SHCHEDRIN: Concerto for Orchestra No. 4 "Khorovody." Concerto for Orchestra
No. 5 "Four Russian Songs." Kristallene Gusli (Crystal Psaltery):
Lento assai (sempre sotto voce).
VERDI: Fantasy on La Traviata. Rigoletto Fantasy.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Lensky's Aria. WEBER: Fantasy on Der Freischütz.
GLUCK: Menuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits. MOZART: Fantasy on The
Magic Flute. BIZET: Exerpts from
AMIROV: Shur. Kyurdi Ovshari. Gylistan Bayati Shiraz. Azerbaijan
Today's leading Russian composer, Rodion Shchedrin (b. 1932), is respected throughout the musical world for his music, arrangements (the famous Carmen Ballet), and works for solo instruments. He wrote a number of ballets for his wife, Maya Plitskaya, prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi Theatre. Shchedrin also wrote several operas, the latest of which, The Enchanted Wanderer, has just been recorded by Gergiev and Mariinsky forces (REVIEW). In 1963 he startled the musical world with his Concerto No. 1 for Orchestra subtitled "Naughty Limericks," a delightful short work that has several recordings; the latest is included in the new Gergiev set. The new Naxos CD contains world premiere recordings of Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 for Orchestra. Don't expect the wit and humor of "Naughty Limericks," but you will hear two imaginative works partially based on Russian folk tunes often with unusual percussion. The third work on the CD, Crystal Psaltery is, as conductor Karabits states in program notes, "a very impressionistic composition that sounds like Japanese wind-chimes." These recordings were made with the composer present and we can assume they are definitive. The Bournemouth Symphony plays splendidly, and audio quality is first-rate. The sole debit is that each of the concertos occupies only one band; it would have been helpful had the different sections of each work been tracked separately.
When Emmanuel Pahud (b. 1970), joined the Berlin Philharmonic in 1993 at the age of 22 he was the youngest player of the orchestra, occupying the first flute position previously held by his teacher, Aurèle Nicolet, and James Galway. Pahud's international career has skyrocketed, he appears as soloist with major orchestras and often performs chamber music. He already had made more than three dozen recordings mostly of classical repertory. Now we have this CD of "lollipops" for flute and orchestra, transcriptions and arrangements of mostly familiar works, all brilliantly played with the greatest virtuosity and beauty of sound. In the Rigoletto fantasy he is joined by Juliette Hurel, principal flute of the Rotterdam Philharmonic since 1998. This is a highly entertaining, beautiful recorded CD.
Fikret Amirov (1922-1984)was the first Azerbaijani composer to combine classical and his native music in symphonic mugams. A mugam is an art form that features improvisation and unusual folk instruments. Amirov's music is strongly influences by native folk music. Many collectors first heard of him via Leopold Stokowski's 1959 recording of Azerbaijan Mugam with the Houston Symphony originally issued on Everest. On this new Naxos CD, this music is identified as Kyurdi Ovshari. We also have the three other works listed above, all filled with lively tunes and rhythms. Dmitry Yablonsky leads the fine Russian Philharmonic in splendid performances, and sonic quality is what we have come to expect from Naxos.
Another treasure from Naxos is their final issue of orchestral works of Albert Roussel, featuring Symphony No. 4, the Flemish Rhapsody and three short works for chamber orchestra. As with other issues in this series, performances are perfectly suited to the repertory with the fine Royal Scottish National Orchestra in top form under Stéphane Denève's dynamic direction. Audio quality also is outstanding.
The Opus76 CD features performances recorded on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action organ (it weighs 32 tons!) installed in a concert hall in the U.S. It first was heard in a concert May 2006 in Verizon Hall of Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, and can be heard in Ondine's recording made at that time of music of Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Barber (REVIEW), a very successful recording that quite vividly captured not only the sound of this massive organ, but orchestral sound as well. This new CD was recorded June 23, 2009, with different producers and engineers who obviously had problems recording in the troubled acoustics of Verizon. The 18-minute Sessler concerto, the only work with chamber orchestra, has poor sound. The hall's dry acoustics are not flattering either to the small orchestra or the solo organ. There are some massive lower frequencies to be heard on this new release, but little brilliance in the reeds. There are plans to improve the acoustics of Verizon Hall. Let us hope this will happen so their fine organ can be heard in all of its glory.
R.E.B. (June 2010)