PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25 "Classical." Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64b. Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33a.
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orch/Yuri Temirkanov, cond.
RCA VICTOR 68408 (F) (DDD) TT: 60:12

STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40. Metamorphosen.
WDR Sinfonie-orchester Koln/Semyon Bychkov, cond.
AVIE AV1007 (M/F) (DDD) TT: 74:44

HOLST: The Planets, Op. 32
Ladies of the London Symphony Orch. Chorus/London Symphony Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
LSO LIVE LS 00029 (B/M) (DDD) TT: 50:17


Three more duplications of standard repertory, all three of limited interest. Temirkanov's full-priced Prokofiev CD was recorded on two different dates more than a decade ago in two locations. Classical Symphony and Love for Three Oranges were recorded in late January 1991 in the Large Hall in St. Petersburg, the Romeo and Juliet excerpts at Blackheath Concert Hall in London August 17, 1992. The beginning section of Romeo and Juliet (here called "Montgues and Capulets") is disappointing - those sustained horn passages and tempestuous climax followed by pppp strings are rushed and non-magical. There's plenty of energy in the dance sections as well as in the symphony and Oranges suite. However, with a disappointing Romeo and Juliet, limited playing time (just a tad more than an hour), and full price, this is not competitive.

Semyon Bychkov became chief conductor of the WDR SO in 1997. Prior to that he appeared as guest conductor with many leading orchestras of he world, and conducted a wide range of operas. He was artistic director of the Buffalo Philharmonic (1985-1989) and the Orchestre de Paris (1989-1998). In the late '80s Bychkov made a number of recordings for Philips most of which are now deleted. These included a complete Nutcracker with the Berlin Philharmonic, Tchaikovsky's Sixth and Strauss' Don Juan with the Concertgebouw, and Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra with the Philharmonia Orchestra (recording sessions for the latter were first held with the Concertgebouw, but for whatever reason it was decided to record it again in London; the Concertgebuw recording was never released). This recording of Heldenleben was made after more than forty concert performances of the work. Well enough played, it holds no distinction to place it among the finest competing recordings; the current lists show more then three dozen recordings currently available including fine interpretations by Haitink, Karajan, Kempe, Maazel, Ormandy and Reiner, as well as essential historic recordings by, Mengelberg, Toscanini, and the composer. Bychkov's Metamorphoson, recorded January 2001, is a generous filler, but doesn't approach the grandeur of Karajan's Berlin recording - nor is it as richly reproduced.

Sir Colin Davis' new live recording of The Planets was made in Barbican Hall, London June 27-30, 2002. Sir Colin recorded this music in 1988 for Philips with the Berlin Philharmonic, long out-of-print (performance time is virtually the same for the older recording and this new one). Recording live in Barbican Hall presents problems for the engineers, and the fine team of producer James Mallinson and sound engineer Tony Faulkner has been generally successful. This sonic picture is wide-range with plenty of impact. The close-up miking (to help avoid audience sounds) produces rather steely strings, an appropriately desolate sound for Saturn, but surely not right for Venus and Neptune. The organ is very prominent, the ladies of the LSO chorus ethereal indeed and fade out as they should at the end. A majority of extant recordings of Planets also contain a filler; this has none, but the price is modest.

R.E.B. (May 2003)