STRAUSS: Fanfare from Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30. BERLIOZ: Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust. DUKAS: The Sorcerer's Apprentice. SAINT-SAËNS: Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah. OFFENBACH: Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman. GLINKA: Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture. PUCCINI: Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut. KHACHATURIAN: Sabre Dance from Gayneh. Adagio from Spartacus. TCHAIKOVSKY: Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker. BARBER: Adagio for Strings.
Bruckner Orchester Linz/Bernhard Klee & Ingo Ingensand (Khachaturian), cond.
CHESKY SACD 245 TT: 71:22 (5.1 channel)

HEINRICH BIBER/JOHANN SCHMELZER: Various sonatas, ballets and other music from the Viennese Court.
Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor, director
CHESKY SACD 262 TT: 70:04 (5 channel)

CHESKY SACD 274 TT: 55:15 (5.l channel)

:"Orchestral Showpieces" obviously is intended to display the sound of a large symphony orchestra through the realism of surround sound, and to a large degree it succeeds. The sonic picture is rich with the orchestra in front, ambient sound from the back. String sound is sonorous, brass brilliant. A problem is that some of the chosen repertory isn't appropriate for the intended purpose. Works by Offenbach, Puccini and Barber on this SACD are hardly orchestral "showpieces," although nicely presented. The famous opening "Sunrise" fanfare from Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra is superbly done, a fine performance that does not rush the music. It's one of the few recordings where one can hear the organ pedal change from a C to a G at the third trumpet call. This version contains a few measures of low rumbling following the big climax, hence its playing time of over 2 minutes. Unfortunately The Sorcerer's Apprentice is played without much imagination, and this performance of Hungarian March of Berlioz doesn't generate much excitement. The two Khachaturian pieces conducted by Ingensand are terrific in both performance and sound. It is odd that castanets in the Saint-Saëns' Bacchanale, which play an important rhythmic figure, are virtually inaudible—they can be heard, but they are very far in the back. Chesky's CD booklet doesn't list tracks or timings (for that one must look at the CD jewel-box back cover), and there's no information whatever about the music, although we do have a list of composers represented on the CD, brief bios of both conductors, and technical recording information.

"Seventeenth Century Music and Dance from the Viennese Court" features music of Heinrich Biber (1644-1704) and Johann Schmelzer (ca, 1620-1680). It's a fine collection of what is called in CD notes "good old party music"—a generous (70:04) collection of dance movements, sonatas, "anonymous gems," and folk music intended to place the listener inside the Austrian baroque court and, on occasion, dance halls. Ars Atiqua Austria, a 13-member early music ensemble including five recorders, seems perfectly at home in this repertory, and they have been recorded with presence in a resonant acoustic.

Dr. Chesky 's Magnificent, Fabulous, Absurd & Insane Musical 5.1 Surround Show is a 55-minute display disk for your multi-channel system. Generally it succeeds; there is some powerful super-low bass to be heard, and some of the tracks very effectively make one aware of different sources of music/sound. I was a bit surprised by "The Storm," which is just that—falling rain and distant thunder—but had hoped there would be at least one big lightning bolt during the track's 2:55 duration. "Music for Cello, Helicopter and Cars" has a cello sawing away rather unimaginatively accompanied by several other instruments, with car sounds (and many honking horns), but the "helicopter" sound isn't very clear—I expected a clear, loud helicopter circling the room as it does at the opening of Cliffhanger, but it wasn't there. The two-minute "New York Subway Ride" well captures the atmosphere of the site, but if you expect to hear an approaching train whizzing by and disappearing into the distance, you'll be disappointed. The track called "Organ & Chimes" isn't just that; it also contains a raucous saxophone. A sexy female voice announces we are going to hear a heartbeat and we hear this four different times, at 50 hz, 40 hz, 30 hz and 20hz, producing some ominous low sounds indeed. Apparently producers lowered the pitch, but there's no explanation how this was accomplished. Although there's a list of technical staff for this recording, sound effects engineers, players, singers and musicians, there's no explanation for individual tracks to give you an idea of what to expect. While Dr. Chesky's "Show" isn't exactly what I wish it had been, audiophiles—and probably many others—will find it serves its purpose. The recording also is available on DVD Audio (Chesky CHDVD272)

R.E.B. (March 2004)