's musical scene. His music is imaginative, beautifully scored, he writes tunes, and he obviously has a sense of humor. His violin concerto could easily become a favorite on today's concert scene. There are three movements: Proclamation, Meditation, and Exhilaration. Actor's music is well-suited to those titles—the conclusion of Meditation, with its high harmonics—is exquisite, and the final movement is a dazzling showpiece. The concerto is dedicated to Pip Clarke, who plays it brilliantly on this recording. Symphony No. 2, composed in 2006, has three movements Andante maestoso, Adagio molto, and Allegro molto vivace. Actor has called it "a sort of musical kaleidoscope" contrasting elements of humor and fun with more serious, noble writing. The ten-minute timpani concerto, written in 2005 for Stuart Chafetz who plays it on this CD, displays what can be done with this instrument as soloist. The Slovak Radio Symphony is first-rate as conducted by Kirk Trevor in these recordings made May 29-June 1, 2007 in the Slovak Radio Concert Hall, Bratislava. Superb audio is another plus for this splendid release. Highly recommended! Let there be more recordings of music by this distinctive American composer.

Italian conductor Alceo Galliera (1910-1996) first came to fame when Walter Legge selected him to make a number of concerto recordings with distinguished EMI soloists, including Artur Schnabel, Geza Anda, Dinu Lipatti, Clara Haskill, Pierre Fournier, David Oistrakh, and Leon Goossens. He also conducted the Callas recording of The Barber of Seville. During his long career it is surprising that he never held a major conducting position. His expertise is evident on this welcome Medici Arts release of recordings made in 1955 (Impressions), 1957 (Pines), and 1959 (Boutique). Performances are outstanding and the sonic quality reflects the warmth of London's Kingsway Hall. These are welcome additions to the Respighi catalog.

R.E.B. (June 2008)