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Volume 11 Issue 8 - May 2006

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The supreme Wagnerian

The supreme Wagnerian Heldentenor of our time sings the most compelling music from the Ring! His name synonymous with Wagner, Ben Heppner presents some of the most beautiful and powerful scenes from the Ring epic as he traces the tragic destinies of Siegmund and his fearless son, born of an incestuous union: Siegfried, the doomed hero. Ben performs the role of Siegmund & Siegfried in arias from Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gbtterdammerung. .99

Fine Old Recordings Re-Released by Bruce Surtees Colin Davis - no stranger to Sibelius having committed two complete symphony cycles to CD in addition to several tone poems - has shown up on Profil [PH05049] with live performances with the Staatskapelle Dresden of the Second Symphony, En Saga, and Luonnotar. The ordinariness of his Boston cycle (Philips) and the London Symphony recordings (RCA) did not bode well for yet another Second from Sir Colin, but this disc turns out to be a real winner. Live from September 1988, this thrilling performance stands taller than most of the competition. In fact if one were to own but one Sibelius Second this could be it. The tone poem and the cantata, both recorded live in 2003, reflect the same enthusiasm and energy which drives the symphony. Ute Selbig is the soprano for the spirited Luonnotar, which tells of the creation of the firmament as described in the "Kalevala", the 1835 collection of Finnish folk mythology. The sound throughout is first class. Still on Sibelius, in 2003 Naxos issued a boxed set of the complete symphonies played by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Finnish conductor, Petri Sakari [Naxos, 8.505179, 5 CDs]. The freshness and vitality of these performances direct listeners to those spacious, uninhabited landscapes painted by the composer. The state of the art recordings were produced by Paul Myers who worked for many years at Columbia and later for Decca and who produced many fine recordings of the Montreal Symphony. The Kullervo symphony is included. Pentatone is a label that issues, in addition to new performances, many four channel hybrid SACD discs of classic performances licensed from Philips. On of the latest is a two CD set of the acclaimed 1973 recording of the three Brahms Piano Quartets played by the Beaux Arts Trio plus violist Walter Trampler [PTC 5186151]. The 1973 Trio comprised Menahem Pressler, still their pianist 33 years later, violinist Isadore Cohen (who replaced the original Daniel Guilet), and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Their playing was never less than inspired, as these two discs testify, and the late Walter Trampler dove-tails beautifully into the group. Not much chance of hearing better versions than these in an ideally recorded perspective. Every new recording conducted by either Arturo Toscanini or Wilhelm Furtwangler was money in the bank until about 1958 when stereo-discs arrived. Toscanini was the literalist (usually but not always) and Furtwangler believed that the score was the point of departure. Fifty years later Toscanini has fewer fans, but Furtwangler continues to attract new generations who are persuaded by his in-depth readings which were so very well recorded on those EMI 78s. Sounding better than ever thanks to careful remastering using new technology, Naxos has issued several Furtwangler discs, the latest of which opens with a monumental reading of Beethoven's Corio/an Overture from 194 7 and a superb Eroica from 1949 both with the Vienna Philharmonic [8.110995]. The sound in the Corio/an is opulent, a notch better than the Eroica. Collectors will know that EMI has never issued a transfer of this 1947 Eroica. The fifth movement of the String Quartet opus 130 played by the Berlin Philharmonic strings (1940) may be considered a bonus. The popularity of Mahler's symphonies continues unabated which has prompted Decca to issue a reasonably priced boxed set of their complete cycle, one through nine, with Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouw Orchestra [475668612 CDs]. These are deeply committed performances, meticulously prepared and recorded in one of the world's finest venues. Chailly's vision of these scores is quite different from Bernstein's often idiosyncratic presentations, sounding natural and free from interpretive point making. The Cooke performing version of the Tenth with the Berlin Radio Symphony rounds out a very desirable package. The sound, so important in these works, is truthful in timbre and dynamics, typical of Decca's best. Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986) was dubbed "The violinists' violinist" and every recording he made, from Bach to Bloch, endorsed that. Philips was the label for whom the Belgian violinist recorded the Tchaikovsky Concerto in 1975 with Jan Krenz conducting the New Philharmonia. Also included in Pentatone's latest release of four channel surround sound discs is the concerto plus Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancolique and the popular Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch [hybrid disc 5186117]. This is a superb disc preserving Grumiaux' inspired realization of these three pieces in today's dynamic sound. Altogether, a faultless presentation. Finally, the equally famous David Oistrakh ( 1908-197 4) can now be heard and seen on a two disc package from Andante [AN2200] playing Mozart sonatas with Paul Badura­ Skoda. Heard are three sonatas, K306, K454, K481 and the Six Variations K360; seen and heard on the accompanying DVD are the K481, K454, and K360. Both recording and filming were done in August 1972, the film originating from Schloss Klesheim near Salzburg. Originating from the ORF, both sight and sound are exemplary. Very recommended indeed. Bruce Surtees BACH ,;·. ' · M AY 1 - ) UNE 7 2006 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM

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