RÓZSA: Overture to a Symphony Concert, Op. 26a. Three Hungarian Sketches, Op. 14. Tripartita, Op. 33. Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25
BBC Philharmonic Orch/Rumon Gamba, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 10488 (F) TT: 74:46

SUK: The Ripening, Op. 34. Tale of a Winter's Evening, Op. 9.
Berlin Comic Opera Orch/Kirill Petrenko, cond.
cpo 777 364 (F) TT: 53:10

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77. KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35
Nikolai Znaider, violin; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
RCA RED SEAL 10336 (F) TT: 67:36

BILSE: Waltzes - Marches - Polkas
Cologne WDR Radio Symphony Orch/Christian Simonis, cond.
cpo 777 341 (F) TT: 72:10

GRAINGER: The Duke of Marlborough Fanfare. Lincolnshire Posy. The Merry King. Children's March. Colonial Song. Mock Morris. The Gum-Suckers March. Molly on the Shore. Spoon River.After-Word. Lads of Wamphray. Irish Tune from County Derry. Shepherd's Hey.
Dallas Wind Symphony/Jerry Junkin, cond.

Recently considerable attention (much deserved!) has been given to concert music by Miklós Rózsa. Now Chandos is taking up the cause with this CD, apparently the first in a series devoted to the distinguished Hungarian composer known best for his movie scores. And Chandos is calling out the major forces, the virtuoso BBC Philharmonic and conductor Rumon Gamba, who already has to his credit more than a dozen disks of film music, primarily by British composers—doubtless Rózsa will soon appear in that series. On this new CD we have two earlier works, Hungarian Serenade from 1932 and Three Hungarian Sketches from 1938, and the later Overture to a Symphony Concert (1956, rev. 1963), and Tripartita (1971, rev. 1972). Chandos' audio is of their usual high quality, but also check the Naxos label that is focusing on this composer. Their recent disk with the Budapest Concert Orchestra directed by Mariusz Smolij includes the Hungarian Serenade as well as the seldom heard Viola Concerto with Gilad Kami as soloist (Naxos 8570925).

It took Josef Suk five years to complete Ripening, a large-scale work which actually could be considered a six-movement symphony. It's based on a poem of that name by Czech poet Antonin Sova about the process of life and acceptance. The different sections, played without pause, are Recognition, Youth, Love, Fate, Resolve, and Self-Moderation. Scored for large orchestra, the music meditates on life's problems, often with scoring that suggests Scriabin. In the final section, an unidentified wordless female chorus is heard briefly although their participation is not mentioned on the CD. The Tale of a Winter's Evening is a 15-minute overture based on Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. You will not be able to learn much about either work from the pretentiously pedantic CD notes by Eckhardt van den Hoogen, who, unfortunately, writes CD notes for many cpo releases. Credits state these recordings were made live June 23, 2006 in Berlin's Domische Opera, but there are no audience sounds or applause. The Berlin Comic Opera Orchestra is a large ensemble that since its inception in 1947 has been led by many leading conductors including Otto Klemperer, Vaclav Neumann, Klaus Tennstedt. The orchestra is a first-class ensemble and plays Suk's music superbly. Audio quality is state-of-the-art. Recommended—in spite of the obtuse documentation.

Young Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider has a welcome new release coupling the Brahms and Korngold violin concertos accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev. According to ArkivMusic, 74 violinists have currently available recordings of the Brahms concerto—it seems essential for violinists to preserve their interpretations of this masterpiece, and some have done so multiple times. And there are 14 recordings of Korngold's rhapsodic concerto including two by Jascha Heifetz, a live one from New York in 1947 and his studio recording, the first ever made of the work, made in Los Angeles in 1953. Znaider's new versions stand up well to the best of the others, and the lush sound of the Vienna Philharmonic is a plus. Znaider's tone is glowing, and his technique is fabulous. Gergiev is the perfect accompanist in both concertos. Audio is outstanding; it's unfortunate this wasn't released on SACD.

New to most listeners will be composer Benjamin Bilse (1816-1902). Born in Silesia, a region of Central Europe neighboring Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, he played an important part in musical activities in Warsw, Bremen and Berlin. He conducted countless concerts in Berlin, often performing his own works all of which were small-scale: polkas, waltzes, gallops, and marches. He often was referred to as the "Danish Strauss," and for good reason. On this well-filled CD (72:10) we have 14 of his works, and all are delightful, and performed here with style and spirit by the excellent Cologne orchestra directed by Christian Simonis. Program notes by Dirk Schortemeier are informative; it's unfortunate he didn't also write notes for the Suk CD mentioned above. This is a unique, quality issue, delectable frothy fare, and highly recommended. Excellent sonics, too.

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was an adventurous composer with a wide range of interests, an eccentric in his own way before the era of Glenn Gould. Listen to his stunning ballet The Warriors, a remarkable orchestral showpiece neglected until recent recordings were made by Simon Rattle, Richard Hickox, Geoffrey Simon and John Eliot Gardiner (see REVIEW). Grainger spoke 11 languages including Icelandic and Russian, and always was fascinated with the bizarre. For details of Grainger's manifold peculiarities including his experiments with light and sound equipment, fascination with unusual instruments and his sadomasochism, check this SITE. In 1944, Grainger played the Delius piano concerto with the Baltimore Symphony conducted by Reginald Stewart in the Lyric Theatre, and during the performance there were several bats in the theater that flew about, sometimes close to the piano. Grainger surely was delighted by the experience and according to reviews of the time this didn't bother him a bit! Grainger loved brass instruments, and this superb Reference release offers a generous collection of his music for wind band primarily from his British folk music settings. Much energy has gone into this production including restoration of original orchestrations. These are brilliant performances, superbly played and recorded with Reference's usual state-of-the-art sonic quality. A terrific release!

R.E.B. (March 2009)