WAGNER-STOKOWSKI: Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla from Das Rheingold. Symphonic Synthesis from Tristan und Isolde. Symphonic Synthesis from Act III of Parsifal. Magic Fire Music and Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre.
Bournemouth Symphony Orch/José Serebrier, cond.
NAXOS 8.570293 (B) TT: 74:28
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BADINGS: Symphony No. 2. Symphony No. 7 "Louisville-Symphony." Symphony No. 12 "Symphonische Klangfiguren."
Janacek Philharmonic Orch/David Porcelijn, cond.
cpo 777 272 (F) TT: 53:02
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ANDERSON: Piano Concerto in C. Bugler's Holiday. Blue Tango. The First Day of Spring. Belle of the Ball. Governor Bradford March. Clarinet Candy. The Captains and the Kings. The Golden Years. Chicken Reel. Fiddle-Faddle. The Classical Jukebox. China Doll. Balladette. Arietta.
Jeffrey Biegel, pianist; BBC Concert Orch/Leonard Slatkin, cond.
NAXOS 8.559313 (B) TT: 61:54
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ABE: Symphony No. 1. Divertimento for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra. Sinfonietta.
Aleksey Volkov, alto saxophone; Russian Philharmonic Orch/Dmitry Yablonsky, cond.
NAXOS 8.557987 (B) TT: 64:35
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Naxos continues its recordings of Stokowski transcriptions conducted by José Serebrier with this outstanding disk of music of Wagner. Stokowski didn't change very much aside from on occasion adding some instrumental lines to replace vocal parts. He also touched up the scoring here and there, and to great effect. Stokowski had two versions of the music from Tristan—this one contains the Prelude to Act I, Love Music from Act II, and the final Liebestod. Serebrier adds an anvil at the beginning of Entry of the Gods—not heard in Stokowski's three recordings—I'm sure Stoki would have approved. Serebrier, who had a close association with Stokowski for many years, leads the Bournemouth Orchestra in splendid performances, superbly recorded. This Naxos disk is a major release by any standards—as are the two previous releases in this series: Stokowski Mussorgsky transcriptions (REVIEW) and Bach. The Mussorgsky recording sonically is even more spectacular in its SACD format (REVIEW). SACD issue of this Wagner collection would be more than welcome. We can hope!

Dutch composer Henk Badings (1907-1987) had a love/hate relationship with his country. He was disliked particularly for his assumption of the position of director of the Hague Royal Conservatory beginning in 1942 when the Jewish director could no longer stay during the German occupation. In spite of this, his music was played often. Eduard van Beinum commissioned the Symphony No. 2 in 1932 and premiered it that year with the Concertgebouw, an orchestra that continued to perform Badings' music up until the 1960's when there was renewed discussion about the composer's association with the Germans two decades earlier ending with Badings' music being unofficially banned. During his brief heyday, Badings was rather popular outside Holland; his Symphonic Prologue was written in 1942 for the 100th anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic and he received a number of other commissions. In 1954 his Symphony No. 7 was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra and conductor Robert Whitney. Now, courtesy of cpo, we have the first CD in a series devoted to the composer's symphonies in fine performances by the Janacek Philharmonic directed by David Porcelijn. I find Badings' music incredibly pedantic and outright boring, but should you wish to sample it, here it is. It does seem odd that only three of the symphonies are included on this CD—total playing time is but 53:02. You also might sample the live recording of the Cello Concerto No. 2 with Van Beinum/Concertgebouw recorded during a concert in 1947 (REVIEW).

Two bars of anything by Leroy Anderson contain more melody than all three of Bading's symphonies; well, sort of. Anderson (1908-1975) was very popular particularly during the 1950's and had a long association with the Boston Pops Orchestra and Arthur Fiedler (it was Fiedler who started Anderson on his "pop" career). Anderson's own recordings of his hits were best sellers, and everyone seemed to know Blue Tango, Bugler's Holiday, Fiddle-Faddle and Belle of the Ball, to name just a few. Leonard Slatkin made a recording for RCA with the St. Louis Symphony of Anderson's music, and now we have this superb new issue on which he conducts the first-rate BBC Concert Orchestra. The featured work is the 1953 Piano Concerto, the composer's only major orchestral work. Composed in 1953, it was premiered with Eugene List as soloist. Reviews were cool and the concerto wasn't performed again until a revival in 1989. The concerto is pleasant enough, but doubtless will remain "pop" concert fare, if even that. Jeffrey Biegel's performance is more spirited than the Telarc recording with William Tritt and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. The new Naxos disk is beautifully recorded. Delectable listening!

Listening to the three works by Komei Abe (1911-2006) one would never expect they were written by a Japanese composer, and a major one at that. Abe was influenced more by European traditions than by those of his native land, particularly by Carl Orff and his repeated rhythmic figures. This is most evident in the latest work on this disk, the Sinfonietta from 1964 which conveys Abe's focus on "rhythmic ostinato by the steam locomotive." This is a brilliant showpiece, replete with snarling brass and percussion, particularly in the final two movements. Divertimento, written in 1951 is an arrangement for saxophone and orchestra of music originally composed with piano accompaniment, a welcome addition to the limited repertory for concerted works for the instrument. Symphony No. 1 dates from 1957, a short work (less than 19 minutes) in three movements ending with a Vivace assai. Aside from occasionally colorful scoring, this music is hardly memorable. However we again are indebted to Naxos for giving us the chance to hear it, and in superlative performances beautifully recorded—music by a Japanese composer played by a Russian orchestra and conductor released on an American label.

R.E.B. (February 2008)