MUSSORGSKY-STOKOWSKI: Pictures at an Exhibition. Boris Godunov Symphonic Synthesis. Entr'acte to Khovanshchina Act IV. Night on Bare Mountain - Witches' Sabbath
Cleveland Orch/Oliver Knussen, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON B0002123-02 (F) (DDD) TT: 65:31
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SUSATO: Selections from The Danserye (arr. Patrick Dunnigan). VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: English Folk Song Suite. DEL TREDICI: In Wartime. DAUGHERTY: Bells for Stokowski.
The University of Texas Wind Ensemble/Jerry Junkin, cond.
REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR 104CD (F) (DDD) TT: 64:49
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Oliver Knussen is best-known for his many exemplary recordings of contemporary music including works of Carter, Lieberson, Del Tredici, Henze, Ruders and Birtwhistle, in addition to many of his own works. Thus it was a surprise to find that he had sufficient interest in Leopold Stokowski's transcriptions of music of Mussorgsky to perform and record all of it with the Cleveland Orchestra. Pictures was recorded in 1995, the remainder the following year. The same four works were recorded in 1995 for Chandos by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Mathias Bamert, a superb recording in every way (REVIEW). DGG's CD booklet includes Knussen's comments on Stokowski's transcriptions and his selection (when there was a choice) for his recording (which includes the shimmering string ending for the Boris synthesis—not heard on the Bamert recording—and an impressive very long lingering tam-tam smash at the end of Night—also not heard on the Chandos). The Cleveland Orchestra plays magnificently and the recorded sound is super-clear and wide-range, perhaps a bit undefined in low bass. Doubtless release of this recording was held back because of the Chandos recording. Stokowskians will wish to have both, but the rich, resonant Chandos recording (and Bamert's imaginative conducting) make it the first choice. Bamert's recording is overall about four minutes longer, an indication of his effective leisurely tempi.

Reference Recordings' latest Jerry Junkin/University of Texas Wind Ensemble issue is a mixed bag beginning with a lively set of dances by Susato arranged by Patrick Dunnigan followed by Vaughan Williams' English Folk Song Suite, all given quality performances we have come to expect from this Wind Ensemble and its conductor. David Del Tredici's In Wartime is his first work for wind symphony, written 2002-03, with two sections: Hymn and Battlemarch, including bits of Abide With Me, the national song of Persia (Salamati, Shah!)and a quote from Wagner's Tristan. In Bells for Stokowski, Michael Daugherty quotes from Bach. Bells is the third movement of Philadelphia Stories commissioned by Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra to celebrate their centennial; what we hear on this recording is a version of the work for symphonic band. Various bells, chimes and other musical (and non-musical) instruments are heard from time to time along with cacophonous multi-layered rhythms and counterpoints and sonorities all typical of this composer. When I listen to this CD it will be for the Susato and Vaughan Williams works. "Prof." Keith O. Johnson has worked his usual sonic wonders on this recording.

R.E.B. (May 2004)